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100 years ago: PC wins gallantry medal in Manchester Ship Canal rescue attempt on six-year-old Cadishead boy

Tragedy is never far away as we look back 100 years into the pages of the Eccles Journal.

Making headlines in early August 1916 was the sad tale of the drowning of a young boy in Cadishead, but which introduces us to the bravery of the common bobby.

John Tighe, 6, lived at Whitfield Street (now Angler’s Rest) off Liverpool Road in Cadishead, where, 100 years later, the main offices for local charity Hamilton Davies Trust sit now.

The turning for Atherton Lane and Angler's Rest is just beyond Cadishead Bridge

The turning for Atherton Lane and Angler’s Rest is just beyond Cadishead Bridge © Google Street View

John and a group of young boys had gone down to a manure wharf at the end of Hayes Road.

At some point in the 1800s, it was realised that the daily human effluent would make great improvements in the quality of farming land in the UK.

So the nightsoil industry was born.

The Manchester Ship Canal opened in 1894, bringing thousands of ocean-going ships down its length from the Irish Sea.

Partington Train Shed was accessed via Whitfield Street, and huge amounts of work was going into building the Partington Iron and Steel Company, with additional junctions and sidings built between 1911 and 1915 expanding at Glazebrook east to help the war effort.

Partington Basin (so named even though it was on the Cadishead side of the Manchester Ship Canal)

Partington Basin (so named even though it was on the Cadishead side of the Manchester Ship Canal) © Stretford Library

In 1916 industry was booming in Irlam and Cadishead and for young boys these giant steel structures rattling away at the side of the Manchester Ship Canal must have been very tempting to explore.

The boys were dipping their toes in the no doubt filthy waters of the canal when young John spotted a tin can floating in the water and in trying to reach it, overbalanced and fell in.

His young companions panicked and fled, however two men, Mr Dalby and Mr Brooks, had witnessed the incident and rushed to the canal bank.

By the time they reached the water’s edge the boy had sunk beneath and was nowhere to be seen.

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Partington Iron Works in full flow in 1915

Partington Iron Works in full flow in 1915 © Stretford Library

PC Chadwick, who was on duty on nearby Liverpool Road, heard the shouts for help and raced to the bank, stripping off his uniform and diving into the water on no less than three occasions in an attempt to rescue the boy.

It would be no heroic rescue, sadly.

A professional diver was brought into to retrieve the boy’s body and it was recovered the following morning.

An inquest was held at the Council Offices in Irlam the following week. It was here where the full details of the tragedy unfolded.

PC Chadwick told the inquest that he had run to the scene and ascertained that the boy had been in the water for five or six minutes.

The water was some 30-35 feet deep and undoubtedly filthy and polluted.

His determination is to be praised: the water would have been inky black and contaminated almost to the point of being poisonous, with all the chemicals that would leach into the canal from the many ships transporting all manner of goods along it daily.

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The Coroner, Mr G. Leresche, told the constable that he was very plucky to have jumped into the water and asked him had he suffered any ill effects?

PC Chadwick replied that he was “sickened at the amount of water that he had swallowed but he would soon recover”.

The Coroner said that there could only be one verdict and that John Tighe had accidentally drowned.

He also recommended that PC Chadwick’s conduct would be brought to the notice of the Chief Constable and of the Royal Humane Society and would be awarded a medal for his bravery and given a merit badge to wear on his tunic sleeve.

Medals of the Royal Humane Society, awarded to those who put their own lives at great risk in attempting to save a life

Medals of the Royal Humane Society, awarded to those who put themselves at great risk in attempting to save a life

PC Chadwick rather modestly replied that he was much obliged to the Court, though he felt that he was only doing his duty.

One can only feel for the Tighe family, to lose their young son in such a tragic way, sadly his death would not the the last in the murky waters of the Manchester Ship Canal.

With additional info and thanks to The Railways of Irlam and Cadishead

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SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.