An adventurous lad and a distressed woman

Two tales today, one from Lambeth Police court and the other from Thames. Both involve people taking risks that might have ended their lives, but with quite different intents and outcomes.

Louisa McCarthy was living with the fear of her returning husband. Mr McCarthy was a ‘lazy, worthless fellow’ and had been sent to prison for six weeks for beating her up. It wasn’t the first time and she feared it would not be the last. The despair overtook her and as she walked along the banks of the Thames she determined to end her life by throwing herself in.

The sound of her body hitting the water alerted a gentleman named Vyall who was on board a penny steam-boat making its up along the river. He rushed along the deck and dived into the water to rescue her. Risking his own life he brought her to the shore and safety. She was in the Lambeth court charged with an attempt to ‘destroy’ herself. The magistrate took pity and as she admitted to regretting her action, he sent her home with her sister. He offered her no promises for her future safety when he husband was released however.

Over at Thames Police Court a young lad of 13 was facing a rather different prosecution. Thomas Bell had jumped out of the window of a moving train on the London and Blackwall railway. A guard, Joseph Bridges, deposed that he saw Thomas leap and then roll over the rails ‘like a top’. Apart from a grazed nose and knee he was otherwise unharmed.

Thomas was lucky, the court heard, ‘if a plate layer [a worker on the track] had not seized him he would have been knocked down and crushed’ by an advancing train on the opposite track.

The train was going at 15 miles an hour (probably a lot faster than most trains in and out of London today…) and so the boy had a ‘wonderful escape’. The offence (of jumping off a moving train) incurred a 40s fine but the justice dismissed the case stating:

‘Bring me some person older than this boy, who is stupid enough to jump out of a railway carriage in motion, and I will make an example of him’.

[from Daily News, Thursday, August 5, 1858]


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