Manchester Worthies

Mr. Mark Addy (1838-1889)



IT is our pleasure in Faces and Places to record something of the lives of the men and women of local note, whatever  their station in life. Divines, members of Parliament, notable speakers and workers in political, social, or scientific fields naturally absorb prominent attention, as they are constantly before the public, and are, in a sense, public property. It is refreshing to know, however, that there are many workers and thinkers-and some heroes also - in the humbler walks of life. Of these we select this month the late Mr. Mark Addy. A hero of remarkably peculiar mould-brave, Spartan-like and humble, gallant in daring and humane in purpose, and with no spark of alloy of vanity, pride or self-glorification. ďAs modest a man, withal, as ever sun did shine upon"

A monument is to be raised to his memory, and surely a monument is deserved by a man who, in the space of his life-time, saved some fifty other lives, and in doing so sacrificed his own. Mr. Mark Addy was born on the banks of the river Irwell, in April, 1838, and was brought up in one of the "Stage Buildings" overlooking the "filthy flood" in the locality known as the Parsonage, Blackfriars Street, Manchester. He early became accustomed to the ways of the river, and though even at that time the water was

not in such a condition as to offer strong temptations for bathing, it may be assumed that he exercised the skill he had acquired at the Old Greengate Swimming Baths by occasionally disporting in' the turbid stream. At any rate, he was a capital oarsman and an expert swimmer at a very early age, and by the time he was thirteen or fourteen he had begun to compile. the record which at the time of his death was probably unprecedented. His first subject was a young friend, who seems to have had an aptitude for falling into the polluted water. Addy rescued him the first time by wading up to his chin and pulling him ashore. A second time the youngster was in peril in a deep pool and Addy resorted to the ready expedient of pushing out a plank and getting astride it, being thus .enabled to drag the urchin out of danger. The instances which can be given of his prowess at life saving do not by any means include all of his exploits, but a few may be mentioned to show his intrepid. character. One of his gallant deeds was performed in the winter of 1856. The day was bitterly cold. The river was in flood and running fast when a boy called Atkinson fell into it, and was immediately carried away by the current. Fortunately Addy was at hand, and throwing off the clogs which he wore, and a heavy  jacket, he immediately plunged into the river in pursuit. So swiftly was the stream running that Atkinson was carried down fully three hundred yards before Mark could overtake him, and he himself was much exhausted and the other half-dead. Addy, however, contrived to get the drowning lad into a more sheltered spot, where he supported him until his father came to the rescue of both with his boat. But before this occurrence took place, a catastrophe which nearly proved fatal happened, for owing to the strength of the current, old Mark lost control of his boat, came in contact with the two lads, who were incapable of further exertion. The consequence was that they fell into deep water again, and were finally rescued with difficulty. Atkinson, who had swallowed a great deal of water, or whatever the mixture of the Irwell is composed may be called, was in such an exhausted condition that he had to be taken to the Manchester Infirmary, and was there for nearly two months before he was restored to health.

Another occasion was on a certain cold winter's night in 1872 or 1873,-the date is not material. A woman, in a frenzy of half-drunkenness, half-madness, or both, threw herself into the river, bent on self-destruction. So determined was she, a married woman, upon committing suicide, that although Addy was after her almost immediately, it required all his strength and resolution to prevent her drowning him as well as herself. The excitement was great, and those spectators who were present shouted to him to save himself, and let the unfortunate woman go. That would not have been an easy matter, for she stuck to him like an otter, when that amphibious animal endeavours to drag beneath the water and drown the dog which has attacked him. Addy, however, was not to be beaten, and succeeded at last in bringing the woman ashore.

The following are among the anecdotes told of him :-He was coming home from a funeral, in funeral attire; a new suit of black and a valuable gold watch in his pocket. On nearing the river side the cry went forth "a child is in the river." Mark rushed to the spot and, without divesting himself of a single garment, plunged in, rescued the lad, and in a few moments stood dripping amongst a crowd of excited onlookers. Said one: " Mark, tha's spoiled tha clothes." "What of that," was the answer, " I reckon it will have also made a mess of my watch, but it does not matter, there was a life in the job at stake." On another occasion he was holding a family gathering, It was near Christmas, he had invited his family-son and daughters and they with their children were seated round the festive board Outside, a woman, in a respectable position, had been having some words with her husband, and she sought to end the matter by jumping into the river. This she did, A cry was raised. Mark was sought. He laid down knife and fork, left his pleasant surroundings, jumped into the water (which was slightly coated with ice), and quickly landed the woman, although she was most unwilling to be saved. She said "Let me stay here; I want to die." "No," said the hero, "I am going to take you out; it is my business to save you." Not even when he had retired to bed was he safe from being called upon to render aid to the drowning. It was two o'clock in the morning, densely dark, a strong stream running in the river. A watchman knocked at the door and shouted, "Addy, we want you to help us; there is a woman jumped into the water at the other side of the river." "All right," cheerfully responded this man; "I will be with you in a moment." And in a moment he was with them, with nothing on but his shirt. Quickly divesting himself of this, he said, "Whereabouts did the woman jump in?" This being pointed out, in he jumped, soon lost to sight in the darkness of the night; but after a short time of awful suspense to those who were watching, he cried, "It is all right, I have got her"-and true he had, and no little task was that. Just think of it! - a dark, cold night, roused out of bed, and a woman to rescue out of a fierce rushing river-a woman who turned the scale at 17 stones, on being weighed at the police station. Well might the magistrates say to Mark, who had to appear against the woman for attempting to commit suicide, "It is one of the bravest instances of saving life on record."

The address presented to him by Mr. (now Sir) W. Charley, M.P., at a public recognition of his remarkable services to the community on the 12th January. 1878, is a demonstration of the fact that Mr. Addy's gallant and self-denying conduct was not unappreciated by his fellow citizens. The address placed it on record, that "Your townsmen of Salford have long and admiringly watched your heroic devotedness in rescuing from imminent death the many precious lives which, but for your bravery. would have been lost to society. Mere admiration fails to satisfy the impulses which your generous deeds of daring have awakened, and, therefore, not as a reward, but as a small token of their high and earnest appreciation of the repeated risks to your own life, in snatching from the jaws of death the lives of others, they ask your acceptance of a purse of 200 guineas. It is but a poor contribution if reckoned as a recompense. There are services rendered to humanity which it is impossible to over-estimate, and yours are of them, and this is less a requital than a simple recognition in earnest words intensified by such pecuniary sacrifice as your numerous admirers can afford. The highest acts of manly daring and devotion that awaken human admiration are those in which the rescuer from death, totally forgetful of self, and inspired only with compassion for those in danger, disregards his own life in his eagerness to save their's from peril. The badges of honour-which associated philanthropy and royal patronage confer for such courage you have in part already received. Accept, now from your neighbours and friends their humble meed of commendation. And if this is but feebly expressed commensurately with your deserts, still be assured that the offering is enriched with the homage of a thousand hearts that recognise your worth, and throb with a generous enthusiasm at the remembrance of your deeds of valour and self-sacrifice, only then can the gift acquire its true proportion and significance." Other recognitions were made from time to time. The silver and gold medals of the Humane Society for the Hundred of Salford, were presented to him. The Royal Humane Society also sent him its medal; a medal from the Queen" for gallantry in saving life on land" was a proud possession, and he was deeply gratified at receiving an autograph letter from Lord Beaconsfield, intimating that" the Queen had been graciously pleased to confer on him in recognition of his gallantry and daring the honour and distinction of the Albert Medal of the first-class." By the desire of the Secretary of State, forwarded to the Mayor of Salford, a formal

presentation of this decoration of distinction was made by His Worship, and it was accepted by Mark with much appreciation in the presence of a large assembly. He said the Queen and his fellow-citizens had prized his efforts much more than he had done. for he thought "it was only his duty to save life if he could." This sentence was the key to his character The idea of simple duty, which rises to nobility when its dictates are obeyed with unceasing alacrity, made him always ready and always willing to do with humility what others shrank from, and which, if they could have accomplished might, have been regarded as a work of merit calling for loud laudation. Not so, Mark! He said he was most grateful to the Queen for having conferred on him the great honour of the Albert Medal, and he was sure of one thing (and so were the audience) he would never disgrace it. He proved his words. He added some others to the number of lives he saved, and continued on in the same humble duty loving course all through. He merited the ovation he received on that occasion-the carriage and pair waiting for him in front of the Town Hall, and the concourse of people singing, while the Police Band played. See the Conquering Hero comes "-and all the complimentary speeches made at the banquet at which he was the honoured guest.

His last plunge into the dirty filthy sewage laden water of the gloomy river was on Whit Monday, of 1889. He was watching the children pass in procession when a cry reached him that a boy was in the water at the bottom of Factory Lane. He made his way to the place, and to the admiration of the frightened crowd jumped into the stream. He saved the lad's life, but he laid the foundation of an illness that day which eventually gained the mastery of his powerful well-knit frame, and on the afternoon of another Monday, the 9th of Tune last, he quietly passed away at the old Boathouse Inn, of which he had been for many years the landlord, and where his family still reside.

A public meeting has been held to establish a fund for a durable memorial to the Salford Hero's fame, and it will be a reflection on the public estimation of heroism if the memorial is not made a handsome and imposing one-a lasting testimony (as the Mayor put it at the meeting)-to a courage which could not be disputed. The sentiment expressed at the meeting by Alderman Bailey deserve to be placed on record as an eloquent tribute to the subject of our sketch: ., In the gloomy valley of the Irwell, which is scarcely ever visited by the sunlight, we can not ripen the fruits of the earth, but we can produce brave men, and we could exhibit all those qualities which we in our insular egotism consider to be symbolical of the British character. We have been elevated in our own good opinion because we have been fellow citizens of this brave fellow, who under the most unusual circumstances has endangered his life to save the life of others. We have met not to honour a man distinguished in the field of battle, or distinguished for his mental qualities, but to honour a mere workingman, a humble cottager, who so bravely ventured his life for the benefit of others. To plunge into ordinary water requires pluck, but to plunge into that miserable sink, the Irwell requires heroic qualities, such as we cannot value too highly. Some little time before he died, Addy said he valued more than all the medals he had received the gratitude and joy of the little brothers and sisters of the boy whom he had saved from drowning in the river. We are trying now to do justice to those excellent and noble qualities of which we are so proud.

The full response to the effort to raise the memorial had not been announced when this sketch was written, but it deserves to be a handsome one.

The portrait which we give of the hero, whose bosom bears his honours thick upon him, is from a photo taken by Mr. Hulme, of Stockport, and has been kindly lent us by the family for purpose of reproduction.


Reprinted from Manchester Faces & Places Vol. 1 No. 11 11 Aug 1890