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Saved Boy, Went Home – Modest Wombwell Rescuer Located at Goldthorpe

February 1958

South Yorkshire Times February 22, 1958

Saved Boy, Went Home

Modest Wombwell Rescuer Located at Goldthorpe

Mr. Allen Watkin (38) of 29, Birch Road, Kendray Estate, Stairfoot, Barnsley, was fishing in the canal near Aldham Bridge, Wombwell on Saturday afternoon when a seven years old boy fell into the water. Without hesitation, Mr. Watkin threw down his fishing tackle and, fully clothed, plunged into the canal and got the boy to the side.

Wrapped in Coat

With the assistance of Mr. Cyril Venables (54), miner, of 27, Hadfield Street, Wombwell, who was fishing 50 yards away, he brought the boy round by artificial respiration, and then allowed him to go home with his two friends, wrapping him up in a warm overcoat which had been given by Mr Venables.

The boy was Michael Gartenfeld,(picture) the son of Police constable Charles Gartenfeld, of 212, Summer Lane, Wombwell

Mr Watkin went away without giving him name or address and it was not until Monday that Police Constable Gartenfeld succeeded in tracing him. He had been out for two days on his bicycle searching for a man who had been vaguely described by Michael as about 5ft. 8in. and “wearing a cloth cap and green mac.”

Actually Mr. Watkin went to the boiler house at Mitchell Main Colliery with the intention of drying off, but as there were no facilities there for doing so he jumped onto a bus and went home, travelling on the platform of the vehicle so that he would not disturb other passengers.

Search For Rescuer

Mr. Gartenfield said, “I was determined to find the rescuer became I wanted to thank him personally on behalf of myself and my wife. There is no doubt about it that he saved Michael’s life and we shall be grateful to him as long as we live.”

It appears that Michael went out on Saturday accompanied by two playmates, Donald Lindley (8) and Alan Barnes (9), who live nearby. They went down to the canal at Aldham Bridge about a mile away and when Michael came home drenched to the skin with water oozing from his Wellingtons, his playmates confirmed his story that he fell into the canal while reaching out with a stick and that a man who was fishing had rescued him. Michael was given a hot bath and put into a warm bed, and two days later seen little worse for his adventure, though he was pale and quiet and had to be kept away from school

Served In Navy

Mr. Watkin is employed at Barnburgh as an electric power station attendant for the Yorkshire Electricity Board and has four children (three boys and a girl) ranging in age from four to ten years. During the second world war he served in a destroyer as a stoker Petty Officer, and one of his brothers (John) was lost at sea after his ship had been torpedoed. He can swim, but had never done so for years.

Mrs. Watkin said, “He is very keen on fishing and always stops till the last possible moment. When he came home early on Saturday I knew that something had happened. He had walked up to the house from the bus stop in his wet clothes, but after a hot bath felt no ill effects. He made light of it, saying it was ‘nothing.’

It was through a clue given by Mr Venables  that Mr Gartenfeld succeeded in finding the rescuer. Mr Venables remembered that the man had said that he lived on the Kendry estate. After the rescue Mr Watkin made the casual remark, “That stopped fishing for today.”

Mr Bell said the incident occurred at a point where the railway bridge girls over the canal and the water is about 20 feet deep. He was sitting on his basket fishing when he heard someone shout for help, and the next thing he saw was a man scrambling out of the water trying to push a boy in front of him. The man was still wearing a heavy mac and Wellingtons. The men took turns in applying artificial respiration. At first the boy was only semi-conscious but soon came round.’ I took an overcoat off one of the other boys and put it, on the lad who had been in the water. The boys would not tell us where they, lived but probably that was because they were afraid. All I can say is that it was a very gallant rescue.”

Took Chance Together

Interviewed at his work on Tuesday, Mr. Watkin said, “I either had to dive in fully clothed while I could see him, or strip off and wait until he got to the bottom. I decided at once that we would take a chance together. The water, was very deep and there was a lot of mud at the bottom. I was glad to be able to do it. I would have done the same for anyone else’s child.”

Mr. Watkin said the water was very cold and he had cramp when he came out.

Mr. Watkin is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Allen Watkin, of 29, Sherwood Street, Barnsley. He is a member of the Cross Keys (Stairfoot) Fishing Club.

P.c. Gartenfeld said he and his wife would like to thank all the people who had helped him to trace the rescuer.