Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Postman's Park (24): Ernest Benning


On 25 August 1883, Ernest Benning and three companions went by boat (a small skiff) to Kew. They made their way back that evening. At 9pm, they had reached Pimlico when they suddenly realised that their boat was dangerously close to the steamer Wedding Ring.

Unfortunately, it seems that their reaction was the immediate cause of the disaster which followed. By panicking and standing up, they caused the boat to capsize. It then collided with the oncoming steamer, throwing the occupants into the Thames. One William Large, on the river with his wife and child, rowed to the scene and pulled two of the four people into his boat. A fisherman rescued a third, but Benning could not be found. The memorial plaque records that he had been supporting one of the others, a woman, with an oar but sank before he could be rescued himself.

Benning's body was found under Waterloo pier. The jury found that his was an accidental death, and expressed their admiration of the witnesses who had saved the others' lives.

ERNEST BENNING, COMPOSITOR, AGED 22, UPSET FROM A BOAT ONE DARK NIGHT OFF PIMLICO PIER GRASPED AN OAR WITH ONE HAND SUPPORTING A WOMAN WITH THE OTHER , BUT SANK AS SHE WAS RESCUED, AUG 25 1883.

For all Postman's Park posts, click here.


2 comments:

Adam said...

These are all fascinating stories, but I'm afraid this one sounds more like drunken tomfoolery than true heroism. I wonder what kind of a composer he was too?

CarolineLD said...

Not only that, but the inquest itself doesn't mention the heroics with the oar. Ah well, it's an interesting window into Victorian life all the same.
As a compositor, he set the letters in frames for printing: a now-extinct trade.

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