Sadly, the information contained on the memorial plaque to Edward Blake is, in fact, almost completely wrong.
The plaque reads, "Edward Blake, Drowned While Skating At The Welsh Harp Waters, Hendon, In the Attempt To Rescue To Unknown Girls. Feb 5 1895."
Firstly, although the tragedy did, most certainly, occur, it was in fact Edwin Charles Clack (1868 - 1895) who died on the day in question; and he was actually attempting to rescue one girl, not two.
A full account of the tragedy (in which his name is given as Edward Charles Clack) appeared in The Hendon And Finchley Times on Friday 8th February, 1895:-
"Whilst the races were in progress on the ice at the Welsh Harp on Tuesday, and whilst some 3,000 people were cheering on the two finest skaters in England at the present time, viz., James Smart and N. Lindahl, an accident, in its way terrible and sad, took place upon the upper waters near to the Edgware-road bridge.
Those who have heard the dread cry of "Man overboard!" will know what consternation these two words will cause among the crew of a boat at sea; and with the ice in such safe condition as it was on Tuesday the cry of someone in the water came as a surprise and shock to all.
Those who were engaged in watching the races knew nothing of the sad accident, but those who were skating near the bridge shortly before four o'clock heard the cry, and there was a rush to the Edgware-road bridge immediately.
It was then seen that a young girl (Eliza Jones, of 14, Rockhall-road, Cricklewood) had fallen into the water in close proximity to the bridge on the railway viaduct side of the road.
It appears that she had left her friends and had wandered on to the ice to slide.
Round about by the arches of the bridge the water was barely frozen, whilst a few more yards away, owing to the current, it was not of great thickness, and the little girl, in attempting to walk across towards the old pump, fell through the thin ice.
A cry was at once raised, and in a few seconds there was quite a crowd of people upon the bridge.
One of these, a young fellow named Sidney Coke, aged-25, of 339, Oxford-street, jumped off the parapet into the water with the intention of saving the child, but was unable to do anything.
Meanwhile P.C. McDermott, 182 X, had arrived on the scene, and perceiving the state of affairs went on to the big water and fetched one of the long ice ladders, and carried it across the road.
This was run out to the hole, and with the assistance of Mr. A. Ginger, of Kilburn, the two persons were got out of the water and taken to the Royal Humane Society's receiving-house within the grounds of the Welsh Harp.
In the meantime, however, another calamity had happened, and this, too, right in front of the eyes of the same spectators.
With more caution than Coke, a Kilburn painter named Edward Charles Clack, and living in Tennyson-road, had endeavoured to reach the child and affect her rescue.
With this object he got through the railings, and by making a detour upon the ice endeavoured to get towards the hole.
When some distance away, however, the ice was seen to break, and he disappeared into the water, and was not seen again.
As soon as possible efforts were made to rescue the unfortunate man, but it was not until some twenty minutes later that the body was recovered from under the ice, and Dr. Edward Burgess, who had been upon the scene, pronounced life to be extinct.
The body was therefore taken charge of by the police, and removed to the mortuary.
Dr. Burgess also attended to the wants of Miss Jones and Mr. Coke, and restoratives having been applied, they were put to bed at the Welsh Harp, being somewhat weak and exhausted.
It should be said that the piece of ice upon which Miss Jones was sliding was marked dangerous, and was not open to the public.
The big water was throughout the day watched by the men of the Royal Humane Society, whilst boats were placed upon the ice at various spots in order to be at hand in case of need.
THE INQUEST AND VERDICT
This morning, at the District Council Offices, Mr. Burroughs, Hendon, Dr. George Danford Thomas held an inquiry concerning the death of Edward Charles Clack, aged 28 years, a plumber, of 40, Tennyson-road, Kilburn, who was drowned on Tuesday afternoon in the waters of the Brent reservoir between Edgware-road bridge and the railway viaduct.
Mr. MacIntyre, sub-divisional inspector, watched the case on behalf of the police and Mr. A. Mitchell acted as foreman of the jury.
Nathaniel Clack, plumber, of Waterloo-park parade, Willesden, brother of the deceased, identified the body.
On Tuesday afternoon he was at the "Welsh Harp" with him about 3.30 in the afternoon. They were on the viaduct side of Edgware-road.
Witness was on the water which was all frozen, excepting near to the bridge.
They had not been there long and had got through the railings on to the ice. His brother did not go on the ice. He did not pay to go on and, therefore, supposed that he was a trespasser.
Others, however, were also getting on the ice.
His brother suffered from an injured foot and the walk had tired him, and witness persuaded him not to come on to the ice.
Witness was skating on the little water.
There was no one on the upper side of the water to his knowledge making any charge.
They had to get through the railings or fence to get on to the ice.
The Coroner said he wished to know the legal position of witness, because if a man charged for admission it was his duty to take reasonable precaution to see that those who entered were safe.
Witness went on to say that he skated away towards the railway bridge, and whilst there heard a noise from the road bridge, and returning saw a little girl in the water, apparently about 3ft. from the bridge.
A gentleman jumped in from the bridge and got her out.
He stood there, quite unconscious that his brother was in the water. He heard people saying that a man was in the water with his coat on and a pipe in his mouth. He could not see anyone as the person must have been under the ice.
From the big water the Humane Society's men came and dragged for the body, which was soon found.
He saw a hand come up above the water and he discovered it was his brother.
Questioned by the Foreman of the jury: It was, he thought, 15 minutes before the body was recovered. He did not see his brother go into the water.
Mrs. Jones, the wife of a foreman tailor, of 14, Rockhall-road, Cricklewood, said that on Tuesday she went to the Welsh Harp to see the skating.
In passing the road bridge the children went on the ice to slide.
A young woman who was with witness shouted out, "Liza is in the water."
Witness rushed through the railings and looked into the water and saw the little girl struggling a feet yards away.
She then saw a young man walk along the ice towards the child.
She could not say what happened, but he fell in and disappeared.
He came up and then went under again, and witness did not see anything more of him.
Another gentleman then jumped from the bridge and held the child up until a ladder came.
The gentleman who saved the child dived from the bridge.
The children got on to the ice through the railings. Witness took no means to see if the ice was safe. There were other people upon the ice skating and sliding.
Witness thought it was all safe.
The accident did not take place on the Welsh Harp side of the water.
Sidney Coke, an umbrella manufacturer of 339, Oxford-st., said that on Tuesday he was walking from Cricklewood to the "Welsh Harp."
When about 200 yards from the bridge witness noticed people looking over.
He ran to the spot and saw a man in the water and a little girl.
He took off his coat and jumped off. He was a good swimmer and could tell the water was deep. He came up and took hold of the girl and swam making towards the shore. He thus sustained himself till the ladder came. It was brought by a constable and several men.
It seemed to him to be a long while in the water.
The ladder came just in time, as he felt nearly paralyzed with the cold.
He saw nothing of the other man beyond a momentary glance. He heard afterwards of the recovery of the body.
P.C. J. Macdermott, 182X, said that he was on duty at the Welsh Harp on the big water, assisting to keep people from going on who had not paid.
There were a lot of people on the other aide, but they had not paid and no charge was levied.
The proper entrance to the larger water was from the house. Proper arrangements were made there, and the men of the Royal Humane Society were present.
These men were in proximity to the racing, where the most danger was.
Witness heard cries and screams, and at once rushed toward the spot.
He there saw a girl floating in the water, and immediately afterwards a splash when the last witness jumped in.
He saw a long ladder close by a which was about 15 or 16 feet long.
He pushed it out towards the girl and had to push her before she caught hold of it. The gentleman also caught hold of it, and he then commenced to pull the ladder back.
The ice where he was standing gave way, but he still pulled them towards the bank.
When they got within a short distance of the bank with some difficulty he got her to take hold of an umbrella, and subsequently they were both pulled to shore and conveyed to the receiving house.
By Sub-divisional Inspector McIntyre: The witness went into the water up to his knees, but saved himself by holding on to the pump.
William Pearce, a waterman and lighterman, said he was employed by Mr. Warner to look after the people, and he had the necessary appliances.
Whilst he was on the big water, a gentleman told him that between 30 and 40 people were in the water.
He went to the spot and the little girl and gentleman had been taken away
He was told there was another man under the ice, but they could not tee anything if him, and he therefore fetched the drags, and the body was recovered after about four minutes.
In reply to questions, witness said that the water there was about 15 feet deep, and was right in the centre of the stream.
Mr. John Warner, the proprietor of the Wash Harp, said he rented the fields on either side of the bridge.
Certain portions of the water were thrown open to the public on payment of a fee.
The ice between the bridge and the railway bridge they had never thrown open for skating.
When they took money on the upper water, ropes were always placed across so that people should not go too near the bridge. At the present time this water as not used for skating, and there was a notice board stating that the ice was dangerous. There were also other notice boards stating that parts of the ice were dangerous.
On Tuesday there were six policemen, 12 Humane Society men, and over 100 other hands on the ice. There were boats, ladders, and ropes at various points on the ice, and all precautions were taken.
People who went on to this portion of the ice were trespassing and were liable to be removed, but it was most difficult to deal with these skating gentlemen.
Up to the present they had had no serious accidents upon the ice.
Thu Coroner advised Mr Warner to afford all possible protection upon the big water, and to let it be distinctly understood that he did not provide protection on these upper portions.
Mr. Warner said he wished to draw the Coroner's attention to the prompt way in which the policeman concerned in the case had acted. He thought the little girl and gentleman must both have been drowned had it not been for his conduct.
He also stated a subscription, mentioned elsewhere, had been started for the widow, and Mr. Coke, sen., called attention to the open state of the rails near the bridge.
Dr. E. A. Burgess, of Chichelle-road, Cricklewood, was called to see the body, and was of opinion that death was due to drowning.
A verdict of death from accidental causes was returned and the jury added a rider recommending that the attention of the District and County Council be called to the condition of the approaches of the bridge on either side.
They also recommended that Mr. Warner exhibit on the upper waters posters setting forth that the ice was dangerous.
They wished also to record their sense of the gallant conduct of Mr. Sidney Coke, who jumped into the water, and they recommend his conduct to the Royal Humane Society for recognition.
They also wished to commend P.C. McDermott for his prompt action in the matter, he also being partly in the water.
A fund has been raised by Mr. John Warner on behalf of the widow of the deceased man Clack. Twelve pounds have been collected in boxes, whilst subscriptions and donations have brought the fund up to £40, which includes a cheque for £20 from Mr. Stott, the father of the little girl who was saved."
However, it transpires that the newspaper had been wrong about the actual contributor of the £20 donation to the fund, and Mr Stott duly wrote to the paper to correct the error.
His letter was published a week later, on Friday 15th February 1895:-
I see today in your report of the sad fatality at the Welsh Harp, by which a young man named Clack lost his life in endeavouring to save that of Miss Jones, you credit me with having handed to the widow the sum of £20.
Will you allow me to correct that statement.
The amount was really given by Mr. Jones, father of the rescued child, although the cheque bore my name, which probably gave rise to the mistake.
I shall be glad if you will kindly insert this correction in your next issue.
Thanking you in anticipation - I am, dear sir, faithfully yours,
3, Regency-terrace, High-road, Willesden-green, N. W.
9th February 1895"