One of the intriguing aspects of researching the newspaper reports into the heroic deaths of those who are remembered on the memorial in Postman's Park is that, in several cases, the reporting of the tragedies reveals different behaviors from those who witnessed the tragedy.
Some witnesses demonstrated courage to equal that demonstrated by those who are remembered on the memorial, others showed callous indifference, some might say cowardice, in the face of the unfolding tragedy to which they were observers.
Both types of behavior were demonstrated by onlookers and passers-by who were walking along the tow-path of the Grand Junction Canal when ten-year old Edward Morris (1887 - 1897) and his friend, Sidney Probyn Moody, were drowned in the canal on the Bank Holiday Monday of the 2nd August 1897.
The newspaper reporting on the tragedy reveals how shocking indifference to the plight of the boys was demonstrated by several adults who were close to the scene of the drowning, whilst admirable courage was shown by a disabled lad, who happened to be fishing nearby and who did his upmost to try and save the lives of the two boys.
The plaque to Edward Morris reads, "Edward Morris, Aged 10, Bathing In The Grand Junction Canal, Sacrificed His Life To Help His Sinking Companion. Aug 2 1897."
In its edition of Thursday 5th August 1897, the St James's Gazette reported how, on the previous Monday, the two boys, together with several other lads:-
"...went bathing in the canal near the Scrubs Bridge, Wormwood Scrubs.
Both could swim, but Moody became exhausted. Morris went to his assistance, but was clutched by the drowning lad, and both went under and were drowned..."
The inquest into the deaths of the two friends took place on the afternoon of Wednesday the 4th August 1897.
The Illustrated Police News carried a report on the proceedings in its edition of the 21st of August 1897:-
"At Hammersmith Mr. C. L. Drew held an inquest on the bodies of Edward Morris, aged ten years, and Sidney Probyn Moody, aged nine years, sons of parents residing at 79, St. Ervan's Road, North Kensington, who were drowned in the Grand Junction Canal on Bank Holiday.
The evidence showed that the deceased lads, with others, went bathing in the canal, near the Scrubbs Bridge, Wormwood Scrubbs.
Both could swim, but Moody became exhausted. Morris went to his assistance, but was grabbed by the drowning lad, and both were drowned.
The attention of a number of men passing along the towing-path was called to the drowning lads, but they only walked away.
Charles Simmonds, a cripple, living at 17, Edenham Street, Kensal Road, and James Brown, who were fishing on the other side of the canal some distance away, jumped in, Simmonds bringing out first the dead body of Morris and then Moody.
The Coroner said the evidence did not say much for the manhood and pluck of the men who walked away when the boys were drowning.
The behaviour of Simmonds and Brown, especially the former, who was a cripple, was in great contrast, and they were deserving of commendation for their pluck.
The Jury: "Hear, hear."
A verdict of accidental death was returned in each case."