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The memorial plaque to Herbert Maconoghu.


Herbert Moore McConaghey (1869 - 1882) - to give this thirteen year old hero his full and correct name - was born in Bengal, and was the son of an Imperial Civil Servant.

It was common for the offspring of members of the Imperial Civil Service to be sent back to Britain to be educated at boarding school, which is how young Herbert came to die so far away from his parents in 1882.

His plaque, which was in fact added to the memorial in 1931 - making it the last plaque to go up on the wall until the memorial to Leigh Pitt was added in 2009 - gives the following details of his brave act of heroic self-sacrifice, "Herbert Maconoghu, School Boy From Wimbledon, Aged 13. His Parents Absent In India, Lost His Life In Vainly Trying To Rescue His Two School Fellows, Who Were Drowned At Glovers Pool, Croyde, North Devon, August 28 1882."

Several newspaper articles, that appeared in the wake of the tragedy, had given his surname as Maconoghu, hence the misspelling of it on the plaque in Postman's Park.

Herbert McConaghey and his friends, Havelock McGeorge (1869 - 1882) and Charles Binney (1869 - 1882) - all of who were thirteen years of age - were enjoying a six week summer break on the North Devon Coast, and were in the charge of Mary Ellen Hardie, a governess at their Wimbledon School, Elizabeth Palmer's Boarding School For Boys at 5, Lansdowne Road, in Wimbledon, Surrey.

On the morning of the 28th of August 1882, the three boys, together with four other lads from the school party (one of whom, Edward Cornford, aged sixteen, was a close friend of the three who died), had set out to go swimming at around 10.15am.

The newspapers were quick to dramatize the tragedy, describing the events of the day with comments, such as the following, that appeared in Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper on 10th of September 1882, ":- They left the house to go on the sands. Seven went out together, but only four returned."


Under the above headline The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette Daily Telegraph published a full report on the tragedy, and the inquest into the deaths in its edition of 6th September 1882:-

"We reported a few days ago a sad bathing occurrence at Croyde, North Devon, by which three young gentlemen lost their lives.

They were visitors to the place, and belonged to a school of lads in London, whose parents are in London.

On Sunday last - a week after the occurrence - two of the bodies were picked up, and yesterday J. H. Toiler, Esq., held an inquest on them at the King's Arms Inn, Georgeham.

Thomas Heddon, a lodging-house-keeper, of Croyde, in the parish of Georgeham, said he had that day seen a body and identified it as that of Havelock McGeorge, a lad thirteen years of age, who had been staying with him, in charge of Miss Hardie. Deceased resided at No.5, Lansdowne-road, Wimbledon.

On Sunday morning last, between seven and eight o'clock, he went out on the beach to see if he could find any bodies. He saw something on the shore at high water, and on going to the spot found it was the body of Havelock McGeorge. The body was in the water, and was quite naked. He took charge of the body and took it to the mortuary with the assistance of two other men. He should say the deceased came to his death by drowning.

On Monday, the 28th August, the morning when the lads bathed, there was a heavy ground sea on.

Thomas Staddon, a labourer, of Croyde, said he had that morning seen the body of a lad whom be recognised as that of Herbert Maconaghey. He was about thirteen years of age he had heard, but he looked fifteen.

On Sunday evening last, about half-past five o'clock, he went out to look for the bodies. He was in company with James Lovering, and they saw a body, in a deep gully on the shore, which he afterwards recognized as that of Herbert Maconaghey.

He had it removed to the mortuary.

Death, he should say, was caused by drowning.

Mary Ellen Hardie said she resided at 5, Lansdowne-road, Wimbledon, and was governess to Miss Palmer.

The deceased were staying with her at Croyde, and she last saw them alive on Monday, 28th August, about quarter-past ten in the morning.

They were leaving the house to go upon the sands. Seven of them went out together, but only four came back again. She thought they were going out to play. Besides the two whose bodies were found, that of Charles Binney was missing.

They had bathed every morning during the six weeks they had been at Croyde.

Mr. Flinch, who represented the friends of the deceased, said that where the lads bathed was not dangerous, but the ground sea took them to Glover's Pool, and there they were drowned.

He hoped the jury would make a recommendation to have a board placed near Glover's Pool.

He further stated that he should have wished the eldest of the seven boys (Cornford) to have been present, but he was too unwell to attend.

He would have told them that Maconoghey was in no danger, and that he lost his life while trying to save one of the deceased. He called out to Cornford, "You save one boy, and I'll save another."

The Coroner advised the jury as to their verdict, which was that the deceased met with their death accidentally while bathing, and they recommended a board to be placed on the sands, warning visitors only to bathe at half-tide.

The three unfortunate lads were not brothers, as has been stated, nor were they related to each other in any way.

Messrs. Symons and Son, of Barnstaple, made two coffins for the deceased lads, whose bodies will he interred in Georgeham Cemetery."


The three friends were buried together in St George's churchyard in Georgeham, Devon.