Although all the plaques in Postman's Park remember demonstrations of true courage, when it comes to press coverage of the deaths of those remembered, it is noticeable that some caught the public imagination more than others.
One example of this is John Clinton (1884- 1894), whose act of heroic self sacrifice, led to his being dubbed "The Boy Hero" by the newspapers of the day.
His plaque reads, "John Clinton, Aged 10, Who Was Drowned Near London Bridge In Trying To Save A Companion Younger Than Himself, July 16 1894."
The Jarrow Express carried a brief article about the tragedy on Friday 20th July 1894, albeit they gave the wrong date for it:-
"About seven o'clock on the evening of the 18th inst. a little boy was playing in the water with his shoes and stockings off, on the Surrey side of the Thames, near London Bridge, when he fell into the river and sank.
On his coming to the surface, another boy, named Clinton, jumped into the water, went to the drowning lad's rescue, and succeeded in bringing him to shore.
While climbing out himself, however, Clinton slipped and fell back into the water, where he sank and did not again come to the surface.
A large number of persons were passing over London-bridge at the time, and there was much excitement, but nobody was sufficiently near to attempt to rescue Clinton, and he was drowned.
The river police dragged for the body and took it ashore, where two doctors were summoned, but life was then extinct."
An inquest on the body of John Clinton was held at Guy's Hospital on Monday 23rd July 1894, with Coroner Mr. Samuel Langham presiding.
Jackson's Oxford Journal carried a report on the proceeding in its edition of Saturday 28th July 1894:-
"At Guy's Hospital on Monday afternoon Mr. S. F. Langham, the Southwark Coroner, held an inquiry with reference to the death of John Clinton, aged ten years, son of a carman residing at 51, Brandon-street, Walworth, who was drowned after having gallantly rescued his companion from the river on Tuesday last.
Campbell Gladwell Mortimer, a little boy living in the same house as the deceased, stated that on Tuesday evening they were playing alongside the foreshore of the Thames near London Bridge.
They had taken their shoes and stockings off, and the witness had walked out beyond his depth.
He called out, and the deceased at once went to his assistance, and succeeded in rescuing him.
The Coroner: And what became of your companion?
The Witness: After Jack pulled me out he slipped off the camp-shed, and we did not see him again.
James Palmer, a lighterman who witnessed the occurrence, said he was too far off to render any assistance.
He hurried to the spot, however, and saw that the poor boy had been carried by the tide under the steamboat pier.
About seven minutes after the backwash of a steamer washed the body from the pier, but life was then extinct.
By the Foreman: It was a common practice for about fifty or sixty boys to be playing near the spot every night, and the police never attempted to prevent them entering the water.
The Foreman: It would not cost much to put a notice board up at the place. A little trouble might save many a life.
Inspector Pritchard, of the Thames police, said that the boys were repeatedly warned against the place, but they persisted in returning.
Dr. Pearce, of Guy's Hospital, deposed that he was sent for on Tuesday evening, and, on arriving at the pier, he tried every means in his power to restore animation. Death was due to drowning.
The jury returned a verdict of accidental death, and found that no blame was attributable to anyone.
NOT HIS FIRST ACT OF BRAVERY
It is said that this was not the first time that the deceased lad had behaved with prompt gallantry.
His father states that some short time ago the baby set fire to the curtains and its own clothing.
On seeing the baby's danger, the deceased seized hold of it, and rolling it along the carpet extinguished the burning clothes.
He then pulled down the curtains to prevent them setting fire to the woodwork, and was severely burned about the hands and arms."
John Clinton was laid to rest in Manor Park Cemetery on Wednesday 25th July 1894.
The South London Press carried a poignant account of it in its edition of Saturday 28th July 1894. The article also made an appeal for funds to defer the expense of the funeral for his grief-stricken family :-
"The officers and men of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade have not failed to recognize the heroism displayed by the unfortunate lad John Clinton, aged 10 years, who, after rescuing a boy of eight years from drowning, fell back into the water near London Bridge and lost his life.
The chief engineer at headquarters, T. Smith, appealed to his comrades, and a handsome wreath was the result, inscribed, "In recognition of a hero so young. May heaven be his reward."
The lad was the means of saving the life of a baby at his home some time since. The baby set fire to the curtains and himself, and the deceased, who was burned on the arms and hands in the act, rolled the child in a carpet, and by pulling down the curtains, stopped the progress of the fire.
The remains of little Clinton were laid to rest in Manor Park Cemetery on Wednesday.
The coffin was almost hidden by wreaths.
One, sent by the boy whom Clinton rescued, had the simple but tender inscription, "He saved me."
Another came from the dead lad's teacher.
Several of the lad's schoolfellows were at the graveside, and the tears of these children, as well as those of many grown-up persons, bore eloquent testimony to their sorrow at the noble boy's untimely end.
Mr Robert A. Ward, head master of the St. John's National Schools, Larcom-street, Walworth, writes:-
"You record the very sad case of the drowning of John Clinton, after his gallant rescue of a boy who had fallen into the Thames just below London Bridge.
On that day he came to school as usual, where he had been in regular attendance for more than a year, and where he has borne an excellent character.
I have received a note from his father, who is in poor circumstances, and ill able to bear the heavy funeral expenses.
The clergy of the parish are all agreed as to the deserving nature of the case, and I feel that the best thing to be done is to forward it to you, to see if any of your readers would feel inclined to help in such a distressing and deserving case.
I will gladly acknowledge any contribution, however small, which may be sent to me at the above address.""
On the 25th of August, 1894, the following letter of appeal appeared in The South London Press:-
Little John Clinton, "the boy hero" of whom all South London is, or ought to be, proud, lies in Manor Park Cemetery in a common grave.
Some slight memorial ought to mark the spot where he lies.
Before any such memorial can be erected, the ground must be purchased. The cost will be about £5.
A simple headstone ought not to cost much more.
I shall be glad to receive donations towards these objects.
Arthur W. Jephson
St John's Vicarage
Today, visitors to Manor Park Cemetery will, indeed, find a handsome memorial to John Clinton, situated to the left of the path from the main gate to the chapel.
The inscription on the stone reads:-
"IN MEMORY OF
THE LITTLE HERO
WHO DIED TRYNG TO
SAVE A COMPANION
AGED 10 YEARS"