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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)


Michael Webster

Lock-Keeper

Nationalist and Leinster Times, July 1897.

Hero of the Barrow

Testimonial for Bravery.

Mr Michael Webster, Lock-Keeper, Carlow-Graigue has been awarded a medal by the Royal Humane Society for his bravery in rescuing life from drowning. To date Michael has saved 30 people from drowning in the river Barrow. As his admirers who appreciate his many gallant rescues from the Barrow, are anxious to supplement this official recognition by a purse of sovereigns to be presented to him. A subscription list has been opened and subscriptions will be received by Mr R. C. Langran, Athy Place, Carlow.

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Carlow Sentinel, July 1897.

Royal Humane Society Awards.

Testimonials to Michael Webster, lock-keeper, for on the 30th June 1897 he rescued from the canal at Graigue Lock, William Connor, a lad of 13 years. The lad while sailing on a raft, that was left by workmen, fell into the river.

Michael Webster who is credited with having saved 29 lives from the Barrow, was asleep in a boat at the time, having been up the previous night on duty, but the instant he was awakened by his daughter he took off his coat and plunged into the river, he got hold of the lad as he was sinking under for the third time and then rose with him to the wall where were assisted by his wife, Mrs Webster. A local testimonial is being organised in Carlow to present to Michael Webster.

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The Carlow Sentinel, Saturday, August 7th 1897.

A Compliment to Mr Michael Webster.

The last issue of the English publication the "ILLUSTROGRAPH" contains a capital portrait on Mr. Michael Webster, the "Hero of the Barrow" with the notice which we append:-

"We have much pleasure in giving to our readers the portrait of one of "Nature's Noblemen" a man who though not privileged to belong to the higher ranks of life, yet has on more than one occasion testified by deeds , which speak louder than words, the possession of a truly noble self-sacrificing nature.

Mr. Webster is a lock-keeper in the employ of the Grand Canal Company at Carlow, and as a life-saver has a record of which he may justly be proud. He has, says the local paper, been the means of saving no less than 29 persons from drowning.

Although Mr Webster's gallant conduct has been often the talk of local circles that has been up to the present the only appreciation of an unparalleled record.

It is to be hoped that the Royal Humane Society will be moved to its duty now that Mr Webster's record has received a greater publicity and that the recognition of the Society will be in some way commensurate with such distinguished services".

The Carlow Sentinel are glad to learn that the suggestion that he should be presented with a substantial recognition for his life-saving services meets with a hearty approval, and already several subscriptions have been received by Robert C. Langran, Carlow Sentinel, Honorary Secretary and Treasurer to the fund, who will thankfully receive further subscriptions which will be duly acknowledged.

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Nationalist and Leinster Times, August 7th 1897.

Honours for Heroism.

The ILLUSTOGRAPH of last week published a portrait of Mr Michael Webster, Lock-keeper, Carlow-Graigue whose heroism in the saving of life has been so widely commended. Alluding to the portrait the journal states:

"We have much pleasure in giving to our readers the portrait of one of "Nature's Noblemen" a man who though not privileged to belong to the higher ranks of life, yet has on more than one occasion testified by deeds , which speak louder than words, the possession of a truly noble self-sacrificing nature.

Mr. Webster is a lock-keeper in the employ of the Grand Canal Company at Carlow, and as a life-saver has a record of which he may justly be proud. He has, says the local paper, been the means of saving no less than 29 persons from drowning.

Although Mr Webster's gallant conduct has been often the talk of local circles that has been up to the present the only appreciation of an unparalleled record.

It is to be hoped that the Royal Humane Society will be moved to its duty now that Mr Webster's record has received a greater publicity and that the recognition of the Society will be in some way commensurate with such distinguished services".

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Nationalist and Leinster Times , July 1897.

Sad Drowning Case - Heartless Conduct.

An inquest was held on the bodies of Mary Balwin, aged 16 and an infant aged three months who were drowned in the Liffey, opposite Inchicore House. Two little girls named Mary Dowling and Elizabeth Owens, aged about six years, stated they were with the deceased the previous evening on the bank of the river. Mary Baldwin's foot slipped and she fell on her back into the water, she had the three month old child in her arms at the time and both fell into the water together. At the time a boat in which there were a man and two girls was going down the river, they were about to come over, but they then went off down the river.

The Coroner said it was a pity they did not know who the parties in the boat were, so that their names might be published.

Mr Baldwin the father of the deceased girl said that the conduct of the parties in the boat was most inhuman.

The Coroner said he was sure when those people who were in the boat should see the report of this inquest in the papers they would feel themselves responsible for the lives of those children. If they had come over when the children fell into the water they would have had a very good chance of saving their lives. Their conduct was most heartless.

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The Carlow Sentinel, August 1897.

Webster Testimonial Fund.

It having been decided to present Mr Michael Webster, lock-keeper, Carlow-Graigue, with a testimonial in recognition of his gallantry in saving from time to time twenty-nine lives from drowning, a subscription list has been opened for that purpose.

Mr Webster is to be the recipient of the Royal Humane Society's honours and it is intended that both presentations should be made at the same time.

The following subscriptions have been received or promised:-

Mr H.E. Stuart, - £2.
Grand Canal Company, per Mr Kirkland, - £2.
Mr M. Governey, - £1.
Mr P. Shackleton, - £1.
Mr J. Fishbourne, - £1.
Mr Wilfred Haughton, - £1.
Rev, J. Cullen, - £1.
Dr. W. O' Meara, - £1.
Mr Kane Smith, - £1.
Rev. J. Murray, - 10 shillings.
Mr J.D. Carthy, - 10 shillings.
Mr W. Haughton, - 10 shillings.
Dr Rawson, - 10 shillings.
Mr Hanlon & Sons, - 10 shillings.
Mr G. Black, - 10 shillings.
Mr D. Ross, - 10 shillings.
Mr R. Bell, - 5 shillings.
Mr C. Johnson, - 5 shillings.
Mr W. Fitzmaurice,  - 5 shillings.
Mr Clarence. Cary, - 5 shillings.
Mr O.T. Slocock, - 5 shillings.
"PLUCK"  - 5 shillings.
"COURAGE" - 2 shillings and 6 pence.

Further subscriptions will be thankfully received and acknowledged by R.C. Langran, Hon. Sec. Court Place, Carlow.

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Nationalist and Leinster Times. August 1897.

Webster Testimonial Fund.

Mr R. Norton, - £1.
Sir Charles Burton, Bart., - 10 shillings.
Brown and Crosswait, - 10 shillings.
S. Chatterton, - 10 shillings.
Denis Nolan, - 10 shillings.
Robert Thorp, - 10 shillings.
C. Anderson, - 10 shillings.
H. Herring-Cooper, - 5 shillings.
C. Malcomson, - 5 shillings.
C. Hayden, - 5 shillings.
A Friend, - 2 shillings and six pence.

(Note added, April 2011, - many others are named for smaller donations.)

Michael served as a lock-keeper for over seventy years, he died in 1938. At the time of his death it was claimed that he had rescued over 50 people from drowning in the river Barrow.

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Mick Webster 1845 - 1938 R.I.P.

Nationalist and Leinster Times, December 1938.

Mick Webster, a popular and familiar figure, who reached the patriarchal age of ninety-three, was up to a few years before his death, which occurred on Thursday, the 8th December, alert and active. He retired a few years ago on pension from his occupation as lock-keeper, after a service of over seventy years, with the Grand Canal Company.

Genial and courteous "and every man his neighbour" he won affection and esteem and on his passing, his legion of friends, fervently prayed that he may Rest in Peace.

Though a man of small stature he was physically a gladiator, with the courage of a lion and the gentleness of a lamb. He saved from drowning, often at the risk of his own life, the lives of twenty-seven and was presented with Medals and Certificates for bravery by the Royal Humane Society. These deserved honours he took with the modesty of the hero – that he was.

He was a good sportsman. His prowess with the bat in the heyday of Cricket at Tiny Park is commemorated in "The Skipper's Oath and How He Kept It" written by the late Paul A. Brown in collaboration with District Inspector Hyde, (brother of Dr. Douglas Hyde, President of Ireland) who was then living in Carlow.

Mr Kane-Smyth, who is still happily with us, played every game and was without rival as a Horseman at the tail of hounds or between the flags and was adept with rod and gun. We hope to induce Mr Smyth to write his reminiscences of the men of yesterday, of their deeds in the chase and piscatorial pursuits. Should he ever undertake this task - Mick Webster, his friend, will have a unique interesting and humorous chapter - "On The Banks of the Barrow".

A day on the river with both men was a treat. Kane's flow of wit and Mick's reminiscences made an inimitable combination of good things, which must remain unrecorded, as they are of the past and hard to recall. But here is one story worthy of a place in a book of Irish Wit and Humour.

Mick Hayden, whom God Rest his soul, was as keen a piscator (fisherman) as ever cast a fly on the waters of the Barrow - Kane an admirer of Hayden said to Mick Webster with great solemnity: "Mick, fishing on the Barrow always reminds me of the late Mick Hayden, we should erect a monument to his memory bearing the inscription:-

“Mick Hayden, Born 1828 - Died 1894
Ah! Mick Webster replied, and add
"He is waiting for the Rise".
Mick Webster - a Carlow landmark
"whose like we shall not look upon again"
is gone. An old "Soldier"
he finished the course, and has won we pray
His Heavenly Crown.
"Good Mick the Grand Old Patriarch is Dead.
And of him truly it can be said:
An honest man - A Diamond in the rough,
"He fought the fight" - says Kane - Ain't that enough".

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An Appreciation.

"Mick" as his friends used to call him, was a most kind and honourable man, in fact a true nature's gentleman. I do not know if I have ever heard a man spoken of by his own countrymen with such respect.

A great fisherman, who worked nearly all his life as Head Water Bailiff on the River Barrow, on the banks of which he lived. He was most courageous, as the many lives he saved from drowning can testify. Few realised the kind of man he was until his death.

"I knew that ancient fisherman
I have him in my eye;
I'll throw it a foot in front of him
And I'll be with him bye and bye"
Kane- Smyth.

Source: Michael Purcell 2011


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