Life Saving Awards from the Collection of John Wilson
Date of Auction: 25th March 2013
Estimate: £700 - £800
Royal Society for the Protection of Life from Fire, 3rd type, silver, reverse inscribed, ‘Presented to David Buchanan for saving life at Edgware Rd, London on the 30th May 1888’, swivel straight bar suspension, with silver buckle on ribbon, in Wyon, London fitted case of issue; Ally Slopers’ Medal of Valor, silver, reverse inscribed, ‘Presented to David Buchanan for his courageous conduct on the occasion of the Edgware Road Fire May 30th 1888’, complete with ornate silver brooch bar, in fitted case of issue, nearly extremely fine (2) £700-800
FootnoteEx W. H. Fevyer Collection D.N.W. 25 September 2008.
Extract from Saved from the Flames, by Roger Willoughby and John Wilson -
Case 14,212 David Buchanan, Journeyman Painter, Silver Medal and £5; Mdlle. Elise Chuard, Silver Medal; C. W. Bunting, Bronze Medal and £2.2.0.
‘This rescue was for a fire at Garrould’s in Edgeware Road on Wednesday 30 May 1888. A brief account of the rescue appeared in the Ally Sloper Magazine (16 June 1888) thus: “At the time the fire was at its fiercest, David Buchanan placed a ladder against one of the windows, but finding it was too short, he, nothing daunted, managed, with wonderful dexterity, to climb up to the window-sill. Here he put upon his shoulders the body of a girl who had fainted, and by an exertion of extraordinary physical strength, he was enabled to regain the ladder, from whence he brought his precious burden in safety to the ground.’
Further details appeared in the lengthy inquest report published in The Pall Mall Gazette (Monday 4 June 1888) and in The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times (Saturday 9 June 1888), the latter noting: ‘…The head dressmaker, a French lady, however, used most strenuous efforts to allay the extreme fright of the unfortunate creatures, and with praiseworthy presence of mind led them down a staircase by which many of them were brought to the back windows looking out on the leads at the rear of the building. Mdlle Elise Chuard [who appears incorrectly as ‘Shirard’ in the Society records], the principal dressmaker in question, thus clearly described her commendable presence of mind at this juncture whilst under examination at the inquest: “I have been with the firm eight years, and had several ladies – about sixty during the season – under me. Only a few slept on the premises. The factory inspector visited us. On the morning of the fire, at half-past six o’clock, I was awakened by a tremendous crash of glass. I occupied a room at the back, in the top of 154. A young lady in my bed-room asked what it was, and on looking out through the blind I saw nothing. Then I heard a crackling, and opened the door, but was at once obliged to close it again on account of the smoke. I rushed back to the window, and saw black smoke coming from the windows on the right. Then I managed to get to the front room, and found there four young ladies, whom I asked to follow me. We went downstairs, but we were unable to pass on account of the smoke. I then took them back to the front room and then went downstairs, covering my face as I went. Then I rushed back and told them to make another effort. They did so. One wanted to go back for her watch, but I would not let her. We got downstairs into the young men’s bedroom, from there to the work-room, and thence on to the leads, from which we were rescued”. The Coroner [said] (to the jury): “I promise to bring the conduct of this young lady before the Society for the Protection of Life from Fire”…’. The medals were presented at a Trustees Meeting on 20 September 1888.’