Canal rescue survivor reunited 50 years on with hero who saved him

Canal rescue survivor reunited 50 years on with hero who saved him

By Michael Upton | 17/05/2019

Canal rescue survivor reunited 50 years on with hero who saved him
Charlie Krajewski (left) and John Barker

A MAN who was saved from drowning in a canal as a seven-year-old boy has been reunited with his rescuer 50 years on.

John Barker feared for his life after being pushed into the water near Ickles Lock back in May 1969.

But he was dragged from the water by then-15-year-old Charlie Krajewski, who fearlessly plunged into the murky depths after being alerted by John’s panicking friend.

After Charlie asked us to reprint our original 1969 story about the drama last year, we brought the pair back together this week - just days after the 50th anniversary of the rescue - and John was finally able to say “thank you” in person.

“Seeing Charlie now, how can I say anything other than thank you - he saved my life,” said John, of Roughwood Road, Kimberworth Park.

Recalling the dramatic day almost exactly 50 years ago, John said: “My friend and I were just having a walk by the canal when these boys ran past. I think they were trying to push us both in but it was just me that went into the canal.

“Then I was in the water and all I could see was the water, which was like a green mist all around me. The next thing I knew was when I woke up in hospital with nurses beside me.

“It wasn’t until I got home that my mum told me what had happened.”

Charlie, then of Hollowgate, was walking alongside the canal, “killing time before meeting my mum at the fairground”, when John’s friend - who they think was also called John - came running and asked him to help.

“I took off my jacket and shoes and put aside my pistol, which I had with me as I was going ratting - everything I thought would weigh me down - and dived in,” recalled Charlie (65).

“I managed to pull him to the side where there was a bank and onto some railway lines, which I later learned were electrified.

“The other boy had gone for help and the ambulance arrived.

“I think I must have gone to hospital in the same ambulance as John. The water had slowed my watch down so I thought I still had time to meet my mum after going home and changing.

“But when I got to the fairground she wasn’t there. It was only when I got home again that I realised my watch was broken.

“It actually got me in a bit of bother - my mum wasn’t too impressed with me for not turning up.”

Charlie was presented with a St Christopher medallion by governors at his school but remained modest about his heroics.

“I didn’t think anything more about it (the rescue) until the press came knocking at my door.”

Charlie later approached John’s grateful parents to ask them to help pay for repairs to the watch, which previously belonged to his grandmother and is now proudly on display in his house.

In fact, it was the watch that inspired him to seek a reunion with John almost 50 years later and prompted him to ask the Advertiser to reprint our original story from 1969 in a bid to track John down.

“I was clearing out the loft and came across the watch and realised it was getting up to the 50th anniversary, which set me wondering how he was getting on and what he’s done with his life,” said Charlie, now of Lathe Road, Whiston.

“It has been good to meet up and catch up with him.”