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John Lennon Drama


Three Gateshead heroes attempt rescue.

From the Gateshead Observer of 14 August 1886


"On Monday [9 August] an affair of a melancholy and somewhat peculiar nature occurred at Gateshead. From the particulars it appeared that at about half past five o’clock on Monday afternoon a boy named John Lennon, nine years of age, living at Coxon Terrace, Felling, was in company with two of his playmates near Messrs Allhusen’s Chemical Works, South Shore, Gateshead, when he fell down a ventilating shaft of a drain, a distance of fifteen feet.

A man named Wm. Swinburn, aged 25, residing at 50 Frank Terrace, went to the rescue of the unfortunate boy, and succeeded in picking him up. and attempted to return, but when half way up the sewer gas overpowered him and he fell back to the bottom of the shaft. A man named Thomas Quinn then descended, to the aid of the two, but he only got down a few steps before the noxious vapour overpowered him and he also fell to the bottom.

After this, another man named Edward Scullion, obtained a protective mask and went down and attached ropes to the man, the lad and the boy, and they were brought up to the top.

Dr. Kay was immediately sent for, but the boy Lennon and Quinn were dead. Swinburn, however, the man who first attempted to render assistance, lingered until 11 o’clock on Tuesday night, when he died."


A memorial to Thomas Quinn and Thomas Henry Swinburne (not Wm. Swinburn as in the news report) was erected in Durham Road, Gateshead opposite the end of Whitehall Road. The memorial, which was removed about 1969, gave the date 10 August 1886, the date of Thomas Henry Swinburne’s death.

Edward Scullion was later awarded the Albert Medal for his bravery.








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