Bert Bryan, 12, of 127 Maitland Street, certainly lived up to his Boy Scout training on a July evening in 1931. In fact, his heroic actions earned him a nomination for a Royal Humane Society medal.
On that July night, Bert, and his friend, Wyburn Footwinkler, age even, were crossing a field adjacent to the Chelsea Green playgrounds. The younger boy, deciding to take a shortcut, plunged into an uncovered, abandoned well. Safety measures were obviously a little more lax in the Thirties than they are in 2009!
Hearing his companion’s cries for help, young Bryan turned back and, with some difficulty, managed to eventually pull the younger boy to safety. The water, which was 20 feet deep, reached to within five feet of the top of the well. Bryan found an iron rod, which had been used as a brace when the well was in service, and used it to reach down for the other boy. He was able to eventually grasp young Wyburn by the hand and pull him back up to solid ground.
During his plunge into the well, young Footwinkler had crashed against the stone sides. In the process, he knocked out three teeth and injured his arm. After Wyburn had been pulled to the surface, Bert commandeered a bicycle, and drove the younger boy to his uncle’s home nearby. From there, the very lucky young Footwinkler was taken to his own home at 110 William Street, where medical aid was provided for his injuries.
Bert, the Boy Scout, didn’t arrive home until about 9 p.m. and earned a scolding from his father for staying out past curfew.
“Well, I’ve done one good deed today,” Bert told his parents. “I saved a young lad’s life.” He then headed off to bed.
Bert’s parents remained skeptical about their son’s tale until later in the evening when Mrs. Footwinkler telephoned. “We certainly have a lot to thank your boy for,” she told Mrs. Bryan, relating the story of Wyburn’s fall into the well.
Bert, a pupil at Aberdeen Public School, was accorded a hero’s welcome by his classmates when his good deed became known. He modestly refused to take any credit for his quick-thinking actions.
“I just pulled him out, that’s all,” Bert told a London Advertiser reporter.
Two days later, The Advertiser ran a front page photo of Bert, neatly dressed in his full Boy Scout uniform, hands behind his back, standing beside young Wyburn Footwinkler.
As for the abandoned well – Wyburn’s father notified the police and a covering was immediately placed over the well to avoid the need for any future rescues.