On Easter Monday, 22 April, 1889, a tragic accident happened in the early evening on the Thames near Kew. Two friends, Francis Moore and Joseph Geraty, had rented a boat from Pearce’s Tyrrel Dock. Moore later testified that he knew a little about boats, but that Geraty did not. When another boat came too close and Geraty, who was rowing, had to lift an oar out of the water to avoid a collision, the boat capsized. Two men in another boat, Herbert Peter Cazaly and his friend Henry Jefferies came to their rescue. Cazaly, who was a good swimmer, took off his coat and vest and jumped in, while Jefferies tried to get their boat closer to the upturned boat. Geraty, who could not swim, clung to Cazaly, while Moore was able to hang on to the upturned boat. Jefferies also jumped in the water and Sidney John Bridgeman, the Brentford ferryman and landlord of the (Bunch of) Grapes, who saw the commotion, took his boat over to help. He was able to pull Jefferies and Moore onto his boat, but Geraty and Cazaly were not close enough and before he could get to them, they had gone under and disappeared.
At the inquest, held on the 26th in the King’s Arms Hotel, Kew Green, Mr. Braxton Hicks, the Mid-Surrey coroner, heard the evidence of the police who related how they found the bodies of Cazaly and Geraty on Tuesday morning a little below the Brentford ferry on the Surrey side.
Geraty had been a 24 year old printer, residing in Romney Street; his body was identified by his brother Thomas who was from Dublin. Cazaly’s body was identified by his brother, James Adolphus Cazaly who worked at the Empire Theatre. Herbert Peter, born in 1859, had been his younger brother by two years and had worked as a stationer’s clerk in Hatton garden. He had lived in the same house as his brother, his sister-in-law Rosalie and their widowed mother Charlotte in Hutton Street. Hutton Street lies between Dorset Rise and Whitefriars Street in the St. Bride area, parallel and just north of Tudor Street where Jefferies, who was a fine-art dealer, lived. The coroner, in summing up, referred to the carelessness and indifference of watermen in letting out small boats to persons who possessed no knowledge of rowing, and suggested that the matter should be taken up by the police authorities which one of the policeman promised to do. The jury returned a verdict of ‘Accidental death’, and commended the gallant action of the ferryman Bridgeman and of Jefferies. Cazaly was buried on the 26th in Abney Park Cemetery and would have been forgotten, but for the plaque in Postman’s Park which testifies to his heroic effort to save another human being.
This story has been put together from the reports on the inquest in The Daily News, The London Times and The Standard, supplemented by some genealogical and geographical research.
Postscript: a friend went to Abney Park and tried to find Herbert Peter’s grave for me, but that was not so easy. With the help of John, the caretaker, – for which many thanks – the grave has been identified as number 72061, which lies in grid section J8, to the north of New Road. Unfortunately, the grave stones in that area are very overgrown, but John thinks (99% certain) that the pictures below are of the Cazaly gravestone. The front with the writing is almost inaccessible because of the trees and shrubs that have taken over, but the back of the stone can be seen in this first picture. I also added the photo of a small section of the front that my friend managed to photograph while clambering through the bushes and if anyone can work out what it says, I will be most grateful. To help anyone deciphering, the grave is supposed to contain, besides Herbert Peter, also Marian Jane, James Adolphus and Charlotte Cazaly.