By Harold Heys, local historian

THERE’S always something to be looking into when your hobbies in retirement include local history research. And here’s a tale I’ve finally caught up with, nearly 60 years since it first puzzled me.

Just about everybody in Darwen knew former cemetery supervisor Joe Taylor who went on to sell plants from a nursery behind his cottage at the end of Clough Street off Watery Lane.

I’ve told the story before about how Joe could talk forever about anything and how anyone calling in to buy a few spring plants knew it would take an hour or two.

I had been intrigued since the mid-1960s about an old photograph of a sailor and a framed bravery certificate alongside it on Joe’s wall. Our first house after we married was No 3, in the middle of the row of old weavers’ cottages. Of course, we knew Joe well.

The first trickles of the River Darwen from Jack Kay’s reservoir swept gently past the front doors and down through Spring Vale to eventually join the Ribble and then the sea at Lytham.

Joe died a few years ago and our nephew Robert lives there now. He knew Joe when he was a child and had never thought of tucking the old Harwood family photograph and certificate away in a drawer. I was looking at them again a few days ago, high on the lounge wall.

All I knew was that the photo was of Joe’s Uncle Dick and that he was the recipient of the bravery certificate which wasn’t easy to read. Dick had lived at No 6 with Joe and his mother Ethel.

Time for some action!

Of course, I got in touch with fellow historian Tony Foster and together we managed to piece together a fascinating tale going back to the summer of 1913...

The cap badge showed HMS Vivid and a training ship of that name foundered on rocks in the Firth of Forth in that summer. But Stoker Harwood wasn’t involved.

He didn’t join up till 1916.

HMS Vivid II was in fact a shore base for stokers and engine room artificers.

The Royal Humane Society certificate was awarded for “having saved a life from drowning” on Sunday, July 27, 1913.

Tony dug out the story from the Darwen News files in Darwen Library.

Richard was born in 1884 and moved to Clough Street as a child. He was a moulder at Thos Knowles pipe works.

On that Sunday afternoon Richard was at home when he heard a lot of screaming and shouting up the steep slope towards the newly finished Southend Mill.

He ran out and scrambled over the stream and up the rough ground towards the noise.

Twice he slipped back but made in to the top and was then faced with a wall nearly 10-feet high as the screaming intensified. He slipped and fell but reached the top, cutting his hands.

There he found that a boy had fallen into the deep mill lodge while trying to retrieve a football. “Without divesting himself of his clothing,” said the News, he dived in and was able to drag 11-year-old Edmund Singleton of Dewhurst Street from the deep water.

The reporter concluded: “Owing to the formation of the lodge, the rescue was one of great difficulty and the action of Harwood was a brave one.”

As well as the framed certificate from the Royal Humane Society. Dick was also presented with a crisp £1 note.

Edmund went on to marry a Darwen lass in 1926 and moved to Lancaster where he died in 1979. Dick died, aged 72, on September 9, 1956 at Clough Street.