KEVIN Green and Barbara Cox finally got a chance yesterday to say thank you to a hero who saved their relative from drowning in the Thames 120 years ago.
Edgar Wilson lost his own life when he jumped into the river between Oxford’s Osney Lock and the railway bridge downstream to save two young boys, Christopher Green and Thomas Hazell, who were floundering in the water on June 15, 1889.
A stone memorial, paid for by public subscription, was erected next to the towpath near where the tragedy occured but the story had been largely forgotten until it featured in the Oxford Mail’s Cabbages & Kings column, written by Peter Unsworth.
Mr Unsworth organised a ceremony as a tribute to the 21-year-old’s selfless bravery, and Christopher Green’s great-grandson Kevin and his niece Mrs Cox both attended.
Mr Green, 40, from Kidlington, said: “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Edgar Wilson’s brave actions.
“I have been researching the family tree but I wasn’t aware of this memorial until quite recently.
“I believe Christopher Green was living in Summertown before he went to fight in the First World War, leaving behind his wife and six children.
“He was in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and died aged 36, near Paschendale. He was buried at a military cemetery in Belgium.”
Mr Green, who works for Oxford University’s estates directorate, discovered there would be a ceremony marking the tragedy after his mother Christine read about the towpath memorial in the Oxford Mail.
He added: “Peter Unsworth wrote about the memorial in his column and that got people talking about it.”
Mrs Cox, 79, from West Oxford, laid a bouquet of flowers at the foot of the memorial, bearing the message: “To Edgar: To Show You’re Not Forgotten – the people of Oxford.”
She never knew her uncle, but said: “I think it’s a very good idea to remember Edgar’s bravery and I’m very pleased I came here today – I have found out things I didn’t know before and met Kevin, a distant relation.”
Oxford historian Malcolm Graham, who attended the ceremony, said he believed it was one of the first occasions such a ceremony had been held since the memorial was erected.
He added: “From what I can gather, Edgar Wilson was quite a sickly youth, who couldn’t swim very well, so what he did was tremendously brave and unfortunately it cost him his life.
“There are other drowning memorials in Oxford but this was a particularly poignant case, which captured the public imagination.”