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Hear how Chester lock-keeper rescues mother and baby from city canal

Pigeons flew into mother's face causing her and the baby to end up in the water at Northgate Locks

A lock-keeper helped save the life of a mother and baby during a dramatic incident on the canal near Chester’s Telford’s Warehouse earlier today (Thursday, June 4).

Paddy McGovern, a Canal & River Trust operative, was working at Northgate Locks about 11am when he heard screaming after a young woman and her tiny infant fell in to the deepest part of the canal, under the railway bridge.

She had been startled after pigeons flew into her face, causing her – and the pram she was pushing – to end up in the water although it is unclear whether she was holding the baby at the time. Paddy and passer-by ‘Laura’ ran to the aid of the mother who, while still in the water, was holding her baby aloft.

The mother passed the baby to Laura while Paddy helped the woman, about 5ft 6in in height, clamber out of the 6ft deep section. The mother, in her late 20s, was ‘hysterical’ and the baby was screaming. It is believed the woman, who lives locally, intended to go straight to A & E to get herself and the infant checked out, especially because of the risk from Weil’s disease which is carried by rats.

All I could hear was a lady shouting ‘Help! help!’ help!’

Paddy, who lives at Lache, explained: “As I was operating the top lock I heard a lady screaming down at the bottom with a baby. Apparently she walking under the bridge and as she got under the bridge there was a lot of pigeons and they all flew up and startled her and as she ducked, she fell over and she fell into the canal and as she fell in the pram went in with her, and the baby.

“All I could hear from the top of the lock was a lady shouting ‘Help! help!’ help!’.

"As I ran down, another lady from down the bottom here came running around the corner as well. I think her name was Laura. And as we both got to her, the lady passed the baby to Laura and I grabbed hold of the lady and rescued the pram at the same time. She was very shocked and she couldn’t thank us enough.

“The baby was crying, really upset. I’m sure the baby had gone under the water as well and I advised her to go to the local doctor’s, which is just around the corner, or down to the hospital to get the baby checked out and to get herself checked out as well.”

Paddy, a father and grandad, explained that the accident could not have happened at a worse time due to the rush of water as he was emptying the bottom lock ready for a barge to enter the staircase of locks.


“With the flow of the water, God knows what would have happened if she had let go of the baby, the baby could have gone floating off’,” said Paddy, who described the whole scenario as ‘scary’.

Paddy, who later rescued the mother’s shoe, said the prevalence of pigeons in the area, which led to the accident, was ‘a nuisance’. He said a woman on a canalboat had offered for the mother to go aboard and wash her infant but the mother had decided to seek immediate medical advice.

This is not the first time Paddy, who has worked on the waterways for 37 years, has been caught up in a canal drama involving a youngster.

About 17 years ago, Paddy recalls a parked-up car rolling down a slip road and into the canal basin, again near Telford’s, when the on board toddler, waiting for his father to return from a nearby garage, knocked the gear stick into neutral and the handbrake wasn’t working.

A dog at the garage, later demolished to make way for the Tower Wharf flats, barked Lassie-style and the dad dived in to pull the toddler from the sinking car.

Paddy and his colleague Chris Birch then towed the vehicle out of the canal basin with the works van.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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