Arthur James Davies, a 27 year old one armed man who saved the life of a one legged man and many others from drowning in the River Towy.

Arthur Davies was a remarkable young man. Having been brought up alongside the riverbank of the river Towy, he lived in what was then an alleyway of stone cottages that ran adjacent to the river called Justices Lane which is still in existence today, though no houses remain. Carmarthen during the latter part of the 19th century had a bustling and thriving port – one of the busiest in Wales, and inevitably there were many accidents as a result, many of them fatal as previous stories reveal. Arthur himself had been involved in an accident himself some years previously requiring the amputation of his right arm, though this did not stop him from his remarkable achievements in saving so many lives from drowning. In one particular case Arthur saved an Irishman from drowning that had only one leg, only for that same person to be imprisoned for 28 days five months later for being drunk and disorderly (see below) Arthur died quietly at home aged 63 in October 1928 at Island Wharf, another stone built cottage alongside the river long since demolished and a stones throw from his exploits over 40 years previously. He is buried in St David’s Cemetery and has no known grave or headstone. As the following stories reveal, Arthur and indeed many others who lived and worked in the vicinity of the river Towy put their own lives at risk many times in the quest to save others from drowning. May they all rest in peace.

The “Jolly Tar” public house on Carmarthen Quay before demolition (centre) and Justices Lane – where Arthur lived is on the RIGHT of the pub , the entrance being where the red car is situated.















During the evening a very interesting presentation of medals and certificates was made to A J Davies, of Justice Lane, and James Williams, Quay. Mr Brunel White, in explaining the circumstances leading up to the presentations, said that perhaps there were many in that large company assembled who did not know the reasons why such medals and certificates should be distributed upon the heads of the two men who were on the platform. For himself he had not an exact knowledge of what had occurred, but from the information he lad received, it appeared that on the 22nd of June last, when a heavy ebb tide was flowing in the Towy, a youth by some mischance fell off the quay into the river. Alongside the quay was a steam boat called the Teal, and on board were the two recipients of the presentations to be made later on that evening. The cries of the lad fell on Davies’s ears, and immediately on its being known that the lad was in imminent danger of drowning, Davies, without divesting himself of any clothing, came on board from the hold, and in a moment, without any wavering sprang overboard to attempt the rescue of the poor lad (cheers). Now, such conduct deserved the greatest praise, and Davies did not stand before them that evening in such a position for the first time, for he had the satisfaction and pleasure to know that that was the fourth life Davies had saved during the last year (loud applause). Immediately Davies jumped into the river, James Williams, with equal spirit and determination, plunged in after them, for it must be understood that Davies only had one arm, and his fellow workman, seeing the danger both were in, volunteered his own life for his comrade’s (loud cheers). Equal praise therefore was due to Williams for having sprung in at the moment he did. Afterwards a rope was thrown from the Teal, or some other vessel alongside the quay, and the three were brought to land (hear. hear). Deeds such as those were not allowed to pass unnoticed in England, much less in Wales, and he believed it was through the instrumentality of Mrs Olive of the ”Jolly Tar,” who was an eye-witness, and of Mr A J Jones, Reporter Office, that the matter was ventilated, and brought before the notice of the Royal Humane Society (hear, hear). He understood that a letter was written by the latter to the editor of the paper called “Answers”, who also offers a medal and testimonial for such brave deeds. The two medals had come, a bronze one from the Humane Society, and silver one from Answers, and the latter’s testimonial would reach the mayor’s hands in a few days through Dr. Edwards, of Conwil, when Davies would be made the recipient of it. There was also a testimonial, inscribed on vellum received from the Society for Williams for having gone to the rescue of David Thomas, who was in imminent danger of losing his life. He was glad to see that prominent notice was taken of Arthur James Davies’s gallantry and daring, for it was daring to jump into the water handicapped let alone with heavy working clothes. Carmarthen was possessed of a good tidal river, and years ago they had men amongst them who had promoted regattas and swimming matches on the river, in order to learn the noble art of swimming. Where was that stimulus in the town now? (hear, hear). Why did they not have swimming matches as of old? This year was waning, and perhaps it was too late to re-establish the swimming matches and regatta (Voice: Not at all) – but he hoped that next year the swimming matches would be resuscitated on the banks of the good old river Towy (cheers). -Mrs A J Olive, Jolly Tar, then pinned the medals on Davies’s coat, and also presented him and Williams with the testimonial of the Royal Humane Society. Three ringing cheers were given for the two men, who bowed their thanks. The proceeds of the entertainment less expenses will be given to the Infirmary.



The Royal Humane Society Bronze medal for saving life at sea


A disabled one armed man named Arthur James Davies, a Royal Humane Society medallist, was called from his bed at midnight on Wednesday to rescue a man who had fallen into the Towy. Davies, heedless of the coldness of the night, rushed out without any clothing, and jumped into the river. With the aid of a servant of Mrs Olive, of the Jolly Tar Inn, who had heard groaning and had given the alarm, he hauled out the drowning man with great difficulty. It was then discovered that the poor fellow in the water was also disabled, having only one leg and gave his name as Jeremiah O’Dowd**; he was taken to the above named inn and kindly treated by the landlady.




At a special sessions on Tuesday – before Mr C. W. Jones, chairman, and Mr Howell Howells a travelling shoemaker, of Irish descent, named Jeremiah O’Dowd, well known in this locality as one of the “thirsty fraternity,” blessed with much “gift of the gab” was charged with being drunk and disorderly on Monday. Defendant is disabled and walks with the aid of a crutch. He was also charged with damaging the cell in the lock-up. P.C. Burnhill said that on Monday at 4 30 p.m., he saw defendant in the Square drunk. He was throwing his hat in the air and reeling about. He refused to go away and witness took him in charge. He had great difficulty in getting him to the lock-up. Defendant struggled and struck and kicked at him and witness had to hold him down until he had help. P.S. Harris said he was at the police station about six p.m., and hearing a smash he went to the cell where defendant was. Defendant was smashing the window with a bucket which was in the cell. With another policeman he went in and took defendant’s boots off. He continued to make a noise until near midnight. The glass of the window would cost 4s to replace, and the bucket which he broke was worth about 1s 6d. Defendant, on his own behalf, said that when in the cell he was very thirsty, and because he could not get any water, he smashed the plate glass window in revenge. After he smashed the glass he had some water. Supt. Smith said there was no truth in defendant’s story as, Sergt. Harris’s wife had given him water twice. Defendant – “I hope I shall not come here again in such a condition”. Chairman- You have said that before. You have been here three times previous to this, and the last time you were sent to prison for 28 days with hard labour.—Supt. Smith He is a very violent man he has been working at Porthyrhyd. Defendant “I am working at Croesyceiliog now” -Chairman: You had no property on your person, and so was walking our streets without any visible means of sustenance. — Defendant: No not exactly that.—Defendant put his hand in his ticket pocket and took out sixpence.—Chairman – then the police did not search you properly. —P.C. Burnhill I searched every pocket and could find nothing. — P.C. Thomas Jones: I searched that very pocket and I am positive it had nothing in it then.—Chairman It appears to me you are a dangerous character in your way. —Defendant: Oh, not so dangerous as that, sir. — Chairman: Well, you can use your crutch with wondrous effect. For being drunk you will be imprisoned for 14 days, and 14 days for damaging the cell.—Defendant: Is there no fine to be imposed?—Chairman: I do not see the use of it you have no money. — Defendant But I have friends.—Chairman (after consultation): You say you have friends and we like to treat everybody in the same way. We give you the option of a fine of 10s and 3s including costs for being drunk and disorderly, and 10s for damaging the station, 5s 6d the amount of the damage, and 3s 6d costs. No money forthcoming defendant was removed in custody.

Carmarthen Journal 27th May 1892


A ship moored at the “Bullworks” on the Towy – opposite the Jolly Tar pub circa 1900 (Carmarthenshire County Council Museum Service)













The burial register entry for Arthur James Davies.


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