My mam warned me to stay away

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when I was little, aged about five or six, we lived in a terrace house in Swinton.

Behind a high (to me, at the time, it seemed enormous) red-brick wall was the dark, oily messy mass of the canal.

My mam warned me not to go near. If I did, Sally Green-Teeth or the Iron Man would get me. These were the bogey men who lurked beneath the oily patterned surface of the canal water.

It didn’t work, of course.

We were kids and water was an irresistible magnet.

One day, my pal Robert Green fell in the canal.

We had been throwing stones into the water and he forgot to let go. I shouldn’t joke. Because what happened next was terribly tragic.

Mr Green, like any good dad would, dashed to the canal side and without a second thought dived in to save his son who, by the way, was a year younger than me. A mere baby, really.

Sadly, Mr Green went under the water and did not reappear. He is thought to have hit his head on some obstruction and drowned.

Another neighbour had heard the commotion by this time, jumped into the water and pulled Robert to safety, giving him life-saving resuscitation to pump the filthy water out of his lungs and stomach.

I was reminded of this episode when reading of the inquest into the drowning of Simon Burgess.

He died in a couple of feet of water in a park lake in Hampshire while members of all three emergency services looked on, impotently constrained by our self-imposed straitjacket of health and safety regulations.

A policeman arrived and, learning that Mr Burgess had not been in the water long, made ready to go into the pool to save him.

A paramedic did likewise.

But the fire officer in charge of the operation would have none of it.

His team were only trained to level one of rescues from water. That meant they were not allowed to go into the water if it came over their wellies.

The pool in question was three feet deep. Not up to your chest but still too deep for the fire and rescue boys.

They held everyone at bay until a team arrived who were trained – and kitted out – to venture into Ladybower Reservoir, let alone the duck pond where Mr Burgess met his untimely death.

By the time the body was retrieved his life was over and the recriminations were beginning.

Should the fire service have allowed the attempted rescue of Mr Burgess?

Of course they should. But I don’t blame the officer in charge. He was under orders to behave and operate in a very strict manner.

If anything had gone wrong and a would-be rescuer had succumbed to the cold water, he would have been pilloried by the establishment.

The same establishment which set the impossible rules which may have caused the death of poor Mr Burgess (a coroner ruled that there was a slim chance he could have been saved if he had been pulled from the water).

Am I the only one who yearns for the days when we did the right thing, the instinctive thing and scorned the consequences?

I’m sure Mr Green, had he not dived into the water to save his son, would have been haunted for the rest of his life by his actions.