herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Liffey river rescue hero to get honour after 33 years

Non-swimmer Hugh rescued a woman from the Liffey in 1983
Non-swimmer Hugh rescued a woman from the Liffey in 1983

An act of incredible bravery by a lorry driver 33 years ago will finally be honoured this week.

Despite being unable to swim, Hugh Long entered the fast-flowing Liffey in Dublin city centre to save the life of a woman in danger of drowning.

After a wait of 33 years, the father-of-four will be presented with an Irish Water Safety Award for bravery at Dublin Castle tomorrow.

Hugh, now 73, was 39 when he was driving along Ellis Quay in February 1983 and a passer-by banged on his window.

She shouted that a woman had gone into the Liffey and urged Hugh to save her.

"I saw a woman in the water and she was floating downriver with the current," Hugh told the Herald.

"I can't swim, but I climbed down a ladder attached to the wall and into the Liffey.

"I waded about 20 feet towards the middle of the river. The water came up to my chest. It was freezing, and the current was very strong.

"I could see the woman floating towards me. I reached out and grabbed her."

Hugh managed to drag her to the ladder and a number of men, including a garda, helped get her up the ladder with a rope to a waiting ambulance.

The woman, a Dubliner who was in her 50s, had been in a highly confused state, said Hugh.

"I visited her later at the hospital in Grangegorman to see how she was. She didn't recognise me and I told her we met in the Liffey," said Hugh.

"She was a very nice woman and she insisted on giving me a present.

"She gave me a small black purse and there was one penny inside it. She told me it would bring me luck. I still have that penny."

The heroic rescue by Hugh was reported in the Herald, with a photo of Hugh helping the woman to safety.

Archives

Recently, he asked Irish Water Safety if it had any record of the rescue in its archives.

The association invited Hugh to its headquarters and, shortly afterwards, issued an invitation to him and his wife, Patricia, to attend tomorrow's awards ceremony.

"Patricia should be the person getting an award for putting up with me for 50 years," said Hugh.

Roger Sweeney, the deputy chief executive of Irish Water Safety, said: "We are delighted to honour Hugh's courageous act with a Rescue Appreciation Award."

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