Reunited: hero and the boy he saved – 67 years earlier!

Reunited at last. Picture: Karen Elliott.
Reunited at last. Picture: Karen Elliott.

Hero great-grandad Maurice Johnson spent 67 years wondering what happened to the little boy he plucked from certain death in the Mexborough canal.

But thanks to the Times, the 86-year-old was delighted to be reunited with Keith Sugden – now a 69-year-old great-grandad himself!

And the pair discovered that Keith had unwittingly returned the “good samaritan” favour – by helping Maurice’s daughter when she collapsed last year!

Maurice’s wife Doreen appealed to Times readers in December, to trace the tot that 18-year-old Maurice saved from drowning in the 1940s.

And Keith, from Adwick Road, Mexborough, recognised himself from the story and came forward for a reunion at Maurice and Doreen’s Bolton-upon-Dearne home!

The couple recalled how they had been walking along the canal towpath when they spotted a little hand slip under the water.

Maurice dived in, pulled the child out, and took him back to his home on West Street, Mexborough.

But he never learned the tot’s name.

Doreen said: “We’ve often thought about what happened to the child.

“But I never thought anyone would come forward.”

Keith added: “I read the story because I was drawn to the picture of Maurice – he looked familiar.”

“And then I realised the boy must be me. I don’t actually remember the incident, but from being young, my parents always drummed into me ‘stay out of the canal’ – where I used to play all the time. And my mother has told me about it since.

“The article said the boy was from West Street and his dad was a fireman. Both applied to me. And, after it happened, my dad paid for me to have swimming lessons.

“I don’t know how I did it, because I was very young, but I travelled a good few hundred yards on my own.

“It’s quite amazing. I was a bit anxious about meeting Maurice, but he feels like an old friend.

“And there are so many ways our lives have crossed over the years.

“Not only did we live just streets apart in Bolton-upon-Dearne for years, but I even met Maurice’s daughter last year, when she collapsed in the street.

“I helped to pick up her shopping and I offered to fetch her another bottle of milk after hers broke – only I forgot!”

Maurice said he was overjoyed to meet Keith again, and the pair agreed they would remain firm friends.