Tales of the Riverman 46

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Continuing the stories of Ben Parsonage who arrived on the Glasgow Green Lifeboat scene 100yrs ago (assistant 1918-1928, Officer 1928-1979)

Some of you will remember the year 1939 One evening Bennie talked to one of our family friends about an unusual rescue he had carried out at the Albert Bridge. Two boys had gone bird’s egg collecting from the nests in the girders below the bridge. The boys were finding difficulty getting back off the bridge and as dusk was coming down, they started to shout for help. Bennie arrived with a policeman in one of his boats and a ladder. The ladder was stood upright from the boat, up against the girders of the bridge, and with the policeman holding it as tightly as he could the bold Ben, carrying a rope over his shoulder climbed up onto the girders. He then crawled along to where the boys were and lowered them down one by one into the boat below. He then returned down the ladder into his boat.

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Tales of the Riverman 45

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Bennie was working down at the boatyard in Glasgow Green when he met Sarah Mulholland. A relationship developed, though the courting seems to have taken place on boats on the river. Rumour had it that Bennie had a nail on the Kings Bridge to hang his jacket on.

With the new house on Glasgow Green being built, Bennie was staying in temporary accommodation in Templeton Street.

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Tales of the Riverman 44

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Bennie is buried beside his beloved Sarah in the Cemetery at Rutherglen, on a hill overlooking Glasgow, his City. It also overlooks the Cityford Burn, Spital Burn which flow into the Malls Mire or Jennies Burn or Polmadie Burn through Richmond Park and into the River Clyde. It is fitting that Bennie looks down on the waterways that meant so much to him.

They said that if you cut Ben Parsonage it would be Clyde water not blood that flowed out.

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Tales of the Riverman 43

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A young Bennie Parsonage was officially recorded as assisting George Geddes during 1917. From 1918 he became engrossed in the work of the Glasgow Humane Society, years of hard graft and of learning the wiles of Glasgow’s waterways

Sometime during 1918 two or three pals out in different boats were larking about. One produced a revolver that had been given to him by someone returned from the War. He pointed it at one of the boys, the gun went off, and the boy was killed. The boat was called the Mary. Bennie had the job of washing the blood from the boat.

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Tales of the Riverman 42

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In the next few issues of “Tales” I will tell some of the escapades of the first Parsonage “Bennie”.

It is 100 years since the Parsonage family took residence at the river, looking after the safety of people on the river and its surroundings and becoming the voice of the river. In 61 years a call for help never went unanswered, day or night. None of the family ever failed in a rescue attempt. In this period around 3,000 persons were rescued, though the exact number will never be known. Ben’s father, also Ben, a tube fitting maker had come up from England to work in the steelworks of Glasgow and married Annie Morrison. Ben was the eldest in a family of six.

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Tales of the Riverman 41

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I do not like talking about “cases” that may bring back unhappy memories to people, but recently I have been asked details about the television film “Plain Sight”-so here are some details of the Glashow Humane Society involvement.

Peter Thomas Anthony Manuel (13 March 1927 – 11 July 1958) was an AmericanScottish serial killer who was convicted of murdering a total of seven people across Lanarkshire and southern Scotland between 1956 and his arrest in January 1958, and is believed to have murdered two more, nine in all. Prior to his arrest, the media nicknamed the unidentified killer "the Beast of Birkenshaw". Manuel was hanged at Glasgow's Barlinnie Prison on Friday, July 11, 1958; he was one of the last prisoners to die on the Barlinnie gallows.

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