Heroes can come in all shapes and sizes. And this is certainly the case with young May Brown. At 7 years old she took on the bravest of actions with the worst outcome.
A beautiful mid-December Summer's day and three little children go off to play in Walker's paddock in the town of Hamilton in Victoria. May and her little brother Archie, 4 and their cousin, also called Archie, 6 were doing what little children have always done. They were having fun in the sun.
Little Archie, 4, saw the nearby dam and must have been tempted to cool off in the deep waters. He stripped down and went into the dam. As he entered he suddenly disappeared under the water, surfaced, but did not cry for help. May knew instantly something was wrong, so took off her boots and went in to save him.
Young Archie, the cousin, couldn't see them anymore, so ran home to tell his mother. Elizabeth and John Brown, parents of May and Archie, heard the news and John raced to the dam to find his children. He recovered both their bodies and laid them on the bank of the dam. They had been in the water for about an hour from their discovery.
The memorial to May Brown. Courtesy Western District Families, Merron Riddiford.
While the paddock had been fenced off, the dam wasn't, as it was used to water cattle. It sloped in steeply to about four feet. A magisterial enquiry, led by the mayor, found accidental drowning of Archie while swimming and accidental drowning of May while trying to save her little brother.
A memorial was erected by the people of Hamilton in the local general cemetery to remember young May Brown's brave attempts to save her brother.
'Drowning of two children at North Hamilton', Hamilton Spectator', Thursday 15 December 1887, Page 3
'Items of News', Hamilton Spectator, Thursday 25 October, 1888, Page 2