Siddy Costin 1906

siddy-costinThe sun is setting over the River. It’s a warm autumn evening in 1908.

Siddy is 7, Harry’s 8, and they’re down Wapping playing on the beach.

“See them barges? I’m swimming over to see what I can find,” says Harry.

“Oh yeah, big mouth!” says little Siddy who can’t swim.  But Harry pulls off his coat, cap, scarf, boots, socks and trousers and hands them in a bundle for Siddy to hold.

Now Harry’s in the water. He’s swimming. He’s pulling himself up by the chain. He climbs on board one of the Tyne and Wear Company barges. He’s pulling up the tarpaulin.

“Hey, Siddy, there’s tins of fruit and stuff.  I’ll shove ’em down my vest!”

“Cripes! Someone’s coming. Quick, Harry, quick, scarper!” whispers Siddy, who huddles against the dock wall. He hears a splosh. Someone coughs. Footsteps walk away. Seagulls cry. Water laps. A ship hoots. Silence.  He waits and waits. No Harry.

It’s pitch dark now. He’s clutching Harry’s clothes. He’s still waiting. “Oh my God, where is he?”  Siddy starts to cry. Then he scampers up the stone stairs of Free Trade Wharf and runs all the way to his Auntie’s in Martha Street. Mrs Costin opens the door. “What’s up, Siddy? Come in and sit by the fire.”

He’s sobbing. He hands her Harry’s clothes. “Our ‘Arry’s been took by the River!“  Siddy blurts out his story. Pandemonium reigns.

Suddenly there’s the sound of horses’ hooves and clatter of cart wheels outside.  There’s a bang on the door. It is opened to reveal a black horse and a Black Maria.  There’s a large Policeman with a big black moustache and a black cloak. Little Harry is being held by the ear;   he’s barefoot, wrapped in a blanket, but he’s smiling.

“Found this flotsam washed up on the other side of the River over in Bermondsey, Ma’am” says the Policeman, “Is it yours?”


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