Former Portsmouth signalman meets girl he saved from certain death after 46 years
You may remember back in January I wrote a story about three children who suffered electric shocks when they touched the live rail outside Portsmouth & Southsea station alongside the former signal box.
Most would think the children were eight or nine, but in fact they were just two, three and four years old.
Last December I was going through The News archive when I came across the story and wondered what had happened to the three children.
Back in August 1971, the three children, three-year-old Allison Power (now Dolly Stores), brother Darren, four, and playmate Barry Dartnell, two, left the playground outside Shedfield House, Lake Road, and toddled off down to Station Road, Landport, where they came to a gate that led into the fish dock alongside Portsmouth & Southsea station.
The children went through an unlocked gate and walked down steps beside the track.
Dolly has since told me the three of them used to play on those steps!
They then proceeded to walk between the wall and the track in an area called the ‘cess’ towards the signal box.
It appears one of the three tripped and fell on to the live rail carrying 650 volts. The other two, not knowing what was wrong, went to try to help. They then all came in contact with the live rail.
Luckily, it was a warm day and one of the sliding windows to the signal box was open and one of the children’s cries were heard by 40-year-old signalman Cyril Bowers.
He looked out and saw the drama that was unfolding and called to his mate Bill Bristow: ‘Quick, get the juice turned off.’ A quick phone call to the sub-station and the live rail can be switched off at a stroke.
Cyril then grabbed a newspaper to act as an insulator and ran downstairs and out on to the track where, to his horror, he saw not one but three children touching the live rail.
One of them, Dolly, was lying lengthways alongside and underneath the live rail, one was lying across the rail and one other touching it with his hands.
Cyril managed to retrieve and carry the three to safety.
They were all taken to hospital and that is the last Cyril ever heard of them, until now.
I retold the story and a friend of Dolly’s sent her a copy of the page and she contacted me.
Since then Barry Dartnell has died and Darren Power cannot be traced.
Dolly, now 49, lives in Sittingbourne, Kent, and is married to Tony and they have three children TeeJay, Redd and Kelly.
Last week the family came down for Easter and we all met at Cyril’s house in Rowlands Castle.
Along with his wife Barbara, lively conversation soon took place and it was a very happy hour or so.
It was then that the occasion overcame both Dolly and Cyril and they hugged each other and both had tears in their eyes.
It was a very moving moment.
As Dolly told me: ‘If it had not been for Cyril’s actions I would not be here and neither would my three children.’