River Police Constable 10 William PEGLER
William PEGLER is somewhat of an enigma and little is known of his formative years. What is known is that William was born in the year 1851 at Ebley Village near Stroud in Gloucestershire and moved to Liverpool in the early to mid 1860’s as a teenager and probably with his Family who more than likely were in the employ of the Great Western Railway which was making inroads into the rail network of Liverpool. The Police connection may come in the form of Railway Police Constable Thomas Pegler who served in the City at this time and resided at 52 Phythian Street, Liverpool. It is possible that William also resided at this address.
At some time during the mid 1870’s William marries, his bride was a Gloucestershire woman named Elizabeth, who was probably a childhood sweetheart.Together they had several children, those known by name being Edward, Esther. William, Ernest and Victor. The Family resided at 6 Court, 3 Dawber Street, off Whitefield Road.
During his service in the Liverpool River Police William distinguished himself many times in the Gallant rescue of persons from the treacherous tides of the Mersey.
On the 8th May 1878 The Liverpool Mercury reported the following. On Saturday The troopship “Assistance” came alongside the Prince’s landing stage in order that a Company of the 5th Dragoon Guards could disembark, at this time a little girl aged 5 years, who was standing on the upper deck in the presence of her Mother, fell into the river between the ship and the stage and was swept away by the flowing flood tide. Alerted by the Mothers screams Pegler made to the scene and knowing the tide would take the child swiftly, Constable Pegler made on foot in advance of the child and dived in to the rescue, after a short swim he Reached the child and swam back with her to the stage where he hung onto the chains, a Lieutenant Tinding of the Dragoons jumped in to assist in supporting the child as Pegler was exhausted. At one period Constable Pegler and the Child were in grave danger of being crushed by the ship, had it not been for the crowd breaking over the guard chains and shoving the ship away from the stage both man and child would have been crushed. The rescue caused great excitement and the crowd cheered and a collection made for the Constable but the Mother of the child fainted away.
The very next day, 9th May 1878, the Mercury Reported that at 6pm last evening (Presumably the Sunday) A Seaman named Edward Hamilton aged 22 of 145 Perthland Street, whilst under the influence of drink, fell from the Liverpool Landing stage into the river. He commenced to swim but after about 20 yards he threw up his arms and called for help. River Constable Pegler immediately jumped into the river and on gaining Hamilton’s position grasped him, a violent struggle was put up by the no doubt panic stricken man but the Constable maintained his hold of Hamilton, by the back of the neck and swam to the edge of the stage where both men were rescued by other members of the River Police.
This was Constable Pegler’s 9th Rescue from the River Mersey.
On the 23rd of August 1878, a presentation was held by the Watch Committee at the Central Fire Station, Hatton Garden where Constable Pegler was presented with the Silver Marine Medal of the Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society and the sum of 2 pounds for the Rescue of the child on the 8th May.
He was then presented with a silver bar to the medal for the rescue of Hamilton on the 9th of May.
There is nothing unusual in the award of these medals but what is quite unusual is that the Royal Humane Society also awarded Constable Pegler with their Bronze Medal, these are given quite sparingly. A great honour for the officer and the force.
On the 2nd of October 1879, a middle aged man, John Jones, attempted to commit suicide by jumping into the Canning Dock. River Police Constable Pegler saw the occurrence and pluckily jumped into the dock and with the assistance of a rigger named M’Andie, rescued Jones, who explained his conduct by stating he was in poverty and unable to obtain work. He was charged with attempted suicide and on appearing before a Magistrate was ordered to be removed to the Workhouse.
On the 1st of November the same year, Constable Pegler was awarded a 2nd Bar to his silver Medal for the Rescue of Mr. Jones in October..
Over the next few Months Constable Pegler assisted in other Rescues and was instrumental in saving lives.
On the 6th of June 1880 a young boy of 14 years, John Clark, of Hale Street Liverpool, fell into the river from the Prince’s landing stage. A man called Thomas Stancliff of Radcliff Street, tried to save Clark with a boathook, but the ebb tide being strong the boy was swept away and Stancliff fell into the river. Not being able to swim Stancliff held onto the mooring rope of a tugboat. River Constable Pegler plunged into the river and with great difficulty reached Clark and swam with him to the landing stage, the Constable then rescued Stancliff. By grabbing his collar and pulling him to the landing stage.
Unusually, at a meeting of the Watch Committee at the Town Hall it was resolved to award £10.00 to Constable Pegler for the Rescue of Clark.
The Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society awarded a 3rd Clasp to Constable Pegler for this rescue of Clark and Stancliff.
The Liverpool Mercury for 10th June 1882 reports under the heading “Compliment to a Police Inspector”
Yesterday afternoon a very pleasant event took place in the yard at the Fire Police Station, Hatton Garden when Inspector Pegler was presented with an illuminated address and purse of money in recognition of his bravery and diligence in the discharge of his duty, Subscribers to the Testmonial are chiefly residents of Everton where the Inspector has for some time been on duty and resided. Many members of the Watch Committee, Senior Officers and Men of the Force were present when Dr. Cross made the presentation and spoke of the Inspector and mentioned that the Officer had rescued 15 persons from the drowning and had apprehended many burglars and thieves and had been 32 times rewarded for meritorious service.
William was not finished yet, however and shortly after midnight on Friday 19th September 1886, Captain Williams of the sloop “Stagg of Anglesey” was endeavouring to board his vessel which was lying on the north side of the Wellington Dock tied to other vessels in the Dock, when passing from the steamer Zadue onto the steamship Glenmore, to which his vessel was moored, he fell between them and disappeared below the surface. Sergeant Pegler of the River Police jumped into the dock and succeeded in saving the drowning man after a protracted search deep in the murky depths and despite having injured two fingers on boarding the vessel.
A Mystery surrounds William and his service in the River Police, in order to join the Police he would have to be of 21 years or over yet he is recorded in the Service as early as 1868, when he gives evidence to the Liverpool Coroner in the case of the death of River Constable MADDEN. William at this time would be only 17 years old.
It would also appear that Williams rise through the ranks was meteoric in that he was a Constable in 1879 and within 2 years was an inspector, this rank verified in Census returns for 1881.
By 1886 William Pegler is described as a Sergeant and one can only conclude that he has been demoted and soon after this William is not recorded at all and his Family return to Gloucestershire apparently without him. About this time a William Pegler takes up residence at 4 Railway Street, Garston and is described as an Insurance Agent. It is more than likely that this William Pegler is one and the same but there is no indication why William made such a career change, what is sure however, is that William, who would only be in his 30’s was a grave loss to policing in Liverpool.