Preston man saves young boy from drowning in the Yorkshire Dales - 47 years after rescuing his sister

A man from Preston saved a five year old boy from drowning, after the child had fallen into dangerous waters in the Yorkshire Dales.

By Aimee Seddon
Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 1:04 pm

Paul Gaffney, 57, who lives in Fulwood, was visiting Malham Cove in Skipton for a day out with his wife, daughter, and daughter's fiancé, when the accident happened on Sunday.

This is not the first the time that Paul has saved someone from drowning, as 47 years ago he also rescued his younger sister, Pauline, when she fell into a water-filled brickworks clay pit.

In the most recent incident, at around 3pm, the family were eating their lunch next to a part of a river containing a bridge with three concrete tunnels, which on the other side would soon take you to a six metre waterfall called Janet's Foss.

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Paul Gaffney from Fulwood rescued a young boy from drowning in the Yorkshire Dales.

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Paul, who works in a taxi office, explained: "There's parts of the wall missing by the river, which was pretty high that day because the rain had been torrential, and at one point, I bit into a pork pie that tasted horrible so I walked up to the bin, and there was a kid stood there, and I just watched as he leant backwards and fell into the river, only a few metres away from that bridge with the three concrete tubes.

"He was screaming, and I could see him under the water so I knew exactly where to go in, it wasn’t a case of being a hero, it was more instinct than anything, I jumped in and grabbed him because he was heading towards the three pumps, the water was waist high and the current was fast, so he would have no chance resisting it.

"When I pulled him out, people were shouting and all I can remember, because of the adrenaline, was how cold the water was, and when I passed the child over, people were calling me a hero, and his mother was a little bit tearful, but it all happened really quick and I was just more wet than anything, I couldn’t believe how cold I was afterwards but that's all I can whinge about.

Paul was visiting Malham Cove with his wife, Tracey, and daughter, Leanne, as well as Leanne's fiancé Richard Sterritt.

"It's just lucky that the pork pie didn’t have any filling it because that child wasn’t meant to leave us."

Nearly half a century ago, the heroic actions of the then 10-year-old Paul even featured in the Lancashire Post, with the family still owning the half century old clipping today.

Paul, whose younger self could not even swim at the time, added: "People called me a hero then but again, I don't think I am, I just did what anyone else would do.

"If there was a thought process when it happened on Sunday, then the child wouldn't be here, and I hope that one good to come out of it is that the wall will be fixed, because, it is an accident waiting to re-happen."

Paul also saved his younger sister from drowning 47 years ago, and still owns the full article clipping.

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Left- the old newspaper clipping of the first incident, and right- the waterfall near the second incident.
57 year old Paul says he often goes on long walks, although they're not usually so eventful!