Lucy Montgomery (14) was on holiday in France on July 21 this year when, while paddle-boarding with her father Graham Montgomery, an eight-year-old boy who was a family friend of the pair lost control of his board.
Lucy, a pupil at Armagh’s Royal School, tried to offer the boy reassurance as he drifted towards a deeper section of the river typically used by pleasure cruisers, by walking level with him and her father in the more shallow areas of the river, and offering words of encouragement in an attempt to keep the young boy calm.
But the situation suddenly and unexpectedly took a dramatic turn for the worse when the current increased and their young friend began to be dramatically swept away. Lucy told her father, who was a non-swimmer, to go back to the shallower area of the bank and then swam back to the boy who needed her help urgently. She later managed to tow him to the safety of the opposite bank.
However as that was happening, Lucy’s father Graham had attempted to make his way back to the bank on the opposite side of the river but was swept off his feet by the current and washed into a deep area where he struggled with the rapid movement of the water.
Lucy re-entered the river herself and swam to her father to help him before bringing him to shallower water and helping him to safety with the assistance of the father of the boy she had already rescued.
The young girl herself was soon caught by the same strong current that had trapped her father and their friend and pulled downstream after her exhausting attempts to help her father and the boy. Knowing she could not fight against the current, she spotted her paddle board floating in the water before she luckily managed to catch hold of it, using the board as a floatation device and clinging on before reaching the safety of the river bank where she could finally rest.
For her spectacular efforts, she has been awarded a Royal Humane Society Testimonial on Vellum, a prestigious award which recognises bravery in saving another human life, and personally praised by Andrew Chapman, the Secretary of the Society, who highlighted her heroism in her singular actions.
The society’s Mr Chapman said: “She was selfless and brave, put her life on the line and saved two people — and then got into serious danger herself. What a girl!” he said.
“If ever anyone deserved one of our awards she does. The Testimonial on Vellum is one of our highest awards and few could have done more to deserve it than Lucy.”
The roots of the society stretch back more than two centuries, with the Queen as its patron and Princess Alexandra as president. It was founded in 1774 by two of the day’s eminent medical men, William Hawes and Thomas Cogan.
Their primary motive was to promote techniques of resuscitation. Since then it has evolved and is now the premier national body for honouring bravery in the saving of human life. A variety of awards are made depending on the bravery involved.
The Society also awards non-healthcare professionals who perform a successful resuscitation. Since it was set up the Society has considered over 87,000 cases and made over 200,000 awards.
The Society is a registered charity which receives no public funding and is dependent on voluntary donations.
It was one of a select number of organisations to receive a donation from the Patron’s fund which was set up to acknowledge work done by organisations of which the Queen is the patron, to mark her 90th birthday.