The radical year of 1911 grabbed the headlines with great political and artistic events but an extraordinary man from the Vauxhall part of the city stood out too.
James Clarke, a champion swimmer, saved many children from drowning in the deep canal which ran between Athol Street and Burlington Street - some almost certainly during the long, glorious summer of 1911. (Also see entry of 14th February). He pulled out drunks from the canal and helped the police recover dead bodies they could not find or feared ripping to pieces with grappling hooks.
Born in Jamaica in 1880 Jim stowed away on a ship to Liverpool aged 14 and was adopted by an Irish family in the Scotland Road area. Over six feet tall, and weighing 12st as an adult, Jim was the star of Wavertree Swimming Club and centre-forward for their water polo team. A plaque to Jim is in Wavertree Sports Centre.
To prevent further tragedies Jim taught local school children to swim, and entertained them during exhibitions and galas. James Clarke was the first black man to have a Liverpool street named after him. It runs between Tatlock Street and Green Street, a fitting honour to a local hero.
Information from Black Liverpool by Ray Costello
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