London is a reflection of the people who live in it. Our lust can be found in the narrow alleys of Soho, our need for knowledge is reflected in London’s libraries and bookshops. Our gluttony and our multi-culturalism can be seen in restaurants providing food from all over the globe. Our capacity for violence can be found in the need for police stations and our neglect for those less fortunate can be found in our homeless shelters. Every facet of our humanity, pleasant or not, is represented somewhere in London.
That’s why my favourite place has to be the Watt’s Memorial in Postman’s Park. It’s small and secluded just off the main thoroughfare near Holborn Circus, a little island of tranquillity only a moment’s walk away from the rush of cars and stampede of commuters who pass its gates every day.
The Watt’s Memorial is a single wall of plaques, each inscribed with an epitaph dedicated to someone long since deceased. Not so different from the type of memorials you might see every day. You might give it a glance and ignore it. But if you look closer, you can see just how different it is:
Mary Rogers – March 30th 1899 – Gave up her life belt and went down with the sinking ship
John Cranmer – Aged 23 – Drowned saving the life of a stranger and a foreigner
William Goodrum – lost his life saving a workman from death under an approaching train
Soloman Galaman – Aged 11 – Died saving his little brother from being run over in Commercial Street. “Mother, I saved him but I could not save myself”
It’s a memorial to all those who risked and lost their lives to save someone else; a tribute to those who died not for their country, some firmly held politic or because of the tyranny of others but for the simple belief that can be found in all of us: life is precious.
Like a small diamond, this place is tucked away just out of sight but always within reach and among all of the other things London shows us about who and what we are, this place reflects that average people can become saints in a single moment; the time it takes to hear a cry of distress .
It’s the one memorial that shows us our nobler selves free of self interest.
And it’s also a quiet place to have a sandwich.
Author: Grey Freeman