Bravery in historic drowning
The Great War was over and he survived the 1918 flu epidemic, however 100 years ago tragedy struck the Crowther family when their 15-year-old son died while saving his friend from drowning in Taupo¯. Colin Crowther was posthumously awarded an In Memoriam Certificate for bravery and the Royal Humane Society of New Zealand case records state the facts of the event.
On the afternoon of 5 December 1918, William George Wright, 9, got onto a launch in the Waikato River at Taupo¯. When he caught a branch of a tree it broke and he fell into the river. Samuel Colin Crowther, 15, who was fishing off the bank nearby, immediately went in after him. Wright clung to him and Crowther went under. On being alerted to the boys’ plight, Captain Henry Trout ran over, dived in, brought out Willie Wright and brought him round. Te Whetu Tautari jumped in his canoe and came over. He took off his clothes, dived in, and brought Crowther’s body out from under the launch, but he had drowned.
The young boy Colin was trying to save was the son of the local police constable, and a year later Willie Wright wrote a touching memoriam notice.
Today brings back sad memories of a loved one gone to rest,
Just when his life was brightest, Just when his hopes were best. His heart was good, his spirit brave,
His resting place a hero’s grave.
The Crowther family was well known in the 19th century in the Taupo¯ district with Crowther Tce named after Colin’s family. His uncle owned the coach run and is said to have been instrumental in bringing trout to the lake. The family were involved in the Taupo¯ Hotel, his father Joseph was the local butcher and his mother Kate donated Taupo¯ Primary School’s first bell.
An old headstone caught the attention of a local enthusiast who did a little bit of research and uncovered a century-old story of heroism and tragedy.