Warkworth town bridge as it was in 1916
A stranger caused a sensation in the summer of 1916 when, without warning, he threw himself off the Warkworth bridge and fell 20 feet into the waters below.
Before the present bridge was built it was not unusual to see boys jumping off the bridge and coming to no harm but this was a man, fully clothed, intent on ending his life.
The loud splash as his body hit the water attracted the attention of people sitting on the Bridgehouse verandah on the warm summer evening.
Patrick Keogh, a telegraphist at the Warkworth Post Office, responded quickly and was soon in the water. A struggle ensued as the man repeatedly shouted ‘Let me die’.
Undismayed, Keogh fought the man’s resistance and eventually gripped him firmly. He towed the man to the bank where willing hands waited to assist. A rope was placed around the stranger’s shoulders and he was dragged along like a lassoed alligator.
Still struggling and yelling he was placed in the grocer’s cart belonging to guests and conveyed to the nearby police station where Constable Johnson soon had him safely accommodated in the ‘cooler’ (the gaol now standing in the grounds of Warkworth Museum).
Next morning, the rescued man appeared in court charged with attempted suicide. Gone was the vigorous aggression of the night before. He stood subdued, a broken man. It was found that he was a steward on the coastal vessel, Hauiti, by the name of Joseph Noon. He was sent to Auckland prison where a spell on remand followed.
Perhaps to avoid a prison sentence, he made it known he was willing to enlist as an army recruit. When he next appeared in court the judge ruled that he remain in custody until he could be handed over to military authorities.
Recruitment was underway for the Thirteenth Reinforcements of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Soon after the incident in the river, Patrick Keogh had received his call-up papers and had been passed fit for service.
His name is listed as one of the 256 men who made up the Auckland city quota. On February 8 1916 they marched through the Auckland streets to the Railway Station and left to travel south to the training camps at Trentham and Featherston.
There is no mention of Joseph Noon.
Even though the two men had joined the army in the same month at the same place, whether the man who was rescued from drowning and his rescuer ever met again remains a mystery.