Antiques Roadshow guest shares grandfather’s heroic medal for saving baby down a well

WARNING: This article contains spoilers from Antiques Roadshow. 

An Antiques Roadshow guest’s grandfather had been recognised as a hero after saving the life of a baby that had fallen down a well.

The PBS series sees people around the country share not only their unique items but also their fascinating stories and this guest was no different.

Expert Leila Dunbar welcomed the owner of a Carnegie Hero Medal whose grandfather had been presented with the accolade in 1931 for saving a young life.

Explaining what happened almost 100 years ago, he said: “In 1927, he was driving down the road in northern Iowa and he happened to see a bunch of people standing in a field for some reason.

“And when he went over, he had found out that a baby had fallen down a well.

“The baby had fallen down, I believe, 10 or 15ft, to a ledge.

“The other people there were either too big or not inclined to go down there, because the walls were collapsing as they were standing around it.

“My grandfather stood 5ft 3in tall so he was able to strip down to just about his underwear I suppose and they tied a rope around him and sent him down the well.”

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“In the meantime, that baby had slipped down another 30ft onto another ledge, right beside where the water was”, he continued.

“So grandpa had to go down almost 40, 50ft, to get the baby.

“Tied a rope around him, they hauled the baby back up safely, squalling all the way, of course.

“Grandpa said the most scared he was, was down at the bottom of that well, because it was caving in.

“Looking at that hole up there, he said it was just the size of a quarter. They finally pulled him out and the baby was saved.”

Expert Leila Dunbar commented: “So he essentially risked his life to save the baby’s life.”

The guest went on to state that it was a few years later that the baby’s mum, Mrs Velema, had become aware of the Carnegie Hero Medal and put his granddad, Edward Malloy, up for the prize.

In addition to the medal, Malloy also received a $1,000 cashier’s check, with the guest recalling: “I remember him saying when he got the check, he took it to the bank to deposit it and all the tellers passed it around and looked at it, because they’d never seen a check that big before.”

Dunbar states that Andrew Carnegie was a “tremendous philanthropist” who set up the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission after a disaster in Pennsylvania.

She said: “There was a tremendous disaster in Harwick, Pennsylvania, it’s coal mining country near Pittsburgh.

“In 1904, there was an explosion which killed 181 people, including two people, a mining engineer and a responder, a rescuer, who went to try and save these people and they died.

“So, in response to this, for the two people who died, he established the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.

“Their entire mission is to recognise and reward civilians who commit extraordinary acts of heroism.”

Dunbar commented that between 1904 and 2014, the Carnegie Foundation had awarded 9,600 medals and more than $35 million in grants.

Referring to the medal itself, she said it was produced by J And E Caldwell which is considered by many to be “equal to Tiffany” in producing “high level silver and bronze products”.

“You can’t find one for sale. As you can imagine, why would a hero want to sell, or why would the family of a hero want to sell the medal?”, she said.

“But in thinking about what it might cost to reproduce a bronze medal today, I would probably insure it for about $4,000.

“But really, at the end of the day, you cannot put a price on heroism.”

The guest then added: “I can’t imagine the circumstances that I would sell that medal.”

Antiques Roadshow is available to watch on PBS.

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