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Say goodbye to the man who saved Ken Beaton from drowning in Tully over 70 years ago

It was the early 1950s, and a young boy rescued Ken Beaton from drowning in the Manning River in northern New South Wales.

“I may have run out of time, but some young people came and helped me,” Beaton said.

“He grabbed me by the red hair and dragged me out of the river and said I ran away.”

More than 70 years later, Mr. Beaton was able to say a final farewell to the hero who saved his life that day, and be reunited with him long afterward.

long awaited reunion

In 1951, a 9-year-old boy, Ken Gibson, bravely dragged the then 18-month-old Mr. Beaton into the river behind the Beaton family’s country pub in Tully.

The Beaton family founded the Royal Hotel in Taree.(By: Ken Beaton)

Although no details were exchanged and no contact was made after that date, it was an event that will always be remembered for both families.

Mr. Beaton longed for the chance to find someone who had saved him and thank him.

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Ken Gibson and Ken Beaton reunited in 2020.(ABC News: Emma Siosian and Anthony Scully)

2020 Mr Beaton was finally reunited with Mr GibsonAfter enlisting the help of MidCoast Stories researcher Janine Roberts, she was 79 at the time.

The two met in Newcastle, where Mr. Gibson lived, and chatted and laughed like old friends.

“When I met Ken, it was like we’d known each other forever.

“We didn’t feel like strangers. He was a really nice guy and easy to get along with.

“I used to have flashbacks in the middle of the night, but I don’t have them anymore…so I think meeting Ken has put my mind at ease.”

A black and white image of four children sitting in front of a 1950s car.
Ken Beaton (back center) as a child in Talley in the 1950s.(By: Ken Beaton)

From that point on, Beaton and Gibson stayed in touch and shared a brief camaraderie.

Photo of a black and white photo of a boy in shorts
Ken Gibson remembers saving a drowning toddler.(ABC Newcastle: Anthony Scully)

“We had a close friendship…we had meetings and met but Ken couldn’t travel [due to poor health] So I went to see him and every time I saw him I enjoyed the time,” he said.

“We could walk away from the conversation and get back on it very easily.”

Roberts said it was very rewarding to see the friendship that had formed between the two Kens.

“I thought it would be impossible to track down Ken Beaton’s rescuers, so there was excitement and relief when I found Ken Gibson. I felt amazing,” she said. .

“I knew what it meant to Ken Beaton to find Ken Gibson…it was beautiful to connect two people who need to connect in this life.”

last goodbye

Mr. Gibson recently passed away after a long period of ill health.

Beaton said it was sad to say goodbye to the man who saved her life so long ago, but it wasn’t a sad moment.

An elderly man looks down at a river, with the sky and clouds reflected in the water.
Ken Beaton says he has special memories of Ken Gibson.(ABC Mid North Coast: Emma Siosian)

“Ken was always joking and was just a happy person.

“The last conversations I had with him were like old times, and we didn’t feel sorry for each other.

“The last thing he said to me made me laugh. It’s the kind of thing only Ken would say.”

Two elderly men are sitting at the kitchen table, smiling.
Almost 70 years later, Ken Beeton and Ken Gibson are happily reunited.(ABC Newcastle: Anthony Scully)

Uncover the mystery behind rewards

When Mr. Gibson rescued Mr. Beaton, Mr. Beaton’s father was so grateful that he rewarded the boy with a military service badge.

At their first reunion, Mr. Gibson returned the badge to Mr. Beaton.

Close-up shot of a medal being held to the camera with two smiling men in the background
Ken Beaton’s father presented the badge to his son’s rescuer, Ken Gibson (left).(ABC Newcastle: Anthony Scully)

This badge was awarded to his father while serving in Darwin during World War II as part of the Civil Construction Corps, a workforce created to organize military construction works.

“My father was there when there was a raid in Darwin…he said the communications tower had fallen and we had to build an emergency tower,” he said.

“Because they are not soldiers, the commanders at the time could not give them the War Medal, so Dad was given this badge.”

An intricate gold cutout badge in a small box.
Ken Gibson said over the years the badge reminded him of the boy he saved.(ABC Newcastle: Anthony Scully)

Realizing that the badge was not commonly seen during the war and was probably only something that could be presented to his father at the time, Beaton recently investigated further and contacted the National Library of Australia.

“This was actually the Commonwealth of Australia’s 1901 badge,” he said.

“I’m glad I kept it for my father’s memory, and it reminds me of Ken now.”

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-09-11/ken-beeton-farewells-rescuer-ken-gibson-taree-near-drowning/101410466 Say goodbye to the man who saved Ken Beaton from drowning in Tully over 70 years ago

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