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Plaque presented to Mr Tom Gunning by Arthur N White for saving Mrs White from drowning in heavy surf at Manly on 9 September 1914

Date: 1914
Overall: 165 x 130 x 25 mm, 0.25 kg
Medium: Metal, watercolour on paper, wood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Surf Life Saving Association of Australia
Object Name: Plaque
Object No: 00000912
Related Place:Manly,

User Terms

    This commemorative shield was issued by the Manly Surf Life Saving Club to a Mr Tom Gunning on 29 September 1914. Below a watercolour depicting a landscape scene bears an engraved inscription which reads, 'In humble appreciation of a brave action in saving Mrs White from drowning in heavy surf at Manly 9th September 1914 from Arthur N White Manly 29th September 1914 to Mr Tom Gunning Manly.'
    SignificanceThis commemorative plaque stands as an elaborate testament to the efforts of a well-respected member of the Manly Surf Life-Saving Club. It is an early example of a time when a vibrant beach culture emerged and began to dominate leisure activities in Australia.
    HistoryFrom the early 1900s, swimming became an increasingly popular sport and leisure activity in Australia. As people turned to the surf, this called for a need to establish lifesaving clubs which adapted still-water rescue and resuscitation techniques. By the 1930s, the Australian lifesaver had become a familiar figure in promotional material targeted at attracting tourists to Australian shores.

    Another characteristic of the surf lifesaving culture that accompanied the prominent image of the blond, muscular lifesaver was the popularity of surf carnivals. Events featured during these carnivals included races, parades and relays.

    In 1903, Manly locals, including Tom Gunning, conducted a meeting and formed a committee. The hazardous surf conditions meant that many of those present in the meeting had rescued swimmers from danger. The group agreed to call their committee 'The Manly Surf and Life Saving Club'.

    From that point on, Gunning and stories of his lifesaving pursuits appear in several newspaper reports. One occasion received particular attention in 'The Sydney Morning Herald' and other regional newspapers in New South Wales. Late at night on 18 January 1909, 'there was a sudden cry of alarm' and a call for help from bathers saying a woman had been 'carried out' to sea. Tom Gunning was standing on the beach at the time and, as a member of the Manly Surf Club Life-Saving Squad, he 'at once rushed down to the beach' and went into the water, fully clothed, in pursuit of the woman, a Mrs Ward. By this point, she was 100 yards off the beach. Gunning located the woman in complete darkness and brought her to safety. The 'Northern Star' in Lismore went with the headline 'Bravo, Life-Saver!' on 1 October reporting that Gunning fought 'treacherous' conditions and was presented with the Manly Surf Club's special gold medal.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Plaque door Arthur N White aan de heer Tom Gunning gepresenteerd voor het redden van mevrouw White van verdrinking

    Assigned title: Plaque, die Herrn Tom Gunning von Arthur N White vorgestellt wurde, um Mrs. White von Ertrinken zu retten

    Web title: Plaque presented to Mr Tom Gunning by Arthur N White for saving Mrs White from drowning in heavy surf at Manly on 9 September 1914

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