On Saturday 11 January 1896, Alfred Johnson was near the public baths at the end of Point Street when a huge shark seized a boy swimming in the harbour in water up to his waist. Alfred rushed into the water and struggled with the shark, forcing it to release the boy. Unfortunately the boy, William Reddie, later died.
A meeting at the Caledonian Hotel in Point Street debated how to recognise this heroism. Alfred’s bravery was recognized with a Silver Medal and Certificate of Merit by the Shipwreck Relief Society – later the Royal Humane Society.
The citation in the Society’s Annual Report of 1896 reads:
On Saturday afternoon, January 11th 1896, some boys were bathing at the foot of Point Street, Pyrmont, when one called out “swim for your lives, boys, there is a shark”. Immediately, Alfred Johnson rushed into the water and reached a boy named Reddy, just as a huge shark had seized him, and a desperate struggle took place. In endeavouring to pull the lad away, Johnson was nearly dragged off his feet by the shark, which was only made to release its hold after inflicting terrible injuries to the lad.
(Awarded Silver Medal and Certificate of Merit).