Reynolds's Newspaper reported on the death of Joseph William Onslow. He worked as a lighterman: that is, a boatman who carried goods from cargo ships to shore. He had perhaps earned his place in the Postman's Park memorial more than most, since the inquest heard that he had previously saved three lives through similar action.
The memorial plaque is dedicated to:A NOBLE FELLOW – On Friday the deputy coroner for East Middlesex held an inquest at the Gun Hotel, Wapping, on the body of Joseph William Onslow, aged twenty-two, a lighterman. William Dare, 7, Broad-street, Old Gravel-lane said on Tuesday last he was with the deceased on board a barge, when their attention was attracted to the cries of a boy who had fallen into the water from off Wapping-stairs. The deceased, without a moment’s hesitation, plunged into the water, and swam towards the stairs, and in the direction of the boy, who was seen fifty or sixty yards distant. When about three yards off the lad the deceased appeared to be seized with cramp, and before further assistance could be obtained he sank from the view of a number of spectators, who were standing on the banks of the river. The boy was rescued by a man in a barge by means of a boat-hook, but the deceased was drowned. It was stated that previously the deceased had jumped in the river in the same daring manner, and saved no less than three lives. The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death.”
JOSEPH WILLIAM ONSLOW, LIGHTERMAN, WHO WAS DROWNED AT WAPPING ON MAY 5 1885 IN TRYING TO SAVE A BOY'S LIFE.