“The following courageous act has been recorded in the archives of the society:—William John Magnay lost his life in attempting to rescue Mrs. Barker and her child from drowning in the River Murray on March 4, 1928.” (Murray Pioneer and Australian River Record 1928 11 23)
In a gallant attempt to rescue a young girl from the river, Mr. William John Magnay, an engine man at Lock Four and an accomplished swimmer, lost his life by drowning on Sunday March 4 1928 at Bookpurnong near Loxton. The sadness of the occurrence was heightened by the fact that Mr. Magnay’s disappearance in the water was witnessed by his wife and their three little children. The body was recovered on Monday and the funeral took place at Loxton the next day at 4 pm, Mr. Turner, pastor of the Renmark Congregational Church officiating.
Mrs. Magnay, widow of the late William John Magnay, said that her husband was born in 1892 at Wandiligong, Victoria. He was an engine man, and they were married in the Presbyterian Church at Port Pirie in 1919. There were three children, Jean aged 8 years, Margaret, aged 5 years and William, aged 4 years. Mrs. Magnay said that her husband was an expert swimmer and as far as she knew he was not out of form. He loved swimming and was the last one that she would have thought would ever meet his death by drowning.
MAGNAY.—In loving memory of our dear husband and father, William John, who was drowned at Bookpumong on the 4th March, 1928.—Ever remembered by his wife and family.
MAGNAY.—In loving memory of our dear friend, William John, who was accidentally drowned at Bookpurnong, River Murray, on the 4th March, 1928. Greater love hath no man. —Inserted by Mr. and Mrs. A. G. Barker and family.
Magnay’s workmates at Lock 4 erected a tombstone on his grave at Loxton in February the following year, a working bee being formed for the purpose. The stone, which takes the form of a large marble scroll, suitably inscribed, is set on a concrete base surrounded by marble posts and kerbing and covered with marble chips. The employees at lock four knew that when they left Lock 4, the last resting place of the comrade they all admired and respected was adequately protected and marked for all time.