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‘Thank you for saving my life’ - Calderdale pair reunited 55 years on

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A man who nearly drowned 55 years ago has been reunited with the person who saved his life.

John Dempsey was only two-years-old when he fell into Hebden Water, before passer-by Ralph Hargreaves pulled him out of the river and resuscitated him.

Rescuer reunited with boy he saved over 50 years ago. John Dempsey and Ralp Hargreaves.

Rescuer reunited with boy he saved over 50 years ago. John Dempsey and Ralp Hargreaves.

“I was playing on the side of the river and the next thing I knew I was in it,” recalled John, 57.

“Ralph was just walking along and saw me floating down the river. The only way he could get to me was to in-front of me.

“So he got me out and the pumped my chest on a rock and brought me back to life.”

Both men were keen to be reunited, and finally met up again at Ralph’s house more than half-a-century on.

“It turned out Ralph was the father of a friend of my brother’s who he’s known for years,” said John, who works as a road sweeper for Calderdale Council.

“My brother thought I knew, but I couldn’t believe it when I found out.

“He actually lives on my sweeping route in Luddendenfoot, and I’ve passed his house thousands of times without ever knowing he lived there.

“I’ve probably seen him getting into his car or leaving his house.”

John says he and Ralph, 84, now meet up once a week after their long-awaited reunion.

“It was very emotional,” John, from Ripponden, added. “When he got hold of my hand there was something there, we connected.

“There were tears. I was trying to hold it back. I’d been looking for him for so long.

“He got hold of my hand, i pulled him up out of his chair and he hugged me.

“I just said ‘thank you for saving me’, and he just said ‘you’re welcome’.

“We just kept looking at each other, and he told me he’d always wanted to meet me before it was too late.

“His son was telling me that he’s been poorly for ages and hasn’t been going out, and that all he wanted to do was meet me.

“Then the week after we met, he went our for a drink.”