15 February 1902

Engineer and Fireman Scalded to Death

On Tuesday morning, shortly after six o'clock, a terrible fatality.– involving the loss of two lives .– took place at the Clarence Mill, Clarence-street, Stalybridge. The workpeople had taken their places as usual at the hour for commencing their day's toil, but the machinery remained motionless. James Henry DOWNING, a carder, residing in Lodge-lane, Dukinfield, suspecting that something was wrong, made his way down to the boilerhouse.

Upon getting there, he was startled to find the place full of steam, and quickly procuring a light, he began a search, the result of which was the horrible discovery of both the engineer and the fireman scalded to death. Their respective names are Henry ROEBUCK, engineer, aged 33 years, of 103 Bayley-street, Stalybridge, and Samuel BOOTH, aged 47, fireman, of Hall-street, Cockbrook, Ashton. Both men are married.

The carder's shocking discovery caused a profound sensation, the workpeople, to whom both the deceased were of course well known, leaving the premises upon hearing the dreadful news. Enquiries showed that the top of one of the economisers had blown off, and the force of steam must have accounted for the men's death. The previous day one of the economisers was out of repair, and ROEBUCK and BOOTH were on that day busily engaged upon it, but singular to say, the economiser which burst and caused their death was not the one which was being repaired.

DOWNING found the fireman laid upon his back, whilst ROEBUCK was in a sitting position behind the boiler-house door. Dr TAIT was hurriedly summoned to the mill, but his services were to no avail, as life in both cases was extinct. The police were notified, and they removed the body of BOOTH to the mortuary at the Town Hall, whilst that of ROEBUCK was taken to his home, where his family were naturally stricken with grief.

Mr F NEWTON, coroner, held an inquest on the bodies at the Town Hall on Thursday afternoon. The jury was convened for 11.30am, but it was 1.30 ere the coroner turned up, he having been delayed by the fog. After viewing the bodies and, inspecting the economiser house at the Clarence Mill, the jury returned, and the evidence was commenced shortly before three o'clock.

The jury empanelled composed the following gentlemen: Messrs John BLACKWELL (foreman), James BRAMHALL, John HOBSON, Tom COOK, William CARR, James BACKLEY, James T NORRIS, Thomas ROTHWELL, Walter WAGSTAFFE, William DILLOW, James WRIGHT, and Henry PEEL.

Louisa BOOTH, wife of Samuel BOOTH, and Annie EASTWOOD, housekeeper for Mrs ROEBUCK (who is very ill and confined to the house) gave formal evidence of identification.

James Henry DOWNING, carder at the Clarence Mill, said: On Tuesday morning, at quarter past six, I went into the engine-room, but could not find the engineer, ROEBUCK, there. I called him by name, but got no answer. I then went into the economiser house, opened the door, and found the place full of steam. I got a light, went into the house, and found ROEBUCK in a sitting position behind the door, and BOOTH in a corner near the door.

The Coroner: Had you any difficulty in getting the door open? No, sir. Had you to use any force? No, sir. Did much steam come out when you opened it? Yes, sir.

By Mr CHAMBERS: The door I went in was the door they went in by. Instead of returning by the same way, the deceased appeared to have gone to another door which was fast. The door I entered was the nearest. A Juror: They would be so stunned that they would not know which door to go to.

Thomas GRIFFITHS, of 31 Asbrey-street, Cockbrook, deposed that he was the under engineer at the Clarence Mills. He assisted ROEBUCK on Monday night to repair a joint on the blow-off valve, which was attached to one end of the economise pipes. The one which had burst and caused the death of the men was not interfered with at all.

In answer to the Inspector, witness said he had worked at the Clarence Mills five years, during which the present economisers had been there. He could not say how long it was since the economisers were internally examined. He knew of two examinations which had taken place during that time. The last examination took place about July. On that occasion they were all found in good order. He had never before known a top to be blown off the economiser, but he had heard them 'screech” a bit. He had no instructions about the pressure being on or off when the repairs were being carried out.

A Juror: Was ROEBUCK a fully-qualified man? .– Witness: He had been brought up to the work, but he had not served his time to it. Mr COOK remarked that no engineers of this character served their time. The majority were promoted from the firehole. They learned their trade as they went along, and were not qualified in the sense that a mechanic was.

Sir,.– I write to draw attention of the Highways Committee to the disgraceful state of the above road during the present arctic weather. For weeks past the roads and footways have been thickly coated over with snow and ice, rendering it positively dangerous to venture out after dark; yet the Highways Committee have done nothing to render the road less difficult to traverse. Not a grain of sand nor a shovelful of ashes has been spread over the slippery surface of the ground. In justice to the Stalybridge Corporation, I will say that their portion of the road has been well cindered during the last few days. The Dukinfield Corporation have simply failed their duty and gone to sleep, believing that, 'As the snow falls, so let it lie.”

Yours truly,
W M SIMPSON, 218 Cheetham Hill-road, Dukinfield

An action to recover damages for personal injuries, brought by James SCHOFIELD, a carter, of Mossley, against the Mossley Industrial Co-operative Society Ltd, was tried on Tuesday afternoon at the Manchester Assizes.

On June 28 of 1900 the plaintiff conveyed a load of sugar from Manchester to the Mossley Co-operative Stores. He drew up under the archway of the stores while the sugar was unloaded, and while this was in progress a trestle, which was standing near, was by some means upset. The trestle struck the horse on the head, and as the animal backed, the plaintiff was thrown from the lurry. His right arm was so badly injured in the fall that he had entirely lost the use of it. The plaintiff alleged negligence on the part of the defendant company in leaving the trestle in a dangerous position. This the defendants denied, and submitted that there was contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff.

After hearing the plaintiff's witnesses, his Lordship held that there was no evidence to prove liability on the part of the defendant company. It would be a great injustice to any defendant if he were to say any case had been made out against them. His Lordship, therefore, directed the jury to return a verdict for the defendants.

On Sunday morning the dead body of Thomas TAYLOR, aged 37, stoker, residing in Wharf-street, was found in a closet at the rear of the Staff of Life beerhouse, King-street. An inquest was held on the body on Tuesday afternoon at the house of Mr J H COOKE, Shoulder of Mutton, Wharf-street, by Mr F NEWTON, district coroner.

Bessie TAYLOR said: I live at 30 Wharf-street, Dukinfield. The deceased was my husband. He was 37 years of age, and was a gas stoker. On Saturday afternoon at a quarter to five o'clock he came home from his work. He had his tea and changed his clothes, and went out about eight o'clock in the evening. He was then in his usual health. He had complained of pains in his left breast last week, but did not think it serious enough to consult a doctor. He had never eaten heartier in his life.

I did not see him again that night. At about eight o'clock on Sunday morning I was informed that he had been found dead in a closet, and his body was brought home between 8 and 9 o'clock. He had not been subject to faints, he was always strong. He did not make any complaint when he came home. He was a sober man, not having taken much drink for some time..– The Coroner: Have you made enquiries since where he was? Witness: No..– You don't know where he spent the evening? He could only have spent it at the Staff of Life. He would have to be shaved after he went out of the house.

Elisha OSBALDESTON said: I keep the Staff of Life beerhouse, Dukinfield. On Saturday night, about nine o'clock, the deceased came into my house. He was sober, and had two glasses of beer, served by myself. He left the house about half past nine o'clock, sober. I did not see which way he went. At 7.30 on the following morning I went into the yard, and found the deceased in a water closet, sitting on the closet seat, with his clothing loose. I spoke to him, but did not get any reply. I shook him, and said, 'What are you doing here?” He did not take any notice, and then I found he was dead. His clay pipe lay broken on the closet board. The closet was one of five in an open yard. The other four were always locked, but this one was always open. His felt hat was on his head. He was in a sideways position, with his head leaning on his left shoulder, and both hands were clenched. There was no doctor called. He was in good spirits and quite cheerful on the Saturday night. He told me he was going to a wedding party.

The Coroner: Did you examine the body? .– Sergeant MOTTERSHEAD: No, sir. Sergeant BACHMAN did; I was away. He found £1 6s 11d in money, a pipe, tobacco, &c..– The Coroner: I suppose there is no suspicion of foul play? No, sir; there were no marks of foul play about the body..– The Foreman: Was the closet door closed or wide open? .– Witness: Partly closed..– Sergeant MOTTERSHEAD said a cousin of the deceased saw him a few minutes before he left the beerhouse, and then he was quite sober.

The Coroner said it was very difficult to decide in a case of this description what had been the cause of death. He seemed to have gone to the closet not in a drunken condition, and they would not expect a man to fall asleep unless he had been having too much drink. If he had been drunk one might have thought he had gone to sleep and been starved to death. The Foreman said it looked as if he had had a fit..– The Coroner: It is very probable. The jury returned a verdict that deceased was found dead, caused probably by a fit of apoplexy.

At the Ashton County Police Court, on Wednesday, James JONES, aged 14, was fined 2s 6d for throwing snowballs at pedestrians in Guide-lane, Audenshaw.

BREACH OF THE PEACE..– At the Ashton County Police Court, on Wednesday, Benjamin DUDLEY, who had been arrested on a warrant, pleaded guilty to committing a breach of the peace at Audenshaw on January 8th and was bound over to keep the peace for three months.

SOMEONE TAPPED AT HIS WINDOW..– At the Ashton County Police Court, on Wednesday, Samuel BENNETT, Emily HAMPSON, and Alice BURNLEY were charged with committing a breach of the peace at Audenshaw on January 28th..– BENNETT and BURNLEY pleaded guilty, and HAMPSON not guilty..– A constable stated that at 6.45pm all the three defendants were quarrelling with each other, causing a crowd of people to assemble in Guide-lane. HAMPSON told the magistrates that the two other defendants started the bother as she was passing them BURNLEY came to her with a poker..– BENNETT said the quarrel was started by someone tapping at his window..– Defendants were each bound over in 40s to keep the peace for three months.

A lamentable accident, which proved fatal, occurred in Oldham-road shortly before 12 o'clock on Tuesday morning. A lurry load of shoddy, drawn by three horses, belonging to James HOWE Limited, waste dealers, Turner-lane, Ashton, was proceeding along the road near to the London and North Western Railway Company's goods yard, when the leading horse appeared to take fright at something and immediately set off at a gallop, the rear horses following. A carter in the employ of Messrs HOWE, named Joseph WILDE, residing in Turner-lane, got hold of the horse's head and tried to stop it, but in the attempt he fell on the slippery ground, and the middle horse trod on his head. He was carried into the surgery of Dr BOWMAN, where his head was bandaged up. He was then taken home and began to complain of pains in his head. His condition became alarming, and he expired at 1.30pm. Deceased leaves a widow and seven children.

Mary Jane WILDE said the deceased, Joseph WILDE, carter (43), was her husband. They lived at 133 Turner-lane. The deceased left home about 8.20 on Tuesday to go to his work. He was then in good health. He wore clogs. About 20 minutes past 12 o'clock he was brought home by two strange men. He had bandages about his face. He complained of a choking feeling, and walked about putting his hand to his neck. She sent for Dr BOWMAN, who was not at home, and afterwards for Dr PEARCE, but before the doctor arrived her husband was dead. He kept spitting blood. He had not done so before. He did not seem to want witness to talk to him, but he told her that he had slipped and the second horse had trod on him. He did not blame anyone for what had happened to him.

James COOK, carter, of 18 Jackson-street, Ashton, said he started with the deceased for Reyner's mill about eleven o'clock. They had a lurry and three horses, and went for a load of cotton waste to take to his employers' warehouse in Turner-lane. They started the horses from the coffee tavern at the corner of Wellington-road and Oldham-road, and went up the brow in Oldham-road to the turning at Boodle-street, near Oldham-road Station. The horses commenced to trot. They always trotted in going uphill. They afterwards got from trotting to galloping. Deceased was by the first horse. He was running, holding on to the chains. Witness was near the first horse when the horses went into a gallop.

Deceased ran forward to try and take the first horse by the head, but he could not catch it. He dropped back to the second horse. He was on the 'near” side, and his left hand across on the trace chain. Deceased tried to catch the horse by the bridle. In doing this he slipped and fell forward on his face in front of the horse. The horse trampled him with all four feet. He rolled over once in the road. Witness 'frightened,” and pulled the shaft horse over, and so avoided the lurry going over deceased. The first and second horse had got off the swept track on to the snow at the Boodle-street side. Witness followed the horses. He did not pull them up; they stopped themselves about ten yards down Boodle-street. The horses were quiet ones.

By the Foreman: The roads were bad. The horses were not sharpened. It was not usual to have three horses. They would have had more control over the horses most certainly had there been reins..– By a Juror: Don't you think it would have been safer to have had the horses sharpened..– Witness: You can't have all the horses sharpened? .– The Coroner (addressing particularly the juryman putting the above question): You cannot attribute the man's death to the fact that the horses were not sharpened..– The Foreman: But were the horses under proper control? .– The Coroner: Ah! Now that, perhaps, is more to the point.

Witness: I have not heard that the first horse was struck with a snowball causing it to start galloping. Witness also said he did not see anyone throw a snowball. The gradient was a pretty steep one..– A lengthy discussion was entered into by the jury as to the fact of the horses being sharpened, one juryman contending that probably deceased would not have been so near the horses if they had been sharpened..– Another juror pointed out that the horses did not fall. It was the deceased who fell.

The Coroner: The question for us to consider is whether the deceased met his death by accident or no, and if his death was caused by an accident, was anyone to blame. That was as far as we can go..– A juror: Could not we have the doctor here? .– The Coroner: Yes, if you think it desirable, we can certainly have the doctor's evidence. Dr BOWMAN, it is clear, could not know that his injuries were serious. His injuries were internal injuries, and the doctor could not see them, and the deceased, in his conversation with the doctor, evidently did not lead the doctor to think there was anything seriously wrong with him.

A Juror: His jaw was broken..– The Coroner: It is reported so, but that would not be the cause of his death. If you like, we can adjourn and a post mortem can be held, when we can get the doctor's evidence as to the immediate cause of death..– After some further discussion, the jury agreed to a verdict of 'Accidental death.'

Mr BRADBURY said he was instructed to say that the firm appreciated the deceased as a faithful servant who had served them with great satisfaction for a long period. He had been a very good man, against whose conduct they had never had complaint to make.

Sad Death of Mr Tom THORP

The police received information on Sunday of the death of Thomas THORP, a labourer in the employ of the Corporation, residing in Parkside, who it is supposed accidentally fell downstairs between Saturday night and Sunday morning, and received injuries which caused his death. The deceased was well known in Stalybridge and Dukinfield, in connection with political affairs, and was a son of Mr Daniel THORP, now of Blackpool, and formerly of Stalybridge.

Annie THORP said: The deceased was my husband, and lived at 3 Parkside. He was a labourer, 39 years of age. I had been living apart from him five days before this happened. On Saturday night about 11 o'clock I saw him going into the house. He seemed to be the worse for drink. He unlocked the door, entered, and relocked the door, and I heard him drop the key on the floor inside. I was staying at a house across the street, and I went there.

Next morning, I did not see or hear anything of him. The door was still locked. About two o'clock I got uneasy about him and borrowed a neighbour's key, and entered the house. I found him lying on his back on the kitchen floor at the foot of the stairs. I went to the door and called Wm RICHARDSON to assist me. He touched deceased on the face and moved his arm, but he was dead. He was only attired in his shirt. There is an entry next the staircase. His body was cold..– The Foreman: Has he been in the habit of getting a lot of drink? Yes..– The Coroner: Coming home drunk? .– Yes..– The Foreman: Was he about the same as usual on Saturday night? Yes, he was a man who drank a lot of liquors..– The Coroner: Was it through you living apart? Yes, sir.

The jury returned a verdict of, 'Found dead, having fallen downstairs.'

Here is a good story concerning a bishop of stately mien and sanctimonious expression, who is in reality a prince of good fellows. Not long ago he went down to a small country town to lecture, arriving early in the afternoon, and of course being at once spotted by the inhabitants as something particularly great and saintly. He went into the chemist's shop, and, in a tone that froze the young blood of the assistant, said, 'Young man, do you smoke?' 'Y-yes, sir,' replied the trembling youth. 'I'm sorry; but I learnt the habit young, and I haven't been able to get rid of it yet.' 'Then,' said the great divine, without the movement of a muscle or the abatement of one shade of the awful solemnity of his voice, 'you can tell me where I can get a good cigar.'
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