1 December 1900


An investigation into the growing number of cases of arsenic poisoning was launched by the Sanitary Committee. Superintendent Councillor SHAW ordered that samples of beer from Ashton breweries should be taken for analysis. Samples of mineral water were also taken from local manufacturers.

There had been 14 known cases in Manchester and Salford over the previous few weeks with sufferers showing symptoms ranging from pins and needles in the hands and feet to headaches and skin discolouration. Medical Officer, Dr HUGHES said "Taking it all round, we are very free from it in Ashton. Most of the cases appear to have been in the Hurst neighbourhood. We have had no deaths from peripheral neuritis, but there has been one death recorded from chronic alcoholism.

"I do not think the brewers are themselves much to blame, unless it can be proved that they are buying inferior articles for the sake of economy."

But the Reporter revealed that there had been 15 cases at the District Infirmary in September and October. The House Surgeon explained: "Long before the Manchester and other cases came to light, we recognised that there was something out of the ordinary, because they are unusual. On one of our admission days, as many as four patients came."

But on visiting the Ashton Union Workhouse, a representative from the Reporter found there to be no cases to the Workhouse Master’s knowledge and pending further enquiries, drinkers could sup in safety

Worker meeting at Ashton

"A very poorly attended meeting for the purpose of gathering in the unskilled labourers of the town was held under the auspices of the Workers’ Union at the Cooperative Hall, Portland Street, Ashton on Monday night. Councillor R A BARRETT presided, supported by Messrs R WADE (district organiser of Manchester), J CHADWICK (Manchester) and M T SIMM (Land Nationalisation Society)."

Mr WADE had been in the town for the best part of a week trying to drum up support and was sorry they had so poor a meeting. He said that it did not auger well, but it was his duty to go on working and striving, however little the effort might seem to be appreciated. It seemed that the workers were more interested in the immediate benefits of union membership, particularly sickness and burial payments.

Mr WADE said "there was something very much greater and more dignified about a trade union than this. The state of the industrial market if they had no organisation amongst labourers would be that the whole power would rest in the hands of the capitalist."

A seven-month old girl died after being scalded by hot water, an inquest heard. Mrs WALLACE of Park-street, Ashton, had filled up a jug with hot water as she prepared dinner for the family. She had tied her daughter in a chair by the table when there was a knock on the door. As she went to answer, she turned to see the jug topple over.

Mrs WALLACE was able to catch the jug, but not to prevent the water spilling over the child’s neck and chest. She quickly applied linseed oil and limewater, but baby Brenda later died. There was a verdict of accidental death.

"A fatal accident occurred to a young man named Fred CARR, aged 20, of Water-street, Newton on Wednesday afternoon. The unfortunate fellow had been engaged for a short time as a porter at Newton Station and just prior to the accident, he was engaged in lighting a signal about sixty yards from the station in the direction of Godley.

"He had just reached the bottom of the ladder when he stepped unconsciously in front of the 2.15 express from Manchester to London. A man named Joseph BROADHURST was in the waiting room at the time and saw the buffer of the engine knock something a considerable distance which proved to be the body of CARR. The deceased was shockingly injured and died almost immediately. He was removed to his home as speedily as possible.

"The death took place on Wednesday of an old Ashtonian in the person of William BURGESS who resided in Charles-street and who formerly carried on the business of a market gardener. Mr BURGESS, who was over 80 years of age, had been ailing for some time. The deceased for many years, and up to the time of his demise, was a member of the Ashton Bell Ringers, having taken part in upwards of 50 peals, including an 8,864 treble Bob-royal which stood as a record for a long time.

It wasn’t just soldiers risking shot and shell in South Africa as this letter from Ernest KNUTT illustrates: "I have started work driving a locomotive for the military. It is rather rough work, I can tell you, for you never know when you are going to be shot at. They keep on making raids on the trains and snipe at the driver every time. Since I came here, we have had one driver killed, a fireman wounded and five Coldstream Guards killed. The Boers throw a train off the line and then start shooting down the men.

John NEWTON, an old Ashtonian who had lived in New Zealand for 35 years wrote to the Reporter: "When I visited Ashton in 1896 and 1897, I often had a look where the Reporter was printed when I was a boy. It reminds me of a little incident that happened in 1856. Myself and another boy were in Stamford-street early one Saturday morning. We were accosted by Mr HOBSON, then proprietor. He said ‘Boys, do you want a job?’ We said: ‘What to do?’ He said: ‘Our engine is broken down and I want you two to turn the press.’

"We went with him and he started both of us on to the handle. We printed all the Reporters for that week. When we had done, he paid us well. We thought our fortune was made. A little lower down Stamford-street was OGDEN’s pawnshop. We saw a second-hand pistol in the window for sale. We bought it with the money we had earned at the press."

He took it to his uncle’s machine shop in Brook-street to fit a ramrod, but it was too tight and got stuck. The following day, the two boys ran away from Sunday School to the Moss to blow the ramrod out.

"They were making the line from Guide Bridge to Oldham at that time. I fired it at a railway sign. It almost sent me on my back." John recalled. Only the lock and handle were left and despite searching for several hours, they could not find any of the other parts. "So you see," he finished, "we worked hard for it one day and burst it the next."

An inquest was held into the death of Robert PLATT aged 52 of 3 Sykes-street, Dukinfield who was found in the canal near Walk Bridge Mill. His wife, Hannah, said that he was a collier, but had worked for only a month in the last three years. He had been left 300 pounds 18 months before and that was one reason he had not worked. He had also been ill.

"He had spent most of his time since in drinking and the money had been all spent five or six months ago."

Hannah said he had been behaving oddly since Ashton Wakes, walking around the house oblivious to his surroundings. But he had never threatened suicide and it was her opinion that he had slipped into the canal. The court gave an open verdict of ‘found drowned’.

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