16 March 1901

Twenty Birds in Twenty Days

"Recently in Leeds, the remarkable feat of eating fourteen pigeons in as many days was achieved by a man known as ‘Long Tom’. At first sight, this does not seem to be very extraordinary, but anyone trying it will find out that it is no easy matter as the pigeon is an indigestible bird.

"However, the example set by the Leeds man has been followed in Ashton by ‘Professor ATKINS the Long-haired King’ who commenced at nine o’clock pm on Friday the 8th inst. At the Star Inn, Cotton-street, Ashton, the task of consuming twenty pigeons in as many days.

"ATKINS, an Irish-American is the manufacturer of a medicinal snuff, which commodity he also sells. He appears from his manner of walking to be paralysed and it is said that his infirmity arose from the effects of an assault made on him some years ago at the Old Cross. The Professor has been in South Africa and several other parts of the world and is a man of wide experience and apparently of what Shakespeare says ‘an unbounded stomach’.

"He ate his first bird in 13 minutes, the second in 15, the third in 17, the fourth in 13, the fifth, which was an exceptionally tough one, he managed in 18 minutes, the sixth in 15 minutes and the seventh took 16 minutes.

"Great interest is taken in his heroic endeavour to surpass all past gastronomic achievements of this kind, his dining room at the Star being filled every night with amused and admiring spectators. A bet of 20 has been made that he does not achieve the feat. The man is still going strong."

The coroner heard how Ellen MONCKS of 68 John-street, Ashton, died suddenly on Friday afternoon from the effects of a drinking bout. Her husband, John, said that she was 36 years old and was in good health up to a few weeks before when she had a heart problem diagnosed. This was caused by her drinking bouts which she had "become addicted to for the last two years".

He said that he had "remonstrated" with her on Tuesday with the result that she had left to stay with relatives without telling him where she was going. She was brought home on Friday afternoon, the worse for drink, and he put her on the sofa before going out for a drink himself. Shortly after, one of his boys tracked him down to say that his wife was seriously ill. He called the doctor, but she died soon after.

Hannah CLAYTON of 35 Mary-street, Dukinfield said that the deceased was her husband’s cousin and that it was at her house she had stayed. The coroner commented that John MONCKS was as bad as his wife for drink, but gave a verdict of death by natural causes.

At a meeting of the town council, Alderman HIGGINBOTTOM said that "there was one very dark spot" in the report of the Medical Officer and that was "the enormous death rate in Portland Place Ward".

"The chairman had on one or two occasions furnished him with a few statistics and particulars. He had given somewhat of a reason why Portland Place Ward should be so high in the death rate, but they could not sit down any longer to allowing this state of things to exist and they must find some remedy, and however severe that remedy might be, it must be done.

"He would very much like Portland Ward to be divided into four pieces; begin at Mill-lane for the first section, then second and third and fourth, and in each section that the population should be accurately taken and also the death rate and then if it was that there was a great density of population in these particular districts, find out which was the district that had the highest death rate in consequence of that density of population.

"If they could arrive at that, they could immediately make up their minds to face the difficulty and face it in buying up some old property — (hear, hear) and making a place more hospitable and some open space — (Hear, hear)"

Councillor CATLOW said that he "personally should like Portland Ward to be divided at Victoria-street so that they might have the canal and the river given separate from the other portion of the ward … so that they might ascertain whether the river and the canal had anything to do with the high death rate."

"A mill operative named Joshua EATON of 17 Queen-street, Hurst, aged 49 years came to a sudden end in Mossley-road, Ashton on Sunday afternoon. Deceased was a cotton warp dresser, employed at Hurst new mills.

"About 1.30 on Sunday afternoon, deceased was walking along Mossley-road. An insurance agent named John GARDNER of 5 Whitham-street was also walking along the road and when near the Heys Colliery, he saw the deceased fall backwards on his head. He ran towards him and along with others who had gathered on the spot, deceased was lifted up, but he expired immediately."

His wife Martha said that he suffered pains in side and shortness of breath for two years and that his doctor had warned him to take it easy, although he had continued to work. The verdict was death by natural causes, probably from a sudden failure of the heart.

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