3 January 1903

Newton Heath Fireman Killed – Mysterious Disappearance from a Railway Carriage
A singular fatality occurred on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway near Oldham-road bridge, Ashton, on Saturday evening. Two employees of the L and Y railway, one an engine driver named Charles WILLIAMS, residing at 18 Tetlow-street, Daisy Bank, Newton Heath, and the other a fireman, John POMFRET, aged 23, of 4 Hugo-street, off Lightbown-road, Newton Heath, entered the 5.15pm train from Charlestown station to Manchester, having been relieved of their duties at Charlestown goods station shortly before.

According to the statement of WILLIAMS, when about 300 yards from the station, and near to Oldham-road bridge, fireman POMFRET suddenly disappeared from the compartment. When last seen by WILLIAMS and another passenger who was in the compartment he was standing near the carriage door on the left side traveling in the direction of Manchester. On arriving at Droylsden Station, WILLIAM alighted and ran to a signal box and telephoned to Ashton to search the line. He then caught the next train back to Ashton.

Information was conveyed to the Ashton Police Station and Constables FERNLEY and ALFORD proceeded at once with the horse ambulance, and to their credit be it said that in less than 15 minutes POMFRET, who was suffering from a severe scalp wound and crushed leg, was being surgically attended at the Infirmary. Death took place about nine o’clock the same night.

The inquest was held at Ashton District Infirmary on Tuesday afternoon by Mr J F PRICE (district coroner). Mr A E G CHARLTON, (solicitor, Manchester) appeared on behalf of the driver Williams, and Mr A MEAR represented the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants. Mr DAWSON (solicitor) was present on behalf of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, and there were also present Messrs j MARKLAND (locomotive superintendent, Newton Heath) and C H MONTGOMERY (Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway carriage and wagon department, Manchester.

Mary POMFRET said the deceased was her husband. She last saw him alive on Saturday morning about 5.30 when he left home to go to work and bade her good morning. Some days he acted as engine cleaner and others as fireman. On Saturday evening she heard that he had been injured and taken to Ashton Infirmary. She proceeded there, but he was dead when she arrived. She had never heard of driver WILLIAMS before Saturday. WILLIAMS came to her and told her that her husband had happened an accident. She had no reason to doubt but that her husband and WILLIAMS were on good terms.

Charles WILLIAMS said he was an engine driver. Deceased had never worked along with witness prior to last Saturday. He had seen deceased at the engine shed, but only knew him by sight. They commenced working together at 5.45 in the morning, deceased having been instructed to act as fireman. During the daytime they worked a special goods train between Miles Platting and Stalybridge, and made one journey. At 5pm they were relieved at the passenger platform at Charlestown Station, and he and deceased went into a third-class compartment in the third carriage from the end.

There was a passenger in the compartment when they got in. Witness took his seat on the right-hand corner of the compartment facing the engine, and the passenger sat right opposite. Deceased went to the other side, but did not sit down. Witness did not know why. He stood with his face to the door. He never spoke. The train moved out of the station and they had got about 300 yards when deceased disappeared like a cloud through the window.

The Coroner: Was the door open or shut? It was shut. – Did he go through the window? I don’t know whether he went through the door or window. – It is a strange thing. Surely you would see him, you would see the door open. – Have you any idea how the glass got broken? None whatever. After he disappeared the handle of the door was half turned and it was fastened on the first catch.

The foreman (Mr W CHADWICK): It is rather a narrow bridge. – Mr YATES: There are no marks on the carriage door. – A Juryman: If the door had flown open the wind would have closed it again. – Mr MONTGOMERY: There was blood on the glass found inside the carriage. – Coroner: What were you doing at that moment? – WILLIAMS: I was talking to the other passenger. – A Juryman: Was he subject to fits? I don’t know. – You would hear the bang of the door? There was a kind of thump and then the glass flew in. There was a strong wind at the time. – Mr MONTGOMERY said the carriage was locked up after the accident. He found the broken glass on the seat with blood on it.

Continuing his evidence, WILLIAMS said that after the disappearance he went across the compartment and was almost on the point of following deceased. Witness pulled the communication cord, but it did not appear to act as the train did not stop until it got to Droylsden. Deceased was quite sober and had never tasted drink all day.

Harry MOULDEN, clerk, 56 King-street, Ashton, deposed to joining the 5.15pm train. The last named witness and deceased followed him into the compartment. Shortly after the train started witness noticed deceased lower the window. He was then standing up. A conversation commenced about the train service between witness and WILLIAMS and they got near Oldham-road bridge when witness heard a crash and breaking of glass and on turning his head and looking in that direction he found deceased was missing.

The Coroner said it was an extraordinary case as to how the man got through the window. The most important point was to clear the other passenger in the carriage. – A Juryman: The window must have been struck from outside. – The Coroner: Probably he was leaning through the window and was dragged out by the bridge. Mr CHORLTON: He had a fractured skull. – The Coroner: That might have been fractured by falling out. – A Juryman: There is no one to prove that the door was fastened. He must have been leaning forward and fallen out and his head come in contact with the bridge, and the door would bang and cause the side window to break.

The Coroner: It looks as if he had caught the bridge and it had thrown him against the window.- A Juryman: But there would not be time for the blood to flow into the carriage. – The Coroner: The question is was his death an accident. We shall never find out exactly what happened. – A Juryman: It is singular the two witnesses did not see anything. – The Foreman: My opinion is that he was caught by the bridge. What distance is it from the carriage to the side of the bridge? – Mr YATES: About 3 feet 2 inches from the rail to the wall of the bridge. I found blood on the ashes close to the wall and it seemed as if the dirt had been rubbed off the wall in one place.

The jury ultimately returned a verdict of accidental death caused by falling through a carriage window.

Trial at Dukinfield

At the Dukinfield Police Court on Thursday a young woman named Alice BARLOW was charged on remand with attempting to commit suicide by jumping into a mill dam off Stalybridge-road, Mottram, at three o’clock pm on the 30th December. – Superintendent CROGHAN informed the magistrates that this was a very painful case.

The young woman resided with her father on Mottram Moor. It appeared she became very depressed about a young man and attempted to commit a rash act on the 30th. She jumped into a pit off Mottram Moor. Fortunately, she was seen, immediately rescued and taken to her parents’ home. She was attended by Dr ANBURN, and she was subsequently brought before Alderman KERFOOT on Wednesday, and remanded until that morning. She appeared to be all right now, and expressed great regret for the rash act, and promised never to do it again.

Leslie MORGAN, aged 11, was called. He said he lived with his parents at the Star Inn, Mottram. On Tuesday last, about 3pm, he was in Stalybridge-road, Mottram, and saw the defendant on the bank of a mill dam. He next saw her jump into the water. He called to a man named John RHODES, who was passing, and he, with the assistance of Robert BLACKBURN, got her out of the water. She was then taken to her home on Mottram Moor.

The Clerk charged the defendant with feloniously and maliciously attempting to murder herself by casting herself into a certain pond of water called a mill dam. Defendant: I have nothing whatever to say, only I got depressed, that is all. – The Clerk: Is her father here? – The reply was in the affirmative, and he came forward. – Defendant said she knew she had done wrong.

Alderman BEELEY: You are not disposed to do this sort of thing again? – Defendant: No, sir. – You should not think because one thing happens in life that everything is going to go wrong with you. You must take a more cheery view of things, and think there are plenty better things in the world than what has happened. You must fight against any tendency of again getting depressed.

To the father: If we let your daughter go home with you, will you undertake to take care of her to the best of your abilities? – Mr BARLOW: I will, your Worships. – Alderman BEELEY: In that case you the defendant will be allowed to go home in the expectation that in future you will do better for yourself. – The defendant thanked the Bench, and subsequently left the court with her father and two sisters, who were deeply affected.

VEHICLE WITHOUT LIGHT. – Herbert MAKIN was summoned for using a vehicle without having a light attached thereon on the 19th December. – Constable SMITH said defendant gave a false address. – Fined 1s and costs.

BAD LANGUAGE. – Winifred TRAVIS, a young woman, was summoned for using bad language in St Michael’s-square on the 22nd. She pleaded guilty, and said she had a drop of drink. – The Chief Constable said she had not been up before. – Mr PARK said the magistrates were determined to put down bad language for the sake of the purity of the streets. – Fined 5s 6d for costs. Alice Ann SCHOFIELD was fined 5s 6d costs for using bad language in Higher Wharf-street on the 27th.

A FRIENDLY CHRISTMAS WRESTLE. – Harry MONKS and Albert LAW were summoned for committing a breach of the peace by fighting in Katherine-street on the 25th. – The Clerk: “Peace on earth and goodwill,” and here you are fighting. – Defendant LAW said under the circumstances they pleaded guilty. – The Clerk: What do you mean by circumstances? – Defendant: We were not fighting. We had been singing at this house, and had a friendly wrestle. – (Laughter.) – Constable FURNESS stated that on Christmas morning he was on duty and saw the defendants fighting. They were kicking one another. He separated them and took them into custody.

The Clerk: This friendly wrestle developed into kicking one another whilst down. – LAW: We were not outside the house two minutes and down we went. – The Clerk: Where were the other singers? – LAW: Inside the house. – (Laughter.) – The Clerk: Did you come out to have this friendly wrestle? No; we came out to go home. – The Bench bound the defendants over to keep the peace for three months in their own recognisances of 40s, and the costs, in default seven days.

A FOOLISH AND DANGEROUS PRACTICE. – A lad named John ASPINALL was summoned for throwing a missile in Cavendish-street on the 19th December. He pleaded guilty. A witness stated that defendant threw a sow’s head bone at a shop door. It struck the spar and bounced through the window. – The Clerk: What did you do this trick for? – Defendant: As we were coming down King-street, I said “Watch me bring those people out of the shop.” – The Clerk: Why did you want them out? Had you any orders to give? – Defendant: No.

The Clerk: The result of you throwing that bone at the shop door has cost the shopkeeper 15s for the window. He has not sued you for the damage, but your action has cost him 15s for your satisfaction in trying to bring him out of the shop door. – The Chairman: Are we expected to throw the expenses upon him? – The Clerk: No, the shopkeeper very good-naturedly takes no action in the matter. It will be at his own expense unless he does. – It was elicited that the defendant had no father, and a medical certificate stated that Mrs ASPINALL was too ill to appear.

The Chairman (to defendant): You have been a very naughty boy, and you ought to be careful what you do. Your mother is a widow, you know. You have entailed an expense upon the shopkeeper by your foolish act, and he evidently thinks your mother cannot pay. If your father had been living and in a position to pay, we should have fined you. You can go. – Defendant: Thank you, sir.

DRUNK AND DISORDERLY. – Sarah RYAN was charged with being drunk and disorderly in Canning-street on the 20th December – A constable said he saw the defendant very drunk, and using bad language to her husband. – She had been up four times and was fined 5s 6d for costs.

Frank TAYLOR was charged with being drunk and disorderly in Old-street on Christmas Eve. – Defendant said he blacked his face and put women’s clothes on. It was Christmas, and he did not think there was any harm in it. – The Chief Constable said defendant had been up seven times. – Fined 5s 6d and costs, or 14 days, the Chairman telling defendant he had his character to redeem.

Edward OWEN was charged with a similar offence in Stamford-street on Christmas Eve. – Constable WILD said defendant was behaving in a disorderly manner, and had gathered a crowd of children around him. – The Clerk: They fancied he was a Santa Claus perhaps. – (Laughter.) – Have you ever been in a police court before? – Defendant: No, sir. – Not at Stockport? Oh, yes sir. – (Laughter.) What did they give you there? Fourteen days last time. That was the first time I was in gaol. – The Chairman: You are very honest. Give over these habits. We shall dismiss you this morning, don’t come here again. – The Clerk: You may now go to Stockport, or elsewhere. – (Laughter.)

Joseph GREENWOOD was charged with being drunk in Old-street on the 28th. He pleaded guilty. – The Chairman: The usual story, Joseph, Christmas time? – Defendant: Yes. – The Chairman: See that you don’t do it again; dismissed.

Sarah Jane ROBERTS was charged with being drunk and disorderly in Duke-street on the 27th. – She pleaded guilty, and was fined 5s 6d costs.

Information was to the Hurst Police Station of the death of Mary MASON, widow aged 49 years, residing at 18 Hope-street, which took place on Sunday morning. Deceased had been troubled for a considerable time with bronchitis and a swelling in her throat. She retired to bed about 10.30 on Saturday night after having partaken of supper. The following morning about, five o’clock, her daughter, with whom she was sleeping, was awakened by hearing her complain of choking. She tried to restore her, but death took place shortly afterwards.

The inquest was held at the New Inn, Whiteacre-road, on Tuesday afternoon by Mr J F PRICE, district coroner.

Eva MASON, machinist, said deceased was her mother, and she lived with her at 18 Hope-street, Hurst. She was 49 last birthday, and had not been in very good health lately, having been troubled on and off with bronchitis and a swelling in her throat. She consulted Dr PEARCE about 14 months ago for bronchitis, and a few weeks ago she was again troubled with the complaint. She had a slight cough, but had never complained of dizziness.

She was in her usual health on Saturday night, and went to bed about 11 o’clock, after having supper. Witness slept along with her. She wakened witness about five o’clock on Sunday morning, and complained of a choking sensation. Witness got up and lighted the fire downstairs, and deceased was assisted downstairs. She was in a bad way and had great difficulty breathing and vomited a little blood. Witness and her grandmother tried to give her some brandy, but she could not swallow anything, and fell on the sofa exclaiming “Lord help me.”

Witness went for Dr BRADLEY, but her mother expired whilst she was away. The swelling in her neck seemed to affect her breathing. The doctor never told her what it was. She did not know if it was Derbyshire neck or not.

Ann GORDON, mother of deceased, deposed to deceased being troubled with bronchitis, and said she had not been able to walk very far without being out of breath. She had often complained on awakening in the morning that she was afraid of being choked. She commenced rattling in the throat on Sunday morning and went very dark about the lips.

The jury returned a verdict of death from natural causes.

At the Police Court, on Thursday, before Alderman Thomas BEELEY, Alderman J KERFOOT, Mr W UNDERWOOD and Dr TINKER. A boot and show salesman named Thomas O’BRIEN, of 129 Pickford-lane, applied for an order of exemption from vaccination of his child, Maggie.

Mr G J WESTBROOK (magistrates’ clerk): On what grounds? – Applicant: I have a conscientious objection, sir. – Why? I think it will be dangerous to the health of my child. – Alderman BEELEY: In face of what is going on. I don’t feel satisfied, I must say, to grant it. – Dr TINKER: I have said so much that I shall say no more, except that I am entirely against it. – The Clerk: You know about the smallpox epidemic? Applicant: Yes. – And that does not alter your view at all? No, I have a conscientious objection.

Mr UNDERWOOD: You know we have smallpox in Dukinfield? Yes. – Alderman BEELEY: It is a very serious matter. We are only here to administer the law, but I am bound to say that if it is granted, so far as I am concerned it will be with the greatest reluctance. In face of the epidemic going about the country I don’t know whether we are really doing our duty in saying we are satisfied with the ground for your objection.

The Clerk: If you are not satisfied, you could refuse the application. – Applicant: But I have a conscientious objection. – Alderman BEELEY: Anyone who has had any experience with these cases, relieving officers, and medical officers, feel that it is the greatest wrong is being done to their neighbours by persons not having their children vaccinated. With good lymph and careful attention to the child, there should not be any danger to the child. The very fact that we see so few people pitted with smallpox nowadays ought to be a guarantee of the efficacy of vaccination.

The Clerk: Do you persist in your application? O’BRIEN: Yes. – Alderman BEELEY: We grant it, but under protest.

Jonathan SCHOFIELD, hatter, 2 West-street, made a similar application. – The Clerk: What is your objection? – Applicant: I believe it will be detrimental to the child’s health. – That is your only ground, is it? No, sir; my wife was vaccinated five years ago and she has never been the same since. – What else? I believe it to be injurious to the child’s health. – There has been no ground stated for granting the exemption yet. – I have a conscientious objection to vaccination. – It has taken you a long time to find it out.

Alderman BEELEY: You are doing a very wrong thing to your neighbours, I am certain about that. – Applicant: The law allows me to make that objection. – Alderman BEELEY: We know all about the law, my boy, you need not teach us that. But there are epidemics going on all round about. – Dr TINKER: The peculiar part of it is that a number of people get these exemptions and then come with their children to have them vaccinated. – Alderman BEELEY: I dare say you will find that to be so. – Mr UNDERWOOD: You know there is a case of smallpox within 100 yards of where you live? – Applicant: Yes, sir. – Alderman BEELEY: We grant it most reluctantly.

A political economist remarks: “Sir, I have read in the papers that a child has met its death through swallowing a reel of cotton. This is not the right way of putting the event, having regard to its most important feature. It should have been, ‘A reel of cotton was lost to industrial purposes through being swallowed by a child.”

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