Tag Archives: accident

“Death must have been almost instantaneous”

9 Jan

My relatives continue to amaze me with their ability to make the national newspapers and in the quite gruesome ways their lives are cut short. To the two relations who were killed in railway accidents I can now add another who died in a maritime accident.

Thomas Henry HUTFIELD married my 2x great-aunt Harriet Ellen MITCHELL in 1900, I don’t have the exact details only that it was in Q4 1900 in Portsmouth Registration District. I had been unable to find Harriet in the 1901, but then I didn’t know at the time that she had married. It wasn’t until I was searching for her widowed mother in the newly released 1911 census that I found both Harriet and her mother living in Portsmouth, Hampshire.

The fact that she was living in Portsmouth and that despite being married her husband was not at home immediately made me think that her husband was serving in the Royal Navy. That is pretty much where my research ended. I added a few children to the marriage but never took the research any further until a few days ago.

I bought and downloaded a copy of Thomas’ naval service details from DocumentsOnline, in the hope of finding out a bit more on him and his family. I have found naval records to be largely devoid of family or personal detail in the past, and this one was no exception.

What I did find however, beneath the long list of vessels on which Thomas had served was the following intriging note: “21 July 1911. Accidentally killed on board ‘Kangaroo’ owing to bursting of a steam pipe during steam trials.”

Using my membership of  the Surrey Library Service I was soon searching copies of The Times newspaper online for a mention of the accident. It didn’t take long to find a report of the accident, a message of condolence from the King and details of the inquest.

According to The Times for the 22nd July 1911:

While the destroyer Kangaroo was carrying out steam trials off Beachy Head, about four miles out, shortly after noon yesterday, a steam pipe burst. Two stokers were killed by the explosion and five injured. The bodies of the dead men and four of the injured were put on board the cruiser Topaze, which brought them into Portsmouth, and the injured were sent to Haslar Hospital.

The above article lists the casualties and the report of the subsequent inquest gives further details of the accident. Bearing in mind that this was in a national newspaper, I would expect the local newspapers to give more information and probably mention of his funeral and the family he left behind.

This incident poses many research questions such as did Harriet receive some pension or compensation? Was there a memorial service for the two dead men? Where are they buried? What became of Harriet and her children after the death of Thomas? In other words, plenty of reasons to go and visit the Portsmouth Records Office and do some more digging.

Personal Genealogy Update: Week 37

12 Sep

I was totally distracted last week, fortunately it was a genealogical distraction. I am sometimes amazed at the direction my research takes, I had no real intention of re-visiting the story of Thomas KINGHORN and his mail coach accident in any detail at the moment, but that is where I have ended up this week.

Lots of newspapers mention the accident but they are all largely based on the same report, also there are several books that mention the accident, so I have been making a start on gathering together all the pieces of "evidence". Also I have been thinking about where else I am going to find details.

Then my attention shifted to maps, trying to locate the exact spot where the accident happened. As a lover of maps this has been such a joy for me, forcing me to explore more online map sites, including the wonderful Maps of Scotland at the National Library of Scotland. I am pretty certain I have located the spot where the bridge was, I just need to bring together all the information.

This week I will carry on looking at mail coaches and maps, trying to pull together all the information into some sort of logical framework which will act as a basis for future research and a visit to the site. The icing on the cake this week was being contacted by a descendant of one of the passengers on the mail coach, who sadly died as a result of the accident. Don’t you just love the power of blogging?

Thomas KINGHORN narrowly escapes with his life

15 Apr

I had one of those jaw dropping moments this afternoon, I was idly Googling Thomas KINGHORN (as you do) and one of the results a long way down the list was a link to a book published in 1885 entitled The Royal Mail: Its Curiosities and Romance (by James Wilson Hyde) within the Internet Archive.

Now I haven’t read the entire book yet (I don’t read that quick!), only the section relating to the incident in which Thomas KINGHORN was involved. It literally left me speechless when I read it, my 4x great grandfather involved in such a terrible accident and he lived to tell the tale!

The story is quite long, and well worth reading in full, so apologies for the length of this post (the details about Thomas KINGHORN are in bold at the end of the text):

On the night of Tuesday the 25th October 1808, the road between Carlisle and Glasgow was the scene of a catastrophe which will serve to illustrate in a striking degree one of the perils of the postal service in the mail-coach era. The place where the event now to be described occurred, lies between Beattock and Elvanfoot (about five miles from the latter place), where the highway crosses the Evan Water, a stream which takes its rise near the sources of the Clyde, but whose waters are carried southward into Dumfriesshire. To be more precise, the situation is between two places called Raecleuch and Howcleuch, on the Carlisle road; and a bridge which now spans the water, in lieu of a former bridge, retains by association, to this day, the name of the “Broken Bridge.”

It was at the breaking up of a severe storm of frost and snow, when the rivers were flooded to such an extent as had never been seen by the oldest people in the neighbourhood. The bridge had been but recently built; and though it was afterwards stated that the materials composing the mortar must have been of bad quality, no doubt would seem to have been entertained as to the security of the bridge. The night was dark, and accompanied by both wind and rain elements which frequently usher in a state of thaw. The mail-coach having passed the summit, was speeding along at a good round pace, the “outsiders” doubtless making themselves as comfortable as circumstances would allow, while the “insides,” as we might imagine, had composed themselves into some semblance of sleep, the time being between nine and ten o’clock, when, suddenly and without warning, the whole equipage – horses, coach, driver, guard, and passengers – on reaching the middle of the bridge, went headlong precipitate into the swollen stream through a chasm left by the collapse of the arch. It is by no means easy to realise what the thoughts would be of those concerned in this dreadful experience pitched into a roaring torrent, in a most lonely place, at a late hour on such a night. The actual results were, however, very serious.

The two leading horses were killed outright by the fall, while one of the wheelers was killed by a heavy stone descending upon it from the still impending portions of the wrecked structure. The coach and harness also were utterly destroyed. But, worse still, two outside passengers, one a Mr Lund, a partner in a London house, and the other named Brand, a merchant in Ecclefechan, were killed on the spot, while a lady and three gentlemen who were inside passengers miraculously escaped with their lives, though they were severely bruised. The lady, who had scrambled out of the vehicle, sought refuge on a rock in mid-stream, there remaining prisoner for a time; and by her means a second catastrophe of a similar kind was happily averted. The mail from Carlisle for Glasgow usually exchanged “Good-night” with the south-going coach, when they were running to time, just about the scene of the accident. Fortunately the coach from Carlisle was rather late; but when it did arrive, the lady on the rock, seeing the lights approach, screamed aloud, and thus warned the driver to draw up in time. Succour was now at hand.

Something ludicrous generally finds itself in company with whatever is of a tragic nature. The guard of the Carlisle coach was let down to the place where the lady was, by means of the reins taken from the horses. Hughie Campbell – that was the guard’s name – when deliberating upon the plan of rescue, had some delicacy as to how he should affix the reins to the person of the lady, and called up to those above, “Where will I grip her?” But before he could be otherwise advised, the lady, long enough already on the rock, broke in, “Grip me where you like, but grip me firm,” which observation at once removed Hughie’s difficulty, and set his scruples at ease. The driver of the wrecked coach, Alexander Cooper, was at first thought to have been carried away; but he was afterwards found caught between two stones in the river. He survived the accident only a few weeks – serious injuries to his back proving fatal. As for the guard, Thomas Kinghorn, he was severely cut about the head, but eventually recovered.

It was usual for the coachman and guard over this wild and exposed road to be strapped to their seats in stormy weather; but on this occasion Kinghorn, as it happened, was not strapped, and to this circumstance he attributed his escape from death. When the mail went down, he was sent flying over the bridge, and alighted clear from the wreck of the coach. The dead passengers and the wounded persons were taken by the other coach into Moffat.

It may be added that the fourth horse was got out of its predicament little the worse for the fall, and continued to run for many a day over the same road; but it was always observed to evince great nervousness and excitement whenever it approached the scene of the accident.

My mind is now full of questions and sources to check, my visit to Carlisle Record Office is probably now going to have to include a visit to “Broken Bridge”, and I am going to have to see what the British Postal Museum and Archives have on this accident.

Presumably this report is taken from newspaper accounts or was there an official report, either way I have to get my hands on them and try and find out more details. Are there any other accounts of the accident available? Has anyone else researched it in any depth? Always more questions than answers!

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