The Last Words of Bridget Driscoll

Bridget was the first woman to be killed by a motor car in England, on this day 1896. The coroner’s jury returned a verdict of accidental death but one of the vehicle’s passengers and several witnesses presented evidence at the inquest that damned the driver more than faintly. A few months short of his twentieth birthday, and with only a few hours driving experience, Arthur James had a name that would raise its ugly head in the motoring world sixty years or so later – EDSELL.

The BBC, well-known these days for its patchy and biased reporting of current affairs, is mostly beyond reproach when it deals with old news.

BridgetDRISCOLL2This family photograph of Bridget and Michael DRISCOLL and their children is in the public domain (via Wikimedia Commons). If it has been correctly attributed it must have been taken before 1891 when daughter Mary was 14, John 12 and James 9 (census source).

Mary was called “May” in newspaper reports of the Inquest. She testified that the car was proceeding on a zigzag course, that there were few people about, and there was plenty of room for the vehicle to have passed without hitting her mother. Two other cars had gone by a few moments before the tragic collision and Bridget had said, “What queer things they are.” A doctor said that Bridget had died instantly from a blow that sliced open her skull, exposing the brain.

I have not had time to do a thorough investigation on FamilySearch but I don’t think any of the dramatis personae of this sad tale are represented on the World Tree.

In 1901 the census found John Driscoll in Stanley Road, Croydon, with wife Albina nee O’LEARY and their newborn child, Mary. Also in the household were widower Michael, 56, and his other son, James, aged 19 and working as an Engineer’s Clerk.

The Yawl ‘Ebenezer’

Captain Syd Smith’s database offers six fishing vessels named Ebenezer but only one yawl, registered as SH30, official number 14911. She was built in Scarborough in 1856 and was only three years old when she lost three of her crew. The Yorkshire Gazette of 9th April reported the tragedy.

Fatal Calamity at Sea

A deep gloom has been spread over Filey for the last few days, owing to the melancholy intelligence having been received on Saturday last that three fishermen, named Francis Haxby, William Sayers and Edmond Sayers, the two latter of whom were brothers, had met with a watery grave. This sad event occurred about four o’clock in the afternoon of Friday, the 1st inst., 30 miles distant from Flamborough Head. The particulars, so far as can be ascertained, are as follows:- The way in which fishing is carried on here, at this season of the year, is by proceeding out to sea a great distance, perhaps 50 miles, in large decked boats called yawls, manned with a crew of eight men. On reaching the fishing ground, two smaller boats called cobles, which are carried on the deck, are launched, three men getting into each. From these smaller boats the lines are put out, and will often extend for miles in length. The lines are taken in after a few hours, the cobles remaining attached to them. It was at this juncture the accident happened. There was a strong gale of wind blowing from the south-west, which, at this distance from the shore, brings on a dangerous sea. The yawl had broken its fore-yard, and whether the men in the coble had been directing their attention to this circumstance, not sufficiently regardful of their own perils, or from whatever other cause, must remain a mystery; but, sad to relate, on proceeding to the spot, nothing could be seen of the men,  –  the coble was there, and full of water. It is supposed a heavy sea had broken into her, or upset her, and that the coble had afterwards righted herself, – the poor fellows having been thrown out. It is to be regretted that the fishermen do not provide themselves with “life-belts,” to put on when following their dangerous calling; had these men had them their lives would probably have been saved. Edmond Sayers was an excellent swimmer, but this could be of little avail, encumbered as they are with clothing and heavy sea boots. William and Edmond Sayers are unmarried; Francis Haxby has left a wife and three young children. His widow will be entitled to some relief from the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners Royal Benevolent Society, he having been a member of that noble institution. The bodies have not been recovered. The coble, too, and all the lines were lost.

Francis was part owner of Ebenezer, with his brother Jenkinson, Robert JENKINSON and Francis CRAWFORD. Jenkinson HAXBY skippered the boat. The vessel was transferred to Hull in the summer of 1876 and re-registered as H1228.

Francis is remembered on his parents’ headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard, and on the stone below, which also names his wife, Susannah, and a fourth child, Mary, who died aged 5 years and 6 months, a year and a half before her father. Francis junior, the couple’s youngest child born in the spring of 1857, would drown from Eliza in October 1880.

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Francis and the Sayers brothers on FamilySearch Tree.

The Mystery of Robert Snarr

In my limited experience as a taphophile, it is unusual to find someone remembered on a headstone who isn’t family. Perhaps there are thousands of such people “out there”, but how many have had their story told by a great writer?

Robert SNARR died this day in 1849 and at the end of the following year, Charles Dickens published an article, The Sea-side Churchyards, in Household Words. You can read it in full at Dickens Journals Online but here is Robert’s Story:-

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What was the great man doing in Filey? I met someone at the grave by chance a year or so ago and the stranger told me that Dickens had a brother who lived not far away, in Malton. I don’t know if this is true.

The tragedy would have been fresh in the minds of local people and I suspect Dickens would have had no difficulty finding sources for the story. The reported exchange between Robert and “mother “ is such that  Dickens must surely have spoken with Mary Cammish (née SUGGIT). Other details should perhaps be challenged because they are at variance with contemporary local newspaper accounts. Robert may not have been an engineer and he may not have been journeying to Northumberland to start a new life.

What is certainly untrue is the assertion that Robert’s bloody corpse was brought back half an hour after his last words to Mary. It takes little more than five minutes to walk from the churchyard to Filey Railway Station so he could have thrown himself under the first train passing through, thus giving the Dickens version some veracity. However, Robert’s life ended near Seamer, a rail journey via Scarborough of about twelve miles.

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Why did Robert act foolishly?

I imagine he left his beloved’s grave in great distress.When he caught the train to Scarborough his intention may have been to return home to York and the bosom of his birth family, and to continue his career in the architect’s office. With the balance of his mind disturbed, maybe an idea came to him as he watched the telegraph poles zip past the carriage window. He was the seventh of ten children born to William and Elizabeth (née BLADES), aged 69 and 65 at the time of his death. I think he made his extinction look like an accident, hoping to lessen his family’s grief. The inquest jury and coroner did not, it seems, consider suicide.

We’ll never know his final thoughts, but the fact that he is with Elizabeth for eternity is wonderfully romantic.

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Also ROBERT SNARR of York, who departed this life March 12th, 1849 aged 31 years.

On FamilySearch Tree:-  Robert, Elizabeth, Charles. (Beware the bogus Dickens pedigree.)

Poor Old Horse

I didn’t have a post subject for today, so turned this morning to the FG&C Anniversary List for help. Two people with family connections to Filey were born in Scarborough this day. Caroline VAREY arrived in 1853. Her parents, Thomas Bridekirk VAREY and Caroline FLINTON were married in St Mary’s Church in September 1841.

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My first thought on seeing “Flinton” was to hope that the father of the elder Caroline was called John. On this coast, Johnny Flinton is best known for his harbour.

Caroline Varey’s grandfather Flinton was indeed called John, but my research efforts failed to connect him to Cayton Bay. At the 1841 Census he gave his occupation as “Waggoner” and ten years later, aged 73, he was still working as a Carter, and living at 13 Neptune Terrace, Sandside.

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Poor old horse. If an Albion Band tune is now playing in your head, taking you back to the 1970s, listen here.

I was pleased to find that several people have been working recently on the Varey/Flinton pedigree on FamilySearch. ­Not much for me to do.

Annie o’ the Brigg

On the 23rd January 1894, a gale blew a Filey coble into danger in the Bay. The three occupants were rescued by Matt JENKINSON’s yawl. With this minimal information from a note on Filey Genealogy & Connections, I hoped to fashion a brief post.

In the 19th century there were more people with this family name than any other and among them were several candidates for the owner of the life-saving fishing boat. Captain Sydney  SMITH’s database offered Matthews who owned cobles, herring cobles, and luggers but only one had a yawl, George Peabody, in partnership with the Roberts JENKINSON (senior and junior) and Charles REYNOLDS, a Hunmanby grocer. But that vessel was bought in the mid-1860s,  when “Brazzy” JENKINSON, one of my possibles for 1894, was only 16-years-old. Checking on various branches of the Filey Jenkinson tree took up most of the day and I failed to make a sure connection. So, no post.

I had only one photograph on file for Today’s Image and, by chance, yesterday’s research efforts provided a human story to go with it.

One of two Matthew Jenknsons born in 1832 had a 13 –year-old servant in 1871, Annie Jane PROCTOR. She was the niece of his first wife, Mary Jane Proctor, who had died seven years earlier. In 1873 Annie Jane earned extra money in the summer guiding visitors to the caves and pools at the back of Filey Brigg. The season was nearing its end when the PAGETs of Ruddington Grange, near Nottingham, came to Filey for a couple of weeks. Charles Paget, once a Member of Parliament, was 74 years old but still fit enough to negotiate the rocky shelves on the northern side of the Brigg. It wasn’t much more than an hour to low tide but it would appear from the story that has come down to us that Annie had a sixth sense of danger and urged her employers to return to a place of greater safety than a ledge near the Emperor’s Pool. Mr. Paget wanted to stay a little longer and was soon swept into the sea by a rogue wave, with his wife and sister-in-law. Annie managed to grab hold of Miss TEBBUTT, saving her life, but the Pagets were lost. There is an account of the tragedy here. Annie was misrepresented as “Emma Proctor” in every newspaper account I have found, and I have been unable to find any reports of her being thanked, let alone rewarded, for saving Miss Tebbutt.

The Paget family did pay for a stone pillar to be made by monumental mason William DOVE of Scarborough, bearing a warning to visitors. It stood near Agony Point for many years, on the south side of the Brigg, before suddenly disappearing. The inscription was later found and can be seen in the garden of Filey Museum.

Charles PAGET is on FamilySearch Tree but there are more of his children and forebears here. Stuffynwood offers a short biography.

Annie o’ the Brigg is not on FST but you will find her with husband Frederick and twelve children on FG&C.

Have another look at Today’s Image – the “Emperor’s Bath” is in the doodle beyond the foreground tide pool.

A Sign of the Times

On my afternoon stroll today I was surprised to see a couple of sinister-looking ships in the bay. My pocket camera did its best to shoot them…

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Two people walking their dogs on the beach told me the vessels were NATO warships. A friend at Flat Cliffs had clocked them already. When I got home Ship AIS confirmed they were part of a NATO force. A900 flies a Dutch flag and M31 the Royal Ensign. The latter ship is HMS Cattistock, a minesweeper, and appears to be Baltic-bound for three jolly months rattling the Russian bear’s cage. Let us hope she gets up to nothing more annoying than that. Sadly, the west seems to want a big profitable war and may find an excuse anytime soon.

An Accident Revisited

John William Sumpton SAYER’s death was briefly reported in newspapers around the country under headings such as “Man Killed on Beach” and “Run Over by a Fishing Boat”. In not many more than fifty words it was explained that fishing boats in Filey were, in 1939, pulled down to the sea “on two wheels”. John had taken a boat to the sea’s edge when two men following with another coble shouted for him to get out of the way. “Sayers appeared to stumble and before the men could stop, one of the wheels went over his head.” He was killed instantly.

Trivial accounts like this are so unfair – in seeming to imply that the person who died brought on their own demise. John was 62-years-old, a husband and father of two girls, then in their thirties. He deserved better.

He is not, as yet, on the FamilySearch Tree but he has one of the more extensive pedigrees on Filey Genealogy & Connections.Kath Wilkie has attached a note to his record that gives the sad event some context – and the stricken man a measure of dignity that the newspapers denied him.

Severe weather conditions: raining cats & dogs – dark @ 6.30am on Weds. 18 Jan 1939. Had been helping to launch cobles, but had left his oilskins under a fishbox on Coble Landing.  Went off to get them after 3 cobles had been launched so that he wasn’t drenched to the skin. Put his oilskins on and bent his head against the wind and rain.  He couldn’t see because it was so dark, but he knew the way anyway – he’d done it often enough.  He didn’t hear them bringing the ‘JOAN MARY’ down, because of the wind, rain and the sea – and the others couldn’t see him either.   He was knocked down – but nobody saw – and the wheel ran over his head and he was dragged up to 20 yards before they realised what had happened. One of them ran to get Dr Vincent, but he was dead.  The verdict was ‘accidental death’, but the coroner recommended that they use a light when launching the cobles in the dark to avoid any such further accidents.  The inquest was held at the Police Station on Thursday evening.  He had a traditional Filey Fisherman’s funeral with a short service at home (85 Queen Street) and then on to Ebenezer Chapel. He was buried in St Oswald’s.   The two men who were launching the Joan Mary were Thomas & Robert Cammish, both of Queen St (49 & 70) – plus others.

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The tall house is No.85 Queen Street, photographed this afternoon. John’s grave has a kerb rather than a headstone and the inscriptions on such are often obscured by vegetation.

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In Loving Memory of my dear husband JOHN W.S. SAYERS

accidentally killed 18th Jan 1939 aged 62

Also of his dear wife ELIZABETH ANN died 27th Nov 1964 aged 87

‘Reunited            In God’s keeping’

John was a grandfather of William Johnson COLLING, one of the “Langleecrag Cousins” (see 15th November’s post). His somewhat unusual middle-name “Sumpton” had come to him from at least as far back as the late 17th century. His fourth great-grandfather, Henry SUMPTON, was born around 1685.

This post was written before I checked out Looking at Filey. I wrote about this accident on 18 January 2011.

I have created a page on the LaF Wiki for John and Elizabeth Ann’s Monumental Inscription record.

Accidents and Alcohol

StationApproachFiley1_8mOn this day in 1869, a passenger train from Hull was approaching Filey about 3 pm. The driver was “in the habit of running down the incline from Hunmanby at considerable speed” and,  a second or two after passing under the Donkey Bridge, he noticed the signal protecting the station was set at danger. (The signal may have been in the same place as the one you can see in the photo, but distances given in the accident investigation report suggest it was a hundred yards or so further on.) At the bridge, he had shut off steam and whistled for the tender and guard’s brakes to be applied, and as he passed the signal he reversed steam and set the sand pipes going, slowing the train from 40 to ten miles per hour. He hit a stationary coal train on the downline just south of the station with quite a thump, throwing a couple of coal wagons off the track. Thankfully, none of the passenger carriages derailed. (Of the 150 people aboard, fifteen would complain of injuries.) The driver was not in a fit state to be questioned immediately, possibly because he was inebriated rather than hurt. A month later the Report stated, “This man appears to have been drinking since1st January 1870, and has now been dismissed from the service of the company.”

The passenger train had been running late so there was even less of an excuse for the station staff to have allowed the coal train to remain in its dangerous position.  The station master claimed to have given instructions for its removal well ahead of the expected arrival of the Hull train; the underlings, somewhat feebly, claimed not to have received said instructions. The danger should have been clear to everyone.

The Report doesn’t name names but the culpable station master was Charles MILNER, born in Huddersfield in 1807. He married in Gloucestershire and moved several times thereafter with his growing family. The first two children were born in Cheltenham, and the next three in Yorkshire at Sinderby, Pickering, and Starbeck.

Charles not only kept his job in Filey after the accident but his only son, Charles George, was stationmaster at Seamer in 1873 when they were both up before the court for “refusing to pay poor rates”. (The case was dismissed on a technicality.)

Eight years later the census finds the father retired in West Parade, Filey, with wife Mary and single daughter Jemima, aged 26. Charles George left it late to marry. He was 39 when he hitched his wagon to 25-year-old Asenath GREENHELD,  in Scarborough. Nine months or so later their only child, Bertha Frances, was born. Charles George left the railway company but not the rails. He worked as a salesman for a book publisher. The 1881 census catches him in an Exeter lodging house with a motley crew of wanderers, commercial travelers in hardware, “stuff goods”, fancy stationery – with a Clerk in Holy Orders to keep them honest, for a while at least.

Charles senior died in April 1886 and the following year Charles George moved his small family to Eastbourne in Sussex, where he bought a coal merchant’s business.  A few days before Christmas 1889 he went out for the evening on his own. At the Gildredge Hotel he had a whiskey, or maybe it was a gin, and ordered a joint of beef. He talked about “strikes and business” with a man who would give evidence at the coroner’s inquest.

When I went away I left him in the smoking-room talking to Mr. Turton and to little Mr. Moore who used to be coachman at Compton-place. I never saw deceased in a public house before. I was surprised to see him there. I think he was quite sober.

The jury found that the death was purely accidental, and “not brought about by intoxication”.

Two young men about town witnessed Charles Milner the younger’s death. One of them, Mr. G. BRADFORD said:-

I live at 9 Susan’s –road. Gilbert said to me, “Hallo! Here is one copped it already.” He then halloaed out, “Hallo! Old man, don’t attempt that. You can’t do it.” He said that because he saw deceased was close to the steps. Deceased made a grab at the pillar post to steady himself in going down or to save himself from falling. He fell at once. I went for the police, leaving Gilbert with deceased.

Charles had not fallen far but his neck was broken and he died before Dr. J.H. EWART arrived at the scene. He told the inquest that there was no evidence that Charles had imbibed a “great quantity” of alcohol.

One of the Jury, a Mr. COOMBER, suspected foul play and refused to sign the inquisition but it seems the verdict of accidental death was readily accepted by the people of the town

Great sympathy is felt for deceased’s family. The unanimous testimony of his friends is that he was a man of extremely temperate habits…

Old man? Charles George was 54 when he died. Had he made it to 65 he could have played a proud father role in the audience when the Eastbourne Philharmonic performed Sir Frederick Bridge’s “grand setting of Rudyard Kiplings patriotic ode” The Flag of England. Bertha Frances Milner was one of the sopranos in the choir.

Sources: North Eastern Railway accident report; Poor rates case, Driffield Times 31 May 1873, ‘Fatal Accident to an Eastbourne Coal Merchant’, Eastbourne Gazette, 25 December 1889, ‘The Flag of England’ Concert¸Eastbourne Gazette, 14 February 1900.

I have made a start connecting disparate MILNERs on the FamilySearch Tree.