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.