Sunday, 24 June 2018

Eli Meakin

Back almost 150 years to the day, waggoner's boy Eli Meakin was working on Mr Meakin's farm at Whitgreave. It was normal for him, as on this day, to work the threshing machine pulled by two horses. Whilst turning the horses, it was necessary to step over a horizontal shaft. No witnesses saw what happened next is unknown, he either slipped or perhaps his clothes became entangled in the machine, for it was not until someone noticed the horses were stationary did anyone investigate. Young Eli was found trapped between the cog wheels. Others helped to free him quickly but the injuries to his chest were severe and the boy died shortly afterwards.

A verdict of accidental death was recorded at the inquest. However, the coroner issued a notice saying the wheels were unprotected and dangerous for any driver, while the rods were at such an angle as to make them liable to cause injury. He insisted Mr Meakin made the machine safe before anyone would be allowed to operate the thresher again. The farmer agreed and nobody blamed for the incident.

Health and Safety

Monday 19th June 1854 must have started out as a normal working day for John Hudson. On reaching the Shire Hall at Stafford he climbed the scaffolding as usual and was returning to where he had finished work two days earlier. He failed.

Moments later, having slipped through an opening in the scaffolding, he was falling back toward the ground. Such a fall would have been unlikely to have killed him, for this was no great height. Furthermore, his fall was broken by the window sill of the floor below. Hudson bounced off the sill, which threw him away from the building and he landed on the iron railings surrounding the building.

Unfortunately the decorative iron railings were topped by spikes and he landed on one. The spike entered one side of his face through the upper jaw and exited on the other side, just below his eye. Taken to Stafford Infirmary he survived to tell the tale and return to work.

In October 1968, almost fifty years ago, a damp and misty autumnal morning at Yardley Grammar School in Birmingham saw one pupil looking out for his best chum whose late appearance was highly unusual. By stepping up and standing on the low wall, this highly intelligent 12-year-old could peer over the top of the school railings and look along the street for his absent friend. He slipped. A railing impacted his face and he was concerned that there was a rather bad scratch across his most handsome face. He was mistaken.

The spike had actually entered the fleshy part of his face below the jawline and as he attempted to lower himself to the ground, had only succeeded in pushing it further into his face and exiting through the cheek. Luckily he managed to pull himself back up to where he had been standing on the wall and effectively lift his face back off the spike. Thinking now might be a good time to seek medical treatment, he sauntered off to the medical room where a mirror revealed two holes in the righthand side of his face and shortly afterwards an ambulance raced him to hospital. Doctors sewed him back together with, what he then thought, an impressive 39 stitches and then reported back to his parents how the railing had missed the artery by just a fifth of an inch (5mm to we youngsters).

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Stand Back from the Platform Edge

April 13th 1857, and nearby the clock shows 6pm. Returning to the station yard, and his job in managing the engine shed, is 42-year-old William McCabe. Having gone home a couple of hours earlier for his tea at his home in Newton, he walked coming along the siding before encountering a shunting engine and thus crossing the up line to the engine shed on the opposite side.

Some twenty years earlier McCabe had lost his leg in an accident when it was crushed by a wagon on the Manchester to Liverpool line. Because of this he wore a wooden leg and no longer worked on the engines but employed in the 'stationary job' in the engine shed. Whether it was the shunter that distracted him, or perhaps the difficulty negotiating the lines with a wooden leg, likely both, but he did not take notice of the warning whistle and shout from Thomas Pattison, the driver of the shunting engine warning of the engine approaching him from behind on the main line. Seconds later he was dead.

Coming along the up line in reverse, tender first, the locomotive travelling at 6mph was but 10 or 12 yards away from McCabe when the shout went up. Hit by the buffer he fell, with his head across the rail. The wheels pushed him along for a short distance before severing his head completely. The first person to reach the body was the driver from another nearby shunter - this man was none other than William McCabe's eldest son.

The body was quickly removed to the Vine Inn, Newton where the inquest was held the next day. A verdict of accidental death was recorded. William McCabe left a widow and six children.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Beaten to Death

In July 1839 Richard Howe is arrested and remanded in Stafford Gaol awaiting trial on the charge of the assault of his wife Mary. It emerged surgeon Mr C Waddell had been seeing Mary for some two years but saw nothing untoward until 25th July 1838 when he saw her when she complained of severe pains in her head, chest and liver. She told the surgeon her husband had caused the swelling to her face, her abdomen and the difficulty in breathing. He diagnosed the problem as inflammation of the pleura.

Next day he returned to find her condition had worsened and, when he returned on the third day, he found her so ill that her life was threatened. Every single day he returned to check on Mary's condition, doing so until August 5th, by which time he considered her out of danger. Yet still Mr Waddell paid regular visits to check on her condition. On 3rd January 1840 he discovered Mary complaining of severe pains in her side and began the daily visits once more, until 21st January, the day of her death.

The post mortem revealed little but an inflammation to the lungs. Both Waddell and Dr Edward Knight of the General Infirmary agreed the death had been due to the injuries she sustained in July the previous year. The court subsequently heard how she had spoken of her husband as a man fuelled by drink, how he crushed her frail body, and pushed her face down against his own chest until she felt she would be asphyxiated. A neighbour spoke of their many rows. How she heard Richard say he would ensure she would "maintain him" and that Mary had replied she had always "maintained him in his idleness". This had resulted in Richard threatening "if you call me idle again I'll split your face!" Soon after she had heard a scream. When she went to see if help was needed she was ordered out by the husband, a scuffle ensued and the neighbour removed from the house, at which time her punched her in the face. Another witness, William Hall, said he had also suffered at the hands of Richard Howe.

The jury retired and found Richard Howe guilty of Wilful Murder. He was hanged for his crime.