A Chapter of Accidents – The Fog in the Don Valley – Sad Drowning Fatalities

November 1890

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 21 November 1890

A Chapter of Accidents
The Fog in the Don Valley
Sad Drowning Fatalities

November has been true to its customary character in regard to fogs.

The clouds have descended night after night, and danger to life and limb has been great. Ordinary pedestrianism along the town Street has had to be cautiously done for fear of contact with street corners or public buildings and not infrequently has there been a collision between individuals passing in opposite directions.

On the country road, away from the feeble flicker of lamps, danger has been infinitely greater and many of the reports of persons who have met with nasty falls and ugly bruises.

Near Grays bridge during last Saturday night a man his daughter walked into the canal, but fortunately they were rescued without her. Fatalities have occurred at Swinton and Conisborough.

At the former place, as is well-known, there is a “short cut” along the canal to Wath and the Manvers Main Colliery. Miners make use of the footpath in passing to and from work. Travel any other way to the collieries means a rather circuitous route and will take up considerably more time. It is therefore by no means surprising that the canal side is so popular for the purpose. But it will be perfectly obvious and very great is the danger on dark and particularly foggy nights, especially as the path is so zigzag in its course, and the sudden bends make it by no means difficult to accidentally slip into the water.

It is rumoured that no fewer than half a dozen persons fell into the canal between Swinton and Wath on different occasions this week. One employee at Manvers Main colliery had traversed a certain distance in the midst when he did not go any further, owing to the dense fog which enveloped him like a veil, and he retraced his steps. He had scarcely done so when he stumbled against an obstruction. It was a poor fellow fallen into the canal and been fortunate enough to grope his way out again.

But another person who met with a similar misfortune did not succeed in reaching terra firma alive. This was the late Thomas Ellison. He was a coke burner at the Manvers Main Colliery, and had left home with the intention of going to work. It was about 5 o’clock in the morning. He had scarcely left his wife and family five minutes when a floundering in the water.

Cries were heard by signalman, named Edward Morgan, who was stationed in his “box” on the Midland line not far away. He sent a message to the railway station, and several persons at once went with lamps to the spot indicated. But they were too late to save the poor fellows, who had struggled until exhausted and had sunk before assistance was forthcoming. Morgan, and the person, named Turner, recovered the body, and police constable Dempster and remains remove to the Canal Tavern, pending the Coroner’s enquiry. The deceased was 33 years of age.

The other fatality were on Saturday night, two men being drowned, within about half an hour of each other, and almost at the same spot.

Their names are John Bell and John Camm both of Cadeby. The former leaves a wife and four children, and another is expected by Christmas. The men were leaving Conisborough for Cadeby, and in order to do so it is known they must cross the ferry, and afterwards go over the bridge over the river. It is a great pity that there is no better way for the villagers, but this old-fashioned custom does not appear at all likely to die out to say, less the authority will recognise the urgent need there is for ensuring the safety of people at this fatal spot.

The night was densely dark in consequence of the fall, and as was stated at the inquest, even lamps were of little service. The old man in charge of the canal locks heard cries went out, but the sound died away and he went in again. Cross examination on this point by the Coroner will be seen in the report appended. The other poor fellow seems to have met with a watery grave not been heard at all. This was about 9 o’clock. Later on a search was made, but it had to be given the prevailing, nobody been found until the following morning, Sunday, and not till then do the police at Conisborough appear to have been informed of the circumstances.

The Cadeby constable, however, heard of the rumour and proceeded to the spot.

Great sympathy is felt for the relatives, especially for Mrs Bell, was already in a very weak state. The deceased is stated to have been the most affectionate husband and father, and he had only left home that night in order to buy things for his wife and children, promising that he “would not be long!”

It is said to be 12 years since there was an inquest at came before, and that then it was a case of a woman who had been drowned – on rather starved to death – near the weir at Conisborough. Those were days when crinolines were worn and this poor woman was buoyed up in this way. Her head never went under the water and she was found the next morning floating but dead from fright and cold!

Inquest have been held on the bodies of the Cadeby villagers, but these enquiries were either at Conisborough or Sprotbrough where the remains have been found. In the present instance, the bodies happen to be on the Cadeby side of the water