Conisbro’ Tragedy – Family Imperilled – Out of Work Miner’s Suicide.

May 1909

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Monday 17 May 1909

Conisbro’ Tragedy.

Family Imperilled,

Out of Work Miner’s Suicide.

A shocking tragedy, in which whole family narrowly escaped extermination, took place at Conisborough in the early hours of Saturday morning. The chief actor in the occurrence was a miner named George Brown (46), of 12. Marr Street, Conisborough. He was discovered 4.15 in the morning lying in bed with his throat cut, but previous to perpetrating the deed he had turned the gas all over the house, and his eight children all came within an ace of death by asphyxiation.

Brown has suffered a series of harrowing misfortunes during the last sixteen months, losing his wife, who died in child birth little more than a year ago. Added to this he has been without work since January, with the exception of about two days.

Some time ago his eldest son, aged eighteen, was fatally injured in the pit, and the family had subsisted best they could on the compensation money. A girl of sixteen, his eldest child, has, since her mother’s death supplied her place to the little ones.

Some days ago Brown had a dispute with a neighbour, and this resulted in him being summoned to appear at the Doncaster Police Court, on Saturday morning on a charge of assault. These misfortunes no doubt weighed upon his mind.

The eldest daughter, a bright girl who has been the mainstay of the family, when seen by our representative on Saturday, said her father was in his normal condition the previous night. He went to rest rather earlier than usual —about 10.30 —leaving the other members of the family still up. She retired at about half-past eleven. Her father slept in the front bedroom with her brother Joseph, aged 15, and James aged 13. She and the other five children occupied the back room, which contained two beds.

About four o’clock in the morning the baby awakened her by gasping for breath. Alarmed, she called out and aroused her father, telling him that she thought the baby was in a fit. He got out of bed and came into the room, looked at the baby and said there was nothing the matter with it, but she could go into his bed and he would stay and quieten the child. She refused to do this, and he went back to his own room.

About fifteen minutes afterwards the “knockerup’’ came to waken Joseph, who is employed as a coupler in the pit bottom. The two boys, Joseph and James, came running into her room, horror stricken, and said their father was making a choking noise and was covered with blood.

They themselves fell down and were violently sick, and she too was all but overcome by the fumes of the gas, which, it was afterwards found, had been turned on.

The girl threw open the window of the room, and seeing a man passing, told him what had happened, and he said he would for the police. When she had somewhat recovered she essayed to get downstairs, but, almost suffocated, several times she had to seek the window to get fresh air and revive herself.

Eventually she reached the lower floor, and here again opened the windows, afterwards going for a policeman herself. She returned wdth P.-c. Griirshaw, reaching the house at about 5.40. The interval which occurred before assistance arrived was accounted for by the girl’s condition, and was also sufficiently long for her father to die.

It was subsequently found that the gas in the front bedroom, and also in a room downstairs had been turned full on. These two rooms are the only ones in the house in which there are gas fixtures. When the constable arrived he found the man quite dead. Brown had evidently cut his throat with a razor, and although the incision was not a serious one, continued bleeding, and the effects of the gas combined had compassed his death.

Grimshaw summoned medical aid, but of course when the doctor came he could only pronounce the man’s life extinct.

The little ones, who are thus left without parents, and absolutely devoid of means, have been taken in by neighbours until something has been decided as to their future.