Fatal Accident At Denaby Main

March 1887

Mexborough and Swinton Times March 25, 1887

The Fatal Accident At Denaby Main
The Inquest

On Friday morning, an inquest was held at the Masons Arms, Doncaster Rd, Mexborough before Mr Dossey Wightman, coroner, and a jury of which Mr A Hillary was the foreman, touching the death of William Barnett, an old man aged 73 years, until recently a plate layer at the Denaby Main Colliery, he having met his death while pursuing his avocation on the previous Tuesday.

Mr Wardell, Chief Inspector of mines for South Yorkshire; and Mr WH Chambers, manager of the colliery, attended the enquiry.

The first witness called was Mrs Barrett who said her name was Ann and the deceased William Barrett was her husband. He was 73 years old, and was a labourer working in the pit. He had worked in the pit 16 years. His eyesight was good, but he was rather thick of hearing. They could talk together. He was killed on Tuesday and brought home dead.

The next witness was Albert Jackson, who said he lived in Doncaster Road, Mexborough and was an engine driver in the employ of the Denaby Main colliery. He had been so engaged three or four years. He knew the deceased very well. Witness was driving on Tuesday last, and the accident happened when he was so engaged. Witness was looking at the shunter who had just dropped off the engine to attend to some points, when he felt a jerk. He immediately reversed the engine and stopped, but on getting out found deceased in the four foot.

By the coroner: His engine had stopped just opposite the screens; by the second lot of points, when it had run over deceased. The deceased when picked up was two or 3 yards from the points. He thought it was possible that the engine had knocked deceased two or 3 yards.

The Coroner: What pace was your engine going up? – Witness: Rather steady sir. I reduced the speed so that the shunter could get off to his points.

The Coroner: What do you call rather steady? 10 miles an hour, is that steady?

Witness: Steadier than that Sir.

The Coroner: 1 mile an hour you know is very steady; how much do you think you were going at?

Witness: Not above that Sir, I should think.

The Coroner: Not above 1 mile an hour?

Witness: No, sir. (Laughter) witness continuing, said he saw the oil lamp which the deceased used to oil the points against his arms where he lay.

The Coroner: You think he was oiling those points when you run over him? I don’t ask you to swear whether he was are not.

Witness: I cannot swear, sir; I think so sir.

By Mr Wardell: the fire man was on the engine with witness. One of the shunters had dropped off to turn the far points, and the other remained on the engine.

Mr Wardell: then there was three on the engine – yourself, the fireman, and a shunter?

Witness: Yes

Mr Wardell: Were all three on the engine when you found that you had run over the man?

Witness: Yes. Both he and the firemen were looking although his (witnesses) attention for a time was directed on the shunter were dropped off to take the points. The other shunter was riding on the step. From where witness was standing he could not see anyone on the road; he could not see straight in front of the engine because he was not looking through the round hole. He had not seen deceased for two hours before the accident. The fireman also told that he had not seen.

Mr Wardell: Were the screens working; was the pit working?

Witness: The pit was working, but I cannot say whether the screens were. There is a noise when they are working.

Mr Wardell: There is not much doubt about that. Was then a great noise going on?

Witness: I cannot say; I cannot swear to it.

Mr Wardell: Was then a train passing on the railway at the time?

Witness: No sir

Mr Wardell: You don’t know whether the screens were working at the time or not?

Witness: No sir

Mr Wardell: It was not “snaptime,” was it? – Witness: No sir

Mr Wardell: Did you whistle? – Witness: yes sir

Mr Wardell: are you sure? – Witness: yes, I whistled before I shut the steam off..

Mr Wardell: Was that before you got to the first points or after?

Witness: Before I got to the first pair of points.

Mr Wardell: There are not many yards distance between the two sets of points?

Witness: No, sir. I all “popped” the whistle. I did not whistle past the screens.

Mr Wardell: Did you whistle at all? – Witness: Yes sir.

Mr Wardell: But you did not keep it on?  – Witness: no sir

Mr Wardell There are wagons standing there are they not? – Witness: Yes

Mr Wardel: They cannot hear your locomotives working about if the screens are working, but they can hear your whistle? – Witness: Yes sir.

Mr Wardell: Did you whistle as you pass the screens? – Witness: yes. I did on the day of the accident, but I did not keep it on.

A jury man: Was your whistle in good order at the time or not? Could anyone hear it?

Witness: Yes sir

A juryman: How far away were the points from each other? – Witness 10 or 12 yards, as near as I can tell.

A jury man: It is a singular thing. The whistle was blown, and there were three men on the engine.. The extraordinary part is that with those three men in the engine they did not see the deceased.

By other juryman: Witness whistled twice, but not continuous whistles. There was a middling sharp curve where the points were. The deceased was accustomed to do the work that he was that. He had not been recently, although he could not say how long it was that he had left it off. He had been sent from his other work to oil the point. The last time witness saw deceased before the accident was when he was with a gang turning a rail.

A jury man: I was going to ask the driver if Barrett had formally been accustomed to this kind of work: if he knew the danger.

The Foremanr: It is a plate Mayor’s duty.

Mr Wardell: The deceased had been about the yard for 16 years.

Witness said the deceased was killed on the side on which the stoker was on the lookout.

Mr Chambers said deceased was found with his feet against one rail and his head against the other.

William Hines, who was next called, said he was an engine driver, but he was not driving the engine on the day in question. He did not see the deceased run over, and he did not think anyone saw him. The screens were working at the time.

A Juryman expressed a wish for the attendance of the fireman.

The Coroner: I don’t think if you had every man employed at the colliery you could make more of it. None of them saw it. The only thing I see in the whole enquiry is whether the deceased was a fit and proper man to be employed on a job like his. He was 73 years of age, and rather hard of hearing.

Mr Wardell: I understand that he did not look anything like 73. He was quite an active and much younger looking man.

A jury man: He was as active as many are at 60. He was an active, temperate man.

A juryman said the reason why put the question relating to Barratt’s work was because he was under the impression that he had left the job because he was hard of hearing.

The Coroner: Is that a fact Mr Chambers?

Mr Chambers: Certainly not. I’ve spoken to him several times whilst coming down the yard, and I have not perceived that he was hard of hearing.

Mr Wardell: But the unaccountable part of it to me is that no one saw him.

The Coroner: I don’t see how you make more than an accident of it; at least I don’t see any possibility.

The Foreman: I don’t sir.

The Coroner: You are satisfied with it Mr Wardell?

Mr Wardell: Oh yes I am.

A verdict of “accidental death” was then returned.