Fatality on The Railway at Denaby

February 1897

Mexborough and Swinton Times, February 19 1897

Fatality on The Railway at Denaby

Yesterday (Thursday) an inquest was held at the Reresby Arms, Denaby main, on the body of Patrick Cunniffe, a filler at the Denaby Main colliery, who was killed on the level crossing at Denaby whilst proceeding to his employment on Tuesday morning about 5.45.

Mr James Rose was foreman of the jury. Mr S. H. Fourdrinier, district superintendent, Doncaster, and Mr. Chas Eaton, secretary, appeared on behalf of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway company. Mr H. J. C. Reid, solicitor, Mexborough, appeared on behalf of Mr Richard Fletcher, the signalman that was on duty at the crossing at the time of the accident.

The first witness called was Priscilla Dagnall, who said the deceased lodged with her, and had done so for the last 17 years. Deceased was a filler and employed at the Denaby Main colliery. He was 52 years of age, and was a single man. He had worked at the pit all the time he had been lodging with her. Deceased was forced to either go over the crossing or the bridge to get to his employment. She generally thought he went over the crossing. Deceased was quite dead when he was brought home. It was Tuesday, the 16th. For anything she knew his eyesight was quite good.

The Coroner: Was his hearing good? – Witness: I think so.

The Coroner: You must know with him lodging with you for that length of time. – Witness: for anything I know it was.

The Coroner: You must have some idea. Has anything ever transpired to lead you to think that he was hard of hearing? – Witness: no, sir.

Mr Reid: What time did he leave to go to work? – Witness: about 5:30.

Mr Reid: He was on the morning shift. – Witness: yes, sir.

Mr Reid: What time had he to be at work if he did not want to lose? – Witness: I think about five minutes before six.

Mr Reid: how far do you live away from where he would have to go to work? – Witness: we live just behind here.

Mr Reid: How far is it. About two or 300 yards. – Witness: it will be about 200 yards.

Mr Reid: Now is it a fact that on this morning deceased was a little late? – Witness: I think so

Mr Reid: And he may possibly have been hurrying to get in time. – Witness: yes.

Mr Reid: Now you seem to have a little doubt as to his hearing has anything lead you to suppose that he was deaf? – Witness: no, sir

John Soar was then called. He said he was under managed at the Denaby Main colliery – and deceased was a filler employed there. He did not see the accident which happened between a quarter and 20 minutes to 6. He came along just after the two trains had passed, and found the deceased lying on the line side next to the signal box with his legs towards the gate, and he was lying face downwards. He did not die just them. When he first saw him, the signal man was near him, and he asked witness to take charge of him as he dare not leave his post. He asked some men to give him help, and they took him into the colliery enquiry office. He (witness) went for the ambulance ready for if he showed any signs of life to taken to the hospital. He saw deceased breathe two or three times, and he died a few moments afterwards.

By the Coroner: He died in the enquiry office. He had not gone down the pit at all that morning. He would have had plenty of time to get to work. From where the accident happened to where he had got to work would be about 200 yards.

The Coroner: He had 20 minutes to go to hundred yards. – Witness: yes sir.

The Coroner: Have you anything to do in the working of the gates at the crossing. – Witness: no sir

The Coroner: You are no authority at all? – Witness: yes, sir.

By the Coroner, witness thought deceased was a little heard of hearing. He would not be a minute after deceased, but he did not see him before the accident. There was one train, and one light engine passed each other at the crossing. The light engine was going in the direction of Doncaster, and the full train was going towards Mexborough. He could not say from which train had deceased received his injuries, but from the position in which he was found he should say the light engine had struck him. There was no blood on the rails. As he was nearing the crossing, he heard the signal man Fletcher call out to him two or three times.

The coroner: what did the signalman shout. – Witness: I don’t know exactly, but he told him to keep back or get out of the way.

Witness, continuing, said that he went through the gates just after the train passed. – The coroner: were the gates locked at all? – Witness: I went through them.

The Coroner: Before the accident? – Witness: no, sir.

Mr Reed: what time could deceased have got down the pit? – Witness: up to the blower going 6 o’clock.

Mr Reed: you say the accident happened between a quarter and 20 to six. – Witness: yes, sir.

Mr Reed: I believe about this time there are a great number of men going to work, are they not?- Witness: yes, sir; between five and six.

Mr Reed: Cannot you tell me how many? – Witness: I should say a thousand.

Mr Reed: A thousand. – Witness yes; there will be that number and perhaps over.

Mr Reed: so there is a continual stream of men passing over this crossing. – Witness: yes, sir.

Mr Reed: When the signalman locks, it locks both wickets. – Witness: yes, sir. –

The coroner: So when people are crossing he can shut some out and some inside the crossing. – Witness: yes sir

Mr Reed: do you know whether or not it has not been the practice of men to jump over the gates when they have been shut. – Witness: I have not seen anything of that until last Saturday night when I saw a man jump over.

Mr Reed: I believe there is a bridge over the railway? – Witness: yes, sir.

Mr Reed: Is it rather high? – Mr Fourdrimer: it is only high enough to allow trains to go through.

The Coroner: I suppose it is only high enough to clear an engine? – Witness: I’ve only been over twice. (Laughter)

The Coroner: Would man to go over this bridge lose time? – Witness: yes, sir.

Witness said as far as he could remember the trains passed each other over the crossing.

Mr Fourdrinier : Would it be possible to bring the footbridge near this way in narrowing the turnpike road. – Witness: no, sir.

Mr Reed: how many steps are there? – Witness: I don’t know exactly.

Mr Reed: I believe at this point there is a large amount of Vehicular traffic. – Witness: yes, sir; there is a large amount.

Richard Fletcher said he resided at Mexborough, and was the signalman on duty at this level crossing at the time of the accident. He was employed by the M. S. And L. Railway company. He had been in the box some four or five years. Previous to that he had been at Mexborough No.2 junction: which was not a level Crossing. He had gone on duty at 10 pm overnight, and the accident happened about 5:45 on Tuesday morning. It was hardly light. But the moon was out there was a coal train going towards Mexborough and a light engine going to Hexthorpe. He got the signal for the coal train from Lowfield, Hexthorpe at 5.41 and at the same time 5.41 he got the signal for the light engine from Mexborough to be ready.

The coal train passed the light engine against the bone works about 80 to 100 yards in the Mexborough side of the level crossing. The coal train was a very long one and had on between 30 and 40 wagons. It was the light engine that killed the man. As a courtroom was passing he went to the window and saw the deceased and he shouted two or three times, and told him look both ways. He then went to signal the coal train onto Mexborough, and he saw the man attempting to cross the line behind the break van of the coal train. He rushed to the window shout at him to stop, but before he could get out of the way the engine and knocked him down clear of the rails.

The Coroner then asked the signalman whether he had the gates shut or not.

Witness replied that he had not, and said it was impossible to shut them that time in the morning been so busy. If he did shut them, some men one be in and some out, and he knew many a score who jumped over the top rather than go over the bridge. He was very busy just then booking and signalling trains, and are not locked the gates. He usually locked the gates.

The Coroner: Is booking very important?

Witness: yes sir.

The coroner: you look upon the booking as more importance on these men’s lives. – Witness: No sir.

Mr Reid then cross-examine the witness at some length, which he stated that a great number of trains passed at this time in the morning as well as all men. They hard also to book all the trains, and this took up considerable time. He had no one to help him in the box.

Mr Fourdrinier: How many figures do you say you have to book? – Witness: Between 30 and 40.

Mr Fourdrinier: How many in this case? – Witness: 21

After further questions are being put in answer Amos Benson was called. He said he was a driver of the light engine of the dating question, and this was the engine that knocked the deceased down. He passed the coal train against the bone mill, and started whistling about 300 yards from the crossing, and then again about 50 yards away. He had just taken his hand off the whistle when he heard the single mum shout, I looked out and saw its left-hand buffer plank strike the deceased and knock him out of the road. You are strongly at the rate of 20 miles an hour, and he pulled up in about 50 yards, I went back to see the deceased. You’re not quite generally came back. There were several men inside the gates.

The Curragh summed off at some length, and laid great importance on a single mum not locking the gates.

The Jury retired and after about 20 minutes deliberation, returned a verdict of “Accidental death,” and added the following riders: “the jurors further say that the level crossing is dangerous, and that the railway company showed, and are hereby requested to do away with it for the prevention of such actions in the future.”

Deceased Lodge with a man named Dagnall. A similar coincidence is that Dagnall died on Monday last, after a long illness, so that there were two dead men in the house at the same time.