Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 04 September 1891
The Result of Playing Truant from Sunday School.
Mr. D. Wightman, coroner, held an inquiry at the Reresby Arms, Denaby Main, on Wednesday, touching the death of a youth named James Guy, aged nine years, who lived with his grand-parents at No. 60, Doncaster-road, Denaby, and who was drowned whilst bathing in the river Don on Sunday afternoon. P.c. Midgley was in charge of the case.
The following was the jury :—Messrs. Abner Wilkinson (foreman), Edward Whitehouse, Geo. Flinders, Wm. Biggs, Wm Smith, David Lowe, William Straw, Robert Wilson, Wm. John Martin, John Gibson and N. Otter.
Margaret Meeson, the grandmother of deceased said he lived with her at the time of his death, and had done so for seven years. He was eight year of age, and was the son of Joseph Guy, now deceased, who was a miner at Normanton.
Witness lived in No. 60. Doncaster Road Denaby. She last saw deceased alive last at a quarter to two o’clock on Sunday afternoon, the 30th ult., when she started him for school. She watched him go up the road as far as the school gates. About half an-hour afterwards she heard that he was drowned. He left for the Sunday school alone. He bade witness and his grand-father good afternoon when he left.
She had heard since of his bathing on the morning of that very day, when he bathed in the river Don. She had enquired since whether he went to Sunday school in the afternoon, and she had heard that when he got to the school gates he said to a little boy named Kitchen, “I don’t think I’ll go in today, but go and have a turn in the river.”
She had also been told that a young man had seen him in the morning, and had cuffed him on the ear and said that he would tell his grandmother. She by no means encouraged his bathing; on the contrary she objected to it, and it she had known she would have whipped him for bathing.
Richard Wilks, aged nine, said that he knew the deceased and went to bathe with him on Sunday morning. He thought the deceased ought to have gone to school instead. He saw him again on Sunday afternoon, when he came to witness’s home about two o’clock. He called for him to go bathing and they went together to the river Don. There were two other boys bathing at the same time. There were Wm. Pearson, the “leader.” aged 11, and another boy aged 10. They were all in the water. The deceased was jumping whilst he was in the water, and slipped on the bottom, which shelved abruptly. Pearson shouted to witness that was drowning, and then witness shouted to Thos Hill, aged 15 who came up, took his clothes off and went into the river after him. He never got of him and Guy sank. Pearson was nearest to him when he slipped. Nobody pushed him, or hit him, or “ducked” him, or anything. They all ran away because they were so frightened There was one else at the time. Witness ran to deceased’s grandmother to tell her.
P.c. Midgley stated that it would be about a quarter to four when the body was recovered, and that therefore it must have been in the water fully 40 minutes. The grandmother was of opinion that it had been in an hour.
Mrs. Meeson said there was one ambulance man —Mr. Soar— on the bank when the body was recovered.
One of the jury, who recovered the body, said that a surgeon was not called because everyone was perfectly well satisfied that the boy was dead. He must have been in the water a considerable time, because when he (the juryman) heard of the accident he was at home, some distance away , and then had to go to the river bank and strip himself.
The Coroner: Of course if the lad had been in half-an-hour a surgeon would have been of no use. Three or four minutes is generally quite sufficient, but if a body has been underneath the water ten minutes, it is hopeless beyond doubt, unless the clothes or something have sustained the body at the top of the water.
Another juryman east that he was on the spot the third, and he must have arrived twenty minutes after the lad had gone under in answer to the coroner.
P.c. Midgely said that the boys were bathing from a field and were therefore trespassers.
The Coroner said the jury could not help coming to the conclusion that the place with a treacherous bottom like the river Don was the worst possible place for little lads to bathe in. He was told that the water was 12 or 16 feet deep in some places there.
The Foreman: Did there not ought to be a board erected?
The Coroner said that unless the Denaby lads were very different to all the lads he had ever known a board would be of no use. The first thing they would do would very likely be to pelt it with stone.
A juryman remarked that the scene of the accident was a difficult and dangerous place even for a man to swim in.
The Coroner said that the bottom of a river like the river Don which periodically had floods was bound to be treacherous, and it was decidedly not the proper place for a child to bathe in. If the jury could suggest any means of preventing bathing there he should be glad to hear it—but he could not.
The Foreman : I can see no way of stopping it, unless baths are provided for the lads.
The Coroner thought that that even would not be a preventive. In the first place they would bathe in the river because there they would not have to pay—(laughter)—and in the second place, if a half-penny (and that was the lowest sum imaginable), were charged they wouldn’t have the half-penny.
The foreman said that it was a wonder that the railway company had not complained. for passengers, in railway trains passing were in full view of the bathers.
The Coroner remarked that it was a very difficult matter to stop boys bathing. They even couldn’t stop them bathing in Glass-lane, Sheffield, which was a crowded place, and he should think that where there was one policeman at Denaby there were 20 there. He saw them bathing as he passed, but how they were to be stopped he could not say. Supposing they were to summon the children, and they were fined 5s. and 10s, costs, the parents would have to pay the money—(hear. hear)—and hear they saw that the parents would have to find 15s., while all the boy would get would probably be a good thrashing from his father. All the good that summoning did was to punish the parent, but it did not punish the child.
The jury then returned a verdict of “Accidentally drowned.”