Blake, John

Blake, John            1881 May 14th        Wilton

Fatal Machine Accident at Wilton

An inquest was held at the Infirmary, on Monday afternoon, by Mr G Smith (city coroner) and a jury (of whom Mr J Hicks was foreman), on the body of an elderly man named John Blake, whose death resulted from severe injuries received whilst in the act of oiling a machine at Mr Naish’s felt manufactory at Wilton. The evidence adduced fully explains all the particulars.

Mr W Naish, the first witness, stated that the deceased was in his employ, his particular work being “tucking wool,” for which machinery was necessary. It was the duty of the deceased to oil the bearing of the machine every morning before starting it to work. On Saturday morning, unfortunately, he had neglected to do so, and, attempting to oil the machine subsequently and while in motion, his clothes were caught in the bolt of the coupling and he was drawn round the shaft up to the ceiling – sustaining a severe shock and great injuries. The effect of the accident was to stop the machine; and the deceased was at once removed from his sad position. Mr Straton, a surgeon, was immediately sent for, and on his arrival he at once ordered the removal of the deceased to the Infirmary. It was contrary not only to the Factory Act but to his distinct orders to oil any machine whilst in motion; and he would discharge any man if he saw him doing it. Since the accident, he had been told that the deceased had been seen to do the same thing before. The deceased had been eighteen years in his employ. As he was being removed to the Infirmary, he remarked to one of the men what a foolish thing he had attempted.

Mr James Kelland, house surgeon of the Infirmary, said he at once examined the deceased when he was brought to the Infirmary – at about eight o’clock on Saturday morning. He ascertained that several of the ribs were broken and that one or more had penetrated the lungs. His legs were also considerably injured, and his right knee was dislocated. He died at about two o’clock on the same day from the injuries he had received.

Frank Foyle, of Ditchampton, who is in Mr Naish’s employ, stated that on Saturday he was only separated from where the deceased was attempting to oil the machine by a slight partition, which, however, hid the deceased from him. Observing the strap of the machine shifted off, he looked into the room to see if it were broken. At the same time, he heard the deceased cry out, “Stop the water {the machine being worked by water} I am catched up.” The machine, however, was stopped by the deceased being drawn to the ceiling. Having called for assistance, witness ran to the deceased, and held him up in his arms till he was released form his position by the other men. He had seen the deceased oiling the machine before whilst it was in motion, and several times had cautioned him against it.

Elizabeth Blake, the wife of the deceased’s brother, stated that the deceased was a single man and was 62 years old.

A verdict of “Accidental Death” was returned; and the jury decided to give their fees to the brother’s wife. During the inquest a question arose as to whether the family of the man would be entitled to any payment under the Employer’s Liability Act. As a fact, there was no direct evidence that he was oiling the machine. Mr Naish said that, at all events, the deceased had no purpose in the room except to oil the machine – a fact, the Coroner remarked, affording strong suggestive evidence.

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