There are 54 cases in 1884, and quite a variety they are.
I have often contemplated the fantasy of travelling back in time to see how things were then – but I would definitely draw the line at rail travel in the nineteenth century!
The most serious railway accident in the collection (excepting the 1906 crash) is the Breamore Rail Disaster, in which a train plunged off the line close to the river Avon, with the loss of five lives and 41 injuries. There were two separate inquests and a Board of Trade inquiry which I have also added to the mix. Poor standards of workmanship and communication – as so often – seem to float to the surface by the end of the inquiry. I include a link to the Railway Archive website, where a dramatic drawing of the aftermath may be viewed.
Other railway fatalities occurred locally though, including Charles Coglan, stood in the wrong place at the wrong moment (seemingly 300 yards from the nearest light), and William Privett, who, whilst oiling underneath his engine, was unwittingly killed by the shunted trucks coming down to make up his next train. Again, A doesn’t know B was doing, etc. As a juror said, “Life is as nothing to the Company sometimes.”
One of the saddest cases I have seen was that of Charles “Taffy” Gale, a poor man who probably had tuberculosis, who hawked about the streets all the day, and was the butt of the gibes from lads about the town. His final short conversation with his neighbour was equally pathetic, even Dickensian.
Robert Peach, one might suggest, got his just desserts for beating his young bull. In the case of the accidental shooting of Henry Jones, who was cleaning some firearms for a tenant, I could not help wondering why Captain Graham was not blamed for carelessness in leaving his pistol and cartridges unsecured.
Hannah Greenland, a 73 year old widow, had been digging potatoes in October, and fell ill. Her neighbour, Mrs Dowden, gives in her evidence a clear indication of the difficulties of gaining medical assistance in a hurry, seeing firstly a local overseer, then a tramp into Frome, to be told by the doctor there that she must then walk miles to Mells to see the relieving officer for his chit.
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