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1905 - Councillor’s Mysterious Death - Coroner’s Inquest

Barnsley Chronicle October 28, 1905

Councillor’s Mysterious Death

Coroner’s Inquest

On Tuesday night the death occurred at the Beckett hospital Barnsley of Mr George Spooner, under manager at the Darfield Main Colliery, a gentleman well-known and highly respected in the district.

The circumstances under which is death place were elicited at an inquest conducted by Mr PP Maitland (coroner) at the town hall Barnsley on Thursday afternoon.

There were also present Mr W Walker, General Chief Inspector of Mines, Mr Superintendent Quest (of the West Riding police), Dr Penrose (Worsbrough Bridge) and Dr John Cochrane Henderson (house surgeon at the Beckett Hospital.)

Russell Wilberforce Spooner, miner, Low Valley, said the deceased, his father, was 52 years of age, and was a strong healthy man.

On Saturday the seventh instant he left home at 6:45, telling his wife that he had a gentleman to meet at Wombwell Station. He was expected home again anytime between 9 and 11 PM.

Witnesses’ sister came and told him (witness) on the Sunday morning that their father had fallen down an embankment, and had been taken to the Beckett hospital. His brother went to the hospital on the Sunday, and witness went on the Monday. His father then recognised him, but his speech was incoherent. Witness came again on the Wednesday and Saturday before his death. He then complained of pain across his chest and between his shoulders. Witness did not ask how the accident happened, as have been warned by the medical staff not to talk too much. His (witnesses) mother was at the hospital when his father died.

By the coroner: They did not suspect any foul play, but leave that his death was accidental. Witness knew his father came to Barnsley from Wombwell that Saturday night.

Jane Duxbury, wife of James Duxbury, miner, 53, Milton Street, Shipcroft, Wombwell, said she saw the deceased on this Saturday night, about half past eight, at the bottom of New St, Barnsley. They walked up Sheffield road together, and went into a public house, and each had a drink. Afterwards they rode together in the tram to the terminus at Worsbrough Bridge, and called at the Red Lion Hotel, where they each had another drink. They then went through Worsbrough Park, with the intention of walking towards Dovecliffe station. It was a dark night and raining.

They got to the top of the hill, and turn to the left to go down the incline, Mr Spooner said they were going on the wrong road. There was a light in the distance, and Mr Spooner was looking to see where they were when he fell through the railings on the railway below. They had been walking with about a yard between them before the deceased fell. Witness remained with him until three men came, two of whom went for the police, who took the deceased to the police station.

John Wakefield, an under gamekeeper, Worsbrough Park, said that at 11:30 PM on the Saturday in question he heard a woman crying out, and in company with two other men he went in the direction of the sound. They heard the woman say, “George, do get up!” and also “Spooner, do get up!” Witness found deceased lying across the railway metals. The last witness was standing between him and the canal bank. She said the man was George Thompson, and that she was Jane Thomson, his wife. He had fallen, she said, from the bridge, which was about 18 feet from the rails. The police were sent for, and witness then continued his rounds. A bottle, which evidently contain whiskey, was found on the canal bank. It was not a public public road over the bridge referred to. Witness thought they must have walked up through the park and turned onto the wagon road with the idea of getting onto the main line.

PC East, stationed at Worsbrough common, said that he received the first intimation of this affair about 11:30 p.m. on the day named. In company with Sgt Somerset and PC Fogg he proceeded to the place, which was about two or 300 yards off the Park Road, in the colliery sidings. Deceased was in a helpless condition. The woman gave the name of Jane Thomson, and said she had come up on an excursion from Nelson, Lancashire. There were no footprints on the bridge, which had a 3’2” rail and rail on each side of it. It was quite possible, of course, for anyone to fall off the coal chute, some distance further. They (the police) conveyed the deceased to the police station. Dr Penrose was fetched, and he ordered his removal to the Beckett hospital, whither he was taken next morning, a constable remaining with him all night. For the position in which deceased was found lying it was apparent that he had fallen over a wall and down the canal bank, which was a drop of about 4 feet.

Dr Penrose, Worsbrough Bridge, said he was sent for about 1 a.m. Deceased was then lying on a bench in the police cell. Witness came to the conclusion that he was suffering from some internal injuries, possibly from fractured ribs, and he advised removal to the Hospital. Witness saw Spooner about 7 o’clock on Sunday morning, when he had no recollection of what happened the night before. Witness thought that, if deceased had fallen from the bridge he would either have been killed instantly, or have sustained more serious injury, as he was a stout and heavy man.

Dr Henderson said deceased was admitted to the Beckett hospital on Sunday morning, the eighth inst. He was delirious for several days afterwards, but ultimately recovered. On Tuesday last deceased was able to sit up in the ward for some time during the afternoon, but suddenly complained of difficulty in breathing. He was put to bed in a private ward, but collapsed, and died at 8:10 p.m. Witness had made a post-mortem examination and found that the sixth rib on the right side was fractured. Deceased had also suffered from fatty degeneration of the heart, and in witnesses opinion death took place from that course, the shock of the accident having accelerated death.

The jury returned a verdict that deceased died from the effects of a fractured rib, caused by a fall, there being no evidence to show how it had been accelerated by fatty degeneration of the heart.

Mr Spooner had been a member of the Wombwell Urban Council for a number of years, and at the time of his death the occupied the important positions of Chairman of the Gas Committee and Vice Chairman of the Council. The news of his sad death has therefore caused widespread regret, and much sympathy is felt with a bereaved widow and family.

 

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