Local newspapers can often provide more information about our families than we get from official documents such as BMD certificates and census returns. The British Newspaper Archive website has made searching newspapers much easier. Most of the articles I have found about my relatives are reports of court cases and inquests. Here are some of the tales of unexpected or early deaths in my family.
Frederick George Wheeler was my 1st cousin twice removed. He died in 1935, aged 31. According to a report of his funeral in the Tamworth Herald Sergeant Wheeler joined the North Staffs Regiment in 1923, and went to India in December 1925, as a gymnastic instructor, where he met with a serious accident, which brought about his discharge from the Army. He passed away at Oswestry Hospital.
James Mahon was the husband of Catherine Dalton, my 1st cousin 3 times removed. He died in 1907, aged 34. The Tamworth Herald reported his death as a result of an accident at Kingsbury Colliery, where he worked as a stallman. James and a colleague, George Williscroft, were starting their shift when between 2 and 3 tons of roof came down. James was killed on the spot, and his comrade was badly injured. James left a widow, Catherine, and 4 young children.
Mark Holtom was my great-great-great-uncle. Mark and his wife, Lily Edith, drowned in the Coventry Canal at Polesworth in 1927. Mark was 55, and Lily was 45. Their bodies were identified by my great-great-grandmother, Kate South. A note left by Lily said We are going out of this misery. I have made up my mind to go with him. He wanted me to stay behind. At the inquest, Mark’s doctor gave evidence that he had been mentally unbalanced for some time, and if not for his wife’s objection, he would have sent him to an asylum. The Coroner returned a verdict that they both committed suicide whilst of unsound mind.
Florence Lucas, and her sister Sarah, were my 3rd cousins twice removed. They drowned in the River Tame at Tamworth in 1894, aged 8 and 6 respectively. The accident happened in January, when several children were playing on the ice over the river near the foot of Brewery Lane. The ice gave way, and the sisters were thrown into the river. Their mother and brother ran across the ice to try to rescue them, but they too fell into the water. A gardener working nearby came to help, and with the aid of other neighbours, Mrs Lucas and her son were rescued. Florence’s body was recovered the day after the accident, and Sarah’s two days later. The inquest returned a verdict of ‘Accidental Death’.
Fanny Pinfold was the wife of William Pinfold, my 1st cousin 5 times removed. She died in Hurley, Warwickshire in 1890, aged 51. The Tamworth Herald reported that she committed suicide by throwing herself down a well at the back of her own house, on the day of the annual Odd-Fellows Club Feast. Her husband William is described as a ‘respectable villager’, but Fanny herself is unnamed in the newspaper, described only as ‘his wife’. The inquest returned a verdict of ‘Temporary Insanity’.
Frederick William Pinfold was my 3rd cousin 3 times removed. He died in Coventry in 1918, aged 38. On 16th October, Frederick was a passenger on the top deck of the number 49 tram when it collided with another tram. He was severely injured and died a few minutes later. The inquest jury found that the driver of the no 49, Alfred Freeman, was to blame for the accident, and he was charged with manslaughter. At his trial at Warwick Assizes he was found ‘Not Guilty’. Frederick Pinfold was a traveller for David Cooke, tobacconist. He left a widow, Martha, and 2 young children.
Walter Barratt was my 3rd cousin 3 times removed. He died of pneumonia in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1926, aged 34. In 1913 he left his home town of Fazeley to take up a position on the railways in Argentina. He later became under-manager for the Houston Shipping Company. [Added 31 December 2014]