In this guest post, former railway worker and now family historian Martin O’Donnell looks at one surprising accident he found in his family past. It dovetails neatly with Disability History Month, which runs from 22 November-22 December, and demonstrates once again that disability did not mean railway employment was out of the question. Sadly in this case it looks like it played a part in the accident.
We met Martin at the Family Tree Live event earlier in the year, so it’s great he was willing to share the case like this. Although we’re extending it, at the moment our database covers 1911-23, and the period before c.1897 is particularly difficult to find much information for in the official sources (produced by the state and railway companies), so guest contributions like this really help to fill in the gaps.
Thanks to Martin for this – and we always welcome guest posts, so feel free to get in touch!
During the investigations into the maternal side of my family tree, I discovered that in 1893 my 3 x great uncle, George Joseph Stuttaford, son of George Jordan Stuttaford, was a bricklayer and was working on the alteration that had been approved by the railway authorities between Fenchurch Street and Stepney lines. He was run down by a railway engine whilst crossing the railway line and his leg was badly damaged and had to be amputated. Like most amputations of that era, the result was death. Sad enough, but when I learned that he was both deaf and dumb (in the terms of the time) I was shocked. What was a deaf and dumb person doing in a job of that nature? In fact, at the enquiry the jury voiced just that opinion.
The Evening Telegraph for Tuesday, 9 May 1893, reported:
NOT THE WORK FOR A DEAF AND DUMB MAN.
George Stuttaford was aged 37, a bricklayer, and lived at Cross Street, Newington Butts. Stuttaford and his wife were deaf and dumb. He had been out of employment for 20 weeks, and on Thursday morning last obtained work on the alterations now being effected on the Great Eastern Railway between Leman Street and Shadwell, on the Blackwall line. As he was returning from breakfast across the line he was struck by the three minutes to nine down train engine from Fenchurch Street and run over. A flagman was employed to warn the workman employed on the job, and Stuttaford was shouted to thrice, but the flagman was ignorant that he was deaf. “Accidental death” was the verdict, the jury adding that deaf and dumb people ought not to be employed where railway traffic was going on.
The Reynolds Newspaper for Sunday, 7 May 1893, report:
SUMMARY OF LATEST HOME NEWS.
Yesterday, Mr Wynne E, Baxter, Coroner held an inquiry at the London Hospital concerning the death of George Stuttaford, aged thirty-seven a bricklayer, lately residing at Cross Street, Newington-butts. The deceased and his wife were deaf and dumb. He had been out of employment for Twenty weeks, and on Thursday morning last obtained work on the alterations now being effected on the Great Eastern Railway between Leman Street and Shadwell, on the Blackwell line. As the deceased was returning from breakfast about four? minutes late, across the line, he was struck by the 8.57 down train engine from Fenchurch Street and run over. Did death take place the same day from collapse? consequent on a compound fracture of the leg which necessitated amputation. It appeared that the deceased was crossing the line, whereas he ought to have gone up the ladder. “Accidental Death” was the verdict, the jury adding that deaf and dumb people ought not to be employed where railway traffic was going on. (Unreadable words in italics.)
I am now retired and enjoy genealogy and writing. Having worked for 30 years in the computing industry from programmer to IT manager, I can honestly say my happiest time at work was the 11 years I was employed as a freight shunter for British Rail.