On 5 June 1914 Midland Railway fireman Iestyn Newman Nash, 27, was working his turn at Brynamman, Carmarthenshire. Moving some coaches to prepare his train, he appears to have leaned out of the engine in order to watch for any signals from the guard. Somewhat ominously, the state report, taken by JJ Hornby, noted that ‘Nash when last seen by [David] Colwill [the driver] was looking over the left-hand side of the engine’.
When he was next seen he was lying between the rails; he had fallen from the engine and his head struck ‘the rail with fatal results.’ Hornby suggested that the engine might have given a lurch when passing over a pair of points. He also suggested that whilst looking out of the engine, Nash might have hit his head on a telegraph pole that was just over three feet away from the track. Without any witnesses, the state investigation put it down to misadventure, with Hornby recommending that ‘for future safety’ the Midland should move the telegraph pole at least five feet from the rails [1914 Quarter 2, Appendix C].
We have a little more detail from the inquest, reported in the Herald of Wales and Monmouthshire Recorder for 13 June 1914:
Particularly interesting from this account is the immediate aftermath: ‘first aid and medical attention was soon forthcoming, and Nash was put into the coach and taken to Swansea.’
Sadly Nash doesn’t appear in the cases that were recorded in the Midland Railway’s accident book held at The National Archives and covering 1914-21. We’re working on bringing this volume into the project records at the moment. It would have been interesting to compare the company and state views on the accident. So why doesn’t his accident appear in the MR volume? Might they only have recorded accidents which weren’t investigated by the state inspectors, on the basis that there was no point investigating the same case twice? We might be able to tell this by comparing other cases in the state records and seeing if they appear in the MR volumes. This is certainly something we’ll look to do in due course.
In addition, we know from the newspaper report that both the major railway unions were represented at the inquest. Does this reflect that driver and fireman belonged to two different unions? Or that the loco crew belong to the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, and the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) were representing other interests not fully captured in the report? We will check the NUR records when they are available – they’re being brought into the project, but we’ve not yet covered 1914.
Often this is as far as we go in our blog posts. But in this case we have a small, but important, addition. A memorial card recently appeared on ebay, for Nash. The seller noted that Nash was a fireman, killed at work – and that the information came from our project. (Nice to see our database being used – and that public acknowledgement!) Fortunately we were able to buy the card – a touching link to the man involved. The date of death is a day after the accident, so presumably he survived as far as Swansea and medical care there, but died the next day. Did he ever regain consciousness? Was his family able to see him before he died? Where and how was he treated? As ever, these sources often raise more questions than they answers.
These type of cards were sent to friends and family to mark the death of someone close to them. They raise all sorts of interesting questions about how many were sent out, kept and survived, and what they meant to those who both sent and received them. We’ll probably never know the answers, but the material culture of death and mourning is fascinating. We’re always interested in further such examples, so do please let us know if you are aware of any.