In yesterday’s blog we outlined what we knew of two of the men involved in the Holywell Junction accident, Richard Jones and Alfred Jones. Today we look at the other two men.
Josiah Jones was born in Whitford, Flintshire, in 1881, to Owen, a carpenter, and Elizabeth. He had an elder brother, John (c.1877), and several younger brothers and sisters – by 1911 there were seven living children and two had died. Their father appears to have died or left between 1895 and 1901, as Elizabeth (senior) is given as head of household on the 1901 and subsequent Census.
On the 1901 Census Josiah had followed his elder brother and become a postman. However, by 1911 Josiah was a platelayer on the London and North Western Railway. He served in France in the First World War, using his railway skills – he signed up in January 1916 and was earmarked for Longmoor for training. His mother was listed as his next of kin. He was demobbed in February 1919 from 264 Railway Company in the Royal Engineers, returning to his mother’s home in Greenfield.
He remained there on the 1921 Census, along with one of his younger brothers and sisters. They were all bilingual. Josiah’s body was identified by his elder brother, John (Flintshire County Herald, 8 September 1922).
Daniel Roberts was born in 1887 in Holywell. In 1907 he married Margaret (Maggie) Jane Howell. By 1911 they had two children, John Hugh (1909) and Ethel May (1910). At this point Daniel was a farm labourer. In September 1913 he joined the National Union of Railwaymen, as a platelayer, so at some point in the preceding two years changed jobs. However, he was excluded from the union in 1915 due to arrears in membership. He appears to have made this up within the month, as he was readmitted, only to appear two years later to have fallen back into arrears.
On the 1921 Census four children are listed – John Hugh and Ethel May were joined by ‘Jossey’ (Joseph; 1914) and Mona (1919). All of the family were bilingual. They lived in Greenfield. Daniel’s body was identified by his uncle. Edward Roberts.
Maggie’s claim for compensation, under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, was granted. She was given an immediate payment of £15, and thereafter 30 shillings per week for the following year (Prestatyn Weekly, 23 September 1922). Quite what was to happen after that is unclear.
We’ve had better success in tracing Daniel’s family after his death. Maggie was listed on the 1939 Register, living in Greenfield with her daughter Ethel. Ethel had married Frederick Jones in 1936. Also living with them was Mona, employed as a works dining room attendant. Living in the property next door was the other son, John. He had married and was living with his wife and potentially two children, and was working as a foreman in the Fibro Works. The family wasn’t done with sadness, however. The final child, Joseph, died of pneumonia in 1937, leaving behind him his family and his fiancée (Flintshire County Herald, 21 May 1937).
Whilst the four men attended two different churches, they were buried together, at Greenfield cemetery ‘amid every manifestation of sympathy and grief’. Several thousand people were reported as attending. A short service was said outside the station by ministers from the two churches. The men’s bodies were carried by fellow track workers, from the station to a lorry ‘draped with deep black, relieved with white silk ribbon bows’. The procession then made its way to the cemetery, followed by several hundred railway workers. When they reached the Welsh Congregational Church, Josiah and Richard were taken inside for a service in Welsh; Alfred and Daniel’s service took place in Holy Trinity Church. After the services the bodies were taken to the cemetery and interred in a single grave (Flintshire County Herald, 8 September 1922).
Unlike in other cases which saw multiple deaths, there doesn’t seem to have been a community appeal to raise funds for the dependents of the Holywell Junction men. Why not? Was the Workmen’s Compensation allowance seen as sufficient for those with children? If so, why wasn’t it in other cases?
As ever, the process of looking at these cases from our new project data raises more questions than it answers – so we’re always glad to hear from anyone who knows more than us about the men involved and their families. In the meantime, hopefully we have been able to help remember the four men who died, and their families and communities, at the centenary of their accident.