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The death of Joseph (Joe) Parkin & its impact on his family

As part of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine’s ‘Transcription Tuesday’, our project made available a set of records produced by the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, one of the major railway trade unions. It listed over 2000 cases involving members, many of them accidents. In this blog post, one of the transcribers, Gordon Dudman – himself a former railwayman – delves deeper into entry number 716, Joseph Parkin, a fatality in 1902.


Part of entry number 716 in the ASRS Register:

Entry for Joseph Parkin in the union register.
Joseph Parkin’s entry in the ASRS register. Image courtesy of Modern Records Centre.

A full description of his fatal accident was found in the British Newspaper Archive; from the Nottingham Evening Post – Friday 21 February 1902:

INQUESTS IN NOTTINGHAM. PAINFUL CASES. Mr. F. W. Rothera, Deputy-Coroner for the city of Nottingham, conducted four inquests at the Hyson Green Mortuary this afternoon.


The first inquiry was relative the death of Joseph Parkin, engine driver, in the employ the Great Central Railway, residing Woodford. Northamptonshire, who was killed at Linby Bridge, on the 19th inst. Mr. Henry Barker represented the locomotive department of the Great Central Railway Company, and Mr. J. Dobson, organising secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, appeared for the widow, and the fireman and guard of the train.

Mrs. Parkin, widow of the deceased, said her husband was 33 years age, and was engaged as engine driver on the Great Central Railway.

Frederick Peterson, of 8, Mount-pleasant. Woodford, said he was acting fireman for the deceased on a goods train last Wednesday. About 12.20 p.m., just before coming to Linby Bridge the deceased stepped upon the footplate, and when witness looked around he was missing. He stopped the train and went to look for the deceased, who was lying on the girders of the bridge, with his oil-can beside him. He was alive, and said, to witness, ” It’s a bad job; both my legs are gone” If the deceased had been standing the footplate when the engine passed over the bridge he could have been knocked off one the girders. A train coming in the opposite direction was stopped, and the deceased was conveyed to the Victoria Station, Nottingham.

Mr. Dobson: There was an axle running hot at the time the accident, but whether deceased intended to oil it could not say.

William Tock. of 46, Glapton road, Nottingham, locomotive engine-driver, said he took the deceased on his engine at 12.20 p.m.. and arrived Nottingham about one o’clock. was conscious all the time, but did not allude how the accident occurred. The deceased died his way to the Nottingham General Hospital.

Frederick Peterson, recalled, said that they noticed the axle box running hot about hour after they started in the morning at seven o’clock.

Henry Jackson, 1, Church-street. Woodford, locomotive foreman on the Great Central Railway, said the axle box of the engine in question was reported running warm on the night previous to the accident, and the following morning it was taken out and attended to by a mechanic. The first complaint was made the 17th inst., when witness personally inspected the axle box, and of opinion that it should have been reported ” running warm,” and not running hot,” as was the case. The “journal” and brass could not have been improved from a mechanical point oi view.

A verdict of ” Accidental death” was returned.

Although not mentioned explicitly, the implication was strongly given that Parkin had left the footplate to attend to a possible concern on the loco – against the rules, but necessary at times in order to keep the services moving.
Image from a 1921 Accident Prevention booklet.
The accident location – the Great Central Railway lines cross over the Great Northern and Midland Railway lines.
Courtesy National Library of Scotland Maps.


We know the value of his estate was assessed as £169-1-1 and was formally assigned to his widow (Annie Priscilla) on 10th April 1902. The ASRS Register records that her compensation for her husband’s death was £300.

What so often happens when there’s a fatal accident is that it can have a major impact on all the family left behind. Joseph’s is typical of many. The family originally hailed from the Gorton area of Manchester and it was in the nearby Phillips Park Cemetery that his body was interred on 25 February 1902. The future must have been bleak for the family, they lived at 41 Percy Street, Woodford Halse. The majority of houses in the street were occupied by railwaymen and their families. In what was a very rural area, into which a major locomotive depot had been created, employment for a widow with two small children (7 and 2 years) along with a 6 month old baby, must have been bleak. The family moved back to where the parents had married and their first two children had been born; Gorton in Manchester. It must have been awful for his widow. They had married in 1890. But Annie came from Kings Brompton In Somerset, and I can find none of her family living in or around the Manchester area. In under 3 years Annie has also died and is buried in the same plot as husband Joseph. Her estate of £573-16-8 is passed to George Parkin; probably Joe’s Uncle. Of their 3 children, Sydney (aged 16) cannot be traced on the 1911 Census. 12-year-old Dorothy is living with a cousin in Bletchley and young Frederic, just turned 10, is living with another cousin in Ardwick.



Gordon at work!

This is me, aged 14, running the signal box at Rowfant after school one late afternoon in the Autumn of 1966; a few months before the line closed at the end of that year. A year later and I started my railway career, working as a Booking Lad in the Signal Box at Haywards Heath.

My interest in genealogy was sparked by watching the BBC’s “Heir Hunters” and the realisation that the digitisation of so much historical data meant it was quite easy to build family trees. My first attempt came after I spotted a Tweet asking if anyone knew about Private Jacob Rivers, a railwayman VC holder. Within a couple of hours, I was able to suggest a couple of names and telephone numbers of likely living relatives. This resulted in a gathering some months later of some 150 relatives, some meeting each other for the first time, at the unveiling of a memorial to Jacob at Derby station.

Since then I have investigated the backgrounds of notable railway families along with all 12 names on a WW1 memorial in the Parish Church at Chacombe; again, this time uniting a family to the grave of a great grandfather.

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