Unfortunate deaths in Cumbria

‘Unfortunate deaths’ may sound a curious heading. After all, there are very few fortunate ones – unless it means avoiding ‘a fate worse than…’

The choice of title reflects that the people named below died prematurely, either due to bad luck or carelessness.

No one ‘asks’ to be a victim of either crime or misfortune. We all make mistakes – sometimes those mistakes have terrible consequences.

Newspapers thrive on stories of unfortunate deaths because they are just that: interesting stories. The skater who broke a record before colliding with a tree on the return; the man who set a trap for criminals and took his own arm off; the unusual makes unfortunate deaths newsworthy.

A simple tragedy

1777. On March 15, Sarah Boak, a respected young woman, from Yanwath, went into the yard to remove the scum off a well. A coping stone seems to have given way, as she leant over the well. She was found drowned about an hour and a half after going into the yard. Her numerous family were reported to have shrieked and cried in distress at the discovery. Some of them had been passing and repassing within a few yards of the well all the time.

Carelessness can be costly

1819 Kendal October 5, Westmorland Gazette. H Mullen, a labourer blasting a rock, ignored the usual procedure of pouring water on lit powder before checking why a charge hadn’t gone off. Insead, he laid down upon the rock and put an iron rod in the hole. At which the blast went off, lifting him to a considerable height, breaking his jaw and cheek bones, wounding his neck, and fracturing both hands. There ‘were some hopes of preserving his life’, but nothing after to say if he did in fact survive.

Sadly ironic

In the January 17, 1824, edition of the Westmorland Gazette, the BMDs column lists 32 deaths. Other than a vicar, the only person who was given more than the basic ‘name/age/date/location was a young man called Robert Richardson.

Robert Richardson was a Penrith ironmonger, and aged just 22. He died of typhus – which he had caught attending the funeral of his younger brother in Carlisle who had died of the same disease.

A trick gone wrong

Also in 1824, a man named C A Dempster died a few days after a juggling trick at Carlisle, where he swallowed a table knife 9 ins long.

A ghastly experience

1834, Carlisle. The death of Jane Thorp, a boot and shoe-maker’s wife, was put down to shock of a) being bitten by a rat while she was in bed, followed by; b) seeing another large rat ‘fastened upon her young child’s face’. 

Victims of the storm

January 1890. Violent storms caused havoc across Europe over the last weekend of the month, following days of bad weather. In Cumberland, rivers burst their banks and the gale damaged buildings and uprooted trees.

On the Cumberland coast, the gale caused the death of a Workington man called John Callaghan. The inquest isn’t clear as to whether he was 53 or 57. Or whether he was blown into an unprotected cellar  or over a low wall with a steep drop the other side. Whichever it was, he died of his injuries the following day.  

There was further fatality in Maryport: a man named James Turpie. He was aged 23 and fireman on the steamer Hesleden, of Hartlepool, which was berthed in the Senhouse Dock. During the gale he was walking along one of the quays when his hat was blown off. He ran after it, lost his balance in the strong wind, fell in the dock and drowned.

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