I knew from family stories that a Yorkshire ancestor had drowned in a canal. A few years ago we traced more details in local newspapers, which I’ll reproduce below in full:
Ossett Observer, 1903 May 30
A Canal Workman Drowned
A sad drowning fatality occurred at the Broad Cut lower locks, Horbury Junction on Monday morning. A canal labourer named Seth Senior, 39 years of age, lost his life by falling from a boat into the water. The deceased, who resided at the house ajoining the Broad Cut top lock, was a married man, and his wife is said to have been an invalid for some time. A native of Thornhill, the deceased had been a bellringer at the Parish Church there for many years.
Mr. P.P. Maitland, coroner, conducted an inquest relative to the death, at the Horbury Junction Wesleyan Schoolroom on Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Arthur Burton was chosen foreman of the jury.
Evidence of identification was given by Mrs. Margaret Senior, widow, mother of the deceased, who resided with him and his wife and family at the lock-house. Witness stated that the deceased was employed by the Calder and Hebble Navigation Company as a general labourer, his duty being to keep the river banks in a proper state of repair etc. He was strong and healthy, and of a cheerful disposition. About ten minutes to seven o’clock on the previous (Monday) morning, deceased left home apparently in his usual health and spirits, to go to his boat, which was moored in the river at Broad Cut near the lower locks.The next that witness saw of him was when he was brought home dead about a couple of hours afterwards. Deceased was not a man of suicidal tendency.
William Henry Price, canal labourer, residing at Millbank Lock, Thornhill said that about seven o’clock on Monday morning, he went to Broad Cut to unmoor his boat, and while there saw the deceased “swilling his deck” with water. After making a casual remark to the deceased, which the latter acknowledged, witness proceeded with his boat down the stream, and got to work. A short time afterwards, some of witness’s workmates called his attention to deceased’s boat, which was floating down the river with no-one in charge. The boat was pulled up, and deceased being nowhere in sight, witness turned back with his own boat, and began to search for him. A boat-hook, which deceased had evidently been using, was found stuck in the wooden supports of the river bank, not far from the spot where witness last saw the deceased swilling the boat. Dragging operations were commenced, and about half-past eight o’clock deceased’s lifeless body was removed from the river, in a depth of about 11 feet of water. Witness was of opinion that the deceased was in his boat, pushing it off the moorings, when his hook stuck in the “fell boards” and in attempting to pull it out again the deceased lost his balance, thus falling into the water. It was not stated whether deceased could swim or not. Mrs. Mary Oates, widow, of Broad Cut lower locks, deposed to laying out the body, which, she said, was free from marks of violence.
The jury returned a verdict that the deceased was accidentally drowned by falling from his boat into the river, while at work.
Seth Senior was my great-great grandfather. He had a daughter born posthumously, who was named Sethina after him. It was interesting to learn that he was a bellringer, given how much my husband did this, both as a youngster in Somerset, and when he moved to St Andrews to go to university, ringing at Dundee and other bell towers around Scotland.
A further detail about Seth Senior appeared in a separate report of his death in the Wakefield Express: apparently he had only one eye. That makes him one of two great-great grandfathers of mine who had only one eye. The other was Cork-born John Tate, who was frequently imprisoned in Dublin where he lived, with the prison registers variously recording him as missing the right eye, and sometimes the left eye.