23 April 2009

It's 23rd April . .

So, today I thought I'd bring out George. I found 176 Georges in my database and somehow I doubt that any of them was a saint. I have Georges of many occupations, from railway engine driver to ag lab but I've selected just two for the blog treatment.

Firstly, meet George Barnett Culpin, my second cousin three times removed. He was born on 11 November 1898 in West Ham, the son of Henry & Alice (nee Ball) and grew up in the same area. I say "grew up" but, alas, the Great War intervened and George joined the Royal Navy. On 31 May 1916, he was on HMS Defence at the Battle of Jutland; sadly, Defence went down at 6.15 in the evening with all hands.

Boy Telegraphist George Culpin was just 17 years old. He is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

And then there's my second George of the day - George William Newell, born 14 August 1866, in Godmanchester, to William & Elizabeth (nee Pratt). By 1881, he was living in Gwydir Street in Cambridge and any local readers will probably be able to guess at the head of the family's occupation . . . yep, he worked on the railways.

In 1889 George married my great-great-aunt Florence Webb and she settled into the life of a Station Master's wife. They were in Great Chesterford, Essex, in 1901 and Histon, Cambs, in 1911. Florence died in 1913 in St Ives and I think George stayed in the small town. He died in the County Hospital, Huntingdon, on 28 April 1942 and was buried in St Ives six days later.

However, the manner of his death caused a "Death Riddle for Coroner" according to the Hunts Post, who headed the article "Accident - or Natural Causes?".

"What connection – if any – there was between a fall sustained by a retired St Ives stationmaster when walking along the railway line on March 29th and his death in Huntingdon County Hospital a month later from a form of diabetes, provided a problem for the County Coroner (Mr Lionel Abraham), when he held an inquest at the hospital on Saturday.

The inquiry concerned the death of Mr George William Newell, aged 75, who lodged with Mrs Gates, at 6 The Wilderness, St Ives, and who was formerly station master at St Ives. Detective Sergeant C. M. Gibbs of the L and N.E.R. police, was present and Sergeant A Gilbert was coroner's officer.

Mrs Gertrude Louisa Gates told the coroner that Mr Newell had lodged with her for 19 years, and was a widower. He retired from the position of station master about 10 years ago. When he first came to witness' house he was in very good health, but for some time he had suffered from fainting fits, both indoors and out. Recently these had become more frequent - about once a month - and Dr Grove had twice brought him home after he had collapsed in the street. He was not, however, consulting a doctor about these attacks.

On Sunday, March 29th, witness went on, he went out for his usual walk after lunch. He always walked along the railway line to the viaduct, in the direction of Swavesey. About 4.30 one of the porters came to witness’ home and said Mr Newell was ill on the line. Witness went to the spot and found deceased standing on the viaduct.

He was on the railway track, and when witness asked what had happened, he pointed to a gap between the rails and an iron girder, and said "I fell through that". There was room for a man to fall through, said witness, and she believed that deceased had done so. The distance to the ground was about 10 ft., and deceased was bleeding from cuts on his head.

He was able to walk home - the distance of about a mile - however, with assistance from witness.

In reply to the coroner, witness could not suggest how deceased got back onto the line if he had actually fallen through the hole. She said that a train driver had seen him, and reported the matter to a signal box which phoned back to St Ives station.

Dr N. Schwarts, house surgeon at the County Hospital, said deceased had no cuts on his head when admitted, but several large bruises. His left knee was much swollen and was x-rayed for a possible fracture. He was concussed, but had no bone injuries.

Symptoms of diabetes developed, added witness, and he was given insulin, although he had no history of diabetes. Gangrene also set in and death resulted from diabetic gangrene and hardening of the arteries. Witness thought the injuries Mr Newell received in the accident would have no bearing on his death, except that as a result of them he was compelled to stay in bed and gangrene set in.

The coroner said he was rather sceptical as to whether deceased actually fell through the gap on the viaduct, but whatever happened he may have had a nasty fall. It was not very easy for anyone to walk along a railway line, and it was no wonder, with an old gentleman suffering from attacks of giddiness, that something happened. He was satisfied that no one was responsible but deceased and there was no suggestion that had thrown himself in front of a train or anything like that."

"I find a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence" said the coroner. "This man died from arterial sclerosis and diabetic gangrene, and he would not have developed the gangrene if he had not had to stay in bed. I had to hold an inquest to satisfy myself that the accident really was an accident. Deceased died from natural causes, the accident having contributed to some extent to the gangrene.”

It's the final bit of the newspaper report which makes today's entry a bit of a triple-whammy . . . . . . .

"Mr Newell was a native of Godmanchester. He was a popular station master and will be remembered by many people for his striking resemblance to King George V. He retired 12 years ago."

Happy St George's Day!!

More soon . . .

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