Local historian Keith Johnson looks at the tragic demise of a cotton mill owner...
John Goodair, who arrived in Preston in 1832, built up a thriving cotton business in the town, having by 1860 both the Brookfield and Peel Hall mills in his ownership, and becoming an alderman of the city.
He was a familiar figure at the weekly cotton markets in Liverpool and Manchester, commuting there by train. In 1872 he resolved to take things easier, and his son William Henry Goodair took over the marketing side of the business.
Unfortunately, William Henry was involved in the rail crash of April 1873 on German Bridge and had a period of incapacity, with his father once again attending the weekly cotton markets. One such visit to the Manchester market taking place on the second Friday of October 1873. After a hectic day’s business Mr Goodair was heading to the Victoria railway station when tragedy struck.
Making his way along Corporation Street, which was crowded with pedestrians and vehicles, he followed behind a couple of gentlemen who were crossing the thoroughfare. Having reached the middle of the road, the other gentlemen took a hurried step to the pavement, having observed a horse-drawn light spring cart heading towards them. Mr Goodair, with his head down and appearing deep in thought, seemed oblivious to the danger and within a moment the horse was upon him.
He instinctively seized the horse’s bridle, and by that means kept himself upright when the pony struck him, but the animal, frightened by this movement, plunged forward, and a moment afterwards Mr Goodair fell backwards, with the back of his head striking violently against a kerb stone.
A policeman dashed forward and seized the pony’s head, but by this time one of the wheels of the cart had passed over Mr Goodair’s thigh before it could be stopped. In a semi-conscious state, he was rushed to the Manchester Royal Infirmary for treatment. News soon filtered through to Preston and family and friends rushed to Manchester to be with the stricken Mr Goodair.
Ruptured blood vessels in the base of the brain caused serious complications, and by Monday morning he had passed away.
By 11 o’clock that morning an inquest had opened at the Coroner’s Court in St John’s Street. Among the witnesses was PC Thomas Hope, who saw the drama unfold and he commented that the lad Joseph Chadwick, who was driving the trap, seemed to be struggling to control the pony, which was on the trot at the time of the incident.
Chadwick, aged 15, told the hearing he had been employed by Mr William Shaw, the owner of the vehicle, for two years and had driven this particular trap and pony for three weeks. He said that Mr Goodair was looking at the ground and that he tried to pull up, but before he could he had struck him.
After listening to the medical evidence, the Coroner concluded by saying that no blame should sit on the shoulders of the lad who was driving the trap.
The jury, after a short deliberation, recorded a verdict of accidental death. The death of Alderman Goodair, aged 65, who had been Mayor of Preston in 1860, was received with sadness in Preston, where he was fondly regarded.