Man killed in Preston fairground accident from yesteryear

Local historian Keith Johnson looks back at a time when fairground accents were a common occurence

Wednesday, 13th November 2019, 5:00 pm
Swing boats could be dangerous

The Preston Whitsuntide fair has not been without its share of incidents and accidents down the years.

Back in late May 1912 several accidents occurred over the weekend holiday. On the Saturday night Thomas Ainsworth, who lived in Tuson Street, visited the Chipperfield’s Menagerie along with his pals. Whilst pointing to a bear with his hand, the animal stretched out its paw and lacerated his hand badly, requiring hospital treatment.

On the same night a serious accident occurred to Margaret Ann Taylor, a 15 years old weaver. Whilst stood alongside her father beside a shooting gallery, she was struck in the eye by the splinter of a bullet. She also was rushed to the Preston Royal Infirmary for treatment.

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Earlier in the day another weaver Mary McEvoy sustained an injury whilst passing along the crowded Liverpool Street side of the fairground. She was struck under the chin by a hammer as a young man tried his luck on the strength testing machine. Once more the hospital staff had to repair the damage.

On Whit Monday it was the swing boats that caused the perils of the pleasure fair. Samuel Massy of Rigby Street had to be conveyed home in a cab, having been concussed. Somehow he had managed to fall from one of the steam powered swing boats landing on the pavement. Whilst George Postlethwaite, a visitor to town, ended up in the Infirmary.

Standing too close to the swing boats he received a large gash over his right eye. Fortunately, that year all the casualties could be patched up and sent on their way.

However, in early June 1919 an unfortunate incident occurred that led to a fairground fatality. On the Friday night of the Whitsuntide Fair Joseph Williams, aged 64, a visitor from Manchester was standing close to a roundabout in motion besides the Earl Street police station. Without warning a fairground worker appeared to jump off the roundabout and fall on top of him.

Williams received a severe blow and was rushed to the Infirmary, where he lingered for a couple of days before dying.

An inquest was held on Whit Monday afternoon at the Preston Royal Infirmary before coroner Harold Parker. The first witness called was Joseph McKenna, aged 15, a labourer from Wigan.

He stated he was an employee of Messrs. T. Mitchell, roundabout proprietors of Heywood. He recalled how he was working on the jumping horses carousel and was trying to board the moving roundabout as he did constantly.

Unfortunately, he lost his grip of the vertical brass rod and before he could recover his balance he had collided with Williams. Williams was knocked down and when picked up was in a semi-conscious state. Two serving soldiers deposed to seeing the incident and corroborated Mckenna’s version of events.

Mr. Mitchell was then called and he explained that roundabout attendants had to continually jump on and off in order to keep children away from the machine whilst in motion. McKenna having told him he was trying to board the moving platform to go and assist a young girl who was about to tumble from one of the horses.

The coroner commented that it seemed to have been an unfortunate accident and after a short consultation the jury returned a verdict of ‘Accidental Death’.