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This blog will be a record of stuff I find interesting, discover or write. Interested in family & local history, cemeteries, reading & libraries, old stuff, research & writing, photography, wine and fine dining plus lots more! Immersed in local history, fascinated by technology and social media and would like more time to spend doing the things I love!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Accidental death of John Belshaw - Trove Tuesday

Fatal railway accident reported in The Maitland Daily Mercury 29 Aug 1902,  p. 3

Last week I attended a conference at the Australian Technology Park (ATP) at Eveleigh. This locality has always interested me due to a family connection. ATP was originally the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops was the locality of the shocking death of John Belshaw in 1902.

An interior view of the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops, Redfern
Photo: M. Nichols, 2015
The Belshaw family originated from County Down in Northern Ireland, and travelled on-board the steamer Orizaba departing from London in 1888 via South Australia to Victoria, finally arriving in Sydney in January 1889 with their four children Clara Crawford, born 1883; Georgina Mary, born 1885; Robert, born 1886  and Jane Allen born 1888. (To put it in context, Robert was the father of our maternal Grandmother). 

Sadly eight month old Jane succumbed to bronchitis on the voyage out, just a few days before the boat arrived in Adelaide. They made their home in Sydney and John found work as labourer. Times were tough as it was during the depression of the 1890s.

Shortly after arriving in Sydney, Georgina fell pregnant and gave birth to daughter Muriel Helen, late in 1889. After a large gap (nine years) she fell pregnant again, and had a son, Rodger. By 1898 the family were living in Redfern and John was still recorded as a general labourer.

However tragedy struck the family when John aged 45, was killed on the 29 August 1902. He was run over by a locomotive at the Redfern Railway Station. The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported at the time of his death:
The City Coroner…held an inquest on Saturday morning concerning the death of John Allen Belshaw, a truck examiner, who was run over by a locomotive at the Redfern Railway station on the preceding day. Evidence was given to the effect that on Friday morning, deceased was the line behind two cars, when an engine came out from one of the platforms. Someone called out and deceased looked round, seemed to hesitate and was immediately knocked down and run over. The fireman of the engine stated that when deceased was first seen he was only a yard or two from the buffers. The whistle was blown and the brakes applied, the engine being brought up by its own length. A verdict of accidental death was returned. 

The Inquest was held at the Lloyd’s Hotel the following day with J. C. Woore the Coroner.  The Daily Telegraph article was a little more revealing. It stated that the “shocking fatality” happened about 8am and that the body was “fearfully mangled.” It also reported that Belshaw was “picked up in a terrible condition, his head being badly smashed and his right thigh crushed. The Civil Ambulance Brigade was summoned and the man removed to the Sydney Hospital where Dr. Webb pronounced life extinct.”  

Many years ago, and before Trove was conceived, the above articles were consulted from the main Sydney newspapers and the information duly added to then family archives.

More recently I decided to search Trove to see if any additional information could be located. Surprisingly a general search reveals 94 articles for this decade and of the 46 of these were from 1902 the year the accident occurred. Most of the articles were printed in New South Wales papers but the accident was also mentioned in all of the other states, as well. I have corrected some of the text but I do need to ensure that all of the articles are corrected and tagged.

Entries for the accidental death for John Belshaw on Trove in 1902

The point of the story, it pays not to narrow your search to just the locality where an event took place. You may miss out on some treasures.

The accidental death was reported as far away as Western Australia.
This small paragraph appeared in the Kalgoorlie Western Argus 2 Sep 1902, p. 31 

John was employed at the Darling Harbour yards in 1902. At the time of the accident the Belshaw family were residing at 7 Prospect Street, Surry Hills and Roger, the youngest child, was only 4 years old. 
7 Prospect Street, Surry Hills

His wife Georgina did not remarry and it must have been tough raising her family without a breadwinner. Georgina spent much of her remaining years as a volunteer at her local church in Darlinghurst.

Death certificate issued for John Belshaw in 1902
Source: Family archives

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