Thomas Gowland

2007

Churchyard of St Mary Bishophill Senior, York

Headstone – Thomas Gowland. Click to enlarge.

SACRED
TO THE MEMORY OF
THOMAS GOWLAND
GUARD ON THE YORK & NORTH MIDLAND
RAILWAY WHOSE DEATH WAS THE
RESULT OF A COLLISION NEAR THE
BURTON SALMON STATION
ON THE 3RD OF OCT 1851, IN THE
24TH YEAR OF HIS AGE.

ALSO SARAH, THE BELOVED WIFE
OF JAMES GOWLAND, WHO DIED
MARCH 2ND 1851, AGED 3[-] YEARS.

"ALL FLESH IS AS GRASS, AND ALL THE GLORY OF MAN AS
THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERETH AND
THE FLOWER THEREOF FALLETH AWAY."

I recognised the description of the accident, as it’s included in a book I’d been reading while researching my railwayman ancestors.

The Railway Times in 1851 reported the accident that killed Thomas Gowland, and another accident in London, which they said "form a sad exemplification of a great laxity of discipline among the working men of the railway system. The fear of punishment, as well as that of self-preservation, would indeed seem to have lost their influence where they are most required." (The judgement sounds a little harsh to the modern reader, doesn’t it.)

The report of Thomas Gowland’s accident

"An inquest was held at Burton Salmon on Saturday on view of the body of Thomas Gowland, guard, aged 24, who was killed on Friday near the Burton Salmon station. It appeared from the evidence that the deceased was the guard of a coke train which was on its way from York, when it was overtaken by a short goods train from Milford junction. The driver and guard of the latter train were aware of its proximity to deceased’s train, and both trains were nearly at a standstill, when the goods train went slowly up to the other, with the intention of assisting to give it a start from the station. The coke train being, however, the more heavily laden of the two, and all the buffers being closed up, the engine of the goods train ran into the last carriage of the coke train, and caused it to bounce up, forcing it into the guard’s van. Deceased fell out of the van with his face downwards across the rails. He was conveyed to the station, and medical assistance was procured, but he died about two hours after the accident, one of his arms and his body having been dreadfully crushed. The jury returned a verdict of ‘accidentally killed.’ At the same time they considered that there had been some negligence on the part of the driver of the engine of the second train in not sounding his whistle on approaching the coke train, and they trusted that the melancholy result of this accident would prove a caution to railway officials generally for the future."

(From The Railway Times Vol. XIV, No. 41,11 October 1851, (quoted in Railway Ancestors by David T Hawkings (Alan Sutton, 1995), pp168-9.))

One comment

  1. York Civic Trust are looking to restore this in 2018 as part of our City Enhancement Programme!

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