Brighouse News Friday 20 April 1906

On Sunday last the dead body of John Wm. Stirk (42), foreman gas stoker at the Mill-lane works, belonging to the Corporation, was found in the river Calder, at a point near Messrs. H. and J. Sugden’s cotton mill, not too far away from the gasworks.
Stirk had been missing since the previous Friday evening, when it is supposed that in walking along the towing path on his way home – he lived at the Birds Royd gasworks – he accidentally stumbled, fell into the river and drowned. About twenty minutes past ten o-clock on Friday night, John Craggs, who resides at the Brighouse Low Lock, heard a barking dog, but no one appears to have been seen the unfortunate man after he left Mill-lane. Stirk leaves a widow and nine children, the youngest child being five years old.


On Monday evening, in the Court House, at the Town Hall. Mr. E. H. Hull (district coroner) held an inquest on the body of the unfortunate man. Mr. Geo. Thornton was appointed foreman and the jury. After the jury had viewed the body, which was lying at the late residence.
Isaac Stirk, teamer, 12 Mellor Square, Mill-lane, said the deceased was his brother. Deceased was 42 years of age in June last, and his occupation was that of foreman stoker at the Mill-lane gasworks. So far as witnesses knew, deceased had had good health. Witness did not know the time deceased left home on Good Friday. On Sunday morning a witness went to look for his brother and helped the police to drag the river. The body was recovered from the river Calder between 10-15 and 10-30, opposite Messrs. H. and J. Sugden’s cotton mill. When the body was taken out of the water there was a tobacco pipe in the left hand.


Lilian Bintcliffe, resides at 4, Cross-street, Mill-lane, stated that she knew the deceased and last saw him about five minutes to ten o-clock on the evening of Good Friday. Stirk called at their house to ask for a match with which to light his pipe, and he did not stay more than a few minutes.
To go home he would go along the river bank, which was not lighted. Witness had never been that way in the dark.
Coroner: Did he seem quite sober?
Witness: Well, he had had a glass or two, but did not seem very bad.
Coroner: He was slightly affected with drink?
Witness: Yes
Coroner: Could he walk straight?
Witness: Yes
Coroner: Was it a dark night?
Witness: I couldn’t say. Our streets lighted.


Martha Banks, an elderly woman, said she laid out the body of the deceased. She was present when the body was searched, and he had all his money upon him. His clothes were in fair condition, and did not seem as if anyone had had hold of him. There was a slight scratch on the bridge of his nose, but not anywhere else. They especially examined the head to see if there were any bruising upon it, but there were none.

The Coroner, in briefly reviewing the facts, said the jury had now heard all the evidence. The question was – Were they satisfied as to how Stirk got into the water. Of course, they must remember that the poor fellow was on his way home when he went along the river bank. There was no reason, so far as could bee seen, why the man should commit suicide by throwing himself into the water. The river bank was not lighted, and the fact that the man was found with his tobacco pipe in his hand rather pointed to the conclusion that he had fallen or stumbled into the water, for had he jumped in he would probably have thrown his pipe away. He (the Coroner) rather thought that it was a case the poor fellow having accidentally fallen or stumbled into the water.
The jury concurred, and returned a verdict of “Accidental death.”