Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The death of John James Lloyd (1881)

I found this gravestone set in the ground at St Peter's Anglican Church cemetery (as many others there are) in Onehunga yesterday.

Today, the stone seems almost engulfed by the surrounding clover and daisies, with grass clippings obscuring the text.

Below, from the Taranaki Herald of 28 May 1881 is an account of poor John James Lloyd's demise.

"An accident of a distressing nature, which resulted in the death of a young man named John Lloyd, happened at the Waitakerei Tunnel today. The unfortunate occurrence took place shortly after 8 a.m. on the railway line. The deceased has been employed as railway laborer, and was riding on some ballast wagons. At the time of the accident he was bending forward for the purpose of working the brake, when he fell off, and two of the trucks passed over him. He was immediately picked up by some of his fellow workmen, and conveyed to Newmarket, and from thence he was taken to the hospital. On his arrival at the hospital the poor fellow was attended to by the doctors, and an examination revealed the fact that he had sustained injuries of a most serious nature. His right leg was fearfully mangled below the knee ; in fact it was completely crushed. A compound fracture of the left leg was discovered, and it was fouud that the limb was also injured above the knee. It was apparent that the shock to his system had reduced him to so weak a state that he could not possibly undergo the operation of amputation of his right leg ; therefore it was bandaged up, and the flow of blood stopped. Lloyd was perfectly conscious during the whole of the time. He stated the circumstances of the accident to Dr. Philson, and also said that the occurrence was purely accidental, and that none were to blame for it. He sank rapidly, and died shortly after noon. Deceased was a young, unmarried man, aged twenty-five years. Both of his parents are residents of Onehunga, where he lived with them up till the present time."
The tunnel was part of the Kaipara line, and finally linked up Henderson with the Kumeu side of the line. Lloyd's accident there was not the first, however. According to David Lowe, in 100 Years of Tracks and Trains Through Henderson 1881-1981,
"The Waitakere tunnel had been a major undertaking, the stiffness of the clay presented many problems as did the filling in of neighbouring swampland. Started on the Swanson side a perfectly straight shaft of 270 yards was driven through the ridge to meet up accurately with the face of the cutting on the Waitakere side. On January 28, 1881 a formal breakthrough was made amidst cheers that resounded through the tunnel before the contractors, foremen, miners, bricklayers and labourers marched to a banquet led by Mr. Collins, a blacksmith, playing patriotic airs on the flute. The men were complimented on their work and on an unblemished safety record. Unfortunately the following day a ganger was killed when he was struck by a work train."

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