This is the story of a lifting operation that went wrong and killed four men, three of whom were interred at Weaste Cemetery.
The incident happened on Monday evening, 20th September 1909 at Messrs George Leek and Sons, Iron and Brass Founders, Hope Street, Salford. The company employed some 50 men and much of the work involved making castings. On the day in question, six or seven men were engaged in raising and turning a casting box by means of block and tackle. The purpose being to dry the mould within and make it ready for the reception of molton metal. The box weighed about 3 tons and was three quarters full of sand. The men had to stand almost underneath it. The box had almost reached perpendicular and was about to be turned over when there was a snap, and the box fell onto four men.
After some difficulty the box was raised and the unfortunate men picked out. They were all frightfully mangled. One was killed outright, one died after a few minutes and the other two, who were only just breathing, were taken to Salford Royal Hospital, where they died soon afterwards. The men were:
James Henry Leek, aged 31, of 38, Osborne Street, Seedley. He was the son of the owner of the company and was buried in Prestwich. The other three men were buried in Weaste Cemetery.
Thomas Dimilow, aged 19, single, of 7, Heaps Buildings, Hope Street, Salford, Labourer.
Robert Catlow, aged 51, of 19, Lillah Street, Salford, Labourer.
John Hays Dutton, aged 27, of 13 Athol Street, Seedley. He had only been working at the foundry a week, having taken the place of his father.
The Inquest was held a Pendleton Town Hall on Thursday 23rd September attended by Mr Warren, H.M.Inspector of Factories. Mr Harold Leek was the first witness. He said that at 6.15 pm on Monday, a number of men were in the moulding shop, lifting a moulding box full of sand by means of a chain crane. The box was 14 feet by 12 feet and with the sand weighed about 5 tons. It fell onto the four men. When extricated it was found that Dutton was dead, Catlow died in the yard shortly after and Dimilow and Leek were unconscious and seriously injured.
The hook was broken at the rivet inside the collar in a place where no flaw could be seen. The chain had been in use for 9 years and when tested 12 months ago, it was stamped as being able to carry 12 tons. The hook had been in the possession of the firm for 9 years. It was supplied, along with the crane in February 1900 by James Platt and Sons, Beehive Ironworks, Shaw. It had been used daily since then. They kept no records showing when each chain was bought and could not say if any similar firm did. The chain had been tested by Mr Wilcox of Trafford Street, Manchester, but there was no certificate. Mr Leek thought it was tested to 9 tons. The chain was a seven-eighth chain which would normally take a five and a half ton load.
Mr Warren, the Factory Inspector said that the total load of the casting and the mould would have been five and seven-eighths tons and therefore the crane was overloaded as the hook was not fit to carry over 4 tons.
Mr George Arthur Leek, a member of the company said that he attended to the office work, although he was a time-served engineer. He did not think that the hook was properly made. The hook had a pin and he preferred one without. He said that it was an old fashioned way of making hooks, perhaps fifty years ago. He did not keep records of the history of the equipment and no certificates were received.
Dr Walker of Salford Royal Hospital said that Dimilow was admitted at about 6.40 pm and died at 8 pm. His right thigh and three ribs were fractured and he had other injuries. James Leek was admitted at the same time and died within a quarter of an hour. He had a lacerated wound in the head, fracture of the left leg and forearm and other injuries.
The Coroner, Mr Holmes, summed up by saying that no records were kept of chains and was sorry that Regulations applying to docks did not apply to workshops. He suggested to the Factory Inspector that the Government should ensure similar Regulations apply to workshops. He also said that the makers of the hook had gone out of business. The Jury returned a verdict of Accidental Death and concurred with the Coroner's view about Regulations.
John Hayes Dutton had formerly been in the 7th Dragoon Guards and saw service in the Boer War for which he was awarded a medal and 5 clasps. At the end of the Boer War, he transferred to the 5th Dragoon Guards and went to India for a year and then a term in South Africa. He was a teetotaller and was awarded nine medals by the Army Temperance Association including one from the Association in India for five years fidelity. His funeral took place on Friday 24th September. Large numbers of people gathered in the vicinity of the residence long before the departure of the funeral cortege. The cortege consisted of a hearse and three carriages. The coffin was of oak with brass mountings and the plate was inscribed "John Hayes Dutton, died September 20th 1909 aged 27 years". He was interred in section K of the Roman Catholic portion of Weaste Cemetery, Fr H Mour officiating.
The funeral of Thomas Dimilow took place on Saturday morning 25th September. The coffin was of oak with nickel fittings and the inscription read "Thomas Dimilow, died September 20th 1909, aged 19 years". The cortege of hearse and four carriages went directly from his home, close to the factory where he died, directly to the cemetery, with 20 fellow workers at its head. Four workers acted as bearers. Mr H Harrison of Longford Hall conducted the service in plot M of the Church of England portion of the cemetery.
Robert Catlow's funeral took place on the afternoon of Saturday 25th September. The service was held at the Unitarian Church on Cross Lane, conducted by Pastor R. Nicol Cross MA and attended by a large number of friends. The cortege of hearse and four carriages proceeded along Cross Lane and Eccles New Road to plot H of the Dissenters portion of Weaste cemetery. The oak coffin with heavy brass fitting was carried by four fellow workers, one of whom narrowly escaped the disaster. The inscription read "Robert Catlow, died September 20th 1909, aged 51 years".