1915, 10 July – Batley News

This week’s edition of the Batley News had significant coverage of those associated with St Mary’s parish, both at home and with the military. There is even news of a Belgian priest who was to eventually serve at St Mary’s.

As usual I have put in bold the names of those connected to the parish who served with the military. And, as ever, the spelling and punctuation matches that of the newspaper.

A parishioner, James Henry Cahill, was a key witness at a colliery death inquest .

Dewsbury Man’s Terrible Death in a Batley Colliery.
Coal-Cutter Kills Man Who Liked His Job.

A verdict of “Accidental death” was returned at an inquest on Monday on the remains of Henry Lockwood (22), 9, Hanover Square, Boothroyd Lane, Dewsbury, who was cut to pieces by a coal-cutting machine (known amongst colliers as the “iron man”) at Messrs. James Critchley and Son’s Batley Colliery last Friday afternoon. The Coroner (Mr. P. P. Maitland) said the accident was one of the first of its kind, and the jury agreed that blame did not attach to anyone.

Mr. A. L. Flint (H.M. Inspector of Mines) attended the inquiry; and Mr. T. H. Brierley (mine manager) expressed the sympathy of Messrs. Critchley and Son with the widow of the deceased.

Mrs. Lockwood (deceased’s wife) said her husband worked at Ingham’s Coke Ovens, Thornhill Lees, up to March 18th, when he went to Batley Colliery. The night before his death he said he had never in his life liked a job better than that at Batley. He also said he liked his “mate,” and hoped he would never be taken from him.

Tom Lightfoot, 2, Hanover Square, Dewsbury, deputy at Batley Colliery for 12 years, and father of Mrs. Lockwood, explained the make of machine at which Lockwood met his death, and said no difficulty had been experienced with it. It was a very good machine. James Cahill had charge of it for a fortnight before the accident. Prior to that Cahill worked at Messrs. Crawshaw and Warburton’s Chidswell Colliery.

The Coroner: Did he appear to be an efficient man?

Witness: Yes sir, a very good man.

Continuing, witness explained that the machine was driven by electricity, and Lockwood’s work was to shovel material from the back of the machine to clear the machine’s action. Witness inspected the machine at 10.45 on Friday morning, and it was then in good working order. The wheel of the machine was 4ft. 6in. in diameter and contained over 40 cutters.


Witness was called to the scene after the accident, and found deceased literally cut to pieces; parts of him were in the wheel. The machine appeared to be in the position in which witness previously saw it. He remarked that he did not think Cahill was to blame, and Cahill said he did not know however the accident happened. Witness understood the accident occurred when the machine was switched into action by Cahill after after he and Lockwood had tightened the “sylvester” at the back of the machine.

When the machine was put into motion Lockwood should have been standing at least a yard away from the wheel, and witness could not account for the accident. Lockwood had to kneel at his work, and it did not seem likely that he could have fallen on to the wheel.

Replying to Mr. Flint, witness said the machine was about 4ft. from the corner when he saw it after the accident.

Mr. Flint: That suggest it had moved because it was not in that position before, according to the plan.


Mr. John Brierley, Blenheim Hill, Upper Batley, assistant to his brother, Mr. T. H. Brierley, at the pit, said he investigated the accident on Saturday morning. His opinion was that the “sylvester” had been drawn so tight that the cutters must have been pricked into the dirt; and the machine must have jumped back about four feet on to the top of Lockwood when it was started because of the contact. The machine was partly turned round.

Witness added that Cahill was a capable workman.

James Henry Cahill, 135, North Bank Road, Batley, was then called.

Before he gave evidence, the Coroner told him that he did not think there had been anything improper on his part, and that whatever happened was in the nature of an oversight.

Witness said he had had three years’ experience with the coal-cutting machines, but had only been at Batley Colliery about a fortnight. He and Lockwood overhauled the machine at 10 o’clock on Friday morning, and it was then in good working order. When they were about to work the machine after one o’clock witness saw that the “sylvester” was tight before going to the front to switch on the machine. He crept past Lockwood, who waited for him to give orders to unlock the switch handle at the back. Lockwood was then about 1½ yards from the wheel. When witness went to the switch-end he called to Lockwood, “Will you unlock the switch, Harry?” Lockwood replied, “Right, Jim.” Witness then called out “Look out,” and Lockwood answered “Right.” Witness then switch the machine into action.

The switch worked on four notches, and when it got on the fourth witness missed Lockwood’s light. He, therefore, switched off to get to know where Lockwood was, and when he did so the machine twisted. He twice called out “Harry,” but received no reply, and went round the machine. When he got to the wheel he put his hand on deceased’s body. Lockwood had been cut to pieces by the wheel.


The Coroner: How can you account for your machine shifting or jumping in the way it did?

Witness: I could not account for it in any shape.

The Coroner: Mr. John Brierley’s idea was that the “sylvester” was so tight that the cutters were pricked into the dirt.

Witness: As a charge man it is a precaution to see that it has a clear spin round, and it had a clear spin round.

Do you particularly look at that? —Always.

Then you don’t agree with Mr. Brierley’s theory? —No, sir.

Replying to a further question, witness said it was possible that the machine might move before he switched off.


In summing up, the Coroner said he thought that anyone listening to Cahill’s evidence would be quite satisfied that he was endeavouring to tell the whole truth. The Coroner thought his evidence was very straight, but notwithstanding that it was a very straight and truthful statement he (the Coroner) thought his statement was a mistake. The weight of evidence was to the effect that the movement of the machine caused the man’s death, and there was nothing accountable for the machine moving except the the “sylvester” was too tight when the machine was switched on. The whole affair was momentary. There was such a brief space of time between the starting of the machine and the accident occurring that Cahill might easily be mistaken as to when the machine was thrown out of position. He (Mr. Maitland) though that on the evidence the theory set up by Mr. Brierley was correct, and that the affair was due to an oversight. It was easy to realise that inadvertently the “sylvester” might have got too tight, and caused the accident. He thought the Mines Inspector (Mr. Flint) would agree with him that Mr. Brierley’s theory was the most likely one.

Mr. Flint expressed concurrence.


The Coroner observed that this being so, it was for the jury to say whether it was an oversight or due to carelessness which ought not to have take place. His idea was that Lockwood had been accidentally killed through the coal-cutter machine shifting suddenly back on to him, whereby he was cut to pieces at the wheel, owing to the “sylvester” having been drawn too tightly before the machine was switched on for action.

The jury returned a verdict to that effect.

The Coroner: You don’t attach blame to anyone in the matter?

The Foreman: No.

A juror thought it would be well for the authorities to consider means for seeing that “sylvesters” were not tightened too much and the Coroner agreed, saying that that would no doubt be done. It was one of the first accidents caused with a coal-cutting machine.

The death notices contained one relevant to St Mary’s, as follows:

HOPKINS. —On the 1st inst., aged 8 months, John, son of John Hopkins, 35, Cobden Street.

Court cases were plentiful this week,

Batley Court – Monday.

Richard Cunningham, miner, Ambler Street, Batley, for using obscene language, fined 15s.

There were 33 previous convictions against Charles Henry Brier, miner, 22, Victoria Street, Carlinghow, who was fined 20s. for being drunk and disorderly.

Privates…Michael McManus (3rd West Yorkshire), Cobden Street, Batley, all absentees were ordered to await escorts.

WRONG PLACE FOR FIGHTING. —Two young men were bound over and ordered to pay costs for a breach of the peace were reminded by the Mayor that there were other places in which men might be fighting at present. Defendants were Anthony Morley, miner, East Street, Batley, and Michael Jordan, willeyer, Jacob Street, Woodwell. —Constable Waddington said they were fighting desperately in Staincliffe Feast Ground on Saturday night, June 25th, with a big crowd round them. When witness stopped the fight Jordan said, “It’s all right; we shall have it out some other time.”

News of Thomas Foley’s D.C.M. award filtered through this week:

D.C.M. Awards

In addition to cases recently referred to exclusively in the “News,” two more Distinguished Conduct Medal awards have a local interest. It is a matter for profound regret that Private Tom Foley, of Batley’s Roman Catholic community, a soldier of the Boer War and Indian experience, has not survived the wounds which he evidently sustained whilst performing the gallant deed that earned from him the coveted honour….


Batley Man Wins D.C.M. and Dies of Wounds
Travelled from Canada to Rejoin Regiment
Official Description of Thrilling Heroism

A Batley soldier’s home is tense with mingled pleasure and deep sorrow – the former because the name of Private Thomas Foley, a Cheshire Regiment man whose home and mother are in New Street, appears in an official list of Distinguished Conduct Medallists; and sorrow, because the hero has not lived to wear the coveted decoration for one of the most gallant deeds of self-denial amongst the many recorded during the war.

The following details of the action for which the medal was awarded appear in the “The London Gazette” :—

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, notably on the night of March 7th, 1915, when he went out in front of our trenches to bring in some stretcher bearers, who had lost their way. Subsequently he went out three times under heavy fire to bring in wounded men, and although wounded more than once himself he continued to carry out this duty.

The townspeople will generally deplore the fact that Private Foley has not lived to enjoy the glory of his thrilling, self-sacrificing efforts.

When war broke out he was in Canada, where he had been for two years, but immediately the call for soldiers went forth he returned home to “do his little bit” for his Motherland.

Notification of his death in March at a clearing station (from wounds received in action) was published in the “News” some time ago.

Private Foley was a soldier for many years serving with the West Yorkshires, as well as the Cheshire Regiment. He was in the Boer War, for which he obtained a medal, and he also served his country in India in 1902. After coming home from the East he followed his occupation as a miner at Messrs. Crawshaw and Warburton’s Shaw Cross collieries.

Later he went to Canada, and was engaged in various occupations there. He was in the Dominion about two years before being called up as a Reservist.

He was at the Front about five months before receiving his fatal wounds, which, it is surmised he received while performing his heroic deed.

Foley was a Roman Catholic, and attended St. Mary’s Church, Cross Bank.

Private Thomas Neafsey, of St Patrick’s parish, Birstall, featured this week. His brother Patrick Naifsey was a St Mary’s parishioner, and is on the St Mary’s Church War Memorial. Note the variation in surname spellings – there are a multiplicity of spelling variations for this surname.

Birstall Warrior’s Exciting Times
Honoured by His Irish Friends

Private Thomas Neafsey, York and Lancaster Regiment, who returned home to Geldard Road, Birstall, last week-end for a well-deserved respite from the rigours of the war, was entertained by his comrades at Birstall Irish National Club. Mr. P. Adams presided, and was accompanied by Councillor A. J. Flynn, Messrs. M. Brett, and P. Melvin, who all made congratulatory speeches on Private Neafsey’s safe return from the Front.

The gallant soldier, who was called up at the beginning of the war, has so far escaped without so much as a scratch. He was at Mons and most of the big battles that followed, and was some months ago sent with a “flying column” to the Dardanelles to assist in the landing of the troops. He then went back to Flanders.

Private Neafsey has often been at close quarters with the enemy. He related that in one attack a German bayonet pierced his coat, and he was pinned to a tree, but he escaped unscathed. Another time a German officer was about to level his revolver at him when the Birstall soldier got home the first blow.

Councillor Flynn expressed an Irishmans’s pride in the gallant warrior. Referring to his own attendance at recruiting meetings, he declared that he offered excuse to no man for doing so. He realised that it was everyone’s duty to do his best in defence of the country, and all at home should be grateful to such men as Private Neafsey, who had prevented the enemy from committing similar atrocities here to those committed in Belgium. Anyone with sympathy towards the Germans was an enemy to Private Neafsey and others form Birstall who had gone forward to defend their homes.

Private Neafsey declared that what hardships he had suffered were only the accompaniments of war, and he was always prepared to do his duty. He was grateful that his life so far had been spared, and glad to think that in a little way he had helped to defend the country.

Private Neafsey returned to his military duties on Tuesday.

There was more news from prisoner of war Michael Manning:

Writing from Doeberitz (Germany), where he is a prisoner, to his parents at Bradford Road, Carlinghow, Seaman Michael W. Manning, of the Royal Naval Division, says:—“I am in good health. Please send my bread, a money order and cigs. Best wishes to all friends.”

Father Juliaan Kestelijn, who subsequently moved to St Mary’s, was the subject of a major piece in this week’s paper:

Belgian Priest’s War Experiences
Huns who Robbed a Jeweller
College Hospital Shelled

Father Juliaan Kestelijn, who was recently appointed to administer to the spiritual wants of Belgian Catholics in the Birstall district, holds the distinction of having been ordained to the priesthood within a few miles of the firing line. The event took place on April 21st last in the presence of a large congregation of Belgian and British soldiers. On the following day, Father Kestelijn said his first Mass in a college that had been converted into a hospital. Two days afterwards the college was shelled, and four nuns acting as nurses and seven wounded British soldiers were killed.

When war broke out the young Belgian priest – he is only 26 years old – was a professor of languages at a college at Poperinghe, near Ypres. A company of some 250 German soldiers passed through the town towards the end of September, and Fahter Kestelijn related an incident to a “News” representative which illuminates the enemy’s methods of reconnaissance. One of the soldiers rode up to an inn, and called out to the landlady, “Do you remember me, Marie?” Marie remembered him well, for three months previously he had visited the town with a circus and stayed at the inn. He had been selected for Poperinghe because of his knowledge of the district.

The German soldiery billeted at the neighbouring village of Abeele, but parties made daily visits to Poperinghe. On one occasion on the whilstle of a dairy was sounded for the employees to stop work, but the Germans contended that it was a signal to the Belgians, and forthwith installed themselves at the creamery. Moreover, an order was given forbidding the ringing of church bells.

Shortly afterwards about 10,000 Germans entered Ypres, where they stayed for one night before proceeding to Vlamertinghe, Reninghelst, Locre, and the mountains of Cassel and “Rooden berg.” Their short stay at Ypres prompted them to sack the principal jeweller’s shop in the city, and when the jeweller complained through the burgomaster to the German commander he was given a cheque for 80,000 francs – worthless, however, to the receiver. In the villages the Germans helped themselves to all the comestibles at all the shops. The parish priest of Reninghelst told how they robbed his cellar of wine, and went through the village drinking it.

The Allies quickly came from Dunkirk, and after a three days’ battle drove the Huns back from the mountains. From Poperinghe, Father Kestelijn could see the shells bursting as the battle progressed. With their numbers reinforced after the fall of Antwerp, however, the Germans were able to establish themselves along the Yser, and brisk fighting resulted in many wounded solders being brought into Poperinghe for treatment.

The college at which Father Kestelijn taught was turned into a hospital, and hundreds of wounded soldiers received attention there. The young professor was engaged in relieving the bodily as well as spiritual needs of the maimed, who were principally British, and he spoke in glowing terms of their fortitude.

In the last moments of the gallant men who had been mortally wounded, Father Kestelijn was able to give welcome consolation. He paid a high tribute to the British Protestant soldiers as well as those of his own faith.

“To me,” he remarked, “they were all martyrs. We had constant examples of heroism, which I shall never forget. We did what we could for them all. Many a soldier declared that he was glad to give his life for his country and home, and all placed their trust in God.”

On April 21st Father Kestelijn and four other young Belgians were ordained to the priesthood at Panne by Bishop de Wachter, coadjutor Bishop of Malines. About 400 Belgian soldiers and a number of British attended the ceremony, and a band played the Belgian National Anthem. On the following day Father Kestelijn celebrated his first Mass in the college-hospital at Poperinghe, a large number of wounded British soldiers being present.

On April 24th Poperinghe was shelled by the Germans. The college was struck, and four Belgian nuns who were acting as nurses to the wounded and seven British soldiers were killed. Father Kestelijn declared that he should never forget the terrible experience.

The college had to be quitted the following day, and on April 27th Father Kestelijn and five nuns (who had also been discharging duties as nurses) proceeded to Boulogne whence they came to England. The nuns were given hospitality by the Little Sisters of the Poor in London.

Father Kestelijn is appointed by the Bishop de Wachter to administer to the spiritual welfare of Belgian Catholics in the Birstall district. He has at present charge of the parish in the absence of Father Russell, who is on vacation in Ireland.