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Thread: Mersey tunnel collapse 1928

  1. #1
    Newbie jon b's Avatar
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    Default Mersey tunnel collapse 1928

    Hi all, this will be first post so it may need to be moved, if so apologies.

    I just thought I should pass on a family story involving the death of my great uncle during the building of the first Mersey tunnel.

    His name was James Herbert Brown and he was killed on 29.11.1928 at the age of just 18.

    He was employed as a labourer on the site and was in the tunnel during blasting for the ventilation shafts. before blasting the workers were warned to retreat to particular point that was deemed safe which he did, unfortunately what the engineers were not aware of was a large void (that was supposed to have been created by attempts to undermine the outer wall of Liverpool castle during a conflict ) above this area, that collapsed as a result of the nearby blast, sadly dropping numerous tons of rock onto my relative.

    As a result of this tragedy and perhaps his young age his colleagues requested that they be allowed to attend his funeral but the directors refused this, as a mark of respect the whole workforce took the day off without pay and attended his funeral. I remember my grandad telling me it was a sight to behold as scores of men escorted his coffin down Smithdown Road to Toxteth cemetary.

    Sadly there was never any memorial to the workers who were killed during the construction of the tunnel but at the Birkenhead end there is a large frieze dedicated to one of the directors who died( not on site !) whilst it was being built, I guess that shows the difference in classes at that time in history.

    My dad was named after James and started to cause a fuss about the lack of a memorial and was victorius when a plaque naming all those who lost their lives was erected on the ventilation shaft at Mann island during the tunnels jubilee celebrations.

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    My great uncle has at times been wrongly called Bert Jones in some books, but no one of this name died that I can ascertain.

    Hope this is of some interest.

  2. #2
    Creator & Administrator Kev's Avatar
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    Thank you for your post, fascinating. A warm welcome by the way.

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    Senior Member marky's Avatar
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    There is also a plaque, with 9 names, for those who died during the construction of the Kingsway tunnel. The plaque is on the tunnel vent by Seacombe ferry terminal.

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    Senior Member Waterways's Avatar
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    The worst I came across in this contempt for people being killed in construction, was at Kariba Dam in Zimbabwe. There was an old newspaper cutting giving the names of the men that died, mainly Italian as an Italian company built it. Their full names were there and the local blacks who died were in a sentence, "and 20 local men" - I can't recall the number so just put 20 in. It was if they didn't matter and were nameless.
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    Great first post and story Jon b, and welcome to Yo.
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    Senior Member marky's Avatar
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    Memorial details:

    JOSEPH BONNER 26th July 1926 Aged 26
    JOHN JOSEPH McNULTY 17th September 1928 Aged 29
    JAMES HERBERT BROWN 29th November 1928 Aged 18
    JOHN WILLIAM BLAKELEY 7th July 1929 Aged 34
    JOHN McNICHOLAS 13th September 1929 Aged 55
    HENRY FRANCIS GARRETT DE MOUL 28th September 1929 Aged 25
    JOSEPH COLLEGE 11th December 1929 Aged 62
    JAMES MICHAEL WILMOTT 27th December 1929 Aged 42
    JOHN CARBERRY 24th March 1930 Aged 26
    ALBERT WHITE 27th November 1930 Aged 42
    ALFRED PITMAN DUKE 16th July 1931 Aged 45
    HENRY DENTITH 15th September 1931 Aged 24
    PATRICK JOSEPH DURR 29th September 1931 Aged 33
    THOMAS ARTHUR BECKINGHAM 16th May 1933 Aged 57
    JOHN CARR 14th July 1933 Aged 23
    JAMES GREEN 14th November 1933 Aged 22
    DONALD LESTER 15th September 1934 Aged 24


    THIS MEMORIAL WAS ERECTED AS PART OF
    THE QUEENSWAY TUNNEL DIAMOND JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS
    IN REMEMBRANCE OF THOSE WHO DIED DURING
    ITS CONSTRUCTION.
    WORK ON THE TUNNEL WAS COMMENCED
    ON 16TH DECEMBER 1925 AT THIS SITE
    BY
    HER ROYAL HIGHNESS PRINCESS MARY
    AND THIS GREAT FEAT OF ENGINEERING
    WAS OPENED AT OLD HAYMARKET ON
    18TH JULY 1934
    BY
    HIS MAJESTY KING GEORGE V

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    Default Memorial

    If you go over the road from where Gerrard gardens used to be but not as far as Norton Street just over from the sand castle (TGWU centre) There is a small area off the road that is designated to the monument erected by the building workers union.The statue is of a hod carrier who died during the building of the tenements Gerrard Gardens. The cast for the sculpture is taken from the original frieze that was over the arched entrance to the Gardens. I attended the unveiling on a damp Sunday morning in Liverpool. The depiction of the hoddie who died was put on the frieze by the designer as a mark of respect, and the memorial is dedicated to Liverpool building workers who have died in the trade.
    Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
    Time held me green and dying
    Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

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    Senior Member The Gardens's Avatar
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    Some great posts, and it would good to hear from any other members who relatives may have worked on the tunnels.

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    Default Building Workers

    Members as in Trade Unionists?
    Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
    Time held me green and dying
    Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

    Dylan Thomas

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    Senior Member The Gardens's Avatar
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    Yo members, or Trade Unionists. These deaths and injuries were largely unreported, with only 'good news' stories released to the media. I would be interested to hear from anyone whose familiy where affected by the tunnels construction. This includes families whose communities were broken up by the building of the tunnels.

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    Senior Member merseywail's Avatar
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    Sorry to be pedantic, but the Queensway tunnel was the first ROAD tunnel. The first mersey tunnel was the mersey railway tunnel opened in 1886. Don't know how many died building that tunnel. I know some died from silicosis due to the Beamont boring machine, causing dust, that the men breathed in. Anyone know of any casualties during building of the loop & link in the 70's
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    Newbie desi bannon's Avatar
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    My grand father was Patrick Joseph Durr - he was from Elphin in Roscommon in Ireland - he left to fight in the Great war and settled in Liverpool to raise a family. He died in the tunnel, the local Paper at the time said he was Patrick Dare, he left behind a wife and three kids. Their tragedy did'nt end there, my gran died in childbirth and Mum and her brother and sister were orphaned and split up as kids. They did'nt reunite as a family until the early 1960's - Mum and her brother Tom have passed on but Aunt Mona still lives in St Helens. Granddad is buried without a headstone to mark his grave, such was the poverty then


    Quote Originally Posted by marky View Post
    Memorial details:

    JOSEPH BONNER 26th July 1926 Aged 26
    JOHN JOSEPH McNULTY 17th September 1928 Aged 29
    JAMES HERBERT BROWN 29th November 1928 Aged 18
    JOHN WILLIAM BLAKELEY 7th July 1929 Aged 34
    JOHN McNICHOLAS 13th September 1929 Aged 55
    HENRY FRANCIS GARRETT DE MOUL 28th September 1929 Aged 25
    JOSEPH COLLEGE 11th December 1929 Aged 62
    JAMES MICHAEL WILMOTT 27th December 1929 Aged 42
    JOHN CARBERRY 24th March 1930 Aged 26
    ALBERT WHITE 27th November 1930 Aged 42
    ALFRED PITMAN DUKE 16th July 1931 Aged 45
    HENRY DENTITH 15th September 1931 Aged 24
    PATRICK JOSEPH DURR 29th September 1931 Aged 33
    THOMAS ARTHUR BECKINGHAM 16th May 1933 Aged 57
    JOHN CARR 14th July 1933 Aged 23
    JAMES GREEN 14th November 1933 Aged 22
    DONALD LESTER 15th September 1934 Aged 24


    THIS MEMORIAL WAS ERECTED AS PART OF
    THE QUEENSWAY TUNNEL DIAMOND JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS
    IN REMEMBRANCE OF THOSE WHO DIED DURING
    ITS CONSTRUCTION.
    WORK ON THE TUNNEL WAS COMMENCED
    ON 16TH DECEMBER 1925 AT THIS SITE
    BY
    HER ROYAL HIGHNESS PRINCESS MARY
    AND THIS GREAT FEAT OF ENGINEERING
    WAS OPENED AT OLD HAYMARKET ON
    18TH JULY 1934
    BY
    HIS MAJESTY KING GEORGE V

  13. #13
    Senior Member wsteve55's Avatar
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    Welcome to Yo,Desi. A sad event.

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    Quote Originally Posted by desi bannon View Post
    My grand father was Patrick Joseph Durr - he was from Elphin in Roscommon in Ireland - he left to fight in the Great war and settled in Liverpool to raise a family. He died in the tunnel, the local Paper at the time said he was Patrick Dare, he left behind a wife and three kids. Their tragedy did'nt end there, my gran died in childbirth and Mum and her brother and sister were orphaned and split up as kids. They did'nt reunite as a family until the early 1960's - Mum and her brother Tom have passed on but Aunt Mona still lives in St Helens. Granddad is buried without a headstone to mark his grave, such was the poverty then
    Hi Desi,
    welcome from me. Good story but so sad too.

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    Senior Member wsteve55's Avatar
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    Desi,wondered where you got that list of names? There's a memorial plaque on the tunnel ventilator building,near the Pier Head,and I could take a pic' if you wanted?

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