Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Accident on the High Level Bridge, 1849 (NZ251637)

From the Monthly Chronicle of North-Country Lore & Legend, August 1887:-

Not fewer than 1,300 workmen were at one time employed in the construction of the High Level Bridge across the Tyne. Amongst them was a man named John Smith, a ship carpenter, who, finding work slack at his own vocation, accepted an engagement at the High Level. To him a remarkable accident occurred on July 28, 1849.  
While at work he stepped upon a loose plank, which canted over, and he was thrown headlong from the bridge. In his descent, the leg of his trousers caught a large nail which had been driven into the timber just upon the level of the lower roadway, 90 feet above the river, where he hung suspended for a considerable time until rescued by his fellow-workmen.  
Doubtless Smith owed his marvellous escape to the toughness and strength of the fustian trousers he wore at the time; and a well-known firm of Newcastle clothiers, long since retired from business, asserted in one of their advertisements that the wonderful “fustians” had been made and purchased at their establishment. Smith, however, contradicted this assertion through the local papers, giving the name and address of the tradesman who had supplied him with the “lucky bags” in question.  
We are sorry to have to add that poor Smith was killed by an accident after all. Falling down a ship’s hold in the Tyne early in 1878, he died soon after from the injuries he then received. Shortly after his providential escape on the High Level, Mr Smith was induced to join the Wesleyans, and it was not long ere he became one of the most valued local preachers in that body. Mr Smith had been asked by a minister to occupy his pulpit on the Sunday, but he declined, on the ground that he had been working hard and needed rest. On that very day he died from the result of the accident we have mentioned.

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