Sunday, 19 January 2014

Windsor Bridge tragedy

An unfortunate workplace tragedy took place in Windsor 140 years ago. The incident occurred when a young boy who was working on the Windsor Bridge inadvertently fell into the river and drowned in 1874. Humphrey Albert Douglass, who was almost ten years old, was employed working on the bridge being built over the Hawkesbury River at Windsor. The boy was “walking along the foot board of one of the large punts, when he fell into the water” on 21 January 1874. Before he could be pulled from the water he unfortunately drowned. Humphrey was the son of James and Mary Douglass.

An inquest was held the following day at the Sir John Young Hotel in Windsor. James Douglas gave the following evidence, which was reported in the newspaper Australian, Windsor, Richmond, & Hawkesbury Advertiser 24 January 1874:

James Douglas stated that he was a carpenter, and the father of the deceased, he saw him last alive on Wednesday morning at 7 o'clock; he was engaged on the Windsor Bridge works; when witness went home to his dinner he heard that his son was drowned, he went to the bridge immediately and was there some time before the body was found; he saw it taken out of the water; the body was dead and was that of his own son; deceased was ten years old.

The verdict “accidentally drowned while at work at the Windsor Bridge” was returned by the Coroner Mr. J. B. Johnston and a jury. The accident was witnessed by another boy who was pulling the punt which was being used for the traffic across the river. Not many people are aware of the tragic death of this young boy, a sad reminder of how fragile life was. Humphrey was buried at St. Matthews Church of England, Windsor.

Windsor Bridge, 1879. Government Printing Office, State Library of NSW

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