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WILLIAM HAIGH OF LITTLEBOROUGH (1875-1932)

A SAD TALE OF DROWNING IN THE ROCHDALE CANAL

 

 

William Haigh was the son of Henry Haigh and Hannah of Slack Farm, Calderbrook, and the grandson of WILLIAM HAIGH ALIAS BUTTY. Most of this family were involved in the quarrying business that had been started by Butty.

 

Butty had 3 sons; Reuben, born in 1838 at Sabden, Henry born 1840 at Peckswood, Todmorden and William born 1842 at Marshaw Bridge in Yorkshire. Reuben, the youngest brother, served in the army and moved away from Littleborough. He married and ended his days at Chorlton-cum-Hardy as a fencing instructor. William, the eldest brother died in 1873.

   

Henry, the middle brother, married Hannah Roberts and stayed at Slack Farm working in the quarry with his father, and stayed on at the farm after his father died in 1882. Henry and Hannah had 3 sons who, like their forebears, carried on the tradition of quarrying.

 

Slack Farm, Calderbrook

   

John, their eldest son, married Emily Crowther in 1891. She was a Todmorden girl who had moved with her family to live at Rock Nook, near Summit. They lived at Slack Farm at least until John's father died in 1902.

Robert was their next son born in 1872 and also lived at Slack Farm working as a carter for the family business.

   

Timbercliffe Farm, Littleborough

William, their eldest son born in 1875, was to meet a very sad and untimely end. He never married and by 1932 was living at Timbercliffe Farm. He was employed by Fothergill and Harvey as a mason, and at the time of his death was working at Sladen Wood Mill as a night watchman.
   

Sladen Wood Mill

   
The accident happened after William had left the Summit Inn on his way back to work on Wednesday evening the 2nd of November 1932. He would more than likely have left the pub by the back door.
   

 

 

Summit Inn rear

Summit Inn
   

William went by the way of the towpath on the Rochdale Canal, which was the quickest way to reach mill. He fell into the canal somewhere along this stretch of the canal and was found the morning after.

   

He was obviously a well thought of man in the area as can be seen from the article below, and it was a tragic end to his life. His death was reported fully in the Rochdale Observer on Saturday November 5th 1932 as follows:

A SINGULAR FATALITY

LITTLEBOROUGH MAN FALLS INTO CANAL WHILST CLEANING HIS PIPE

A Littleborough man - Mr. William Haigh (59) of Timbercliffe Farm, Summit - fell into the Rochdale Canal at Summit on Wednesday evening whilst cleaning his pipe with a knife and was drowned. His body was discovered on Thursday morning. Clenched in his right hand was a pocket knife with the small blade opened and in his left hand was a pipe.  

At an inquest held on the body in the Birch Hill Hospital yesterday afternoon the County Coroner (Mr. E. N. Molesworth) entered a verdict of accidental death, stating that it was a case where he was able to say with absolute satisfaction that it was not a case of suicide. He was perfectly certain as to what had happened. The deceased had had his supper and was returning to his duties when the fatality happened. His nearest way was along the canal embankment. Apparently he was cleaning out his pipe and fell into eight to ten feet of water. It was a very sad case and showed how careful everyone should be when walking along the canal embankment in the dark.

Evidence of identification was given by Mr. Alfred Hallsworth of 5, Schofield Street, Summit, who stated that Mr. Haigh was employed by Messrs. Fothergill and Harvey and lived alone at his farm where he had two head of cattle and a number of poultry. He had always had excellent health and was a temperate man. Occasionally he had a drink at the Summit Inn and would have to go along the canal-towing path in going from the inn to his work.

 

A HEALTHY AND JOVIAL MAN

 

Mr. Thomas Smethurst, licensee of the Summit Inn, stated that the deceased and himself had been friends for nearly seventeen years. So far as the witness knew Mr. Haigh had always had good health and was very jovial. Shortly before eight o'clock on Wednesday evening he had called at the inn on his way to work and drank one glass of beer. As he was leaving the witness asked him to return for his supper, which was not an unusual thing.

About 10-10pm. Mr. Haigh entered the kitchen of the inn and sat down to his supper with which he drank one glass of beer. When he left at 10-45 pm. He was quite sober. He made no complaint and joked with the witness's son. When the deceased left he was wearing a big, bulky overcoat. It was a dark night. The shortest way to Sladen Wood Mill would be along the canal embankment.

Mr. Arnold Fielding, manager at the Sladen Wood Mill, deposed that Mr. Haigh had been in the firm's employ three years as a mason, but owing to the spinners strike, he commenced work on October 31st. as a night watchman. His duties were from 8pm until 4am. He was a trustworthy man.

Miss Lena Kershaw of Moorgate Farm, Littleborough, stated that she saw the body of the deceased in the canal at Summit at 9-30am on Thursday. Information was given to the police.

P.C. Heaton, who recovered the body from the water, said the deceased was fully clothed with the exception of his cap. There were no marks or indications on the embankment to show how he got into the water. There was a drop from eight to ten feet of water from the towing path.

 

William is buried at St. James, Calderbrook with his parents.

 

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