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100 years ago in Eccles: Errand boy, 13, killed in Patricroft bridge tragedy


A rather sad case from the pages of the Eccles Journal of September 1915 tells the tragic story of errand boy James Shepherd, who lost his life on Patricroft Bridge.

The bridge, which crosses over the Bridgewater Canal, lies at the junction of Worsley Road with Liverpool Road and the steep-climbing Barton Lane, and has been the scene of many a serious accident over the years.

An inquest held at Eccles and Patricroft Hospital on Cromwell Road heard that on Wednesday 15 September 1915 young James was riding his bicycle from Peel Green to Eccles after making deliveries for Mr Woodhead, a chemist on Church Street, Eccles.

PC Tully told the court that he was on traffic duty on the bridge, and at 7.20pm saw a motor lorry approaching him from Peel Green.

James, 13, apparently tried to squeeze his rickety bicycle between the lorry and a horse and cart, but got his wheel stuck in a tram line, causing it to skid and throw him into the path of the motor lorry.

James was rushed to Patricroft Hospital with a badly lacerated leg and severe internal injuries.

Dr Mort was first to attended to the boy but found that he had suffered massive blood loss. James sadly died on his way to the operating theatre.

An unnamed Police Constable was sent to James’ home in Birkdale Grove for the an unenviable task of informing the parents, Mr and Mrs Shepherd.

At the time all they knew that was the teenager had been involved in a serious accident and was in Patricroft Hospital.

Even more tragically by the time his mother arrived at the hospital James was already dead.

It is hard to stomach, but this sad death was the second tragedy to befall Mrs Shepherd that year.

In June 1915 her older son, who was serving in the First World War with the 5th Manchester Regiment, was killed in the ill-fated naval attack on Turkish forces in the Dardanelles.

At the inquest the Coroner, Mr W. Sellers, said other riders had been known to fall of their cycles at this bridge but James’ death was the first fatality that he had dealt with.

The Eccles Corporation had watered the road three times that day; this was standard practice because horses found it easier to climb the gradient if wet.

Chief Inspector Laskey confirmed that this particular part of the road was watered at 5.15am and again at 2.15pm and 5.15pm.

Owing to its gradient, it dried more quickly than other areas, but if not watered there were complaints of dust.

Mr Laskey agreed with the Coroner that he did not think that the road being wet had any bearing on this accident.

The lorry driver, Mr George Smith who lived in Renshaw Street, Eccles, told the court that he saw the young boy attempt to pass him, but he was driving slowly as the road was wet that night.

Summing up, the Coroner told the court no blame could be attached to any parties and he sympathised with the deceased boy’s parents, returning a verdict of accidental death.

Interestingly enough, the jury asked the court if it was possible that a new Patricroft bridge could be built to prevent similar tragedies?

The idea was played down by the Town Clerk, Mr E. Parkes, who said: “Yes, but the only question is where’s the money coming from?”

To this day, serious accidents still occur at the Patricroft Bridge junction.

Spare a thought for young James Shepherd the next time you pass over it.

Main image © Salford Local History Library

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Tony Flynn

SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.