110-YEARS-AGO: ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF PATRICROFT WOMAN STILL RAISES QUESTIONS
Last week I wrote a story about a murder/suicide that happend in Eccles, November 1920, it was met with mixed results, many more said they enjoyed the story than the few including a distant member of the family who complained that she hadn't been contacted and so I removed it.
This week I was contacted by a good friend, Angie Shepherd who told me the strange, story of the death of her Great Grandmother in Eccles, 120 years ago, she was aware of this family tragedy but wanted to learn more, so she turned detective and tracked down the newspaper reports that covered the death and her inquest in Patricroft.
Margaret Salmon, 38 was a mother of seven children and lived at Pembroke Avenue, Patricroft with her husband, Charles and a lodger in the house, George Mather.
Following an evening of drinking in August 1910, in which she and Mather visited several public houses in Patricroft, he left for home and Margaret stayed in the pub, she returned home around 11pm and went upstairs to bed.
She was found dead the next morning at the foot of the stairs and an inquest into her death was held at Patricroft Congregational School with the County Coroner Mr J. F. Price in charge of proceedings and Mr D. Timperley was the foreman of the jury.
Charles Salmon, her husband took the stand and his wife was in fairly good health but had, fainting. fits at times, but as a rule she always recovered and never fell over, but added, "she was very much addicted to drink".
He went to sleep on a sofa in the front room, telling the Coroner that he slept there because he had to be up early for work in the morning at Pendlebury, Margaret had gone to bed at about 11pm.
Charles was then awakened at 3am by George Mather asking him if he had seen Margaret who was lying on a hearth rug in the room, cold and showing no sign of life, he called in a next door neighbour for help and went for the police and a Doctor Thorpe who pronounced her dead.
He then told the court that he thought she must have been coming downstairs for a drink and had missed her step and that, Mather had told him that, he had found the body when he stepped on her on the stairs, and had then placed her on a hearth rug near the fire.
When asked about the bruising on her neck, he said that the stairs had an awkward turn on them and were very steep, and she may have hit her head on the skirting board.
George Mather then took the stand and told the jury that he and the deceased had been out drinking from 8.30pm until 10.45pm and that they had, had taken a drink in, The Black Boy, The Diamond and The Bird in Hand' he left because he had, taken enough but the deceased wanted to stay, he could not say how much they had drunk, he went home and straight to bed without noticing Charles Salmon asleep on the sofa.
He had occasion to get up at 3am and at the bottom of the stairs he put his foot on her body, she had her feet on the bottom step and her head against the skirting board between the kitchen and parlour door, she was cold and so he put her close to the fire, he noticed a cut above her eye but no other bruising and then awoke Charles Salmon.
Mrs Yates the next door neighbour then gave evidence, telling the jury that the Salmon family had lived in the house for just over a month, she had never seen the deceased in drink but had heard that, "she took it"
At 3.15am she was called into the house and saw the deceased on a hearth rug, there was a scar on the right side of her face and neck as if she had rubbed against something and a wound over the eye. adding that she heard no noises during the night and had, never heard any quarrelling there.
Finally P. C. Davies told the jury that he was called to the house at 3.40 am, the deceased was lay on a hearth rug, Dr Thorpe told him she had been dead some time, he too noticed the cuts and abrasions on her face, tellingly he said he knew the woman and she was of intemperate habits and that he had, seen Mr Salmon at night trying to get her home, also the stirs in the house were, very steep and there was no handrail.
Summing up the Coroner told the jury that if they were satisfied that the death was due to an accident, it did not matter much what the cause was, although they could have a post mortem if they wished and that both the deceased and Mr Mather were drunk.
A verdict of Accidental death was recorded on poor, Margaret Salmon and she was buried in Weaste cemetery.
It would be far too easy suggest that George Mather had pushed, Margaret down the stairs in a drunken argument, nobody including the neighbour heard any noises, it is more probable that in her befuddled state she has come downstairs, possibly for the toilet and has slipped, banged her head and died, we will never know.
I leave the last words to Angie Shepherd
"I feel sad about what happened to her and that she died so young and that my Nana lost her mother at the age of 10. We will never know what really happened that night, for me there are unanswered questions but for now, I'm grateful that we still have a couple of photographs of her and I visit her grave in Weaste quite often"