The death of Joseph GERRARD, St Helens Football Club, 1897

Liverpool Mercury, 16th Aug, 1897.

Football fatality at St Helens

Death in a practise match

A sad fatality which cast gloom over the football circles in St Helens and district, occurred on the ground of the St Helens Football Club, Knowsley Rd, on Saturday afternoon, when the opening practise match for the approaching season was fixed to take place.

About 200 spectators assembled to witness the game, which had been arranged between the first team of the club and a scratch fifteen, captained by William CROSS, the well known captain of the team for many years. Included in the ranks of the first team was Joseph GERRARD, a hard working forward who resided at 146 Park Rd. The game started shortly before 5.30pm, but it had not been in progress many minutes when it was noticed that GERRARD, who had rushed up with other players on his side to the goal line of the opponents, had suddenly collapsed and sat on the ground as if winded. He immediately afterwards turned over on his back, and several players went to his assistance, and adopted the usual methods of restoration, but it was seen that the case was a serious one, and CROSS the captain despatched a bicyclist to the surgery of Dr GREY. GERRARD, however, quickly became worse, and to the great surprise and pain of his companions, expired in the course of a few minutes. When Dr GREY arrived he pronounced life was extinct, but could express no opinion of the cause of death.

The police reported no marks on the body and on the players being interviewed all agreed there had been no rough play, and GERRARD never kicked or tackled in any way, the general opinion was that he had overstrained himself and died from failure of the heart. The body was afterwards removed to his home by horse ambulance.

A particularly sad feature of the death of GERRARD is that he was the only support of a family of four brothers and sisters.

Constable LYON had found in the coat of GERRARD a copy of a periodical which offers a weekly sum to the relatives of any football player meeting his death whilst playing football, however the coupon had not been signed by GERRARD. Dr O’KEEFE and Dr CASEY have examined the body on behalf of the relatives, but cannot express an opinion as to the cause of death. The coroner Mr S. BRIGHOUSE has ordered Dr GREY to make a post mortem examination, Dr O’KEEFE to be present on behalf of the relatives. The inquest will be held at St Helens Town Hall on Monday.

Liverpool Mercury, 17th Aug, 1897.

Football fatality at St Helens, inquest

The inquest at St Helens Town Hall yesterday, before Mr S. BRIGHOUSE, county coroner on the body of Joseph GERRARD, collier, 146 Park Rd, killed whilst playing football, on the Boundary Rd, ground, St Helens on Saturday afternoon.

Annie GERRARD, 146 Park Rd, said the deceased was her brother he was a collier and was 20 years old. He left home on Saturday afternoon to play football, and was brought home dead. He had always been strong and healthy.

Dr GREY said he was called to see the deceased about 5.30pm on Saturday. He had been removed into the tent at the football ground, and was then dead, he had made a post mortem examination on the body that morning. Dr O’KEEFE was present on behalf of the relatives. The body was muscular and well developed, with no signs of injury. The neck was much swollen and one of the upper cervical vertebra could be felt abnormally prominent. The heart was empty and healthy, the valves free from disease. The brain was healthy and not congested. On cutting down over the cervical vertebra, it was found that the third cervical vertebra was very prominent, showing that it had been distinctly displaced backwards, causing pressure on the spinal cord, and so caused death. In his opinion death was due to dislocation of the neck.

Coroner, “Would that be a sudden death?”

Dr GREY, “From what I have heard the man walked some distance”

Coroner, “We have yet no history on the case, but it is reported by the police that he was proceeding to his position in the field when he fell”

Dr GRAY, “But there was no fall before that”

Coroner, “We will hear of the afterwards. Do you think he would live any length of time after receiving the injury which caused the dislocation?”

Dr GRAY, “Not if it was a complete dislocation, I think it may have been partial at first, and movement would have completed it. He could not have lived for any length of time”

Coroner, “I assume this must have arisen from injuries?”

Dr GREY, “Yes Sir”

Coroner, “Did Dr O’KEEFE agree with you as to the cause of death?”

Dr GREY, “Yes Sir”

William CROSS, licensed victualler, Duke St, the well known county half back, said he was a member of the club and the deceased was also a member. They were both playing at the opening practise match on Saturday. The game had been in progress about, 10 minutes, the team in which GERRARD was playing as a forward, made a rush towards the goal line of the opponents, to get a try, one of the defending side touched down the ball, however GERRARD with two or three others rushed up. GERRARD fell with the others, but as far as I could see he was not fallen upon, by any of the others, nor did he fall violently. When the ball was made dead, it was being taken by me to be placed in its position in the field when GERRARD after walking four or five yards, dropped in a sitting position to the ground, and immediately fell backwards and died.

Coroner, “Were you on the same side as GERRARD?”

Witness, “No”

Coroner, “Was the play according to the rules of the game?”

Witness, “Yes, the general opinion was that he had caught someone’s elbow in the rush amongst the lot of them and that he was winded, until it was found to be something more serious when he did not come round“.

Coroner, “In this rush for the ball you saw nothing that was illegitimate as far as the rules of the game are concerned?”

Witness, “Oh no, nothing at all”

Robert DOBERTY, 29 Duke St, a member of St Helens, F.C, he was playing at the opening practise match on Saturday and was on the same side as witness [first team] He and others rushed over their opponents line to try and gain possession of the leather, towards which one or two of their opponents ran. He thought a young man named MELLING dropped the ball, and GERRARD he thought, must have fallen over him and caught his head on the ground. GERRARD got up and walked down the field when he dropped to the ground, under circumstances stated by the witness CROSS. His companions did everything possible for him at first thinking he was winded”

Coroner, “Did you say the game was being played according to the recognised rules?”

Witness, “Yes Sir”

Coroner, “Did you see anything in your opinion that was illegitimate?”

Witness, “Nor Sir, nothing at all, it was a very quiet practise match, all fair play”

Mr J. H. HOUGHTON, secretary of the club, said he was present on the field on Saturday afternoon. The match was one between the first team and the scratch team of other members of the club. As soon as they saw that the deceased was more than merely winded, CROSS, the captain arranged for a cyclist on the ground to go for Dr GRAY. The game was being legitimately played according to the rules”

Coroner, “Did you see anything to complain of on either side?”

Witness, “No, it was scarcely a game, more running about. I have seen far rougher play in a legitimate straightforward game.”

Coroner, “You play under the Rugby rules?”

Witness, “Yes Sir”

Police constable LYON, deposed that he was called to the field and found GERRARD lying dead in the tent. His body was removed home on the ambulance. In the bag of GERRARD he found a current copy of the periodical, with an insurance policy in it against accidents arising from football play etc.

Dr O’KEEFE, deposed he was present when Dr GRAY, made the post mortem examination and agreed with the finding that death was due to dislocation of the neck.

Coroner, “And is the story as told in the evidence consistent with the cause of the dislocation, falling over another player and striking the head on the ground?”

Witness, “Yes Sir that would cause partial dislocation”

The Coroner addressing the jury said they had the facts before them, and it was up to them to say if they thought that death had been brought about by injuries received whilst at play, and whether the injuries were accidental. If they thought the game had been played legitimately then the injuries were accidental.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death” The Foreman also said the jury considered that official steps must be taken to secure the benefits from the insurance coupon found in the possession of GERRARD.

Mr J. H. HOUGHTON, secretary of the club, said there had already been a meeting of the committee and as GERRARD had been the sole support of his family, his mother and father being dead, they had decided to play a benefit match early in September. They had already made a grant towards the expenses which would be incurred and they would do all they could to secure the periodical insurance.

Liverpool Mercury, 19th Aug, 1897.

Football fatality at St Helens

The interment of the remains of Joseph GERRARD, the well known member of the St Helens Football Club, who was killed whilst playing football in the opening practise match on the ground of St Helens Football Club on Saturday afternoon took place at St Helens Cemetery, yesterday afternoon. There was a large attendance of sympathising friends and representatives of the local football clubs, including, Messers W. SANDERS, W. CROSS, A. E. HOUGHTON, HOWARD, W. GRAHAM, C. LEWIS, R. DOHERTY, W. WHITELEY, T. SUDLOW, J. FAIRCLOUGH, R. O’HARA, MEASURES etc.

St Helens, F.C, Mr W. ELLISON [secretary] and Mr J. GLADWIN, St Helens Recs F.C. etc.

A large number of persons assembled along the route, from the home of the deceased in Park Rd to the cemetery. The service was conducted by Rev J. M. COURTENAY. The coffin which bore the inscription, “Joseph GERRARD, died August 14th, 1897, aged 20 years” was covered with beautiful wreaths, including one from the committee of St Helens, F.C, the committee of St Helens Recs, F.C, W. CROSS, [captain, Outing Club, Mr and Mrs T. SUDLOW, friends Park Rd, Mr and Mrs LEA, his sisters etc.

In connection with the untimely end of GERRARD, and the unfortunate position in which his younger brothers and sisters, who were dependant upon him, have been placed, arrangements have been completed for the St Helens Club and the St Helens Recs Club to play a combined team against Runcorn on the Recs ground for the benefit of the relatives on Thursday evening the 2nd of September. A committee of members of both clubs have been chosen to make the necessary arrangements, Mr J. W. JOHNSON secretary of the St Helens Half Holiday Football Club has also arranged a benefit match against the St Helens, Butchers on the St Helens club ground.

Chief Constable WOOD, OF St Helens has been in communication with the proprietors of the “Spare Moment” in reference to the insurance of £156 for cases of death whilst playing football, cricket etc. A copy of that periodical was found in the bag of GERRARD after the accident. A reply has been received and the matter will be decided on Saturday next.

Liverpool Mercury, 23rd, Aug, 1897.

Football fatality at St Helens

Chief constable WOOD, of St Helens, received a communication yesterday morning from “Spare Moments”, a copy of which periodical was found upon the deceased Joseph GERRARD, killed during the practice match at St Helens Football Club. The letter states that the proprietors have decided to waive any objection to the coupon not having been signed by the deceased and to the absence of proof of the purchase of the copy in question, and to pay the full amount of the insurance money under the terms set out in the coupon, £156 at the rate of £1 per week for 5 years, a cheque for £13 being the first 13 instalments of the insurance money was enclosed with direction that it should be applied to the immediate needs of the family, as the chief constable may in his discretion deem best for them. The sum covers the period 21st August to 28th November after which date the sum of £1 per week will be remitted until the full amount is paid. The chief constable has arranged that the eldest sister of the deceased will call at the police station every Saturday, commencing 28th inst when £1 will be handed over to her.


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