John Higginson

The following extract is from the Lisburn Standard dated 14th May 1910.

Fatal Tramway Accident
Tragic death of Mr. J. Higginson, Dunmurry

A melancholy accident occurred in Gt. Victoria Street, Belfast, on the 7th inst, which has resulted in the death of Mr. John Higginson, Ashley, Dunmurry. It appears that Mr. Higginson, when crossing the street, was knocked down by a tram car and rendered unconscious, and succumbed to his injuries in the Royal Victoria Hospital later in the evening. The sad occurrence is universally deplored throughout the district, as it removes from our midst one who was esteemed by all on account of his gentleness and generosity of disposition, his integrity of purpose, and the other qualities which constitute a sterling Christian character.

The deceased gentleman, who was the brother of Mr. William Higginson, J.P., Dundrod, was just 56 years of age. In the commercial circles of the city he was well known. He carried on the business of commission agent at 50 North Street. His strong and forcible personality impressed his many friends, and nothing was more apparent in his character than his singleness of purpose, sterling integrity and fairness in dealing in commercial affairs. In the work of the Presbyterian Church, the late Mr. Higginson was particularly interested, and was for may years prior to residing at Dunmurry prominently identified with the Townsend Street congregation, of which he was an elder and Sabbath-school superintendent, while for the past six years he took an active part in the affairs of the Dunmurry congregation, of which his son-in-law, Rev. Robert Davey, is the minister, and was particularly devoted to the work of the Sabbath-school, and of the local branch of the Protestant Total Abstinence Society, of which he was a vice-president, and at whose meeting last Friday evening a vote of condolence was passed to his relatives. The late Mr. Higginson, it might be mentioned, took part in the Presbytery meeting which was held in Belfast last week. While he did not prominently identify himself with matters of a political nature, the deceased gentleman was known to be a staunch Unionist. During his residence in Dunmurry he gained a warm corner in the hearts of all classes of the community. He is survived by his wife, two sons, and six daughters, to all of whom much sympathy is at present expressed.

The Inquest

On Wednesday the Belfast City Coroner held an inquest relative to the accident which resulted in Mr, Higginson’s death. Mr Nathaniel Tughan and Mr. R.T. martin appeared for the next-of-kin, and Mr. Frank Kerr for the Tramways and Electricity Committee for the Corporation.

John Higginson, a son of the deceased, said his father was 56 years of age, and had carried on business as a commission agent and merchant in North Street, Belfast.

Thomas Campbell, tramway conductor, said the deceased got on his car at the junction on Friday evening, about half past four, and left it in Great Victoria Street. He then walked towards the nearest footpath, but before reaching it he suddenly turned and tried to cross the street opposite Hope Street. Witness heard another car coming towards the city, and he shouted to deceased to return. Mr. Higginson did not take any notice, however and he was knocked down by the incoming car, which pulled up opposite to where he lay. The motorman could not have pulled up any sooner, and he must have been applying the brakes before the deceased was struck. The deceased was walking along “in a thinking sort of way” when the car knocked him down.

Mr Tughan – There is no doubt that the car was going slowly? – it was not going very fast.

What would you call fast? – Twelve or fourteen miles an hour.

And what would you call slow? – About four miles an hour.

Was this car going more than four miles an hour? – It might have been going five or six or up to seven miles, but I was hat much excited I could not notice it.

William Kierman, a van man, residing at 307 Cupar Street, who witnessed the accident, said the tram by which the deceased was knocked down was going at a fast rate. When within about fifteen yards of the deceased the motorman sounded his gong three times, but Mr. Higginson, who was crossing the street in a slanting direction, paid no attention, and he was knocked down by the car, the right front of which struck him. Before he was struck the deceased raised his hands as though to protect himself, but it was then too late. He had his head down while he was walking, and he would perhaps be prevented from hearing the gong owing to the direction from which the wind was blowing. In the opinion of witness the motorman could have stopped the car before it struck deceased.

Mr. Kerr – If he could have stopped the car, why didn’t he do so?

Witness – I suppose he thought the man could get across the street safely.

Robert Creighton, 20 Gresham Street, who also saw the accident, said after the deceased was knocked down, the car was stopped immediately. In his opinion the motorman did all he could to avert the danger. Before the accident occurred he was "slowing up" the car as it was then approaching a stopping place.

James Richardson, motorman on the car by which the deceased was knocked down said he had been in the employment of the Tramways and Electricity Company for 8 years, and had reached the highest grade in this particular branch of the service. Before the accident occurred he had the handbrake half on, and, when the deceased was struck, witness stopped the car in half its length. He did all in his power to prevent the accident.

Mr. Tughan – What rate were you going?

Witness – I could not exactly say, but it might be six or seven miles an hour.

Dr. Dickson of the Royal Victoria Hospital, said Mr. Higginson was unconscious when he was admitted to that institution, and he died the same evening. The cause of death was cerebral haemorrhage, following fracture of the base of the skull.

This was all the evidence.

Mr Kerr, in addressing the jury, said on behalf of the Tramways and Electricity Committee he wished to express their sincere sympathy with the relatives of the late Mr. Higginson. The committee had already passed a resolution of sympathy which had been transmitted to the friend of the deceased.

Mr Tughan said his contention was that there had been a want of care on the part of the motorman. When the cars were approaching these stopping places the speed ought to be reduced to something less than six or seven miles an hour.
The Coroner said he would like to join with Mr. Kerr in the expression of sympathy with the relatives of the deceased, who was well known and greatly respected in the city. As for the circumstances of the accident, he (the Coroner) knew the motorman personally, and he had always regarded him as one of the most careful drivers in the employment of the Corporation. However, it was for the jury to say if they thought he had been guilty of carelessness. He (the Coroner) sometimes thought that the tramcars went too fast, but the speed was limited by Board of Trade regulations.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death, and added that no blame was attached to anyone for what had occurred.
The Foreman said the members of the jury deeply regretted the accident, and they wished him to say how much they sympathised with the relatives of the late Mr. Higginson in their sad bereavement.

Mr. William Higginson, J.P., a brother of the deceased, said everybody had been very kind and sympathetic to them in their loss, and he greatly appreciated what had been said by the foreman of the jury.

Memorial Service

Rev. Wm. Corkey, M.A., preaching in Townsend Street Church, Belfast on the 8th inst., made reference to the death of Mr. Higginson. After preaching form Luke xiv., 27 on the Cross in the Christian’s life, he said their hearts went out that day in deepest sympathy to the family which under the providence of God had suffered such an unexpected and sore bereavement. The startling news of the death of Mr Higginson would be heard with regret by the whole Presbyterian Church in Ireland. How could he speak of his work and worth? He had sterling qualities of head and heart. Integrity and uprightness of conduct were the main features of his character. He was never ashamed to bear the Cross of the despised Nazarene, and his whole life breathed the spirit of Christ. His candour, honesty of purpose, and generous actions sprang from a sincere love of Christ. His connection with the church dated back to the early days of Dr. Johnston’s ministry whom he was ordained as an elder. They remembered with gratitude his steadfast devotion to the old church. Even when he removed out of the city he still continued to be a loyal supporter of the church and a generous contributor to all its funds. On the previous Sabbath he sat with then at the Communion of the Lord’s Supper, and his bright eager face was an inspiration to the preacher. For many years the Sabbath school of which he was the superintendent was his special sphere of work. He loved to labour among the children and many a young heart had been quickened by his earnest loving words. He also acted as convenor for the district mission, and his whole desire was to see the careless brought to church. He took an active part I the church courts, and had been appointed to represent that congregation at he coming meeting of the General Assembly. They would treasure up the memory of his life. It would be an inspiration to them and a call to greater devotion in the cause of Christ.

In the afternoon there was a special memorial service in the church at which the children from the different schools connected with the church, as well as a large number of the members of the congregation, attended to show their respect for the memory of Mr. Higginson. Rev. Jas McGranaghan, a former minister of the congregation, gave a suitable address, and referred to the usefulness of Mr. Higginson’s life and the unceasing help and encouragement he received from him during his ministry.

The remains of the late Mr. Higginson were interred on Monday in the family burying ground at Dundrod, amid many manifestations of sorrow.

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