Dennis O’Keeffe

Peter Bloomfield, Margaret Foote and Colin Mansell, Martin O’Keeffe and David Hanson

Platelayer. Knocked down and killed by a passenger train near Haggerston station. Verdict: accidental death. 28 Dec 1906. £215 3s 6d paid compensation to his representatives. [RAIL 529/63, 6 Feb 1907, Loco Com Mins 13182, 13186.]

O'Keeffe D Death Cert
[GRO:  Deaths Mar qtr 1907 Shoreditch, 1c, 89.]

O’Keeffe Dennis of 10 Oriental Terrace, Grundy Street, Poplar, Middlesex, died 28 December 1906 at Regent’s Canal near Haggerston Bridge. Middlesex Administration, London 31 January to Julia O’Keefe widow. Effects £4 7s. 1d. [Probate Register 1907, page 62.]

O’Keeffe. Platelayer, Shoreditch. 16 years service,* killed Dec 1906. Widow, Julia, aged 39, seven children (19, 17, 15, 12, 10, 6, and 2). She received £215 compensation from the Company, and kept a small shop which worked at a loss. In Jul 1907 RBI awarded her a gratuity of £10. The gratuity was cancelled because her mode of living rendered her unworthy of assistance. [Minutes 12126 & 12154, RAIL 1166/109; Case 1575, RAIL 1166/85, f103.]

O'Keeffe D 166:85 f103
[TNA: RAIL 1166/85, f103.]

1911 Census shows Julia living at 20 Sophia Street Poplar E, as house-keeper to an engine driver.

O'Keeffe J 1911 Census
[TNA through Find MyPast/Ancestry: RG 14/1729.]

Dennis died in the Regent’s Canal near Haggerston Bridge. Possible explanations were:

Peter Bloomfield – the NLR had amphibious trains;

Colin Mansell – an early, but unsuccessful, version of Crossrail, using the formation of Regent’s Canal as part of the railway. The NLR, being innovative and forward thinking, offered the services of a platelayer in this exciting new development. Denis O’Keeffe was duly appointed and track laying began prior to draining the canal. He just forgot to take his snorkel.

The Board of Trade inspecting officer in his report of 19 December 1906 stated that he was unable to discover any reason why O’Keefe should have left the position of safety which he took up on the first warning, and he could only attribute the accident to an extraordinary want of caution on his part.  He went on to state that if the flagman had been using a horn it was possible that his second warning might have been effective.  It was satisfactory to learn that the NLR had decided to to provide horns for the use of all “look-out” men in future. [Report by J H Armitage to the Assistant Secretary, Railway Department, Board of Trade, 11 February 1907.]

There was, however, an inquest which was held at the Shoreditch Coroner’s Court on Tuesday 1 January 1907.  Police Inspector Perks of the NLR stated that the bridge over the Regent’s Canal of Haggerston was being refloored.  On Friday morning, 28 December, in order that the carpenters could get to work, a gang of men were shovelling snow through the gap made by taking up two boards into the canal.  Alfred Harwood, flagman, said that he gave the warning of the train and the driver whistled three times. O’Keeffe got out of the way but suddenly stepped back, was caught by the buffer and thrown through the gap in the bridge into the canal beneath.  O’Keeffe was quite sober.  The planks were very slippery. Driver T Clark said that he whistled to give the alarm, but knew of no reason why O’Keefe should step back.  The Coroner concluded that every precaution seemed to have been taken. A verdict of accidental death was recorded.  [Shoreditch Observer, Hackney Express and Bethnal Green Chronicle, 5 January, 1907, page 3.]

*. The 1901 census shows him as a platelayer with the GWR in Newport, Monmouthshire. Hence of the sixteen years service, at the most only 6¾ years would have been with the NLR.