As would be expected the factory floor in the early 20th century was a dangerous place, and as such many accidents happened there, sadly some of these proved fatal. Below are a few such stories from Limerick.

  • Three men were in the seed loft at Denny’s bacon factory at 5:30 in the evening of March 6 1895. The men were getting ready to leave for home when two of them John Lynch and Frank Delaney started to play “clowns”, Lynch stood on a barrel and attempted to climb on Delaney’s shoulders. The weight of John Lynch was too much for Delaney to support so he staggered and this caused John to overbalance and fall off Delaney’s shoulders. John Lynch hit the ground with his head and called out “Oh Frank, I am done” these would be his last words as he passed away soon after. Frank Delaney was arrested for his part in contributing to the death of John Lynch, but after evidence was heard at the inquest the charges were dropped.
  • One of the many workers at Cleeve’s condensed milk factory at Lansdowne, which was the largest factory of its kind in the United Kingdom in the later 1900s, was a 15-year-old boy called Michael Frawley. Michael had left his family home on High Road, Thomondgate for work on the morning of the 17 April 1899, as he had done for the eleven months previously.He set about his work of carrying sheets of tin to the workers of the factory who in turn made them into tin cans, for the condensed milk. One of the rooms he passed through was filled with machines all worked by leather bands from a principal shaft line, but on this day at about half past four, one of the bands had become loose from a pulley causing a machine to stop. The foreman, a Michael Collins, retrieved a ladder to remedy this, as he placed the ladder against the machine; then he was called away by another employee for a moment. On turning around Mr Collins, noticed that Michael Frawley was half way up the ladder. He called to Michael to get down, but instead of doing so his respond was “let us get the tin cut”, which was the purpose of that particular machine.No sooner than it was said, than the pulley trapped the sleeve of Michael Frawley’s coat. Before the machine could come to a full stop, Michael had become entangled in the machine. A car was sent to his house where his sister and brother-in-law Matthew Loughlin were collected and they comforted the boy.At twenty past five, Dr. Fogerty arrived at the factory where he did all he could for the boy before having him removed to Barrington’s Hospital where he died two hours later.The following day at the inquest into the Michael’s death, Matthew Loughlin would accuse Michael Collins of sending the boy up the ladder in turn killing him. This was dismissed when interviews the employees of the factory were taken.

Outside view of Cleeve’s Factory

Cleeves Factory

  • On Saturday the 25 May 1901, Michael Renahan a sixty-five year old labourer from Huret’s Lane was working in a store of Mr J.P. Evans & Co., on Robert Street. William Doyle and he were in the process of heaving a mowing machine from the ground floor to the loft; when they had raised it to a sufficient height, Mr. Frawley who was waiting in the loft to pull the machine in asked them to lower it a little. Michael Renahan left William Doyle, for a moment, holding the winch handle but the weight was to much for one man, so as Michael returned and the rotating winch handle struck him in the stomach, sending him head first into a wall and killing him instantly. The jury at his inquest considered him too old for his post.
  • There were very two similar fatal accidents in two of the bacon factories of the city during May 1904. On the 5th May 1904 John Hogan a 35-year-old married man with five children who lived at Pump lane. He had been working at W.J. Shaw & son, Mulgrave Street for twenty years. At ten in the morning he was oiling the coupling of some machinery in the black pudding department. When one of the wheels caught his jacket and he was twisted round rapidly his feet at each rotation striking an overhead beam. Immediate action was taken to stop the machine but before this could be achieved, the man’s legs had been broken off completely. He died almost instantly after his release from the grip of the whirling wheels. His funeral took place the following day at St. Michael’s church and he was buried in Mount Saint Laurence cemetery, all the management and employees of W.J. Shaw & son factory were present.

Inside view of Shaw’s Factory

shaw sausage room

  • Later on the 28 May 1904, in the sausage department of Matterson & sons bacon factory, on Roches Street, William Young, was employed as sausage filler. On this day he noticed that one of the machines was not working, so decided to take it upon himself to remove the belt. He had been witnessed removing the belt using a ladder three times prior to this. According to factory regulations, a foreman should have used a pole to carry out the job of removing the belt in the evenings, as it was a specialized job. William Young got a ladder and placed it against the machine in an attempted to remove the belt.  He began to climb the ladder, when his smock caught in the belt at the top and he was carried around the machine at a speed of 135 revolutions per minute.When Dr George Myles attended the scene William Young was being removed from the machine, it was discovered that both his legs had been separated from his body just below the knee and that he would have died more or less instantaneously from the shock of his injuries. It was decided at the inquest that no blame should be attached to the firm or management as William Young acted without authorization. The matter of providing for the widow of the deceased was left up to the generosity of the owner of the factory, Mr Joseph Matterson.

Inside view of Matterson’s Factory

matterson tin room

The first English Employer’s Liability Act was passed in 1880. The original Act was very weak. In fact, the Act only provided benefits for seven out of one hundred workers. In 1897, the British legislature proposed new legislation to provide a remedy for the injured worker. The authors of the legislation sought to have injured workers compensated for each industrial accident and to make the economic burden for the compensation system part of the cost of production. The employee was not required to prove negligence on the part of the employer but rather had to demonstrate that the injury had occurred during the employment situation. The Act was limited to certain occupations, which included factory labour, mine and quarry activities and engineering. Neither the original Employers’ Liability Act of 1880 nor the Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1897, the latter having been intended to encourage greater attention to safety in the industrial environment, was successful in reducing the number of industrial accidents in the British work place.