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Doncaster Features: 1845 River Don Boating Accident in Guardian

This article was dredged up in The Observer, The Guardian's Sunday Sister paper recently. It was in the form of a question and answer, relating to the 'by electricity' reference. It's a curious use of language, and we welcome discussion in our doncaster forums.

Here's the article reproduced here:

18th June, 1845 from the Illustrated Newspaper.

On Sunday much excitement was caused in Doncaster by a rumour that nine young men had accidentally fallen out of a boat into the River Don, and that three or four of them were drowned.

This report reached the parish church shortly after the Reverand Dr. Sharpe had ascended the pulpit to preach the sermon. The sexton was observed running about the centre aisles of the church, and noticed in conversation with Dr. Morey (the mayor), from whom the official received some directions, and then hastened out of the sacred edifice.

On inquiry the report was found to be too true. On proceeding to a place called Docken-hill, by the side of the river Don a great number of people was found, principally watermen and women, running about the shore, and vessels with boat-hooks, hand-spikes, stowers, and various other implements of that kind, with which they were, and had been, endeavouring to rescue the bodies of several young men from the river.

The body of a fine young man named Casseltine was laid upon one of the vessels, apparently in a lifeless state, whilst two or three others seemed to be just recovering from the effects of emersion in the water. A boatman's wife named Chapman was holding up Casseltine's head, and endeavouring, in her way, to restore animation. She, it appears, was the only person on shore, besides a little girl, who saw the accident, which she says was awfully sudden; and when she observed the watermen about to desist from their efforts to draw the bodies out of the water, she called to them and said, "There's more in; there's more in yet," at the same time stamping her foot with almost frantic energy. The men then put down their boat-hooks, and successively brought up the body of another of the Casseltines, and that of a young man named Watson, both of whom were laid upon the hatches of the vessel where the other deceased lay.

It was not, however, until sometime after this that any medical man arrived. Christopher Casseltine, a brother of the two deceased of that name, went to the parish church immediately after the accident, and whilst the boatmen were engaged dragging the bodies out of the water. He first gave notice at the parish church, when Dr. Morey was apprised of what had happened. He despatched the sexton to the dispensary for the necessary apparatus for restoring animation; but it appears there was no one at the dispensary, and Casseltine immediately went for Dr. Clarke, who started off to the scene of the accident without a moment's delay. After much delay the other surgeons, with the life resuscitating apparatus, arrived at Docken-hill, but too late to be of any service. After endeavouring ineffectually for two hours and a half to inflate the lungs with air, and to restore animation by electricity and the other usual methods, the attempt was given up.

The accident occurred in this way: "Nine young men, named respectively George Hepworth, Richard Jackson,X Travis, John Mason, Joseph Pinder, William Casseltine, John Casseltine, Charles Casseltine, and William Watson, met together near the river side about 12 o'clock, and to pass their time away until their dinner hour they all of them crossed the river in a "float" or "flat" (a sort of raft used for repairing vessels), for the purpose of walking on the opposite bank. In about half an hour, or rather more, they returned and got upon the flat to recross the river. The float is a very small one, being only about 7ft long by 4t wide, and quite flat bottomed. When the party had got nearly over the river the younger Casseltine, who with his two brothers and Watson was at one end, gave Pinder a push by way of joke; this push threw Pinder off his balance, and in falling he caught hold of Casseltine, which had the effect of sinking one end of the flat in the water, and of precipitating all the persons in it into the stream.

Pinder says he himself was nearly drowned, and but for the most desperate exertions to release himself from the grasp of young Casseltine he would certainly have lost his life. He (Pinder) remembers tearing off his handkerchief because young Casseltine had got hold of it, and then he became insensible for a minute or so, after which he found himself on one of the vessels. He just opened his eyes in time to see the two Casseltines, John and Charles, sink, locked in each other's arms, to rise no more alive.

The inquest has been held on the three bodies this morning, and the jury have returned a verdict of "Accidental death." One of the survivors is still in a precarious state, arising from the fright occasioned by the accident, or from the effects of the great quantity of water contained in his body.

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