Ernest Gibson

Ernest Gibson was a Sheffield local born around 1886. He lived on White House Lane, just off Infirmary Road. We also know that he had a brother, called Frank. Gibson was single, and came to Boston, Lincolnshire, on a Saturday in 1914. He had planned to go home on Monday, but extended his stay into Tuesday.

He died in the summer of 1914, aged 28. He and his friend, another local Sheffield man, Thomas France were visiting Boston, Lincolnshire. There they met Mr. Cowley, a file driver of Ellerton Street in Sheffield. They had hired a rowing boat, which unfortunately sank, drowning Ernest and imperilling two others.

The Boston Guardian and Independent, a local Lincolnshire paper, recorded the incident in detail on July 4th 1914. You can read this below.

“They hired a boat from a Mr J. Upsall, boat hirer of Grand Sluice on the Witham, they planned to row to Anton’s Goit, arriving at noon. Once there, they frequented the Malcolm Arms Inn and met another companion, Charles Cowley, who had walked along the bank and had been fishing. The three men then met another man from Boston who had also rowed to the inn. At about 2pm the four men left the pub, the victim and France in one boat and the other two men in the other boat.”

After a short while the four men pulled into the bank and sat for a while smoking. An hour later, three men set off again, and one man left. The rowing boat which was meant for two people was overloaded with Cowley, Gibson and France. They had gone about 100 yards when they got into trouble, and the boat sank by the stern. The victim went under and never surfaced. His body was later recovered, after the river was dragged under the authority of Detective Sergeant Swain.

France and Cowley also went under but were rescued by two other Sheffield visitors, George Henry Hurst and Bert Tooke of Argyle Street. Once the body was recovered, it was taken to the Witham Tavern.

The inquest took place at a Baptist schoolroom on Witham Street, Witham Green. It was led by Dr. A. Tuxford. The inquest jury heard that each man had drunk three bottles each in the Malcolm Arms, beer for Cowley, and stout for France and Gibson. The men got into the boats at about 2:10pm, and rowed towards Boston. Cowley, after a short while, said “you are not going to run home yet, pull into the bankside”. At about 3pm, the three men decided to row to Boston, and Gibson took the oars. The boat started to go down and Gibson said “by god, the boat is filling.” Soon, all three were in the water.

The coroner asked whether they were sitting still and were sober; Cowley replied that they were. One juror did enquire whether the boat was capable of holding three people, which it was not. However, it was added that the boat owner was in no way responsible, as he had no control over how many got into the boat. Cowley recalled that all three were thrown out of the boat, but he did not see the victim go under.

A suggestion was made that the boat leaked. However, the boat was later recovered, and looked at by Detective Sergeant Swain. On investigation, Swain found the boat to be sound when it was recovered. Tooke (one of the rescuers), who was fishing at the time, said that he went speedily to fetch a rope to render assistance. Hurst (the other rescuer), who was fishing from a boat about 70 yards away from the victim’s boat, said that he heard a shout and went to the accident as quickly as possible. He saw Gibson go under twice, and had thought about diving in to save Gibson, but saw that the other two could not swim either and went to help them. Upon being asked if the boat was big enough for three, he agreed with Joseph Upsall (the boat owner) that it wasn’t. Upsall added that the boat was new. Gibson could row the boat but the more he rowed the more he pulled the boat down.


Boston Guardian and Independent, July 4th 1914

Profile Researched by Friends of Wardsend Cemetery

Profile Written by Friends of Wardsend Cemetery and Tom Gidlow