THE decade opened with the news on May 7, 1910 that King Edward Vll had died. Flags were at half mast, all public events were cancelled and all local places of amusement were closed.
On May 10 a large crowd gathered in the Borough Market to hear the proclamation of the new King George V read out by the Mayor Alderman Robert Thornton. On the day of the King’s funeral factories and workplaces were closed for the day and all clubs and public houses were all closed out of respect.
Things were not going to get any better. News of the sinking of RMS Titanic was to send a shock wave that still reverberates now a century after that tragedy.
Another sea tragedy came on May 29, 1914, when the RMS Empress of Ireland was rammed in the fog by a Norwegian coal ship in Gulf of St Lawrence. Whilst the Titanic stayed afloat for over two hours, the RMS Empress of Ireland sank in 14 minutes. Among more than 1,000 passengers and crew who died included Brighouse born John Furness who was a violinist in the five man ship’s band.
Another shipping disaster of this period was the RMS Lusitania which was sunk after being hit by a German torpedo. The ship took just 18 minutes to sink with 1153 crew and passengers drowned. One of those who survived was Brighouse born Fred Bottomley.
He lived with his parents in Churchfields Road and when he left school trained as a butcher. Aged 21 and having completed his apprenticeship he enlisted in the 1st King’s Liverpool Regiment he served in India for the next four years and on his return he left the services and went back to the less hectic and active life of a butcher as the manager of Nelson’s new and first shop in Commercial Street.
His life in the army must have given him itchy feet because in 1910 he left and went to work for the White Star Line as a steward and found himself aboard the S.S.Arabic. He completed two Atlantic crossings but after completing the second he disembarked in America and over the next two years lost contact with his family back in England.
As the First World War unfolded he thought he had better ‘do his bit’ and set sail for home on the RMS Lusitania. When the ship was hit he was one of the lucky ones to be saved. It was quite by chance that the name of F. Bottomley of Brighouse was spotted on a ships passenger survivors list that this story could have been told in the first place.
In November 1956 Fred then 73 years of age was employed as a trawler watchman at Fleetwood dock when he suffered a heart attack and fell into the sea and sadly died. Fred Bottomley had certainly lived his life to the full and he can be remembered for the help he gave to many others who were probably less fortunate than himself.
The royal visit of 1907 was considered to have been a major disappointment but the West Riding tour of 1912 by King George V and Queen Mary was a real success.
Travelling through Clifton the royal party were driven down Clifton Common through the town and up to the railway station entrance in Gooder Lane. This was a visit that was talked about for many weeks and months after.
With the outbreak of the First World War the Echo reported all the deaths, injured and missing in action believed killed each week. Reading through the stories of these young men it is difficult to imagine what the whole town was going through when these losses were reported each week.
Young men who had never travelled much further than Huddersfield or Halifax had suddenly found themselves in the quagmire of the Western Front and the horrors that went with it.
Those that did manage to come home unscathed physically would never be the same again mentally.
n Did things get any better in the 1920s? Join me next week on our look back at a time when the ‘talkies’ came to town.