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The Rushden Echo and Argus, 29th May 1931, transcribed by Jim Hollis
James Leonard Dilley

Fatal Accident at Rushden
Local Boy Succumbs in Northampton Hospital
Motor Cyclist and Pedestrians

A seventeen year old Rushden youth, James Leonard Dilley, of 18, Oval-road, died in Northampton General Hospital on Wednesday night following injuries received in an accident on the Irchester-road, Rushden, earlier in the evening. Two other persons were injured.

The accident, which involved a motor-cyclist and a party of young men, who were walking, caused much alarm among the occupants of the Council houses, some of whom ran out on hearing the noise of a crash.

Dilley was walking from Irchester to Rushden with some companions, and they had just passed the spinney on the Rushden boundary when Mr. Norman Kearsley (18) of Higham Ferrers, riding a Calthorpe motor-cycle, overtook them from the rear. There was apparently some confusion, and a collision occurred, the motor-cyclist being thrown off his machine. Two of the pedestrians also fell, and the people who went to give assistance found James Dilley lying unconscious and bleeding from severe wounds on the face and skull, while another youth Cyprus Llewellyn Voules, also of Rushden, had hurt his knee and wrist. Joseph Munns had also received injury. One of the party, it is stated, had been wheeling a bicycle, to which some damage was done. Kearsley was shaken but escaped with negligible injuries.

Telephone messages were sent from Mr. Harry Eaton’s house, and Dr. Muriset soon arrived, followed by Dr. McCabe. Dilley and Voules were carried into the house of Mr. Tom Evans and as quickly as possible the motor ambulance was summoned, Staff-Sergeant Prigmore taking Dilley to Northampton Hospital. The boy was alive when admitted, but death took place almost immediately afterwards, resulting from a fracture of the skull. Dr. Muriset had in the meantime taken Voules, who was unconscious, and Munns to their homes in his car.

James Dilley was an orphan, his father having been killed in the war. His guardians were Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Wright, who adopted him, with his brother, some 13 years ago. The deceased was a member of the Territorials.

Interviewed this morning (Thursday) Mr. Norman Kearsley stated that he was driving at a slow pace because the night was misty. “I saw a group of youths walking abreast on the near side of the road – not on the path. When I was about 15 yards away they suddenly went further into the middle of the road. I swerved to the right to avoid an accident, but caught two persons and then went on to the path on the right-hand side of the road.”

Yesterday morning Voules and Munns, who both reside at 39, Oval-road, were in bed and reported to be “fairly comfortable,” though Voules, who had injuries to the head and right leg, had been unconscious most of the night.

The others in the party of pedestrians were George Frederick Chettle (17), of 4, Oval-road, Douglas Clark (16), of 7, Oswald-road, and Mostyn Wilson (15), of 102, Park-road.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 12th June 1931

Northampton Inquest on Rushden Youth
“Accidental Death” Verdict on Mr. J. L. Dilley
“Troop of Boys” – Coroner’s Criticism
Evidence of Motor-Cyclist

  A verdict of  “Accidental death” was returned by the jury at the resumed inquest held at Northampton on Friday last, on James Leonard Dilley, the 17 year-old youth of Oval-road, Rushden, who died from injuries received in an accident involving a motor-cyclist on the Irchester-road, Rushden, on the night of Wednesday, May 27th.

  The jury also expressed the hope that motorists will sound their hooters in good time when approaching pedestrians.

  On the previous Friday the inquest was formally opened, and adjourned for two of the youths who were walking with Dilley, and were injured, to be present to give evidence.

  Mr. C. Burton (Messrs. Beck, Green and Stops), represented the driver of the motor-cycle, while Dilley’s foster father was represented by Mr. H. W. Williams (Messrs, Williams and Kingston), who said that the boy was an orphan adopted under the War Pensions scheme.

  Superintendent Jones watched the case on behalf of the police.

  Thomas Draper, 24, Milton-street, Higham Ferrers, said that on May, 27th, about 10.30 p.m. he was walking along the Irchester-road towards Irchester, when he saw a group of lads on the road coming towards him in the direction of Rushden. There were five or six of them. Witness was on the footpath, but they were on the road, and there was nothing to prevent them walking on the path if they had chosen. They seemed to be having a friendly discussion – a bit loud, but not very.

  Witness noticed a motor-cycle going the same way as the boys just after he had passed them. The speed of the cycle was ordinary, and he heard no hooter sounded. There was a light on the motor-cycle. Directly after it had passed he heard a crash, and thought there had been an accident, and saw a lad lying in the road.

Motor-Cyclist’s Statement

  In answer to Mr. Williams, witness said the boys were extended from the footpath to the middle of the road.

  Mr. Williams: That left half of the road open for traffic to pass? – Witness: They were a bit over the middle of the road.

  Further questioned, witness said that when he passed the boys there seemed to be room for the motor-cyclist to pass them.

  In answer to the Coroner, witness said it was too dark to tell the speed of the cycle, it was very dull at the time.

  Questioned by Mr. Burton, witness said he saw one of the lads was wheeling a bicycle. He seemed to be on the far side. Witness was on the left off side going towards Irchester. The accident occurred on the same side of the road.

  P.C. Mann, of Rushden, said he was called to the accident by telephone, and when he reached the spot the doctor was there and the lad was lying on the footpath. The motor-cyclist was not there at the time, but he had gone for a doctor.

  Later the motor-cyclist made a statement saying he was riding in the middle of the road, and saw the boys walking in the road. He turned round to see if his rear light was all right, and when he looked round again the lads seemed to be on the crown of the road. He tried to swerve across the road, and hit the opposite kerb, going over the handlebars.

  Mr. Williams: Did he say he saw the boys and then turned round to see if his rear light was alight? – Witness: that is what he said.

“Did Not Hear Hooter”

  Douglas Herbert Clark, 7, Oswald-road, Rushden, said he was walking with five other lads towards Rushden. They left Rushden at nine o’clock for a walk, and had been to Irchester. Five of them were abreast, and one in the gutter just behind. They were on the left of the road.

  The Coroner, intervening, said there had been a good deal of discussion as to which side of the road was the safer to walk on, and many thought it was better to meet the traffic, but as it was a dark night it probably made little difference.

  Witness, proceeding, said he knew there was a footpath, but he could not say why they were not on it. He was at the extreme of the five nearest the kerb. Next to him was Chettle and then, he thought Dilley. They occupied a yard less than half the width of the road, with Voules, who was at the other end of the line, wheeling a bicycle. He did not hear the approach of the motor-cycle, or any sound of hooter.

  They were talking at the time, but he did not think they were talking particularly loud. After the accident the motor-cyclist took him to Dilley’s parents and went for a doctor.

  He saw the motor-cyclist go over the handlebars of the cycle.

  In answer to Mr. Williams, witness expressed the view that the cyclist had more than half the road to pass in. There was no other traffic as far as he could see. It was a rather dark night but he did not notice any mist.

“Scrapping Denied”

  Replying to Mr. Burton as to a suggested conversation between him and Kearsley after the accident, witness declared that Kearsley did not say to him, “What were you doing all over the road?” Nor did he say in reply “We had been Scrapping.”

  Answering further questions, however, witness said that the following day he did say something to Kearsley about a “scrap.”  A “scrap” took place in a field and was only of a friendly character, and the discussion in progress at the time of the accident was not about that, but what they should do the next night.

  Pressed further on the question of where Dilley was in the line, Clark still said he thought Dilley was third from the kerb. The conversation with Kearsley took place the next day at work.

  Cyprus Voules, 39, Oval-road, Rushden, said he was on the outside of the line wheeling Munn’s bicycle. He was not as far out as the middle of the road. He too said he did not hear the cycle approach. The “scrap” was only a sham fight, and they were good friends again before the accident happened.

  If he had known of the cycle’s approach he would have moved from his position in the road. The discussion in progress was about a dance. His view of the positions was that Dilley was fourth from the kerb.

15 Miles an Hour

  Norman Kearsley, the motor cyclist, was then called and said he made a statement to the constable, and had heard it read. He thought the constable misunderstood him as to what he said about the light.

  He said: I said to him, ‘I turned round to look at my rear light, and when I turned back I saw the boys on the road. The outside one was about on the crown.”

  Witness said that he added that he sounded his hooter when he was practically on top of the boys. He did not do so before because if they had kept on walking in the same way he would have got by. He pulled out to go round, and when he was almost on top of them, the outside two seemed to fling into him.

  He just punched his hooter and turned into the outside path.

  He swerved to the right, to try to avoid Dilley, but unfortunately, caught him. He thought he only knocked one of them over, and thought it was the outside one who was pushing a cycle.

  In answer to Mr. Burton, Kearsley said his speed was 15 miles an hour, and if the boys had kept the course they first took there would have been no accident.

  He pulled over to the right to avoid them, and then had to pull over again.

  Dilley seemed to sit on the mudguard and then slip off again.

  Mostyn Jordan Wilson, Park-road, Rushden, was the next witness, and said he was walking behind the other five boys in the gutter.

“The Boys Were Noisy”

  Witness said they were talking fairly loudly, but not shouting. They had no trouble with any man on the road, and did not see a man on a bicycle. He did not see the motor-cyclist, or the accident. It was very dark.

  Mr. Williams: How far did the motor-cycle go after it had hit Dilley? – Witness: I did not see.

  Mr. Burton: How do you account for not seeing the motor-cycle? Why did you not see it? Was it the loud talking? – Witness: I should not think so.

  George Frederick Chettle, 4, Oval-road, Rushden, said he was one of the parties on the road. He did not see the motor-cyclist. He was practically in the gutter. He did not see the motor-cycle hit Dilley. The motor-cyclist did not get near him. 

  In answer to Mr. Williams, he said he could not see whom the motor-cycle was carrying along, but he saw it was carrying somebody.

  Witness added that the motor-cycle went a little way after it had stopped carrying Dilley. He did not see how much farther it went, because he went to Dilley.

  P.C. Mann, recalled, said he had had a statement volunteered that the boys were noisy on the road.

  The Coroner asked him if he could get a statement to say they were making a noise, and he said he had one statement. This was handed to the Coroner, who read it, and then said that he did not think it necessary at that stage to adjourn.

“Enough Noise for That”

  Mr. Williams: They had their backs towards you, so could not see you? – Witness: They could hear me.

  If they were singing or talking they might not? – Yes. My bike makes enough noise for that.

  Mr. Williams suggested that witness should have sounded his hooter, but witness said: Not in a case like that.

  Mr. Williams: You should have kept on sounding your hooter until they looked round and saw you were behind. How long have you been riding? – Witness: About four and a half years.

  Asked why he did not sound his hooter sooner, witness said he did not think it was necessary in a case like that. He sounded it once.

  Mr. Williams: Did you not know that when you want to give notice to people you should sound your hooter? – Witness: Other people have always stepped on to the footpath.

  Kearsley added that he had a witness who said that he sounded his hooter before he got near the pedestrians, but he could not remember that.

  Mr. Williams: When you are directly behind people and sound your hooter they are likely to go any way? – Witness: Yes, sir.

  You say you were only going about 15 miles an hour. Were you going to pass them at this speed? – Yes, I couldn’t go much slower.

“Dangerous Instrument”

  Mr. Williams suggested that it was a dangerous instrument that could go no slower.

  Further questioning Kearsley, Mr. Williams asked, “didn’t you attempt to slow down?” and witness replied “No, sir.” Kearsley added that he was going up-hill and had only just got over the brow at the time of the accident.

  Mr. Williams: You were travelling considerably faster than 15 miles an hour? – Witness: No, sir.

  In what distance could you pull your motor cycle up? – In five or six feet.

  Yet you carried this poor lad three yards, and then your motor cycle went on for some little distance afterwards. How do you account for that? – I said it only went three yards after I hit him.

  You carried him along for three yards then he slipped off and your motor cycle went on for some distance, and hit the kerb and you fell off. Now you say you can pull up in five feet, and you carried the boy nine feet.

  Witness said he was trying to balance his bicycle so could not put on the brakes at the same time.

  He added he was coming from Irchester, which was about 1¾ miles. There was not a great deal of traffic on the road.

  The foreman of the jury said it was a mystery that none of the boys should have heard the motor cycle. Witness said it was a mystery night, and the Coroner remarked that there was a difference of opinion on that point.

Summing Up

  Summing up, the Coroner pointed out that they should be very satisfied that there was culpable negligence before they could bring in a verdict that would amount to manslaughter.

  He commented on the risks run by troops of boys like this walking along the road where proper footpaths were provided. In these days of rapid transit, and at ten o’clock at night, it seemed to him a very dangerous thing.

  After the verdict had been returned, the Coroner, jury, and Mr. Burton for the driver of the motor cycle, expressed deep sympathy with the foster parents of Dilley.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 19th June 1931

Rushden Road Fatality Sequel
Motor Cyclist Summoned
Wellingborough Petty Sessions

At Wellingborough Police Court, on Friday last there was a sequel to the fatal accident on the Irchester-road, Rushden, on May 27th, when James Leonard Dilley, a 17-year-old Rushden youth, was fatally injured.

Norman Kearsley, lorry driver, Higham Ferrers, was summoned for driving a motor-cycle without due care and attention at Rushden on May 27th. Mr. E. C. Burton (Northampton) was for the defendant.

Thomas Draper, shoe-hand, Higham Ferrers, said that at 10.30 p.m. he was walking on the Irchester-road, Rushden, towards Irchester. He was on the footpath. He met a group of youths walking towards Rushden. They were taking just over half the road. They were talking loudly. He passed the lads and when he had gone 20 or 30 yards he saw a motor-cycle. No hooter was sounded and after he had walked a few more yards he heard a crash.

He went back and found the motor-cycle had collided with the youths. The motor-cyclist was lying on the left-hand side of the road going towards Irchester. Another lad was on the ground about 10 yards away. He heard that the second youth died the next morning in hospital. The motor-cycle had lights on.

Replying to Mr. Burton, witness said defendant was not travelling fast. There were two good footpaths, and there was a grass verge one foot wide. The width of the roadway was about 20ft.

Hit the Gutter

George Frederick Chettle, shoe-hand, Rushden, one of the youths walking in the road, said five were walking in a line, and Dilley, the deceased, was the fourth from the gutter. Witness was in the gutter. One other lad was behind.

One of those walking was carried along by the motor-cycle until it hit the gutter about eight yards away.

The motor-cyclist either went over the top of the motor-cycle or fell off.

Witness said the youths did not take up half the road. They were talking loudly and the one in the middle of the road was wheeling a bicycle. He could not say what happened to the one on the outside.

Witness said they had had a “bit of a scrap” at Irchester but they had overcome their difference and were on friendly terms.

He agreed with Mr. Burton that had they heard the approaching vehicle they would have stepped on to the footpath.

Cyprus Llewelyn Voules, the lad on the outside of the road, confirmed the evidence of the previous witness.

He was pushing a pedal cycle, just on the near side, he said. There would be ten or twelve feet on his right for anything to pass him. Witness was knocked down and did not remember what happened. He suffered from concussion and injuries to his left leg and side.

Answering Supt. Jones, witness said the injuries were consistent with being hit on the near-side.

Joseph Munns, shoe-hand, Rushden, another of the youths, corroborated.

Six Abreast

P.C. Mann, who arrived on the scene of the accident a short time later, said he could not at the time find the motor-cyclist. He saw him later and obtained a statement which stated that defendant saw the lads walking on the road six abreast. He was about twenty yards away and looked down to see if his rear light was all right. When he turned round they were on the crown of the road. It was misty at the time.

Answering Mr. Burton witness said defendant had gone for a doctor.

This ended the case for the prosecution.

Defendant in the box said the two offside youths swerved out to the right. He was going at from 15 to 20 miles per hour. He had a good acetylene light.

He did not sound his hooter because he thought the youths had heard the machine as they were walking straight.

Mr. Burton said the offence was a new one and a less serious one – that of driving negligently.

He suggested that the evidence of the only independent witness, Mr. Draper, was the most reliable.

Owing to the sound of his machine the motor-cyclist did not sound his hooter until he was right upon the boys.

The Chairman (Mr. Owen Parker) said the bench had decided to convict. They had tried to keep their minds free from the results of the unfortunate occurrence.

Having driven for a number of year’s defendant should have realised that more care was necessary.

“As an old motorist myself, I would like to make one observation” he continued. “Pedestrians, too, have their responsibilities and footpaths are made for them which motorists cannot use.”

The fine was £2 and 19s costs. Defendant was given 14 days to pay.

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