Hogmanay Fatal Express


screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-20-28-43On Saturday 31st December 1927, during the morning, the communication emergency cord of the Glasgow to London express train was pulled abruptly by a panicked passenger, signalling that the train should come to stop.

The train was travelling at 60 miles hour through Hadley Wood in England. As the staff rushed to the carriage to see what the commotion was, a woman passenger informed the officials that a man had fallen out of her carriage as the train was passing Hadley Wood.

As the train stopped on the track, a search was instructed of the line behind and eventually they found the the dead body of William Hyslop, of Mount Pleasant, Springwell, Blantyre, Scotland. William had been returning to London after having spent the Christmas holidays in Blantyre with family.

I wanted to know more. Who was he, why did it happen? According to the 1925 Valuation roll, William Hyslop (or Hislop) lived at number 40 Glasgow Road at Watsons Building, which was immediately next to a house named Mount Pleasant, that eventually gave its name to the row of cottages still there today (next to Dunn’s Food & Drink).

I found that an inquest was heard on Tuesday 3rd January 1928. William Hyslop jnr, the son of the dead William Hyslop, identified the body and explained that his father had been a railwayman in the employment of the London and North Eastern Railway Company and had been 65 years of age. He was always sober, good health and was not known to walk in his sleep. The mystery deepened.

Chrissio Hyslop, a fourteen-year-old daughter, said she left Scotland with her father last Friday night, on the 9.45 train from Glasgow to London. The train was a corridor one, and her father was sitting facing the engine, in the corner farthest from the corridor. She sat opposite her father and there were two sailors also in the compartment.

Towards the end of the journey she left the compartment, meaning to be absent only a moment. She left her father asleep in one corner, and one the sailors sitting on the opposite side of the carriage. The other sailor had gone out.

When she returned, some two minutes later, her father was not there, and the outer door was open. The sailor was asleep and she awakened him and told him the door was open and her father was gone!

The sailor pulled the communication cord, and this having no effect the guard was informed and the train pulled up and stopped about 10 minutes after the communication cord was first pulled.

Dr. C. N. Scott stated that Saturday morning he was called to a spot about a mile-and-a-half north New Barnet Station, where he found the body of Hyslop lying between the tracks. His skull was fractured. There were other injuries, and Dr. Scott was of opinion that Hyslop had been dragged along for 30 or 40 yards. Death, he thought, was due to the fracture the skull, caused by the fall. The body had not been run over.

Stoker Francis James Scullion, H.M.S Nelson, and Stoker Matthewson. of H.M.S. Lion Duke, the two sailors referred to by Miss Hyslop, confirmed her account of the events preceding the accident. Neither of them saw Hyslop leave the carriage.

I H. Keleher, a carriage inspector at King’s Cross, said he examined the door of the carriage from which Hyslop fell when the grained reached King’s Cross. The locks hinges were in perfect order. There was no way of opening the door from inside the carriage, except lowering the window and reaching to the handle from the outside.

A full examination of the train revealed a small piece of flesh on the handrail of the guard’s van, some distance behind the carriage in question, and another piece of flesh on a fish van at the rear of the train. Daniel Kipp, the foreman platelayer who found the body, said the marks in the snow, some 32 yards north of the body, made him think Hyslop had been dragged along by the train after falling.

Summing up, the Coroner said the evidence by the examiner of the carriage showed that he must have done something to the door, besides going to the window. He could only suppose that, waking up, Hyslop missed his daughter and perhaps being sleepy, had tried to open the wrong door. There was so little evidence that perhaps the jury’s best course would be find a verdict of Death by misadventure.

Mr F. H. Doubleday, a guard travelling on the train, who had given evidence, was recalled and stated that the window of the Carriage was found closed. A juryman asked how Hyslop could have closed it after opening the door, and the Coroner said it was a complete mystery and impossible to him. Nobody could tell what had caused it. The jury returned verdict of Death misadventure.

From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016

Featuring Blantyre Project Social Media with permission. Strictly not for use by others on or offline, our visitors said:

Bob Finnigan I think it was the sailors
Marion Jones Who were the sailors,probably today they could gather more evidence x



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  1. Patricia Cartwright nee Hyslop

    William Hyslop was my Gt Grandfather having lost his wife the previous year was travelling to Chesham, Bucks taking his daughter Chrissie to live with his son William and daughter in law Minnie

    1. Lesley Hillhouse

      Hi Patricia. He was my Great Grandfather also 😊

      1. Patricia Ann Cartwright

        Hi Lesley, which one of my Granddad William’s siblings is your relative? I have no contact with Hyslop family members other than a FB friend decendent in America.

        1. Lesley Hillhouse

          Hi Patricia. My grandmother was Ruby Hillhouse (nee Hyslop) from Blantyre. She is Chrissie’s sister. Ruby married Tom Hillhouse. My father was William Hyslop Hillhouse and I heard this story often as I grew up. I live in Tasmania 😊

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