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Dora James
Born: 2-5-1871
Died: 4-7-1914
Buried: 7-7-1914
Age: 35
Grave No: A33
Notes: Also in the grave - William E James, b 31-10-1831, bur 22-4-1911, aged 79; Priscilla James bur 24-6-1899, aged 57; Horace Leonard James bur 23-12-1902, aged 27
On 10 July 1914, the Shipley Times & Express carried a paragraph reporting that the remains of Miss Dora James, formerly of Heaton Grove, Frizinghall, had been conveyed to Bradford by train and taken to St Paul’s Church, Shipley, before being buried in Hirst Wood Burial Ground. Along with details of mourners and who conducted the service was the tantalising information that Miss James was “one of the victims of the Thames punting accident.” It had no more details, but fortunately the story was carried extensively across the country including in the Daily Mirror: A broken punt pole was once again the cause of Thames tragedy. The victims were: Miss Dora James, aid to be an orphan, who travelled a great deal and had no fixed abode, and Mr T Price Lines, a member of the firm of Donisthorpe & Co, Solicitors of Swan House, Great Swan-alley, London E.C. and also of Chesham, Bucks (pictured). Pole snapped During the afternoon Mr Lines and Miss James, who were staying at Bridge House, Whitchurch, went on the river in a punt with friends. The young couple, with Mrs Annell, a friend, had tea on the river in the punt and in the evening started on the return journey. When they reached Pangbourne Miss James and Mr Lines were poling the boat. Suddenly, when in mid-stream, Miss James’s pole snapped and as she overbalanced she clutched at Mr Lines, the two falling in the river.
A gallant attempt to save Miss James was made by Mr Lines and Mrs Annell also endeavoured to help but all to no avail. Both the young man and woman were caught in the weeds and people standing near on the bank saw a terrible struggle for life as there was a strong current running. With great bravery Mr Laird, of Pangbourne, made an attempt at rescue. He jumped into the water and tried to reach the exhausted couple. Before he could get very far, however, both the man and the woman sank, clasped in each other’s arms. Their bodies were received a quarter of an hour later. Mr Laird was rescued in an exhausted condition. At the inquest, also reported in the Daily Mirror, Dora’s brother, Walter Francis James, vicar of Ilkley, said that she made his home her home and that she knew the river very well as she was a frequent visitor to Pangbourne. He
said he did not think his sister could swim. Mr Raymond Deburgh Layard of Cliffe Dene, Pangbourne, who tried to rescue the couple (named as Laird in the first article), said that he had seen a woman in punt screaming for help. He took off his coat and plunged into the river. He saw a man under the water and he took hold his hair, trying to turn him over on his back but he appeared to be quite unmoveable. The man seemed to be standing bolt upright and the body was rigid. His hair slipped from the hands of the witness and his body sank lower into the water. After further efforts to rescue the man, the witness felt himself clutched by a hand from below and for the first time became aware that two people were in the water. He was of the opinion that the woman held the man by the feet as he found it impossible to move him. The jury found the deceased were accidentally drowned.
HIRST WOOD REGENERATION GROUP The Consevators of the River Thames were concerned that at the inquest the question had been raised about how much the weeds in the river had added to the drowning couple’s problems. So much so, that the chairman, Lord Desborough wrote a letter to the Sportsman in which he claimed there was no evidence that they were tangled in the weeds and pointing out that the Conservators spend annually a considerable sum on weed cutting in the Thames He added: “Suggestions have been made that life-saving apparatus should be provided along the river but under the circumstances of the deplorable accident at Pangbourne, lifebuoys on the bank would have been of little assistance. “In those cases where people who are unable to swim use boats, it would be a wise precaution on their part to carry some life-saving apparatus in the boat.” He concluded: “Persons who are experienced in punting are fully aware of the dangers which attend it and how essential it is to know how to swim before venturing to punt or indeed, to go on the river at all.” Hirst Wood Burial Ground base Hirst Wood Burial Ground base Hirst Wood Burial Ground base