A DAY IN GRAYS
by Peter Benson
Around 10 oclock a boy, John Jackson recently turned 15, was cleaning the windows of the boardroom of the Shaftesbury and fell nearly 12 feet to the gangway and later died. John came to the Shaftesbury on 9th, October 1891, after committing the offence of begging. The day before he died he was given the sad news of the death of his mother, Margaret, and was granted leave to attend her funeral on the following Thursday. Apparently he was not part of the group of boys detailed to clean those windows, which by the time John was cleaning them had already been cleaned. The Captain Superintendent of the Shaftesbury, William Striven RN was reported to have said at the inquest held two days later on the 12th July at the Ships Infirmary he could only suppose the deceased took to cleaning the window in order that he might share in the preparations being made for the visit.
Young Jacksons fall was seen by one of the other boys on the ship, 14 year old Frederick Devine. Frederick told the inquest that John was standing on a small ledge polishing glass that had already been cleaned and was preventing himself from falling by clutching an upright iron bar. It was not unusual for boys to stand on the ledges and clean the windows, but they were normally secured by a rope. John must have slipped, as Frederick went on to tell the inquest he tried to grasped a neighbouring iron bar or stanchion, but failed and fell striking a stanchion and a water pipe. The inquest also heard that by using chains, John raised himself and walked along a platform for a distance of 15 feet, where he dropped to the platform at the foot of the gangway ladder. There, Mr Vine the Senior Officer of the Watch, Frederick Devine and others gathered to attend to him. John was heard to have said to them repeatedly "Let me lay down, I want to go to my poor mother."
John was taken ashore to the ships infirmary in Sherfield Road, Grays where he was seen by the local doctor, Dr Snell. In giving his evidence Dr Snell informed the inquest that Young Jackson had bad internal injuries on the right side, with five or six broken ribs and a punctured lung. John died from internal haemorrhage about 12:30p.m. two and a half hours after he fell. At the inquest the foreman, Sidney J. King, a baker and corn dealer in the High Street returned the jurys verdict of Accidental death.
John Jacksons parents came from Liverpool to London, firstly to Lambeth, where John and some of his siblings were born and then north of the river to the City Road area of East London, where John probably committed his offence then over to Kings Cross area at the time of Johns and his mothers death. Johns father, another John, a sawyer and woodcarver came to identify the body on the following day, the day before he was to lay his wife of just over twenty two years to rest. On Friday 14th he would have probably attended another funeral, this time in Grays, that of his son who was buried with full honours.