John Henry Mears EM

b. ? 1889 Surrey.  d. 28/07/1938 Miles Platting, Manchester.

DATE OF EM ACTION: 28/07/1938 Miles Platting, Manchester.

John Mears EM Grave

John Henry Mears was born in 1889 in Surrey, though nothing else has been traced regarding his childhood. He was baptised in Claygate on 25th August 1889. The next record of John’s life is that he married Edith Emma Frew on 3rd April 1920 in Greenheys, Lancashire. On the 25th July 1938, John was working on the construction of a sewer in Albion Street, Miles Platting, when the incident occurred which saw him ultimately lose his life in the attempt to rescue fellow workmen. He was buried in the Southern Cemetery, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester on 3rd August 1938.



On Monday, July 25th, 1938, two workmen employed on the construction of a sewer in Albion Street, Miles Platting, Manchester, discovered that the air at the bottom of the 50 foot shaft was bad. The bad air was removed partly by the primitive expedient of lowering and raising a skip with lighted waste and partly by using an air compressor. The same thing happened on the following day (Tuesday) but not on the Wednesday. On Thursday, July. 28th, W. Bellingham, a tunnel miner, partly descended the shaft and found by candle test that the air was foul again. He returned to the surface and warned Mears and J. R. Byrnes who were trying in vain to get the air compressor working. Byrnes, followed by P. Murphy the foreman (who said he would go down and see how bad the gas was) started to descend the shaft by the ladder. On reaching the bottom Byrnes was seen to step off the ladder, but shortly afterwards collapsed. Meantime Murphy, presumably becoming aware of the foul air, but ignorant of Byrnes’ collapse, had partly reclimbed the ladder but, warned of Byrnes’ plight by shouts from the workmen at the top of the shaft he turned back, and on, reaching the shaft bottom collapsed in turn while trying to raise Byrnes.

There were no life-lines, ropes, safety belts or breathing apparatus available. Knowing this Mears tied a wet handkerchief over his mouth, got into a skip and was lowered to the bottom, although he was warned that the handkerchief was useless against sewer gas. At the bottom he got out of the skip, tried to raise Murphy but put him down again, then got back into the skip and. signalled to be raised. Unfortunately as the skip was being steadied prior to being raised Mears fell out of it. Nearly half an hour later the Fire Brigade arrived and extricated the three men, all of whom were dead.