Retirement did not suit train driver

Hertfordshire Mercury, 18th May 1918


Alfred Charles Shrive (65), of 22 Currie Street, Hertford, an engine-driver on the G.E.R., who recently retired on pension having reached the age limit, committed suicide by hanging himself on a tree in a small wood at the rear of Grazier’s gravel pits, Ware Road, on Sunday night.  An inquest was held at the Shire Hall on Wednesday by the District Coroner, Mr Philip Longmore.

Mrs Angelina Shrive, the widow, stated that her husband had only been retired for two weeks.  She had last seen him alive at tea-time on Sunday last and he had then seemed all right.  When she returned from chapel just after 8.00 p.m., he was gone.  She enquired about him, and a neighbour informed the police that he was missing.

She heard nothing about him until the Monday evening when he was found hanging in a wood.  He was entitled to a pension from the railway company but had not yet drawn any.  He was not troubled about money as they had a little by them, but he worried a little about getting some work to do.  He was quite able-bodied and she saw no difference in his health.

Police Constable Crisford stated that at 7.30 p.m. on the Monday night he had heard that there was a man hanging in a wood at the back of Mr Brazier’s house in Ware Road.  On going there, he found the deceased hanging by a rope from an elm tree.  The rope was attached to a branch 10 feet high, and the deceased’s feet were 3 feet from the ground.  He cut the rope and found that the man was quite dead.

Christian John Clarke, booking clerk at the G.N.R. station at Hertford, stated that at 6.40 p.m. on the Sunday evening he was walking across Foxholes from Gallows Hill when he saw a man in a gap in the hedge looking towards the wood in question.  When he passed the man, he had looked at him with a vacant stare.  He had since identified the body of the deceased as the same man.

William Edwin Hayman, of 20 Currie Street, engine-driver, said that on the Monday he went in search of the deceased in company with Mr Manley, the goods shed foreman on the G.E.R.  After going all over the town, they searched the woods around Gallows Hill and Foxholes, and eventually found the deceased hanging in the wood on the right hand side.

He at once gave information to the station master and the police.  He had last seen the deceased alive at dinner-time on Sunday and he was then apparently in his usual condition.  Mr H. Dennick, Station Master at Hertford, said that the deceased was pensioned off on 26th April, having reached the age limit of 65 for engine-drivers.  There was no other reason for his discharge.

He received a pension of 19s 10d a week, and he believed he was also entitled to a few shillings from a society to which he had belonged.  He had seen the deceased on Saturday and he appeared to be deaf and slightly depressed.  The deceased had said that he wanted some work to do, and the witness promised to put in an application to the Company for him, remarking that he thought he had obtained a well-earned rest.  Shrive, however, appeared very anxious to do something.

On Monday, he heard that the deceased was missing and organised a search party, by which means the body was eventually found at about 7.00 p.m. in the evening.  The deceased had been employed by the G.E.R. Company for 43 years, and was earning about £3 a week when he retired.

Dr H.S.W. Hall said that he had known the deceased very well and saw him on May 8th when he found him very deaf but otherwise quite well.  The man had had a very comfortable home and a good wife and, as far as he knew, there was nothing to cause him to take his life.

The Coroner said that probably the deceased was worrying about being out of employment after serving on the railway for so many years, and no doubt his mind had been suddenly unhinged.  The jury returned a verdict of suicide whilst temporarily of unsound mind.

The Coroner and the jury expressed sympathy with the widow, and also of the kind manner in which the neighbours and the railway employees interested themselves in searching for the man when he was reported missing.

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