|210 Inver Road, Blackpool where William Weaver visited Ethel in 1945|
We first met William Weaver in the posts concerning the First World War as he was about to join his first ship, HMS Calliope in 1916 and recently we saw how he had become a friend of Ernest and Ethel Harris and how in late 1945 he visited Ethel at her house in Inver Road. In the post on the First World War I hinted that Bill's life was going to take a dramatic turn. He survived the great naval Battle of Jutland and the remainder of the war and in 1919 he returned to Wittersham in Kent to marry his sweetheart, Ethel Hinkley.
|William Weaver's wedding to Ethel Hinkley|
|My father in later life with his wife.|
Ethel's father, Tom, the local miller, was generally believed to be the natural father of Bill's illegitimate half-brother, Amos Herbert Catt who had been killed in the trenches during the war. Bill stayed in the Royal Navy and went back to sea, leaving his wife Ethel in the village with their two children. All I know about Bill's life at this time is that he served on the battleship HMS Repulse when it circumnavigated the world. He left the navy in 1926 and got a job working as a maintenance man with London Transport's Underground. The only problem was that his wife refused to make the necessary move to London, preferring to stay in the village. Bill moved into digs in London and lived separately from his wife for the rest of his marriage - although he continued to support his family and make regular visits to see them. According to his son the gaps between these visits became longer and longer until he was only going home once a year during his summer holiday. This was the situation when he met Ernest and Ethel Harris
Things were looking good for Ethel. A nice new home and the baby she so much wanted was due in August. On August 12th Ernest met his friend Bill Stratton for their regular Sunday morning drink. He had just bought a big bunch of flowers for his wife and was considering getting a taxi home. Stratton suggested that Ernest borrow his car. Later he would say "He was perfectly sober, otherwise I would not have let him take my car way. He was an exceptionally good and safe driver."
A short while later, John Turnbull, a taxi driver of Alexandra Road, Hornsey, said he was standing outside his house when he heard a terrific crash. Turning around he saw there had been a collision between a car and stationary motorcycle. Turnbull said "I shouted 'Oi! What about this then? but he went straight on past me. I just managed to get the number." Not long after, Joan Graf of Lothair Road, was walking along Wightman Road near Finsbury Park, when she heard a screech of brakes. She turned and saw a car hurtling around the bend half on the pavement and half on the road. It was zig-zagging and she had the impression the wallat the driver was trying to right it, "He avoided the wall with what seemed to be a superhuman effort." Another witness said "The car missed the first lamp post, just missed a brick wall and then hit another lamp standard. The car then fell to pieces - the impact almost cut it in two. So powerful was the impact that the car bounced back nine yards from the lamp post.
Ernest was, miraculously, still alive when they took him from the wreck. He was taken to The Royal Northern Hospital in Holloway Road where he died soon after admittance. His body was examined by Sir Bernard Spillsbury, the father of modern pathology, who reported that almost all Ernest's ribs were fractured and death was due to the crushing injuries caused to the chest by the steering wheel. The verdict at the inquest was Accidental Death.
|Tollington Court where Ethel lived at the time of Ernest's death.|
Ernest also suffered an injury to his eye which was caused by a protruding door hinge in the car (a Wolsey, similar to the kind used by the police at that time) and, although we will never know the full truth, I think it is this injury that was responsible for Ernest losing control of the car. I believe (as my mother did) that Ernest
sustained this injury when he side swiped the stationary motorcycle. Deciding not to stop, hoping to evade responsibility and financial costs for the damage, he drove on, had a momentary blackout or burst of pain - resulting in loss of control of the car and his death.
Ernest James Harris was buried at Islington Cemetery, North Finchley. Attending the funeral were his mother and step-father and their family, members of the Bayliss and Barrett family and, of course, Ethel.
As Ethel stood by the grave one can only imagine her state of mind. She was approaching her fortieth birthday and her husband was dead. She was about to have a child - the father of that child was not her husband.
I was born at The Royal Free Hospital, Grays Inn Road, on August 19th. My mother named me after her husband and put his name on my birth certificate.
TO BE CONCLUDED.....