ARTICLE COURTESY OF THE EVESHAM JOURNAL
THE BLOCKLEY MOTOR COACH TRAGEDY
|Heart-rending scenes were witnessed at the funeral on Saturday of six of the seven victims of the motor coach smash which occured at Blockley on Tuesday in last week. The six who were interred in the village cemetery were Mrs. Figgures, Mrs. Smith and her son Harry, Mrs. Hopes and her son Bernard, and Doris Hancock; the seventh victim, Miss Green, being buried at Birmingham on Wednesday.
The weather was as perfect as only an English summer can produce, and was in direct contrast with the tragic sights to be seen on every side. Never before has such a tragedy overtaken any village in the district the whole of those who were killed being closely related to many, residing in the vicinity, Mrs. Hopes having relatives in practically half of the population of Blockley. The whole of the countryside was in mourning, for, in addition to the many sorrowing relatives and friends in the village itself many from the neighbouring villages travelled along the winding roads to pay a last tribute of respect with those they had known so well. In Blockley village business generally was suspended, the village shops being closed from 1:30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m., whilst in practically every house blinds were drawn and the greater part of the population was wearing mourning.
The funeral was timed to start with a service in the church at 2:30 p.m., but long before that time the approaches to it began to be lined with villagers and friends, and in practically every other hand was a wreath or a posey of garden flowers to be placed upon the graves. Within the ancient Parish Church, which practically adjoins the Northwick Institute, in which the bodies had lain since the accident and inquest, the whole of the south aisle was reserved for family mourners. Every other seat within the church was occupied, and many hundreds were unable to find room. For some time past the choir has been placed at the west end of the church where the organ now is but for this special occasion the choir took its place In the chancel to allow all available space to be utilised. The organist was Miss Ennals, and during the period of waiting before the service began she placed Handel's “L’Argo” and other appropriate music Shortly before 2:10 the cortege left the Institute and entered the church in the following order, each of the coffins being followed by family mourners:—Mrs. Figgures, Doris Hancock, Harry Smith, Mrs. Smith, Bernard Hopes and Mrs. Hopes. The coffins were placed along the centre of the church, each one being covered with flowers. The scene was affecting in the extreme and there were few dry eyes in the church as the tiny coffins of the children were borne in on the shoulders of members of the BIockley troop of boy Scouts.
The service was conducted by the Vicar of the parish (the Rev. A D. Ager) and the Curate (the Rev. D. H. Bodley), whilst the lesson was read by the Rev. J. A. Cook. Pastor of the Baptist Church. The service was the ordinary one, the only hymn sung being “Jesu, lover of my soul.” The Psalm was the ninetieth, and at the conclusion of the ordinary form of service special prayers of intercession were offered for the bereaved and for the injured in Moreton hospital. As the cortege was leaving the church Miss Ennals played the impressive “O rest in the Lord,” from Elijah.
From the church the coffins were borne in the reverse order to that of entering, Mrs. Hopes’ remains being first, followed by her son then Mrs. Smith followed by her son, with Doris Hancock next and Mrs. Figgures last. Mrs. Hopes was borne by four of her uncles and two friends, whilst the bearers in the case of the children were members of the 1st Blockley Troop of Boy Scouts. Upon leaving the church the cortege formed up in the following order: The clergy and Baptist minister, Supts. Pegg (Evesham) and Bunker (Campden), followed by Sergt. Knott (Broadway) and P.C. Lambourne (Blockley), the coffins and mourners, the choir, the churchwardens and sidesmen, members of the Women’s Institute, the Women’s Guild of St. Peter and Paul, the Parish Council, the Cirencester Benefit Club and the Sick and Dividend Society, the Choral Society, the Bowling, Tennis and Badminton Clubs, the Blockley branch of the British Legion, the Mothers’ Meeting and the Girl Guides. These were the official organisations represented, but in the procession that followed the bodies on the long journey to their last resting place in Blockley Cemetery, about a quarter of a mile from the church, were many hundreds of villagers and friends of all grades of society, it being estimated that there were over 2,000 people present. With one exception all the coffins were borne the whole of the distance on the shoulders of the bearers, and as the cortege mounted the steep hill from the church it was a most impressive sight.
At the Cemetery were four graves, three being adjoining, whilst the other (that of Mrs. Figgures) was about 17 yards away, she being buried in the grave of her husband, who predeceased her some years ago. In the first of the graves was placed the remains of Mrs. Hopes and her son, in the second Mrs, Smith and her son, and in the third Doris Hancock. Over each grave the committal portion of the Burial Service was read, and during this ceremony the most pathetic sights were witnessed. The scene of the interments is at the top of a steep slope, and on Saturday the whole of the valley beneath was bathed in sunshine, whilst in the distance could be seen fields of ripening corn. At the conclusion of the ceremony the Vicar mounted the mound of earth formed by the opening of the graves, and his pronouncement of the Blessing brought to a close one of the saddest episodes that has occurred in the life of any village in the district. Following the service the vast assembly sang “Nearer my God to Thee,” the accompaniment being played by the Campden Brass Band, and the band later led the singing of “Lead kindly light” and other hymns.
All the coffins were of polished elm with brass fittings, and the inscriptions were as follows: “Mary Matilda Hopes, died August 5th, 1924, aged 39 years”; “Bernard L. Hopes, aged 3 years”: “Annie Smith, died August 5th, 1924, aged 36 years”, “Harry Smith, aged 4 1/2 years”: , “Mary Jane Figgures, died August 5th, 1924, aged 65 years”; “Doris Hancock, died August 5th, 1924, aged 16 years.” The remaining victim, Miss Green, of Birmingham, was buried on Wednesday at Birmingham The undertaker for each of the deceased, apart from Miss Green, was Mr. C. Keyte of Blockley.
In the case of each of the deceased there were many mourners, and it is impossible to give all of these, but an attempt has been made to give the family mourners in each case. Mrs. Hopes came of a very old Blockley family, which was one of the largest in the village, her father having eight sons and two daughters, all of whom settled in the village where, with the exception of two deceased, they still remain. Among the mourners following her remains, and the coffin of her son, were her husband and daughter Laura, Frank, George and Algy (sons), and Mr. W. Pain (father of Mrs. Hopes) Mr. Arthur Pain Mr. William Pain, Mr. G. Pain, Mrs. Warner, Mrs. Sergeant, Mrs. Bartlett (brothers and sisters), Mr. Wallace Bartlett and Mr. Chambers, with many friends. Mrs. Smith was the wife of Mr. William Smith, who brought his family to Blockley from the Bourton-on-the-Water district rather more than two years ago, although he was born at Laverton, where his parents still live. The tragedy took place on his birthday. The mourners following Mrs. Smith and her son were: Mr. Smith and daughter Alice, Mr. R. Harris (brother) and Mrs. Smith (mother-in-law), Mrs. Hayward (sister), Mr. Ralph Smith (brother-in-law), Mrs Webb (sister), Mr. F. Handy (brother- in-law), Mrs. Clark (sister), Mrs. Robert Harris
IMPRESSIVE SCENES AT FUNERAL
(sister-in-law), Mr. F. Hayward and Mr. H. Clark (brother-in-law), Mrs. Wilson, and several other friends. Doris Hancock also came of a very old Blockley family, being the grand-daughter of the late Mr. James Keen, for many years organist at the Parish Church, foreman of the bellringers, master of the Blockley Brass Band, and one of Blockley's leading men. Mr. Hancock is a blacksmith at Halford Bridge and lost his wife some years ago. Doris had lived with her grandmother and uncle James for many years, and had just reached an age when she was very useful to her grandmother who is in declining years. The mourners following her remains were:—Mr. H. Hancock (father) Agnes Hancock (sister), Mrs. Hancock (step-mother) Mrs. Page and Mrs. John Keen (aunts), Messrs. James, Harry George, Edwin and William Keen (uncles), with the wives of the three last mentioned, Mrs. George Hale, Miss Joan Keen and many other friends. Mrs. Figgures was also a member of an old Blockley family, being born at The Pastures Farm, the daughter of the late Mr. Peter Haines. The mourners were:—Archer and Iris Taylor (grandchildren), Mr. and Mrs. A. Taylor (son-in-law and daughter), Mr. C. Haines (brother), and Mrs. Kendrick (cousin), Mr. H. Figgures (brother in-law) and his daughter Mrs. Mumford, Mr. Lancelot Figgures and Miss G. Figgures.
LIST OF WREATHS
There were very many lovely floral tributes, some personal, and some to the memory of all the deceased, and it is impossible therefore to differentiate between those placed on any particular grave, The following list was obtained after the funeral; - but manywreaths were buried with the coffins, whilst others had no inscription.
Mollie Barrett; Mrs. Merriman; “Dad and all at home”; Mr. and Mrs. C. Miles and family (Lower Oddington), Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher and Muriel; “Auntie Fanny, Uncle Jack and Mercedes”; Church Workers Guild of St. Peter and St. Paul; Mr. and Mrs. C. Cole and Mrs. E. Feasey (Aston Magna); W. and E. M. Drew; Mrs. Frank Turvey and children; Richard and Alice Turner, Mr. and Mrs. F. Mayo, Mrs. Franklin; Mrs. Withers and Mrs. Fredk. Webb; Mrs. J. Ledbetter; Lily and Daisy Padbury; Amy Keyte and Elsie Readman; Miss V. Knox (captain of Blockley Girl Guides); Winnie Taylor, “All at Draycott”, "grandmother Keen” Mrs. Cox and family; Mr. and Mrs. P. Keyte and family; Mrs. Turner and Nell; Tennis and Badminton Club; Mrs. Carlton Collingwood (Harborne) Mr. and Mrs J. Smith and family (Laverton); Mr. and Mrs. Brown and employees at Northwick Park Farm, Dennis Sharp and family; Mr. and Mrs. L. Smith; Captain E. G. Spencer Churchill; Mollie Stanley; “Children of Mrs. Smith”; “Husband of Mrs. Smith“; Mr. and Mrs. L. Hall; Kathleen Merriman Mr. and Mrs. T. W. Bennett and children; Amy and Sybil; Mr. and Mrs. Hooper and family, “Joan Turner; Joan Keen; “Sorrowing teacher, B. M. Collett” (one for each child); “Hetty, Bob and Lizzie”; Mr. and Mrs. Haywood and children (Fairford); Miss. Seymour; “Marjorie, Joan and Beryl”; Mrs. Bennett, Blockley Infant School (one for each child); “Inhabitants’ of Bourton-on-the-Hill”, First Blockley Troop scouts; “Joycie”; Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher; “Mary and Harry”; “Bettie”; Mr, and Mrs. J. Gadd (Blackheath); Miss Bruce (Gloucestershire Girl Guides) Blockley - Schools; “Aunt Fanny and family”; Miss Ennals and Mr. A. T. Ennals, “Laura”; Mrs. Kitchen; Amy Keyte and Sybil Bennett; Mrs. Gordon Alexander and Miss Carpenter Harris; Colonel and Mrs. Arthur Dugdale and members of the Sezincot Workers’ Club; Grace Rouse, Dr. and Mrs. W. H. Rowthorn; BIockley
Choral Society, “Billie and Betty”; “Ethel”; H. Keyte; Northwick Bowling Club; Clark Nicholson; “Mrs. Charles Linnell and all at Mount Pleasant”, Mr. and Mrs. Taylor and family; Great Western; Quoit Club; “Northend House”; “Alice, Fred and Ronald”, Blockley Girl Guides; “All at ‘The Glen’”; “Muriel”; “Aunt Bess, Uncle Bert Aunt Lizzie and Kit”; “Father, sisters and brothers”; “Dad and family”; Mr. and Mrs. C. Figgures; Mrs T. Keen and family; “Ernest and Gertie”; Mr. and Mrs. W. R. Smith; Mr. and Mrs. Whiting; “Frankie”; “Dad and Family”; “His playmates at Cromwell-terrace”; Mr. and Mrs. L. Hall; Mrs. Jim Eastbury; Mrs T. Mayo; Dorothy and Ruby Mayo; “Uncle Jack, Aunt Kate and family”; Laura Wall and Ted; Harry and Bessie Day and children (Batsford); “Sam and Lizzie”; Frances Figgures; “Members of Mothers’ Meeting”; Mr. and Mrs. W. M. Andrews and family; “Ethel and Alf”; Mrs. Deverill and family; Mrs. A. H. Wilfred Brett; Blockley Women’s Institute; Mr. and Mrs. Woodham; “Tommy”; “Harry, Flo and children”; Sarah Keen; Mrs. Ledbetter and Mrs. Figgures; “Archer and Iris”; “Friends”; Mr. and Mrs. P. Keyte and family; “Olive and Violet”; Brother G. R. and M. Haines; Mrs. R. Drury and Miss Simmons. In addition these were placed on the three graves eighteen emblems, and on the grave of Mrs. Figgures eight emblems without names.
As had been said, the assembly both at the church and the cemetery was of a most representative character, all differences of class or creed having been sunk in the face of the overwhelming disaster with which the village had been stricken. Among those present was commander Eyres Monsell, M.P., who travelled specially from London, and who took up a place with the members of the British Legion; whilst among the many others present were:—Lady Edward Spencer Churchill, Captain E. C. Spencer Churchill, Captain Douglas. Dr. Jacob, Dr. Nicholson, Major Oddling, Rev. E. P. Blow (of Stretton), Rev. A. W. F. Norton (Lemington, formerly and for many years curate at the Parish Church Blockley), Mr. G. Minett (representing the Parish Council), Mr. Wright (representing the Shipston Rural District Council), Mr. G. Sheppy (representing the G.W. Railway), Mr. J. W. Riddey and Mr. A. W. Drury (representing Moreton-in-Marsh Hospital), Mr. and Mrs. Bert Rouse (Clifford Chambers), Mr. R. Beachey and friends (Birmingham), Mr. A. E. Beck, Mrs. Barrow, Mr. Hardy, Mr. Chaney, Mr. Low, Mrs. Marks, Mr. and Mrs. Brown, Mr. H. Bull, Mr. H. Challen Sharp, Mr. Page, Mr. Belcher, Mrs. Knox, Miss Vera Knox, Mr. Thompson, Mr., J. D. Coppage, and practically all the tradespeople and farmers from a wide district around. There were also in attendance two members of the Great Western Railway Ambulance Class, but fortunately their services were not requisitioned.
The whole of the arrangements throughout were made in a manner reflecting the greatest credit upon those responsible for them. The ceremony was dignified without being ornate and the whole of the village rose to the occasion in a most commendable manner. The police arrangements were very thorough, there being in addition to the uniformed police, special constables posted at the cemetery and Supt. Pegg (of Evesham) has received a well-deserved letter of thanks from the Vicar and Church wardens of Blockley for the manner in which his staff carried out their duties. Messages of sympathy have been received in the village from all parts of the country and Saturday’s proceedings typified the feelings of the whole countryside.
We are asked by the :members of the bereaved families to express their heartfelt appreciation of the many kindness shown them in their trouble.