Abergele train disaster

Published in Issue 1 (January/February 2019), Letters, Volume 27

Above: The scene at Abergele, as sketched an hour and a half after the crash. (Illustrated London News supplement, 29 August 1868)

Sir,—The article by Bryan MacMahon (HI 26.6, Sept./Oct. 2018) accurately highlights the impact of the Abergele disaster on contemporary society. A footnote to this sad tale is that the clerk in charge of the Travelling Post Office (TPO) van was Henry Cole Silk. He was the youngest son of Edmund Silk, attorney and long-standing seneschal (manorial governor) of Loughrea. Henry’s mother was Letitia Eyre of Eyreville. Like a number of other young men from County Galway, Henry owed his appointment in the GPO to the patronage of Ulick John de Burgh, 1st marquess of Clanricarde, postmaster general 1846–52. Henry and his brother William were appointed to clerkships in the GPO, London, after the death of their father in 1846. Henry had joined the doomed train at Chester for his regular turn of duty. He was seriously injured in the collision but, with the help of Post Office colleagues and passengers on the train, he bravely ensured that his TPO van was not consumed by fire. He remained resolutely on duty for several hours until the mail had been removed securely. Henry later won substantial damages from the London and North Western Railway but his injuries meant that he never worked again and he died in 1875, aged 53. His life had other misfortunes—he had been injured in several previous mail train accidents and his wife died in 1866 in an outbreak of cholera in Chester, leaving three young children.—Yours etc.,



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