Coastguard killed by Lightning. 1899.

Coastguard killed by Lightning. 1899.

Mr.D.A.Hogan writes from Kilkee, County Clare, Ireland, December 29.

“I shall thank you to afford me an opportunity through The Times to bring home to the Admiralty their responsibility for a very tragic event that took place at Kilkee Coastguard station on the morning of the 27th inst. On that day I assisted at an inquest on the body of Richard Mercer, Coastguard, a native of Manchester. The verdict of the jury ran thus :- ‘We find that Richard Mercer was killed by lightning

While on duty at Kilkee Coastguard station on the morning of the 27th inst.’ At my instance the coroner very kindly added this rider :- ‘It is the opinion of the jury that the accident was the result of the failure of the lightning conductor on the flagstaff to do its duty.’ This has been forwarded to Whitehall as part of the verdict.

At 7 a.m. on the date mentioned a terrific thunderstorm burst over the Coastguard station. Richard Mercer was on guard. About six paces from the guardroom is the flagstaff, 50 ft. high and provide with a lightning conductor. If this were a proper lightning conductor it would protect an area with a radius twice its own length. Instead of that it proved to be the immediate cause of the disaster. It attracted the lightning without being able to convey it into the earth.

This T his is evident from the fact that the weathercock on top of the flagstaff was charred, three feet of the top of the staff was smashed away; that part of the conductor attached was bent in the direction in which the lightning burst off from the wire. The attraction of a metal tank brought it to where Mercer stood, less than 20 paces from the flagstaff. He received the discharge and was killed instantly. The chief boatman rushed to the scene. He received some of the after-current and lies in a precarious position from shock. All the members of five Coastguard families living in the station – about 30 souls are panic stricken. And when the same class of conductor is at every Coastguard station in Ireland, and perhaps elsewhere, you can estimate the gravity of responsibility of the Admiralty Department, which controls these stations.

I examined the conductor at the Kilkee station more closely today. I found that it enters the earth tightly gripped by a mass of concrete, in which the flagstaff stands. Instead of being then conveyed to a pool of water or running stream, where it might void the electricity into the earth with ease, it is made to terminate a few feet from the concrete on the solid rock on which the Coastguard station is built. This method is condemned and should be changed wherever it exists. – I am of opinion that the widow and five young orphans now left without support by this accident are entitled to the nominal allowance fixed by scale for the family of a man killed on duty, but that they are also entitled to full compensation for the life sacrificed by the failure of the Admiralty to provide efficient protection which science affords.

Mrs. Tuffnell Oakes, wife of Colonel Tuffnell Oakes, of Kilkee, Co. Clare, makes an appeal for funds to assist Mercer’s widow and 5 little children".

Ref: The Times London 2 January 1899.

2 Comments · 9057 Reads · Print  -> Posted by Tony on September 30 2008


#1 | lloyd on 20/10/2008 10:43:22
Is there a record of the results of Mrs Tufnell Oakes' appeal?
Importantly, did the Adriralty actually make changes to the lightning conductors?
#2 | danny caddye on 29/06/2010 15:56:27
My great grandfather and family were at this station according to 1901 census . Any way of knowing if they were there at that time? His name was Robert Caddye

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