THE TRAGIC DEATH OF NORA LEARY - SHEFFIELD 1937

"Then a blizzard started and Nora cried out for her mother and became delirious. She got up but they made her lie down again, and she started moaning and groaning".

A report appeared in the Manchester Guardian dated 14th December 1937

The tragedy also featured in The Times

These were hellish conditions that the party faced that day. The weather was atrocious and the route they took was across bleak and desolate moor. Furthermore the two girls were  were both young and very inexperienced. They had only joined the club two months earlier, and so would have had little or no experience of both the weather and the route. The two men though were both described as being "experienced" , and Fred Glaser also had local knowledge of the route.

GoogleNews did have a digital copy of The Glasgow Herald dated 17th December 1937 which carried a full report of the inquest and more importantly the verdict

RAMBLERS CAUGHT IN BLIZZARD

GIRLS FATAL COLLAPSE

CORONER'S COMMENT AT INQUEST

The view that no blame attached to any of the Sheffield rambling party whose companion 17 year old Nora Leary of Birch Road Sheffield died as they lay huddled up in a blizzard on the wild Broomhead moors, was expressed by the jury at the inquest at Sheffield yesterday 

"Death by Misadventure" was the verdict returned

Nora's body was dug from eight feet of snow on Monday after her companions watching over her all night had gone for help

Margaret Dearnaley (19) of Staniforth Road, Sheffield, the other girl in the party had to be carried to the Coroner's Court to give evidence as she was suffering from feet blisters

SHOULD NOT HAVE LOST HER LIFE

The Coroner (Mr J Kenyon Parker) said "This is a sad inquest because a young girl has lost her life and in my opinion, she not have lost it"

The question seemed to be - Why didn't the party turn back? The rule among climbers and walkers that a member of a party who was ill should never be left alone did not apply here because it seemed almost certain the girl was dead,

In his opinion the two men acted rightly in concentrating on getting the other girl back to safety. No good could have been done by some one staying behind with a dead body.

His view was that the leader of the party had no legal responsibility for the party. But he thought that he had some moral responsibility, and if, on the evidence, the jury were of the opinion that he had failed and made an error of judgement they could say so in the verdict. There was absolutely no evidence of what the law called criminal negligence.

It was not the duty or function of the coroner to do what was called censuring people. It was better left alone.

A post-mortem examination showed that the girl was perfectly healthy and died from exposure.

SEARCH PARTY EXHAUSTED

Police-Sergeant Paradise said that he was one of a search party including the two men survivors who recovered the body on Monday night. When they reached the shepherd's hut with it they were all exhausted. "We had come to the end of our physical endurance" he said.

Margaret Dearnaley (19) described how the party on Sunday walked to Bolsterstone where they lunched intending to go over the moors to the village of Derwent. While walking over the moors Nora complained that she wanted a rest. Later she kept sagging at the knees and falling on her face, and the two men carried her between them. When they came to a ditch they found it impossible to take her any further, so decided to stop there for the night.

Then a blizzard started and Nora cried out for her mother and became delirious. She got up but they made her lie down again, and she started moaning and groaning.

"Then suddenly she became quiet and I thought she was asleep. She had her arms around me" said Miss Dearnaley.

Later Garfitt said that that he was sure that she was dead. When daylight came it was still snowing hard, and blowing, and the three of them decided to go for help

Asked if if it would not have been safer to turn back when Nora became ill, she said that it would have been just the same as going forward because the girl was done up.

CONCERN FOR OTHER GIRL 

Albert Garfitt (26) of Fitzwilliam Street, Sheffield said that after he has satisfied himself that Nora was dead he and Glaser discussed for some time what they ought to do. they decided that the best thing to do was to leave Nora there and get the other girl to safety.

"We felt it better to fight for the living than for the dead" he said.

George Frederick Glaser (25) of Normanton Street Sheffield said that when Nora had the fainting bouts it was as easy to go on as to retrace their steps.

"Death by Misadventure" was the verdict returned, and really no-one could argue with it. There was absolutely no evidence of criminal negligence, or for that matter negligence of any kind. They did their best in the circumstances they found themselves in and took the correct course of action.

But the question is not why they did not turn back but why they set out in the first place!. Bearing in mind it was a Sunday and they had lunch in the Castle Inn in Bolsterstone, they cannot have started their journey much earlier than 1.00 pm. It is approximately 8 miles "as the crow flies" from Bolsterstone to Derwent, and the ground conditions and weather were terrible. It would have been nigh on impossible to reach Derwent by nightfall which at that time of year can be as early as 3.30pm. And then factor in the ferocious blizzard that descended on very poor underfoot conditions and you can see what the Coroner was hinting at when he noted

"This is a sad inquest because a young girl has lost her life and in my opinion, she not have lost it." 

No mention was made of the suitability of the equipment and clothing the party were carrying and neither is there any mention of any actions the party took to deal with Nora's condition.

Did any of the party recognise that Nora was suffering from exposure and if they did why did they not take corrective action to deal with the symptoms.

The Manchester Guardian dated 17th December 1937 also carried a report of the inquest

Thirty years later there was a letter in the British Medical Journal dated 6th May 1967 which is very pertinent to the events of that day

    

To be continued

Deaths Sep 1943   (>99%)
DEARNALEY  Margaret A  33  Sheffield  9c 450

Source Citation: 

Manchester Guardian dated 14th December 1937

Manchester Guardian dated 17th December 1937

OUR CORRESPONDENT. "Girl Rambler Dead On Lonely Moor." Times [London, England] 14 Dec. 1937

The Glasgow Herald dated 17th December 1937

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This page was last updated on 17/08/14 17:01