The Death of Two Brothers - Sheffield November 1925

James Mackenzie and Herbert Knox Melling

The first newspaper report is dated Monday 23rd November 1925 and is from the Sheffield Daily Telegraph


The tragedy was also reported in Monday's edition of the Manchester Guardian


"Mack" and "Bertie" - the photos look as though they were taken whilst both were still at school (King Edwards V11)

The Yorkshire Post also reported the tragedy in its edition dated Monday 23rd November 1925

On the 24th November 1925 the Sheffield Daily Telegraph reported the following under the heading



"This is one of the most tragic and distressing cases which I can remember during my experience" said Mr. J. Kenyon-Parker, the Sheffield City Coroner yesterday. In adjourning the inquest on the two brothers who were killed in the terrible motor accident which occurred on the Manchester Road, Sheffield on Sunday afternoon
The boys James Mackenzie Melling (16) and Herbert Knox Melling (14) were the sons of Councillor and Mrs Wilfred Melling of 21 Claremont Crescent

Mr Harold Jackson represented the relatives of the deceased; Mr Irwin Mitchell appeared for the driver of the motor-car Mr J F Chadwick and Superintendent Cotterill of Broomhill Division represented the police 

The bereaved father gave evidence of identification. He said that his two sons left home at about 2.15 on Sunday afternoon, the elder driving and the younger on the pillion. At about 4.15 p.m. he heard of the accident and was informed that Herbert was dead, while James had been removed to the Royal hospital. He visited the hospital but the boy died a few hours later.

Dr. Holmes of the Royal Hospital stated that both of the boys had terrible head injuries. In his opinion the younger must have been killed almost instantly. James died at about 7.00 p.m. without regaining consciousness

The Coroner said that the inquiry would be adjourned until 2.30p.m. today when he would have the assistance of a jury. He expressed his deepest sympathy with Councillor Melling and family in the loss of both boys.

Mr. Mitchell also added his sympathy on behalf of Mr. Chadwick and Mr. Jackson replied on behalf of the relatives.

The funeral of the two boys will take place on Wednesday at Abbey Lane Cemetery at three o' clock. It will be preceded by a service in Carver Street Wesleyan Church at 1.45. The body of the church will be reserved for friends of the family who care to present their cards at the church door"

The following "In Memoriam" was obtained from the Sheffield History Forum


The service was completed and the two brothers were interred in Sheffield's Abbey Lane Cemetery later that afternoon

The burial records are from the Sheffield Indexers site. The two brothers were laid side by side and were joined by other family members in the years that followed

MELLING, James Mackenzie (Son of Wilfred, age 16).
Died at 21 Claremont Terrace; Buried on November 25, 1925 in Unconsecrated ground;
Grave Number 399, Section C of Abbey Lane Cemetery, Sheffield.
MELLING, Matilda Sophia (Wife of Wilfred, age 76).
Died at 114 Totley Brook Rd; Buried on June 24, 1958 in Unconsecrated ground;
Grave Number 399, Section C of Abbey Lane Cemetery, Sheffield.
MELLING, Edith (~, age 85).
Died at Blenheim Nursing. Home; Buried on May 6, 1966 in Unconsecrated ground;
Grave Number 398, Section C of Abbey Lane Cemetery, Sheffield.
MELLING, Herbert Knox (Son of Wilfred, age 14).
Died at 21 Claremont Terrace; Buried on November 25, 1925 in Unconsecrated ground;
Grave Number 398, Section C of Abbey Lane Cemetery, Sheffield.
MELLING, Herbert (traveller, age 44).
Died at Ascot Road; Buried on April 19, 1927 in Unconsecrated ground;
Grave Number 400, Section C of Abbey Lane Cemetery, Sheffield.Remarks: Removed from Birmingham.
MELLINGS, Margaret Elizabeth (Widow, age 46).
Died at City General Hospital; Buried on June 6, 1935 in Unconsecrated ground;
Grave Number 400, Section C of Abbey Lane Cemetery, Sheffield. : 

The Melling Family - 1911 Census

Whilst I was researching this tragedy I came across the following e-book "Frayed Lifelines: A Siege Survivor's Story" by Frank Leighton. Frank was related to the Melling brothers James and Herbert through their mother Matilda "Tilly". These are his thoughts on the family and what happened to them in the aftermath of the accident. It makes for sobering reading

The Mellings, husband and wife were a contrast in the extreme. Tilly, the quiet soft-spoken gentlewoman was pleasant but undemonstrative and lacked the Mackenzie sense of fun which in grandmother always lay close to the surface. By contrast, Tilly's husband Wilfred Melling had a quick sometimes rather coarse sense of humour of the brash, self made Yorkshire businessman he was. Wilfred had been quick to sense the opportunities presented by the nascent automobile industry and, by the early 1920's, he had succeeded in building a large automobile dealership in Sheffield. So successful was he that he was soon elected at a relatively young age, a councilor of the City of Sheffield.

This early success was to have devastating consequences for the family. Like so many successful self-made men, Wilfred showered on his children all the luxuries which he himself was probably denied in his own childhood. The Mellings had to boys, just one year apart, and a daughter Margaret a few years younger. As soon as Mack the older of the two boys reached the legal driving age of fifteen, he received as a birthday gift, a brand new powerful motorcycle. Eager to test it he persuaded his younger brother Bertie, not quite yet fourteen, to mount the pillion seat as a passenger and the two of them set of for a test run. Sadly they never returned. Both were killed instantly in a head-on collision on a curving road amid the South Yorkshire hills. Even though I was five at the time I still remember the stunned shock which followed receipt of the devastating telegram. Unlike most boys, I grew up without the slightest desire to ever own a motorcycle.

... The loss of their sons had such a traumatic effect on Great Aunt Tilly and Great Uncle Wilfred that it changed their lifestyle. Wilfred and his remaining family took up regular attendance at a previously neglected church.. Much of the wealth that had previously been showered on their children was now diretced to a city Mission among the down-and-out citizens of Sheffield industrial slums.

Great Aunt Tilly and her husband never returned to their former lifestyle. They lived to be a ripe old age in a comfortable country house in Brough, in the Hope Valley outside Sheffield. I used to visit them there in my post-war student days before I emigrated to Canada and later was able to introduce my Canadian bride to this hospitable elderly couple while touring England on our honeymoon."

And as a postscript I found this article dated 1st December 1939

In July 2017 I was reading that month's edition of Grapevine magazine and came across an article that was written by Jason Heath. Jason writes an excellent monthly column "Immortal Words" in which he uses archive photographs that are in the possession of his family business John Heath & Sons. and places them in a historical context. This is the photograph he used for July's edition

Photograph courtesy of  John Heath & Sons

Jason identified the location as Carver Street Methodist Chapel - the shop Runwell Cycles was opposite the main entrance. Furthermore Runwell Cycles did not start trading until 1925 which dates the photograph post 1925. Jason points out that double funerals are rare and given the presence of  fireman in full ceremonial dress concluded that the funeral was that of two of their colleagues. His great great uncle Joe officiated at the funeral - he is the man with his back to the camera checking that the coffins are steady and correctly positioned.

I did check first with the British Library Newspaper Archive but could find no instances of death in service for Sheffield firemen in the mid to late 1920's. But I was familiar with the tragedy that befell the Melling family in November 1925 and so I contacted Jason and referred him to this article. He confirmed that it was his firm John Heath & Sons that were the funeral directors that day. The boys' father Cllr. Melling was Chair of the Sheffield Watch Committee which would explain the presence of the ceremonial guard and the mourners were certainly dressed for a cold day in November.   .  



If anyone can supply me with any further information please contact me


The Manchester Guardian dated 23rd November 1925

Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 23-24th November 1925

Yorkshire Post dated Monday 23rd November 1925

1st December 1939

Frayed Lifelines: A Siege Survivor's Story

John Heath & Sons

Grapevine Magazine July 2017

Sheffield History Forum

Sheffield Indexers

UK Census

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This page was last updated on 15/07/17 15:17