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James Hetherington Pearson was born in Hayton near Cockermouth in Cumberland in 1888 and was the eldest son of coal miner Thomas and Jane Pearson. James had one older sister, three younger sisters and three younger brothers.

The family lived at the same residence in Hayton between 1891 and 1901 but by 1911 James had moved down to Littleborough in Lancashire where he was working as a Police Constable in the Lancashire County Constabulary. On the evening of the 1911 census James and fellow-policeman, Frederick William Callow, were boarding with widow Emma Jane Heginbottom and her 24 year old daughter Ada Elenor Heginbottom at 3 Travis Street in Littleborough.

On 28th March 1912 James Pearson and Ada Heginbottom were married at the Holy Trinity Parish Church in Littleborough.

Holy Trinity Parish Church in Littleborough

James’ Army service records have not been located but he probably enlisted not long after war was declared. He joined the 10th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and was promoted to Serjeant and based on his previous service was appointed a military policeman within the Battalion. The Battalion moved down to Eastbourne in Sussex to begin their training with other elements of 22nd Division preparing to be sent overseas for war service.

It was at Eastbourne on 25th February 1915 that he was involved in an unfortunate motor incident resulting in the death of Lily Goble. The Globe newspaper reported that same day;

Lily Goble, 24, a barmaid, was killed by being knocked down by a motor cycle ridden by a soldier on the Grand Parade, Eastbourne today. The soldier was rendered unconscious.

The Western Daily Express publishing on 15th March 1915;

At the resumed inquest at Eastbourne , on Friday, on Miss Lily Goble, temporary barmaid at the Royal Hotel who was killed by a motor cycle ridden by Sergeant James Hetherington Pearson of the 10th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, evidence was given that the cycle was being ridden at great speed along the sea front, and the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter against Pearson.

Pearson was taken to hospital in a military ambulance and spent the next fortnight suffering from concussion. He estimated he was traveling between 15 and 20 miles an hour. The Rev. Trevor Basil Wood, Vicar of St. John’s, Fitzroy Square, London gave evidence for the defence who said that he thought one of the girl’s clothes had got caught in the machine. Returning the manslaughter verdict the jury added that the “speed of motor-vehicles in Eastbourne was dangerous to the public.”

The Grand Hotel Eastbourne with an early Char-a-banc in the foreground

Records from HMP Wandsworth show that James Hetherington Pearson was charged with manslaughter on 13th March 1915 for the death of Lily Goble of 110 Portland Road, Hove, barmaid at the Royal Hotel, Eastbourne, daughter of Frank Goble of Guildford, labourer, 24; knocked down on the Grand Parade. Bail was allowed.

James was bailed and a second trial took place in early July 1915. Evidence was given by Agnes Leonard, who was with Lily Goble at the time of her death. Agnes said they both left the Royal Hotel, where they were employed, to go for a walk. At eleven o’clock they left the Middle Parade for the Grand Parade. While crossing the road Agnes saw a motor char-a-banc coming and when three quarters across the road noticed a motorcycle that was “practically on to them”. Turning around she saw Lily lying in the road. When cross-examined Agnes said she and Lily were talking at the time.

A soldier, who was a taxi driver at the time of the incident in February, was near the scene and said he saw the two ladies crossing the road when a motorcycle came along at a speed between 25 and 30 miles an hour. One jumped and the other hesitated, the cycle striking her causing her to spin around. She fell on her back.

Former Eastbourne policeman, William Skinner of the Military Foot Police expressed his opinion that an accident was bound to happen from what he had seen previously.

Corporal Munroe of the Royal Engineers examined the motorcycle and opined that “had the machine been travelling at fifteen miles an hour he would have expected to have found more damage”.

A detective said he had made enquiries about the prisoners’s character – it was excellent.

Given evidence on his own behalf, James Hetherington Pearson stated he passed the char-a-banc on the near side because he wished to take a wide sweep to go around a sharp corner. When about 15 or 20 yards away he saw the young ladies, one of whom stepped back into him. Had she not done so there would have been room for him to pass.

The Rev. Trevor Basil Wood said he heard the noise of the cycle and then saw one of the young ladies go back into it. It was going faster than he should ride, but not so fast, he thought, as some motorcycles.

After a short deliberation the Jury returned a verdict of ‘Not Guilty’ and accused was accordingly discharged.

Authors Note: One newspaper article states that after his acquittal he joined the Gordon Highlanders.

James Hetherington Pearson and Ada Elenor Pearson appear on the 1955 electoral roll at 9 Newstead Crescent, Fitzwilliam, Pontefract, W. Yorks; where he died in June 1956 and was survived by Ada who died in December 1974.

Additional Information: The other police constable who boarded with the Heginbottoms in 1911, Frederick William Callow, served in the Royal Field Artillery from Gunner to Battery Quarter Master Sergeant during the war  and was awarded the Military Medal (M.M.) in 1918.

Paul McCormick
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