THE CHORLEY NEWS -----
SEPTEMBER 12th 1925
THE LATE DR. W.J. LEIGHTON.
EVIDENCE AT INQUEST
Wide spread sympathy and deep regret at the sense of the loss of a
popular and respected townsman were expressed by townspeople and
residents in the district, on the sad intelligence of the tragic death
of Dr. W.J. Leighton of St. George’s Street Chorley, who met with a
shocking death in a motor mishap on Tuesday evening at Whittle-le-Woods.
Within a few minutes of the discovery of the tragic accident, Dr.
Leighton, in his usual excellent health, had been engaged on an errand
of mercy in his professional capacity in the Whittle-le-Woods district.
It was a dark night, rain showers had made the road slippery, and the
shocking discovery fell to the lot of two young ladies, Miss Ellen and
Miss Mary Blackledge, Scotson’s Farm, Whittle-le-Woods, who were
returning from Chorley about nine o’clock. They were walking along Lucas
Lane, when they saw a motor car spare wheel lying in the narrow lane,
and a little further on the lights of a motor car shining into the hedge
side. They found the car overturned broadside across the lane, and Dr.
Leighton dead beneath it, with his head and arms projecting.
The inquest was conducted at the Court House, Chorley, on Thursday
afternoon by the Deputy Coroner (Lieut. Col. Parker. D.S.O.)
There were present at the inquiry, Mr. Samuel Leighton, (father), of
Belfast; Mr. James Trelford (uncle), of Belfast; and Mr. Arthur Keil,
9brother of the bereaved widow), of Sudbury, London.
The first witness was Mr. Arthur Lister Keil, brother-in-law of the
deceased, who said the deceased was 42 years of age. Witness had known
him about 15 years, and had frequently seen him and been in
communication with him.
The Deputy Coroner: He was a man of very good health.?
Witness: Of perfect health. He had not had any accidents before. From
enquiries and conversations he had with witness’s sister he ascribed Dr.
Leighton was visiting patients on that particular night at Whittle and
Thomas Ellison (17), apprentice butcher, Lowe’s Far, Town Lane,
Whittle-le-Woods, deposed that about 8-35 on Tuesday night he was near
his home – about 40 yards from Lucas Lane end, when he saw a motor car
drawn up on the roadside in Town Lane. It was facing towards Wheelton.
It was on the proper side of the road and opposite to Lucas Lane.
Witness recognised Dr. W.J. Leighton – he was standing in the middle of
the road at the off side of the car. Witness noticed, by the lights of
the car, repairing tools on the ground, and noticed Dr. Leighton had a
repair tool in his hand. Witness did not see the car again until he saw
it in Lucas Lane, upside down, fifteen minutes later. In the meantime,
witness had been in the house.
In reply to the Deputy Coroner, witness said that when he saw Dr.
Leighton attending to the car he was about 40 yards away, he could see
the tools in the road by the light of the car lamps. He was quite
certain they were tools.
Ellen Blackledge, Scotson’s Farm, Whittle-le-Woods, stated that about
ten minutes past nine on Tuesday night, when walking home along Lucas
Lane, near Town Lane, she saw a motor car lying upside down across the
road. The lights were still burning. Witness did not see anybody about.
She went home – about 150 yards away – and informed her brother. Witness
did not hear any noise at the time.
Harry Blackledge, (25), farmer’s son, Scotson’s Farm, spoke as to ‘being
informed of the occurrence’ by his sister. He at once went to the scene
of the accident and saw the motor car, which was completely turned over.
He obtained a lamp from a farm nearby, got assistance, and sent for the
police. On returning to the place and examining the car they saw a man’s
head and leg protruding from the car. The body was lying face downwards
with the head showing and the arms were outside the car body. The right
leg was also protruding from under the car. The remainder of the body
was completely under the car. The witness with others lifted the car and
released the body. Dr. Leighton appeared to be dead. They sent for a
doctor and rendered what assistance they could until the arrival of the
Dr. Maclean deposed he was called at 9-40 p.m. to the scene of the
accident. On arrival he found it was Dr. Leighton, of Chorley, who was
involved. Witness examined the body. There were injuries about the left
shoulder , but no external mark or evidence of injury. Witness concluded
that death was due to shock and concussion, which was instantaneous. It
must have been absolutely immediate. There was no fracture Death came so
quickly that there was no time for haemorrhage. Witness saw exactly the
position and cam to the conclusion that when the accident happened he
would not be able to breathe; the shock and concussion would have been
sufficient to kill him. He was not suffocated. The great part of the
weight of the car seemed to have struck him on the back of the head. The
most prominent part of the car was resting on the back of the neck.
Proceeding, Dr. Maclean said the car was an open two-seater; the hood
had been up, but it was crumpled in the accident. Whenthe accident
occurred his leg became involved in the steering wheel and the car was
on top of him immediately.
THEORIES OF THE ACCIDENT.
The Deputy Coroner; It is a very bad road?
Dr. Maclean: A terrible place, and not fit to take a car along: it is
too steep. It was not safe for any car. The gradient was between one in
four and one in five. The road there was very narrow and there was a
very sharp turning , less than a right angle from one side. The Deputy
Coroner commented that the car would be facing the opposite way to the
direction Dr. Leighton wanted to go to Chorley, when in Town Lane.
Dr. Maclean: The nearest way home would be to go back through Whittle .
He thought Dr. Leighton had turned and made a great mistake and was
backing into the lane : then put the mechanism into the reverse and then
the accelerator, and the accident happened. The exhaust pipe was packed
with soil and must have been going backwards. It seemed to have been
travelling backwards, south, and then turned round, west and quarter of
P.S. King stationed at Wheelton said that about 9-30 p.m. he went to the
scene and saw a Morris Cowley car, 1923 model, l l h.p. lying upside
down, about six yards from the junction to Town Lane. Deceased was lying
near the car. Witness examined the body and found death had taken place.
Witness had the body removed to the home, 3 St. George’s Street, where
it was examined by Dr. Maclean again. On examining the body witness
found the lower jaw much discoloured, slight bruises on both knees,
bruises on both arms, and no external bleeding. He examined the scene of
the accident and found a mark as though the wheel has struck the
nearside bank for about two yards. He also examined the car and found
that the nearside leading wheel had a lot of dirt on the side of the
tyre, and the hood was also marked and also the inside front mudguard,
which led him to believe that the car was going don – not backing.
Witness proceeded that it was a very dangerous bank: the surface was
very bad altogether. The end of the exhaust pipe and the end of the near
side back-spring were coated with a quantity of earth and grease. Town
Lane, at the scene of the accident was 21 feet wide, and there was a
footpath about four feet wide on the far side from Lucas Lane end. The
entrance to the lane was 17 feet wide, and there was a high bank. It was
the worst road to take to Chorley at the scene where the car was
wrecked. The radiator, mudguard, windscreen and lamps were crumpled up.
The police had been unable to ascertain any witness of the accident.
Richard Butterfield, motor engineer, of Burlington Street, Chorley,
stated that at 12-45 noon on Wednesday he examined the car, which was
lying upside down in Lucas Lane. With the assistance of five or six men,
the car was raised. The witness found the hand brake was tight on. The
gear lever was partly in reverse position.
The Deputy Coroner: It might have been jammed in there when the car was
The Deputy Coroner: Do you think it a likely solution that he wanted to
turn and he backed into Lucas Lane, using the reverse gear, and he
probably came down a bit faster than he expected and bumped the rear of
the car into the bank: and thinking he was alright, or for some reason,
put his hand brake on hard and started to dis-engage the gears with a
view to getting into the first to draw out: and then the car started to
Witness: It would have been impossible to move. The hand brake was in
good order. Some of us tried to move it and found it impossible to do
so. In reply to the Coroner, he said he would not like to suggest
anything as to the cause of the accident. In reference to the dirt found
in the silencer part he did not agree with Dr. Maclean’s theory of the
accident, because if so, the car would have had to turn a complete
somersault. He did not think it had turned a somersault – which seemed
impossible for the kind of car under the circumstances.
THE CORONER’S SYMPATHY.
A Pure Accident.
The Deputy Coroner in his summing up, remarked it was an extremely sad
case . Most of those present and probably all of them knew the late Dr.
Leighton, who had been in Chorley for some considerable time, and he had
come into contact with his family often. On the night in question, Dr.
Leighton evidently set out to visit certain patients, and at about 8-50
he was seen at the top of Town Lane doing something to his car. The his
body was found in the lane beneath the overturned car. It was simply a
question of surmise how the car came to be there or what hew was doing
at the time.
He (the Coroner) surmised that for some reason or other he drove into
Lucas Lane, whether for turning his car round, they did not know. But
there was no doubt that for some reason on that dark night he was
driving backwards, or something happened that caused the car to get out
of control, and he collided with the bank and the car must have shot
across the road and overturned. There was evidence that the lane (Lucas
Lane) was an exceedingly dangerous spot for any car to go down. The
brakes of the car might have been disturbed when the crash occurred.
Fortunately – if in fact such would be said in connection with such a
sad occurrence – from the medical evidence, he could not have suffered
at all. The only verdict he could return in that case was that it had
been a pure accident and he would return a verdict in accordance with
the evidence – “Accidental Death”.
The news of the unexpected sudden end of Dr. J.W. Leighton, M.D., Ch.B.,
occasioned widespread sympathy and regret in Chorley and district, and
the many friends by whom he was well known and respected. In the prime
of manhood, he was in his 43rd year. Dr. Leighton has the promise of a
very successful career. He entered into the public life of Chorley and
district, in the objects for the welfare of the citizens, with much
keenness, and he was a very popular figure. He was one of the keenest
advocates of the scheme for a new hospital. He was Hon. Surgeon at the
Rawcliffe Hospital, a position he had held since his arrival in Chorley,
some fifteen years ago. He held a similar appointment at St. John’s
Hospital, Manchester, which he frequently visited in his honorary
medical work, and he had expected to fulfil an appointment there on
Wednesday. In his professional calling he was a specialist of the ear,
nose and throat and his skill was widely known. With his colleagues of
the medical profession in the town he was highly popular, and some time
ago they appointed him Secretary of the Chorley branch of the British
Medical Association, and he was also a member of the Executive/ The late
Dr. W.J. Leighton was a prominent Freemason, being a Past Master of the
Townley Parker Lodge. In politics he was prominent in his fine efforts
for the Conservative cause, and particularly in the last General
Election he gave splendid services at the meetings in the constituency
by his speeches which were invariably marked by brilliant asides. He
regularly attended St. George’s Church, and although he did not hold an
official position in that connection, he gave fine services in the
various activities in the work of the parish.In local sports circles he
was a prominent figure, and took a conscientious part as President in
the organising of the annual Chorley Tennis Tournament, in aid of local
charities. He was a Vice-President of the Chorley Football Club. Dr.
Leighton leaves a wife and a little daughter.
The late Dr. Leighton was born in London, although he was of Northern
Ireland parentage. He was an only son. He had only returned a few days
ago from a visit to his parents’ home in Belfast, on the occasion of
their Golden Wedding celebration.
Flags at St. George’s Church and at the Chorley Central Conservative
Club, were displayed at half-mast in token of sympathy.
CONSERVATIVE ASSOCIATION TRIBUTE.
At a meeting of the Four Wards Committee of the Borough of Chorley on
Wednesday night, Major Fairer at the onset referred in sympathetic terms
to the tragic death of Dr. Leighton, who, he said had been a tower of
strength to the Conservative Party and had taken an active interest in
all the good works of the Borough.
A resolution of condolence to the bereaved, was passed on the
proposition of Alderman A.E. Gregory, seconded by Mr. J.S. Lee and
supported by Councillors Baxendale, Dr. Crisp and others.
Capt. Hacking said that by the death of Dr. Leighton the party and town
had sustained a great loss.
As a further mark of respect the meeting was adjourned until September
The funeral will take place today, preceded by service at St. George’s
FINE TRIBUTES AT FUNERAL
Amid many manifestations of esteem and respect the funeral took place on
Saturday morning of the late Dr. W.J.Leighton, who was killed in a motor
mishap at Whittle-le-Woods on Tuesday night, last week. Large crowds
lined the street when the cortege passed. There was a large and
representative attendance at the impressive service held in St. George’s
Church. The Vicar ( the Rev. C.J. Crabtree, M.A.), the Rector of Chorley
(Dr. Kirkby M.A.), and the Rural Dean (Rev. A.E. Nock), officiated at
the service , Mr. J. Lord Milnes, a personal friend of the late Dr.
Leighton, presided at the organ by special request.
In a striking eulogy of the deceased, Dr. P.J. Kirkby said the terrible
accident that had been the cause of the solemn service in which they
were taking part had cast a gloom over the whole town. A life brimful of
humane and human activities had been cut off before reaching its zenith.
Dr. Leighton’s death was a great loss to Chorley, where he had shown a
wonderful public spirit. He was essentially a man of intellect. The
variety of his intellectual interests was remarkable. In private
conversation with him one was struck with the accuracy of his knowledge
in subjects remote from his profession, in which he was such an expert
and specialist. But it was only possible that morning to mention a few
of the characteristics of his rich personality. He had a remarkable gift
of humour which, united with his great kindliness of nature, made him
such a charming companion. He was always good to meet and to talk to. He
was especially kind to young people, with whom he was very popular: but
by far the best thing to remember about him was his life of unremitting
labour in his noble profession, much of which was a labour of love in
ways known only to himself or in connection with the hospital at
Manchester, of which he was one of the staff. The deep sympathy of the
congregation with Mrs. Leighton and his family and parents would be
expressed in their prayers on their behalf. The perplexed inquiry: why
in the scheme of things should one have been suddenly called away whose
life was so singularly useful and benevolent, would be naturally on the
lips or in the thoughts of many. The answer of the Christian would be
that we can only see a little bit of the texture of reality. And only
from a standpoint from which the whole could be viewed in all its
relations would it be possible to see completely the reason and
rightness of such tragedies. In other words, God alone could judge. But
this, the Christian Church had always affirmed, that our human life is
an incident or rather a necessary discipline in a timeless activity of
the soul, created for immortality. For the rest we may derive comfort
from the ancient oracle , “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither
are your ways My ways, saith the Lord.” And the lesson for all is that
implied in the Prayer Book in the beautiful prayer said for the dying,
“and teach us who survive in this and other like daily spectacles of
mortality to see how frail and uncertain our own condition is, and so to
number our days that we may seriously apply our hearts to that holy and
heavenly wisdom, whilst we live here, which may in the end bring us to
During the service the following appropriate pieces were sympathetically
played and with consoling effect by Mr. J. Lord Milnes; Prelude by
Stanford, Rheinberger, and Chopin- Chopin’s Funeral March and the
The family mourners present were: Mr. G. Leighton (father), of Belfast ;
Mr. R. Trelford, (uncle) : Mr. J. Trelford, Belfast ; Mr. A.L. Keil,
Sudbury, and Mr. Johnson (brother-in-law) ; Dr. Milligan, Glossop.
Members of the medical profession who attended the service in the church
or were present at the graveside included; Dr. Crisp ; Dr. Lea ; Dr.
Warburton ; Dr. Maclean ; Dr. Marsh ; Dr. Miller ; Dr. Peddy ; Dr. J.
Rigby ; Dr. Sykes (Preston) ; and Dr. Quigley ; Mr. H. Stafford ; Mr.
Miller (dentists) ; Mrs. Rigby was present representing Dr. W.C. Rigby (Adlington),
; Dr. J.W. Rigby, J.P. ; and Mr. W.H. Haslam (representing the
Hospital). There were also present : Ald. A.E. Gregary ( representing
the Conservative Committees of Four Wards). Mr. J. Dawson (representing
the Chorley Division Conservative Registration Association), Ald. J.
Fearnhead ; Councillor F.E.F, Burgess ; Mr. G.B. Alcock, B.A. ; Miss
C de C Cuff, Mr. F.H. Taylor, Mr. P. Oakes, Supt. Marshall ; Mrs. J. L.
Milnes, Mr. Brown ( for the Economic Society ), Rev. Jackson, (Vicar of
Hoghton ), Rev. J. Mills, Mr. J.B. Kevill, Rev. J. Crabtree ( Vicar of
Marton, Blackpool.), Councillor J. Sharples, Rev. Dr. Irving, Capt. F.
Baines, M.C. ; Mr. Hamer ( churchwarden), Councillor E. Ashton, etc.
The Chorley and District Tennis Tournament was represented by Dr.
There were representatives from: The Townley Parker Lodge, 1032 ;
Lawrence Lodge, M.M.M. ; Ellesmere Lodge, 730 ; Earl of Lathom Chapter,
Floral tributes were as follows ; From Mrs. Leighton and daughter, From
Father, Mother, Kathleen and Lillie ; Uncle James and Auntie Mary,
(Belfast) ; Uncle Bob and Auntie Kathleen, (Co. Down ) ; Jack and May ;
Arthur and Elsie ; Mr. and Mrs. Jones and children ; Maggie, Ethel and
Edith ; Officers and Members of the Four Wards Conservative Club ;
Institute (Eaves Lane) Staff ; wreath and flowers from Lancashire County
Panel Committee ; (Charles J. Crabtree and all at Marton Vicarage
(racket) ; C. and H. and A.W. Stafford ; Dr. and Mrs. Maguire ; Dr. and
Mrs. Middlebrook ; Sir H.F. Hibbert, Bart. And Lady Hibbert ; Capt. And
Mrs. Hacking ; Capt. And Mrs.Dodds ; Dr. and Mrs. Rigby (Adlington) ;
Dr. and Mrs. T.P. Leighton ; Dr. and Mrs. Marsh ; Nurse Bower and Nurse
McNally ; Rev. J. and Mrs. Pedlar and family ; John Baxendale ; Mr. and
Mrs. Baxendale jnr. ; Mr. and Mrs. Royle ; Mr. and Mrs. Southworth and
family ; Mr. and Mrs. Booth and Mr. and Mrs. Rostron ; Mr. and Mrs. J.
Wilson, Market St. ; Mr. and Mrs. R.W. Butterfield ; Mr. and Mrs. Johm
Miller ; J.D. Williamson ; Mr. and Mrs. Jno Wilson, Primrose St. ; J.
Kellett ; Mrs. Farrington ; Nellie Gent ; Evelyn Rigby ; Marion ;
Buchannan ; Joyce ; Robert and Denniss ; Joss, Flo and Clara ; “W.O.” ;
Marjorie and Jack.
Public floral tributes were ; from the Lancashire County Panel Committee
(two) ; W.M. Officers and Bretheren , Temple Masonic Lodge, Belfast ;
Matron and Staff, Chorley Hospital ; Chorley and District Tennis
Tournament Committee (racket) ; St. Laurence’s Parochial Tennis Club ;
Chorley Chemists’ Association ; Members of Central Conservative Club ;
Park Road Tennis Club ; Chorley TENNIS Club ; South War Conservative
Club and Ladies Committee ; Honorary Medical Staff , Chorley Hospital ;
Management Committee, Chorley Hospital ; Patients in Fleet Street and
Cheapside ; Members of Townley Parker Lodge ; Lawrence Lodge M.M.M. ;
AND Earl of Lathom Chapter.
The last sad rites at the graveside were conducted by the Rev. C.J.
Crabtree, M.A. There was also a short Masonic ceremony.
The funeral arrangements were efficiently carried out by Mr. B. Livesey,
Transcribed from The News, Chorley. Sept. 12th 1925.