Richard Rowe of Newlyn is a post office messenger. We can picture him, this ordinary lad. He’s probably proud of his work, and enjoys being out in the open air, especially now spring is on the way. He works evenings, and sometimes he cuts it a bit fine: sometimes has to put a bit of speed on to make sure he arrives on time. After all, as his supervisor has doubtless told him, the Post Office is the Post Office, and there’s plenty of other lads queuing up for a job.
What’s it like, for an ordinary lad – a telegraph boy – to find himself suddenly responsible for another man’s death?
Most of us have no idea. Neither does Richard Rowe. But he’s about to find out.
Two days ago Richard, tearing off to work along the New Road was overtaken by a car which threw up “a cloud of dust”. Head down, peddling furiously, he felt a sudden impact; his bicycle going one way, he another. He picked himself up. Realised he’d hit an old chap. Perhaps felt a bit sorry – picked up the chap’s hat – but he had to get to work. At the end of that shift, though, he did go round to the chap’s house in Florence Place, to apologise, to check the old man was all right.
But in fact the unfortunate pedestrian, James Guy aged 74, is far from all right. He was already “somewhat debilitated” and receiving medical attention, even before he stepped off the curb on that Thursday afternoon. Now he’s in the Infirmary with a broken leg, and shock; and today that shock – and perhaps other, unguessed at complications - will kill him.
Of course, there will be an inquest. Richard Rowe perhaps spends the night of April 4th asking worried questions: what kind of questions will be asked? Could he go to prison? Will he lose his place?
The coroner will certainly gives him a stiff lecture, with talk of “His Majesty’s highway”, “duty” and a “grave warning” given at the specific request of the jury. But what will happen to Richard Rowe, of 3 Carne William, in the months and years to come? Will his bicycle be abandoned to rust, or sold, or scrapped? Will he lead a calm and sober life, and come to dread the exhilaration of speed? Is he to prosper with the Post Office – or will life take him in another direction?
We simply don’t know – but you might. If so, please get in touch. Any updates will be included next year.
Cornishman 8th April 1925 page 4