Walter Humphries was my maternal uncle. Nicknamed "Shaggy" (apparently because of his unkempt hair at some stage in his short life), he became a mainstay of the family after completing his apprenticeship as a printer. His tragic death at the age of 22, in a fair-ground accident at Dreamland, Margate in Kent was, therefore, a disastrous loss to the family both from a personal and economic viewpoint. The hardship was not to end there. My grandmother, Elizabeth, got into debt (which took years to pay off) in order to pursue the owner of the fair-ground ride (F.C.Schmidt) in the courts; liability was proven but could not be discharged and a subsequent action, against the owners of Dreamland themselves, failed on appeal to the House of Lords.
The following extract from the local newspaper, with its wealth of personal detail, provides a vivid account of the tragedy and its effect on the family.
Extract from the "Fulham Chronicle" dated June 22nd 1928
HURLED TO DEATH
Fulham Victims of Margate Disaster
TRAGIC END TO LOCAL FIRM'S OUTING
Two Fulham friends, employees of Messrs J.B.Shears and Sons, printers and stationers of 191 New Kings Road, Fulham and 64 Sydney Street, Chelsea, were among the victims of the Margate flying-boat disaster at Dreamland Amusement Park, on Saturday (16th June) . They were:-
Walter Charles Humphries, aged 22, of 24 Aintree Street,
and Frank Douglas Lane, aged 16, of 473 Fulham Road.
Humphries and Lane were close pals and Mrs. Lane, in a interview with a Fulham Chronicle reporter, described them as a most happy couple.
Walter Charles Humphries, who was 22 years of age on Christmas Eve, was the second son of the late Mr. W.A. Humphries and of Mrs. Humphries. He secured employment with Messrs. Shears on leaving Kingwood Road school. A popular member of the West Fulham Labour Party, he belonged to the social and cricket sections, and was secretary of the Rowan F.C. He left home about 6.30 on Saturday morning to call for Lane, and his last words were a farewell to his sister Dolly.
The mother's grief is shared by two other sons and three daughters. The eldest son, Mr. Alan Alfred Humphries, came home on Monday from a Godalming hospital where he had been undergoing treatment for leg trouble, caused by a kick while playing football a year ago.
Lane went with Humphries on last year's outing to Folkestone. According to their arrangement, Humphries called for Lane about seven o'clock on Saturday morning, and both went off, in the best of spirits, to join the remainder of Messrs. Shears' staff for the annual trip to Margate.
The next Mrs. Lane heard of them was when, about 9.30 in the evening, the Police informed her of the tragedy.
During the day Humphries and Lane were among a happy party of holiday-makers who were laughing and waving to their friends from a flying-boat, when they were hurled like stones from a sling into the crowded Dreamland Amusement Park, and instantly killed.
Humphries' body was brought back from Margate by car on Wednesday evening by Messrs. H.Barker and Sons of 235 Munster Road, Fulham, the funeral undertakers, and the coffin remained in the firm's private mortuary until the funeral yesterday (Thursday). The bereaved mother and family, together with members of the Rowan Athletic Club, and many friends of Walter, visited the mortuary soon after the car arrived.
The internment at Fulham Cemetery, Sheen was preceded by an impressively simple service at the Dawes Road Baptist Church conducted by the pastor, (Rev. H.G.Doel). Drizzling rain marked the departure of the cortege from Aintree Street, the sad procession being watched by a large and sympathetic crowd.
The blinds of most of the windows in the vicinity were drawn. Thirty five wreaths and other emblems decorated the horse-drawn hearse, which was followed by two coaches, conveying the family mourners, and a taxicab, and a private car. The last two vehicles contained members of the Rowan Athletic Club, and other friends. The coffin was of polished elm, with brass fittings, and bore the usual inscription.
At the church the family were greatly distressed and cried bitterly, presenting a pathetic scene. All the family were in black of course, except an infant sister (Grace Mary), who was dressed in a white fur coat and walked between her mother and a brother in the front of the mourners.
Mr. Doel, conducting the service in his characteristic unconventional manner in his overcoat, sought in his address to comfort the family with the thought that "it was not goodbye but goodnight", and that there was happiness in the thought of the Reunion in the future. He was glad, he said, that the congregation sympathised with Mrs. Humphries, who had the sympathy of him (Mr. Doel) and all those friends who worshipped at the church. He knew something of the sorrow which Mrs. Humphries had passed through during the past eight or nine years, and also knew her courage, patience and heroism. She was one of the bravest little women he knew. They were confronted with a great mystery - why should the lad on whom she leaned be taken from her ? They would never be able to solve that mystery, but had just to leave it with that great higher Power. The passing of the deceased spoke to them all of how foolish it was to live as though this life was everything. Continuing, Mr. Doel said he had taken a great interest in Walter. He had seen him grow up and knew his excellent qualities. They thanked God for every man like him.
Walter's father died four years ago, and the widow was awarded a weekly pension of 36s. for his war service. This and Walter's weekly wage had been the sole support of the family since his elder brother, Alan, met with an accident while playing football twelve months ago and prevented him from working.
Neighbours expressed their sympathy with the family in the most practical way by subscribing to a list, and from the proceeds a handsome wreath was purchased. The balance of £4 odd was handed to the mother.
Many sympathising friends were present at the interment at Fulham Cemetery, Sheen. The grave was within 3 or 4 yards of Walter's father's last resting place. The bereaved mother was deeply distressed at the graveside and had to be supported by members of the family. At the conclusion of the committal service, Mrs. Humphries dropped a bunch of flowers onto the coffin. Note:- Both Walter and his father William were buried in a common grave but in 1998 a new headstone was erected in their memory.
The mourners were:-
First Coach. - The widowed mother, Messrs. Alan A. and William H. Humphries (brothers), the Misses Ada M. and Molly D. Humphries (sisters), Grace M. (his infant sister), and Miss Queenie Carter (Walter's fiancee).
Second Coach. - Mr. And Mrs. H.Levins and Mr. A.Humphries (uncles and aunt), Mrs. S.Symons (great aunt), Mr. T.Dyer (cousin) and Mrs. C.Money, Mr. F. Morrison , and Mrs. D.Parfitt (friends of the family).
The West Fulham Labour Party were represented at the church service by Councillor Lancaster.
The floral tributes were as follows:-
Cross: In loving memory of my darling boy, from his mother.
Wreath: Fondest loving thoughts from his sisters, Molly and Dolly.
Wreath: With deepest sympathy from Lewis, Hazell and Giles (three ex-Rowan players).
Wreath: With sympathy from the Dawes Road Baptist Women's Own.
Chaplet: With our deepest sympathy from Rose and Tom.
Wreath: With deepest sympathy from Messrs. J.B. Shears and Sons.
Wreath: With deepest sympathy from Mr. And Mrs. Castle and family.
Wreath: With deepest sympathy from the staff of J.B. Shears and Sons.
Wreath: With deepest sympathy from Mr. and Mrs. and Ada Render.
Chaplet: With deepest sympathy from the officers and members of the West Fulham Labour Party "to their faithful comrade".
Wreath: In loving memory of Wally from members of West Fulham Social and Athletic Club.
Wreath: In loving memory from aunt and uncle.
Wreath: In loving memory of Walter, our boy's chum, from Mr. and Mrs. Lane and family. "Pals in life and pals in death".
Wreath: From his brothers Alan and Bill. He was loved and still is loved. A tribute from us to a brother who was a good man in the making. May he rest in peace. Loved by us all, for he was a good boy.
Wreath: With deepest sympathy from Mr. Bert Allen and Mr. Harry Money.
Wreath: With deepest sympathy from comrades C. and T. Routledge.
Wreath: With deepest sympathy from Ted and Annie.
Chaplet: Very deepest sympathy from Dorothy Goldie.
Wreath: In loving memory of our dear chum, Wally, from his old pals, Blanche and Joe.
Wreath: In ever loving memory from Auntie Sarah, Auntie Grace and Auntie Nell.
Wreath: In loving memory of Walter from Tom and Lucy.
Wreath: In loving memory from Mr. and Mrs. F.Render.
Wreath: In deepest sympathy from Mr. and Mrs. Kearey.
Wreath: With deepest sympathy from Mr. and Mrs. Gades and family.
Wreath: With deepest sympathy from Eve and Ted and Mr. and Mrs. Owen Sen. and family.
Wreath: In loving memory of Wally, our comrade and friend. With deepest sympathy from Mr. and Mrs. Clare.
Wreath: With deepest sympathy and love from the late Mr. Joseph's family, of Mendora Road, Fulham.
Wreath: In loving memory from Aunt Alice and cousins.
Wreath: Deepest sympathy from Mr. and Mrs. Martell and Jose.
Wreath: In loving memory of dear Wally from Queenie and Mum.
Wreath: In loving memory from the staff of Alfred Sacks and friends.
Cross: With deepest sympathy from Mr. and Mrs. Potts and family.
Chaplet: In loving memory of dear Walter from Uncle Ern and Aunt Doll.
Chaplet: Our pal from Rowan Athletic Club.
Cross: With deepest sympathy from Mr. and Mrs. Heaney and Miss Middleton.
Wreath:With deepest sympathy from neighbours and friends of Aintree Street, R.I.P.
Wreath:From Mr. and Mrs. Cozens. With deepest sympathy and in loving memory of dear Walter.
Two bunches of flowers, one from Mr. and Mrs. Broaden "With deepest sympathy", and Mrs. A.B.Shears "With sincere sympathy", were placed on the grave of Walter's father.
The Family Name of Humphries