Richard Knowles was a 20 year old miner at Water Haigh in 1925 when he broke his back as he was crushed between two tubs in an accident underground. He spent many weeks recovering in hospital in Leeds before being allowed home.
His story is told below in a moving account written for the Yorkshire Evening Post which had given him a new wireless receiver donated by their Wireless for Invalids Fund.
It’s believed Richard was born in Hunslet in May 1904 where his father, also called Richard, had worked with horses before becoming a blast furnace man in a steel works. In 1923 Richard had married Eliza Hart, the daughter of a night watchman from Armley. She was a year older than him and their daughter, Noreen had been born just a week before his accident.
Paralysed below the waist and unable to walk again Richard Knowles died in August 1927 two and a half years after his accident.
INVALID FOR LIFE AT TWENTY. DISLOCATED SPINE.
MINER WITH WIFE AND TEN WEEKS OLD CHILD.
Yorkshire Evening Post, Tuesday 10 March 1925.
Of all the tragic stories which unfold themselves and reveal their grim consequences within the walls of the Leeds General Infirmary, there has been none for a long time as touching as that young of a young Leeds man of 20 years.
Nine weeks ago he was a miner, powerful and healthy, as most of the young men are who work underground. Today he lies helpless on a water-bed, his spine dislocated, and he knows full well that he must be an invalid for the rest of his days. The doctors fear ho may never walk again.
The young man is Richard Knowles, of Prospect Place, Ley Lane, Armley, and the tragedy of his life has come to light through the Wireless for Invalids Fund organised by the Yorkshire Evening Post.
A kind friend of Knowles who had heard of him in the Infirmary, called the attention of the editor to his plight, and as soon as the invalid was transferred from the ward to his own home the Fund provided a wireless set (equipped with a fine aerial), which is now one of the great joys of his life.
How great a joy it is, he said today, no one but himself realises.
But he has not lost his sense of proportion (writes a Yorkshire Evening Post reporter), and he told me that, grateful as he is to our readers for this gift, he has three still greater reasons for gratitude.
One is a tiny infant lying near his bed. It is a baby girl 10 weeks old.
“That’s mine.” he said proudly, raising his head slightly to look at the sleeping child.
His second cause for gratitude is the possession of a plucky and loyal young wife, and he is also thankful for the help and other evidence of kindness that has come in full measure from old and new friends in his hour of need.
Calling upon him today, one found the invalid a good deal better than could’ve been expected. A cheery word of welcome came from a pale and pain-racked face. The bright sunshine and the promise of spring had not all been left outside the kitchen door, after all.
“Dick” told his story readily. I had been framing tactful questions, fearing he might not know how little hope there is for him in the long years that lie ahead. But they were unnecessary.
“The doctors tell me they fear I shall never walk again,” he said, quite frankly and pluckily; “but I am not giving up hope. Not likely! Especially after seeing a man who came here on Sunday, who can shuffle along with he help of two sticks.
“He has been a worse was cripple than I am after and, after 14 years a bit of his strength has come back to him.
“I shan’t give up hope for years, after seeing that chap, and, if I can’t walk again, maybe in time I shall be able to get out in a spinal chair.
“Dick’s” accident happened on January 7 in the Water Haigh pit, at Woodlesford. He was just finishing his shift by taking a tub of coal down the road from the coal face. His horse was attached to the tub, and as they moved forward, Knowles put his back in front of the tub to steady it before he unhooked the traces of the harness.
Unluckily, he tripped and fell forward, and as the horse dragged the tub on, he was crushed between his own and another tub.
“My mate heard me scream and had me out in a minute,” he said; “but I had gone numb all over my body and legs.”
“I can’t move my legs, I said to my mate who was an ambulance man. He said: Then it’s thi’ spine Dick.”
“Nay, lad, don’t say that, I said, but he told me to bear up. We were nearly 3 miles from the pit shaft, and my mates carried me on a stretcher. It was a slow job.
“I went very starved but they half buried me in old coats, snack tins, and bottles, to keep me warm.”
Six weeks’ skilful treatment in the Infirmary relieved the patient of the pain of a crushed kidney, and made him well enough to go home. He is still under expert treatment, and the doctor and a nurse visit him daily, and he is making steady progress.
He says it is “grand to be at home,” to see his wife moving about, to enjoy a cigarette, to see his friends, and when the wireless programme opens, to put on the headphones and listen to the music, the lectures and the news.
He is not too much of a reader but he would welcome a few magazines and picture papers.
Happily, the invalid is not in serious financial need, though he feels that the amount of compensation he is receiving at present, namely 23 shillings per week, which is all he is legally entitled to, will not long be sufficient for the needs of his little family. Possibly something more maybe done for him later.