A sad case of death from hydrophobia has occurred in Wigan, the victim being Edward Harrison, engineer in the employ of the Corporation, and who was in charge of the pumping station at Boar’s Head. It appears that about three months ago Harrison was proceeding from Wigan to the pumping station, and was followed by a stray dog. On nearing home it is said that he stopped to stroke the dog, when it snapped at his fingers and caused a slight wound. Whether it was cauterized or not we are unable to say, but a few days ago he became unwell, and on Monday he was admitted to the Wigan Infirmary. He was able to eat, but not to drink. His condition grew worse, and the terrible symptoms of rabies manifested themselves. At intervals he was seized with paroxysms of madness, and death put an end to his great agony about nine o’clock on Thursday night. The deceased, who was thirty-nine years of age, leaves a widow and six children, and what makes the case doubly sad is the fact that Mrs. Harrison is an invalid. Great sympathy is felt for the family. The deceased, who was a muscular man, with a fine constitution, was well known and highly respected in the town.

On Monday evening, Mr. H. Milligan, deputy borough coroner, held an inquest at the Infirmary touching the death of Edward Harrison, of the pumping station, Boar’s Head, who was bitten by a dog four months ago and died of hydrophobia on Thursday. The following evidence was taken: –

Henry Harrison, Honeysuckle Inn, Poolstock, identified the body of the deceased as that of his brother, who lived at the pumping station of the Wigan waterworks. He was 39 years of age. On Wednesday deceased told him that he had been bitten by a dog – a little black stray dog – about six months ago, but he did not think that had caused his illness. Witness thought it was about four months ago, as deceased was at his house the night he was bitten. Deceased said he was bitten on the little finger, and he tried to hit the dog with his stick but fell and dirtied his trousers. The dog followed him unawares, and suddenly jumped up and bit his finger. It was dark at night, perhaps about half-past ten. Witness did not see the wound, and deceased took no more notice and forgot all about it. He did not remember it until he was prompted. Dr. Berry was attending the deceased’s wife, who was very ill, and asked questions about the deceased. They then remembered that he had been bitten by a dog.

By the Foreman: Deceased was quite conscious on Wednesday but had “bouts” during which he was unconscious. What troubled the deceased was his inability to drink. He told witness that some time ago he tried to drink some beer, but it seemed to stick in his inside, and he never felt proper afterwards.

In answer to Inspector Williamson, witness said he had heard in the train the day before that the dog had also bitten a child in the neighbourhood.

The Coroner said it would be difficult to prove that it was the same dog.

Elizabeth Mason, living at the pumping station, Boar’s Head, and sister-in-law to the deceased, said she remembered on the third Sunday in July the deceased coming home and telling her of the dog bite. It was at eleven o’clock at night. A black dog came in with him and started to fight in the lobby with a dog they kept at home. It seemed a big dog for its age, as it did not appear more than three months old. The deceased said it had bitten his little finger. She thought it was his left hand as he had a stick in the other. The finger was bleeding, but it was only like a pin prick – not a scratch. He told her that he was patting the dog on the slope leading to the house, when it turned round and bit him. When he tried to hit it with his stick he fell. Deceased turned the dog out of the house afterwards. None of them thought any more about it until last Tuesday morning when Dr. Berry came to see her sister. She told him they had taken her brother-in-law to the Infirmary. On the previous Monday morning the deceased went to Dr. Roocroft, who was his club doctor. That was because he could not get a glass of soda water to his mouth the previous day. He tried several times, but could not. That same day he ate well, but could not drink. When he came home he was cold all over, and could not get warm. The next morning Dr. Roocroft asked him whether he had had an injury or a scratch. As he was coming home he remembered having a scratch at the pump-hole. On Monday afternoon the doctor came, and said he thought it was going to be hydrophobia, and she would not be able to manage him. They then took him to the Infirmary. She did not tell Dr. Roocroft about the bite, as she never thought of it. She told Dr. Berry the next day that deceased was afraid to touch water, and she remembered the dog bite, and told him of it. The doctor then said he would go and see him, which he did. On Friday week deceased complained of his arm and shoulder, but he had had a cold all week. Up to then he had been in his usual health.

By Inspector Williamson: The dog that fought with the dog that bit the deceased was shot on Friday, although it was all right.

Thomas Mason, brother to the last witness, said that a week on Sunday, about three o’clock in the afternoon, deceased told him that he had a sort of stoppage in his nostrils, and could not drink. He walked with witness to Wigan, and had tea with him. He could eat, but could only drink his tea by spoonfuls. Afterwards he drank a drop of whiskey with great difficulty. With that exception, he appeared to be in his usual health. He did not mention a dog bite.

Dr. C. E. M. Lowe, senior house surgeon at the Infirmary, said that the deceased was admitted last Wednesday about five o’clock in the afternoon, suffering from hydrophobia. Witness had no knowledge of the dog bite until the next day. Deceased said he had not been bitten by a dog, but they learned that that was so subsequently. It was quite possible that hydrophobia should develop at such a late stage after the bite, and that a wound described as a pin prick was quite sufficient. Any minute penetration of the skin was sufficient. For some time after the disease presented itself they could swallow food, but not drink without a spoon. The deceased did not complain of pain. At a later stage the very mention of water was sufficient to send him off with a spasm. He died on Thursday evening.

The jury returned a verdict that the deceased died from hydrophobia, caused by a dog bite.


The remains of the deceased man Harrison were interred on Tuesday afternoon at the Wigan cemetery. The coffin, on which were several beautiful wreaths, was borne in a glass hearse from the Infirmary to the house of a relative in Swinley street from which place the cortege started. Here it was joined by the workmen employed at the Wigan waterworks, &c., who were accompanied by Mr. T. L. Hughes, waterworks superintendent. A stop was made at St. Michael’s Church, where a service was conducted by the Rev. R. G. Matthew, vicar, after which the procession proceeded on its way to the cemetery. On reaching the Market-place the following members of the Wigan Engineminders’ Society joined the procession, and walked alongside the hearse: – Bros. Wm. Robinson (Aspull), Robert Ainscough, Thomas Moss (Kitt Green), Wm. Gaskell, Thomas Ditchfield, Thomas Atherton, Thomas Donahue, Wm. Draper, George Powell, John Oliver, Thomas Dunn, Wm. Robinson (Bamfurlong), Thomas Fairclough, and George Ratcliffe. On arriving at the Cemetery, the coffin was borne to the graveside upon the shoulders of the deceased’s fellow workmen, the burial service being performed in a very impressive manner by the Rev. R. G. Matthew. The mourners and their friends then adjourned to the residence of the deceased’s brother, Mr. Henry Harrison, Honeysuckle Inn, Poolstock, where a meeting was held, presided over by Mr. Radcliffe, and many speeches were made, all expressive of the highest estimation in which the deceased was held by all who knew him, and deep sympathy with the widow and family. The Chairman asked them all to rise and drink to the memory of their departed friend in silence, which was accordingly done, and the meeting afterwards broke up.


At the usual lodge meeting of the Wigan Enginemen’s Association, held at the Bull’s Head Hotel on Saturday evening last, it was announced to the members that their highly esteemed president, Bro. Edward Harrison, had unfortunately met with a sad and untimely death. This the members all deeply deplored, and many were the expressions of regret. The following resolution of condolence was unanimously passed amid many manifestations of sympathy: – “That we, the members of the Wigan Enginemen’s Society, learn with profound regret of the death of our dear president, Bro. Edward Harrison, and we desire to place on record our deep sympathy with the widow and family in their sad bereavement, praying that God in His love will strengthen and sustain them in their deep sorrow. The society has lost a most valuable and energetic member, the widow an affectionate husband, and the children a most kind and loving father.” The secretary was instructed to forward the foregoing to the widow, which has been done and duly acknowledged. – The deceased was a member of the Worsley Mesnes Floral and Horticultural Society, and at their last meeting the members passed a resolution expressing sympathy with Mrs. Harrison and family in their sad bereavement. – The Buffalo Lodge held at the Honeysuckle Inn, of which the deceased was a member, also passed a vote of sympathy with the widow and family at their last meeting.

The father of the deceased has invited the members of the Engine Winders’ Society to attend St. Michael and All Angels’ Church, Wigan, on Sunday morning, and all brethren are expected to meet near the Bull’s Head at ten o’clock, to walk in procession to the church.


SIR, – May I, by your kindness, ask the sympathy of your readers for the children of Edward Harrison, who died in the Infirmary on Thursday last of hydrophobia. His wife has for many months been ill with a painful and incurable sickness and the children must before long be left without father or mother. This long sickness has exhausted all the husband’s savings and the children will be thrown upon the care of their grandfather. There are six children, of whom two are earning small wages, the youngest is seven years old. Such a charge as this is a very heavy burden to be thrown upon a man who is getting on in years, and I feel sure there will be many in Wigan who will wish to lighten it in so sad a case. I shall be glad to receive any subscriptions, which shall be acknowledged in your paper, and I will endeavour with the advice of my churchwardens, Messrs. T. R. Ellis and J. Timmins, so to use them that the assistance may be spread over the next three or four years in which the strain will be heaviest.

I am, sir,
Roland G. Matthew
SS. Michael and All Angels
October 22nd, 1894.

Mr. Matthew has received for the children of Edward Harrison the following subscriptions: – Mr. Rogers and Mr. J. B. Stuart £2; Messrs. Q. B. Fernihough, T.R. Ellis, R.A. Harrington, Mrs. T.R. Ellis, and Messrs. Berry and Foreman £1 1s; Mr. Timmins £1; Mrs. Harington, Mrs. Timmins, Mr. W.R. Ellis, and a sympathiser 10s.; Rev. F.B.A. Miller, Miss Fletcher and Mr. J. [indistinct].

[This article was transcribed from microfilm archives of the Wigan Observer located in the Wigan History Centre, Wigan.]

Research Notes

  1. The symptoms of Rabies in Humans

    • The average incubation period (time from infection to time of development of symptoms) in humans is 30–60 days, but it may range from fewer than 10 days to several years.
    • Most people first develop symptoms of pain, tingling, or itching shooting from the bite site (or site of virus entry).
    • Nonspecific complaints of fevers, chills, fatigue, muscle aches, and irritability may accompany these complaints. Early on, these complaints may seem like any virus, except for the shooting sensations from the bite site.
    • Gradually, however, you will become extremely ill, developing a variety of symptoms, including high fever, confusion, agitation, and eventually seizures and coma.
    • Typically, people with rabies develop irregular contractions and spasms of the breathing muscles when exposed to water (this is termed hydrophobia). They may demonstrate the same response to a puff of air directed at them (termed aerophobia). By this point, they are obviously extremely ill.
    • Eventually, the various organs of the body are affected, and the person dies despite support with medication and a respirator.

    Hydrophobia, the classical diagnostic manifestation of rabies, is an affliction of the excitatory phase of the disease. When the patient attempts to swallow liquids, forceful, painful expulsion occurs as a consequence of spasmodic contraction of the muscles of swallowing and respiration. Once experienced, the sight, sound or smell of liquids may provoke the syndrome. The ensuing choking may cause severe apnea (temporary cessation of breathing) and cyanosis. Death frequently occurs during the course of such a convulsive attack. Dehydration is a common consequence.

  2. Events Subsequent to Edward’s Death

    Martha Harrison, Edward’s wife, died three weeks later of breast cancer. She was buried with her husband. We know from the 1901 census that Joseph Harrison, Edward’s father, was living at the “Pumping Station” near “Mere Oaks” (which is next to Boar’s Head) with three of his daughters and five of his grand-children, Edward and Martha’s children. He was employed as and Engine Driver. We may infer that the Wigan waterworks contributed to the care of Edward’s children by giving his father Edward’s former house at the Boar’s Head pumping station.

  3. Timeline of the 1894 Events Cited in the Article

    Sunday 15 July Edward Harrison is bitten by the dog
    Friday 12 October Edward complains of aching arm and shoulder
    Sunday 14 October Edward goes to Wigan with Thomas Mason in the afternoon and has difficulty drinking
    Monday 15 October Edward visits Dr. Roocroft in the morning. Later that day Dr. Roocroft and Elizabeth Mason take him to the Infirmary*
    Tuesday 16 October Dr. Berry visits Martha. Elizabeth remembers the dog bite incident
    Wednesday 17 October Edward is admitted to the Infirmary*. Edward having “bouts” of unconsciousness
    Thursday 18 October Edward Harrison dies
    Friday 19 October Police shoot the Harrison family dog as a precautionary measure
    Monday 22 October Coroner’s inquest is held
    Tuesday 23 October Edward’s funeral
    Saturday 27 October Wigan Observer article published
    Sunday 28 October Engine Winder’s procession to St. Michaels’s Church
    Thursday 8 November Martha Harrison, Edward’s wife, dies of breast cancer at the Boar’s Head pumping station

    *The newspaper article appears to be contradictory as to whether Edward was admitted to the Infirmary on Monday or Wednesday.