Deplorable Death of an Old Skegnessian
Source: Skegness Herald 1898
Another link in the chain which connects us with the past history of Skegness has been snapped asunder, and snapped asunder in a manner which all must deeply deplore, for who can but regret that one who has lived for four-score and five years a honorable and useful life should have met his death by drowning, instead of passing peacefully away in the bosom of his family.
Such was the fate of William Grunnill, who was accidentally drowned on Tuesday last, and who had reached the ripe old age of eighty-five years, and whose linage can be traced back to 1640.
The deceased had for a great number of years, and we might say, the greater part of his life, lived with his wife in a little oak cabin which contains several rooms, on the Roman Bank, about a mile from the railway station.
He has brought up a large family, and has lived the life of a fisherman. He was brave and daring and seemed never to fear danger or death. On the 24th of February, 1882, the vessel “Boyn” was driven ashore about a quarter of a mile north of Sea View Hotel. A tremendous sea was running and the captain was washed overboard and drowned when the ship was coming on the beach. The cabin boy and mate were lashed to the rigging, but the mast soon fell and the unfortunate man and boy with it, with scarcely any hope of saving their lives. There was no lifeboat at hand, for this had gone to the assistance of another vessel in distress. Grunnill fearlessly plunged into the sea and went to their rescue, and those who witnessed this daring attempt never expected that he would have come again safely to shore. He, however, succeeded in liberating the mate from the rigging and bringing him ashore but the boy perished.
Within a quarter of an hour after, the vessel was broken to pieces. One can therefore imaging the tremendous sea that was running at the time. For this heroic deed Grunnill was soon afterwards presented with a medal which bore the inscription “William Grunnill who risked his own life to save another’s life” and on the reverse side was a vessel tossed about in a rough sea, and on the point of being wrecked.
The deceased was second coxswain of the Skegness lifeboat for a period of about forty years, Samuel Moody, who died about twenty years ago, being coxswain the greater part of that time.
Grunnill retired from the lifeboat service about eighteen years ago, and during the time he was connected with that service he assisted in saving 111 lives. For some years past, since he had got too feeble to follow the occupation of a fisherman, he had been a prominent figure on the Skegness beach, and earned a livelihood in the season by bridging creeks. He wore his medal in a prominent position, and was fond of spinning a yarn to visitors and others who delighted to listen to him.
He met with a great deal of generosity both from visitors and the townspeople. He was, what we may say, a fine type of the old sea-faring class.
A inquest was held on the body of the deceased on Tuesday afternoon, at the Police Station, before Dr. Clegg of Boston, coroner for the district. The following were sworn on the jury:
Messers, G. Dunkley (foreman), J Alborn, S Swinn, A T M Porter, Theo Jefferies, W Enderby, D Enderby, J Barlow, G Burley, – Copestake, Manton and Oatler.
The Coroner having explained that they were called together to enquire into the circumstances attending the death of William Grunnill, the jury proceeded to the deceased residence to view the body. On their return the following evidence was adduced:
Mrs Grunnill who was very feeble and accommodated with a seat, said the body the jury had viewed was that of her husband who was eighty-five years of age.
On Tuesday he took a bucket and went to a pit to fetch some water. He had previously fetched water from there. After he had been gone about ten minutes she went out to see where he was. She asked a young man she met if he had seen her husband and he replied that he had not. She then said that he must have fallen over and made a further search for him but did not find him.
John Woodward said he was in his garden not far from the house where the deceased lived. Mrs Grunnill came up to him and said that her husband had gone to the pit with a bucket. He went to look for him and saw him in the pit of water about thirty yards from the edge. The bucket was on one side of the body and a stick on the other.
P C Ranby deposed that on the previous day he heard that the deceased was drowned and went to the place, and found the body lying on the bank of the pit. On searching it he found the medal produced (referred to above) and also some coppers. There was no suspicion that he met his death other than by accident.
the Coroner said that it was clearly a case of accidental drowning.
The jury returned a verdict to this effect.
the foreman of the jury said he should like to suggest that the jury give their fees to the widow to help pay the expenses of the funeral.
the Coroner said that he must pay the jury their fees and they could do what they pleased with them.
On the proposition of the foreman, seconded by Mr Porter, it was unanimously agreed to give the fees to the widow, and which was accordingly done.
This concluded the inquiry.