Edith Fanny Skyrme (1867-1924)

The Second Leg

If you have been on the Heritage walk, you will have heard about Samuel Chiver's leg - but his was not the first to be buried in Cathays. Miss Skyrme's leg was buried a few months earlier, on 23 January 1883. The Burial Register records the interment as "Leg of Female" for Miss Skyrme of Richmond Terrace, Park Place (the road now called Museum Place). Thanks to Bereavement Services, the grave is now marked by this cross and bronze plaque.

A newspaper article explained how Miss Skyrme became separated from her leg. The headlines read - Terrible Accident in the Gelly (sic) Pit - Melancholy Termination of a Pleasure Trip - Lady Visitors Crushed by a Tram - Shocking Injuries to Miss Skyrme and Miss Cassy John

It appears that eight young ladies had prevailed upon the colliery manager for some time to take them underground and he eventually acceded to their request. As well as the manager, the party included four other men, who were there to look after the ladies and, in some cases, satisfy their own curiosity. They descended about 700 - 800 feet down the shaft to the main level and had walked about 300 yards along this, when a tremendous roar was followed by a fully loaded tram crashing through a ventilation control door about 15 yards ahead of them. All members of the group tried to get out of the way and ended up in the coal dust and debris on the floor. All were badly shaken and bruised, but Miss Skyrme and another lady were more severely injured. It seems that some others in the party fainted when they saw the nature of the injuries. The two ladies were quickly evacuated by tram and were soon being attended by doctors on the surface. On hearing the advice that amputation was necessary, Miss Skryme's father sought a second opinion from his own family doctor, who arrived from Cardiff the following day. However, he concurred with the original advice and the local doctors carried out the operation, under chloroform. Within days, the leg was buried in Cathays Cemetery. In those days amputations were much more traumatic medical procedures than they are today so it was touch and go for a few days as to whether Edith would even survive. But, luckily, she was young and strong, though she remained at the house of Mr Rubert Boddicombe, fireman at the colliery, for a month until she was deemed well enough to make the journey by train to the family home in Cardiff.

But who was she? Edith Fanny Skyrme was born in Ystradyfodwg in 1867 (so only 16 when the accident occurred) to Edward and Frances Skyrme. Her father was both grocer and postmaster in Pentre. When she was born, Edith already had three older brothers, Henry (who went on to become a doctor), Frank (who became a clergyman) and Charles (a chemist). Two more daughters - Kate and Clara - and three more sons -- William, Richard, and Harold (another chemist, who developed the Shurzine Antiseptic Healing Ointment that was used extensively to treat soldiers' wounds in World War One) - brought the total number of Skyrme children to nine. Another daughter, Alice, died when just a few months old. They were obviously quite well off, as the 1881 census shows they employed two domestic servants. With such a large family, I'm sure Mrs Skyrme was glad of the help! Their son Richard died, aged just 7, in the last months of 1882 so the family would only just have been recovering from that tragedy when Edith's accident happened.

In 1900, Edith married 39-year-old Arthur Thomas Haddock, a coal salesman of Whitchurch. Edith's father Edward didn't survive to see his daughter marry, as he died in April 1894, at the age of 64, and is buried opposite Thomas Waring. A daughter, Margaret Frances, was born the year after the marriage. Again, tragedy struck, as Arthur died of pneumonia in the first months of 1907. For a time Edith and daughter Margaret continued living in Whitchurch, then lived for various periods with some of her brothers in England, and with her sister Kate and her family in Cathedral Road, Cardiff. She died in Cardiff at the end of 1924, aged 57. She was buried with her husband in St Mary's Church graveyard in Whitchurch so was never reunited with her limb.

Resaerch: Gordon Hindess