Roasted to death on Christmas Day

Happy Christmas! And to celebrate, here’s a nice, festive tale of, um, danger and death in a domestic setting. Like my previous post, this is an event that occurred in Leeds, West Yorkshire – a coincidence, honestly!

On Christmas Eve, 1880, a 60-year-old man named Edward Boyle was contemplating what to do to mark the festive period. Edward was a poor man from Leeds, who lived in Quarry Hill, regarded at the time as being one of the worst places to live in the city.

The inner city Quarry Hill area was developed in the 1930s, with ‘900 municipal flats’ being built at the time of this photo (Illustrated London News, 10 December 1938, from British Newspaper Archive

Edward had family locally, but lived on his own, although he had regular contact with both his daughter and his sister. He was not the sort of man to want to spend Christmas with them, it seems, and on Christmas Eve he duly told one of them – it’s not clear who – that he intended to simply get very drunk.

This he appears to have done, in a local pub, before weaving his way home. Once there, he disappeared.

On Christmas Day, the police were called to Edward’s house, the neighbours perhaps being concerned that they had not heard from him. After a search, some remains – charred ‘almost to a cinder’, were found near the fireplace. It was determined that the drunken Edward had fallen asleep on or near the fire, which had set light to his clothing and killed him. The press commented that he had been ‘roasted to death’ on his fire – as though he were some festive chestnuts.

This was not the only drink-related death to occur in West Yorkshire that Christmas. In nearby Keighley, Mary McPower, 50, was found murdered at her house on Christmas Day; her husband was found wearing bloodstained boots and duly arrested. Both had been drinking heavily the night before, and it was believed that they engaged in a drunken quarrel that led to Mary’s death.

The moral of these stories would seem to be to celebrate Christmas with a drink or two – but perhaps not too many…