Is it better to die by accident?

Arthur Henry Laird was an accountant. He was born in Poplar, London on 13 April 1878 to Andrew Brodie And Margaret Laird (née Barr). They had two other children, both boys. They were named Stanley Morrison and Andrew Oswald Laird. Their father, Andrew Brodie Laird died when Arthur was only ten.

Andrew Brodie Laird was a Marine Engineer who died aboard the steamship Gulf of Guyaquil. The ship was on her maiden voyage. She left Liverpool docks on Christmas Eve, 1888 heading for South America when a great storm wrecked her and all hands were lost.

While Arthur decided he wanted to be an accountant, his two brothers followed their father into the maritime life.

In 1901, Stanley was a draughtsman, having served his apprenticeship at Yarrow & Co, London (1895-1900). He continued working at Yarrows until 1903 when he left to join the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, a company engaged in laying submarine cables between the UK, Hong Kong and Australia. Subsequently, in 1904, Stanley worked for the Western Australasian Mail Steamers Ltd until 1905. By 1911, he was married and working as a manager of an engineering works.

In 1901, the youngest of the Laird boys, Andrew, was serving an apprenticeship. His apprenticeship was served between 1899 and 1902. He was indentured to the Glengall Ironworks in Millwall, London. He spent some time in the drawing office and working in the shops, fitting, turning, etc. Having completed his apprenticeship, he was engaged by Millwall Dock Co as an engineering assistant. By April 1904, he was working as the resident engineer and, in 1905 was promoted to assistant engineer of the whole company.

In the meanwhilst, Arthur was a Bank Clerk, having started work with the London and County Bank in 1896.

By 1911, Arthur was an accountant, still working at the bank.

He married Nelly Evelyn Fish on 1 October 1913, and it would be lovely to say they lived happily ever after and had as many kids as they could manage but, well, things don’t always go the way of the fairytales.

In his spare time, Arthur was part of the Royal Naval Reserve, presumably in some sort of accounting capacity. Anyway, as happens, at the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, he, and a lot of other reservists, was mobilized.

He was made the Assistant Paymaster for the Royal Naval Flying Corps (RNFC) and was stationed in Roehampton, Surrey. I would imagine he was happily working away, counting coins, being able to go home and see Nellie and, generally, having a great war.

Unfortunately, these happy days didn’t last for Arthur. On 28 March 1916, a great storm blew across south-east England. I have no idea how much damage it created in other parts but, in Roehampton, it blew a tree over. Arthur was under the tree at the time. He died as a result. His war pension card recorded his death as an accident.

Back in 1902, Arthur was initiated into the Freemasons, Lewisham Lodge. The only reason I mention that is because he wasn’t the only RAF and Freemason to die accidentally, during the war, by having a tree fall on him.

Captain Norman Preston Morris, RAF was born on 30 August 1876 in Streatham. After leaving school, he became a hop merchant. He must have done quite well at it because, by 1904, he owned two houses. He was also a Freemason having been initiated in 1912 at the Charterhouse Lodge in London.

Norman was serving as an Administrative Officer at Bude Air Station, Cornwall, when he was killed, aged 42, by a falling tree at Langford Hill, Marhamchurch, Bude, on 17 September 1918. There is nothing to suggest how the tree fell but, one assumes, it was because of a storm.

Interestingly, in 2022, during Storm Eunice, a ‘beloved tree’ fell at Bude. It was so beloved that the fallen tree was turned into a series of benches.

On 1 April 1918, the RNFC joined with the Royal Flying Corps to become the Royal Air Force so they both served for the same branch of the military.

Though they died by tree two years and a couple of counties apart, I like the fact that neither of them died in battle. Rather, one could say they died of unexpected natural causes. And that has to be better than the alternative.

Postscript: Andrew Oswald Laird also served in the First World War. He was discharged after being shot twice. He died in 1959 in Hertfordshire. I haven’t been able to find any war service for Stanley Morrison Laird. He also died in Hertfordshire but in 1937. It’s not recorded whether either brother was killed by a tree.

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