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Donkin's World: Black Bob Donkin

Richard Donkin receives information on the death of his great grandfather more than a hundred years ago.

My great grandfather on my father's side was a man called Robert Donkin, known by all in Dewsbury as "Black Bob". As a child all I knew about him was that he was the first man to ride a coach and four over Chantry Bridge in Wakefield and that he came to a sticky end.

Recently I was passed three newspaper cuttings from the Dewsbury Reporter (which seems to have been called "The News" in the 19th century). The news items that recall his death and inquest were found by my cousin Ian who passed it to my nephew Matt, who passed it to me and I passed it on to my Aunty Kath, Bob's last surviving granddaughter.

As a youngster I often passed the place where he died and knew the people who lived in the house, but never knew of the connection with my family history.

(Dewsbury Sat 14th Oct 1899 Page 7)


A Cabman Killed in Halifax Road

Yesterday, Robert Donkin a cab driver well known in Dewsbury as “Black Bob” drove Major Taylor to the Dewsbury Infirmary (where the coroner had arranged to hold two inquests) and after delivering his fare he had the misfortune to lose his life.

Donkin was in the box turning the horse round after the coroner had alighted when the blinkers came off and the horse dashed down Halifax Road at a terrific pace.

At the corner of Commercial Street the cab overturned and Donkin was pitched into the top of some palisadings, which surround Mr W. Ineson paperhanger’s shop.

Chief Inspector Campbell of the Dewsbury Borough Police was near when the fatality occurred and at once hurried to the scene accompanied by police constables Hargreaves and Pickering.

When the officers arrived they found the unfortunate driver wedged between the pailings and his cab with his right arm stuck through the spikes of two of the rails which were broken off by the force of the man’s fall.

Chief Inspector Campbell lifted the deceased’s arm off and despatched the two constables for Dr Beattie and the home surgeon at the infirmary.

Dr Beattie was at the scene first and restored Donkin to consciousness for a minute or two. He was then put into the cab but breathed his last on the way to the infirmary.

Deceased leaves a widow and an upgrown son and daughter. He was a native of Bridlington District and was formally in very comfortable circumstances. His brother is at present the proprietor of very flourishing livery stables in Bridlington.

The cab, which is the property of Mr Edwin Box, was very badly damaged. If the coroner had not had the good fortune to leave the vehicle before the driver attempted to turn round, he might also have been killed.

Major Taylor is reported to have said after the accident that he has no desire to attend his own inquest!

It was expected that the coroner would hold the inquiry on Donkin’s body immediately on the conclusion of the inquests at the infirmary but he did not do so.

(Dewsbury Sat 21st Oct 1899 Page 6)


The remains of Robert Donkin a Dewsbury cab driver, who met with a shocking death last Friday, were interred at Dewsbury cemetery on Monday. A large number of sympathizing friends were present including every cabman in the town. The horse and cab, which the unfortunate man was accustomed to drive followed the hearse empty and without a driver. It was decided to open a subscription list for the widow with the result that the handsome sum of £22 was handed to Mrs Donkin on Thursday by Mr Edwin Box who acted on as the secretary. The money has been subscribed by cab drivers, the people whom Donkin has been accustomed to drive and the general public. The cabman much appreciated the kindness shown towards their deceased’s comrade’s widow.

(Dewsbury Fri 20th Oct 1899 Page 6)


Major Taylor and a jury sat on Saturday morning at the Dewsbury and District Infirmary to enquire into the circumstances attending the death of Robert Sykes Donkin aged 57 a cab driver of 31 Victoria Road who was killed on Friday last after driving the coroner to the infirmary. The particulars of the accident appeared in our last impression. Deceased it will be remembered was returning into the town from the infirmary when the blinkers fell from the horse’s head and animal ran away. Donkin was thrown from the “dickey” against the palisading in front of the premises of Mr Ineson paperhanger, Halifax Road and was wedged between them and the cab. He was picked up by Chief Inspector Campbell and conveyed to the infirmary, where he expired. Chief Inspector Campbell in the course of his evidence described the accident- Two of the spikes on the top of the pailings upon which deceased was thrown were broken. In answer to Mr. C. A. Ridgway who appeared on behalf of Mr Box who employed deceased. Witness said deceased had been always looked upon as the most capable and steady driver in the town. Police Constable Hargreaves said when the horse was turned round at the infirmary; the animal stumbled and ran with its head against the opposite wall. The blinkers came off and the horse bolted. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death. Donkin’s remains were interred at the cemetery on Monday, the funeral being attended by nearly all the cabmen in the town.

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