Mr Frank Howe Killed in a Cycling Accident – 6th April 1912 aged 45 years
by Colin Woolf
An Easter Tragedy
The news reached Bedford on Saturday evening the 6th April 1912, of a fatal accident to Mr Frank Howe, and spread deep consternation and grief amidst a very wide circle of relatives and intimate acquaintances, who held him in the highest esteem. Though Mr Howe had left Bedford as a young man, it was always “home” to him and never a holiday passed but what he joined the family circle.
He came down to Bedford on the Thursday with his wife and two sons, as usual for the Easter holidays. On Saturday morning a party of five, composed of Mr Howe, his two sons (Mr Cyril and Mr Claude Howe), Mr Walter Dazeley and Mr Alfred Corby junior, brothers-in-law, decided to cycle over to Cambridge. Mr Howe, although not perhaps an expert cyclist, had been a rider since his youth. He hired a bicycle, but not feeling very comfortable on it, he exchanged with his son, Cyril, after leaving St. Neots. All went well until the party reached Madingley Hill, an easy though pronounced gradient about three miles this side of Cambridge. Here Mr Dazeley, Mr Cyril Howe and his father were leading, with Mr Corby and Mr Claude Howe, who had been stopping to inflate a tyre, some fifty or more yards further to the rear.
From enquiries we have made, and the evidence given at the Inquest on Tuesday morning the 9th April 1912 at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, when a verdict of “Accidental death” was returned, it would seem that the party were descending the hill at a good pace with the wind behind them, at about noon. Towards the bottom, where there are crossroads leading to Madingley and Coton, and the descent turns somewhat, they met three women, and to avoid them Mr Howe made a wide sweep – much wider than seemed necessary. It may have been that it was unintentional. His mount was a drop-handled cycle, which would throw the whole of his weight onto the handle-bar, and he was carrying his cap in his right hand, which was on the handle, and it may have been that his right knee jammed with the handle and the cap, or the cap may have got between the handle-bar and the brake, so as to render the brake inoperable. What is certain is that the cycle took a wide sweep, the rider seemed to lose control, the machine wobbled, and went full tilt at the grass bank on the side of the hill. It struck the newly cut edge at right angles, and pitching back into the road, threw Mr Howe heavily onto the metalled surface as it turned over on its left side.
Mr Corby narrowly missed being thrown by the machine, the pedal of which caught his, but he managed to regain his balance. Mr Howe lay as he fell. He was unconscious, and bleeding from the ear and the head. While he was being bathed with water from the nearest cottage, Mr Cyril Howe hastened to Cambridge and came back in a motor car with the surgeon from Addenbrooke’s Hospital, but in the meantime, a gentleman, who had approached from St. Neots had kindly conveyed the poor fellow to Addenbrooke’s. Here an operation was immediately performed, but he never regained consciousness, and died at about 4.45 p.m. His skull had been fractured from the base to nearly the left temple.
Bedford-born and of an old Bedford family, the late Mr Howe had married Miss Annie Corby, the eldest daughter of Mr Alfred Corby, builder of Tavistock Street, a member of another old and esteemed Bedford family. There were two children of the marriage, Mr Cyril and Mr Claude, both of whom were on the scene of the accident. Mr Howe’s father was the late Mr Reuben Howe, the well-known miller of the Old Duck Mill, and partner in the milling business with the late Mr Benjamin Harrison. On the death of Mr Harrison the Corporation bought the mill and the Mill Meadows, and demolished the mill, thereby obtaining control of the miller’s rights. His brother was Mr Alfred Howe, the organist of Howard Congregational Church. His mother was twice married, her first husband being the late Mr Arthur Shepherd, son of Mr Solomon Shepherd, the well-known florist of that time. Hence the late Mr Howe was half-brother to Mr Arthur Shepherd, who for many years had been private secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and also of Mrs Henry Grice, of Tavistock Street.
The late Mr Howe was educated at the Modern School, and subsequently served an apprenticeship in the printing works of the “Beds Times” at the same time as his half brother, Mr Arthur Shepherd. This was during the overseership of the late Mr Allen, and both have spoken appreciatively of the value to them later of Mr Allen’s strict disciplinary methods, which they hardly appreciated at the time.
Immediately after his apprenticeship Mr Howe went to Weston-Super-Mare as a junior reporter. He stayed there two years, and then became junior to Mr Arthur Shepherd, who was then editor of the “Windsor and Eton Express”. After several years of journalistic work in Windsor, he was offered the Assistant Secretaryship to the National Council of YMCAs, which was located at Exeter Hall (The Strand London), with the late Mr W. H. Mills as his chief. Later he became joint secretary with Mr Mills, and on Mr Mill’s decease, in1909, he succeeded him with Major Frank Young as Hon. Secretary. He had been engaged in initiating and furthering great schemes of advancement and was in the thick of them at the time of his death. One which occupied much of his time was a scheme for a simultaneous mission to men throughout England, and he had acted as Secretary to the conference of representatives of all denominations which had the matter in hand. He was most keenly in Y.M.C.A. work amongst soldiers, now an extensive phase of his Council’s activities and in the boys’ department. He was regarded as an exceptionally able administrator, with the happy knack of infecting others with his own unbounded vitality and enthusiasm. A capable platform advocate, he was continually on deputation work. He addressed several meetings in Bedford on behalf of the local Association. But it was as a singer, perhaps, that he will be best remembered in Bedford, especially in his younger days. He possessed a baritone voice of unusual quality and power. He always occupied his old place in Howard Choir whenever in Bedford, and occasionally sang solo.
On Sunday (Easter Sunday 7th April 1912) Frank was to have assisted in a service of song and praise to mark the re-opening of the organ after renovation. The special form of service was abandoned, and sympathetic reference was made at both services to the sad event. His love of music was hereditary, for his maternal grandfather was Mr. James Ward, who conducted the singing at Bunyan Meeting in the days of the pitch-pipe and who was succeeded by his brother, Mr. Samuel Ward. His father Mr. Reuben Howe, was a leading tenor in the early days of the Bedford Musical Society. For the last ten years, during his residence in St Albans, Mr. Howe was actively identified with the Congregational Church there and frequently occupied the pulpit, both at the home church and the mission church. He was always greatly in demand for anniversaries in the neighbouring villages.
There was a large congregation for Frank Howe’s funeral at noon on Thursday the 11th April 1912 in Howard Church where the first portion of an impressive service was conducted by the Pastor, the Rev. V. A. Barradale, assisted by the Pastor of Trinity Congregational Church, St Albans, the Rev. Frank Wheeler and Major Young, the Hon. Secretary of the National Council of the Y.M.C.A.
The Great and the Good attended the funeral, many representing the clergy from near and far, the Y.M.C.A., and the establishment from St Albans, Bedford and elsewhere.
Whilst the congregation were assembling, Mr. W. H. Nutting who was at the organ and was supported by a full choir, played “O Rest in The Lord.” The Rev. V. A. Barradale and the Rev. F. Wheeler met the cortege at the church, the former reciting the opening verses of the service as it proceeded down the aisle. The mourners were: The Widow (Mrs Annie Howe), Mr. Cyril and Mr. Claude Howe (sons). Mr. and Mrs. A. Howe, Mr. A. Shepard, Mr. and Mrs. H. Grice, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Corby Sen., Mr. and Mr. W. Dazeley, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Corby jnr., Miss Maria Corby.
Major Young spoke on behalf of the National Council of the Y.M.C.A., and in the name of the Y.M.C.A.s of England, offered their most heartfelt sympathy to those near and dear to their beloved. He felt that he could not dwell fully upon his work and service, since respect must be shown to what he knew would have been his wishes. He shrank in a remarkable degree from publicity. For over 22 years he was in the closest touch with the Association, and for the last two years was General Secretary of the National Council. The workers had lost a warm friend, the National Council its most valued officer and the World’s Committee of the Association a deeply respected member. His training and long experience in Y.M.C.A. work fitted him to lead and organise the national work.
The hymn “On the resurrection morning,” was sung, and the Rev. Frank Wheeler engaged in prayer.
As the cortege left for the cemetery, Mr. Nutting played “in the Lord.” The mourning coaches were followed to the cemetery by the representatives from the YMCA, the deacons of Howard Church, Bedford, and those of Trinity Congregational Church, St Albans. At the graveside the committal sentences were spoken by the Rev. F. Wheeler, and the Rev. V. A. Barradale closed with prayer and the Benediction.
Sadly, Mrs Annie Howe was to suffer further tragedies in her life in that her two sons Cyril and Claude were both killed in World War 1. She died 8th June 1940 and is buried in the same grave as her husband.
Sapper HOWE, C A, Service Number 522252
Died 13th March 1917. Aged 24 years
483rd Field Coy. Royal Engineers
Son of Annie Howe, of 33, Goldington Rd., Bedford, and the late Frank Howe.
Inscription: “UNTIL THE DAY BREAK”
Buried at ADANAC MILITARY CEMETERY, MIRAUMONT Gr ref: IV. G. 12. Somme, France
Captain HOWE, CLAUDE ARTHUR
Died 30th November 1917. Aged 21
4th Bn. Royal Welsh Fusiliers attended. 1st/5th Bn. The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Son of Annie Howe, of 33, Goldington Rd., Bedford, and the late Frank Howe.
Commemorated at CAMBRAI MEMORIAL, LOUVERVAL Gr ref: Panel 5. Nord, France
The Bedfordshire Times and Independent Friday April 12th, 1912
Photograph of Mr Frank Howe – British Empire Y.M.C.A. Review p 140. Image supplied courtesy of the YMCA archives, Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Research & photograph of B.6. 2 – Colin Woolf, Friend of Bedford Cemetery
12th September 2020
Grave reference: B6.2
12th September 2020
November 10, 2021
October 27, 2021
September 20, 2021