Click here for the Glossary page
Click here for the main index of the Burton Latimer Heritage Society site
Click here to return to the previous page

Article from Kettering Leader newspaper 18 August 1939 supplied by Trevor Cooper, presented by Margaret Craddock
Mr John Downing Cockayne
Railway Guard

Mr John Downing Cockayne seen reading the local evening paper

NOTE: John Downing Cockayne was the Great, Great Uncle of Paul Cockayne currently living in Burton Latimer. John was the brother of Paul's Great Grandfather. The Cockayne family lived in Burton Latimer in the 1800s, 1900s and now in the new millenium.

Helped at Railway Disaster - Reprimanded

Death of Retired Guard at Burton Latimer

OLDEST INHABITANT  Aged 94, and the oldest resident of Burton Latimer, Mr John Downing Cockayne of 19 Station Road, a retired railway guard, died on Wednesday after having been in failing health for some time.

Mr Cockayne was one of those who actually saw the famous railway accident at Wellingborough on September 2nd 1898, when the London-Manchester express was derailed with the loss of six lives.*  He was crossing the Mill Road bridge over the railway, just beyond the scene of the disaster, to go on duty and was one of the first to render aid to the injured.

For this, however, he was reprimanded by an inspector, ordered to his own train and reported for being late for duty, though a subsequent inquiry at Derby excused him in the circumstances.

Mr Cockayne spent the greater part of his life at Nottingham, where his wife died many years ago.

He was born at Irthlingborough in 1844, had no regular schooling and started work when he was seven on a farm.  He entered the service of the railway company in 1872, retiring in 1912, and came to reside at Burton Latimer in 1916 staying with his niece, Mrs A Tompkins** and her husband.

His Recipe for Longevity

Mr Cockayne remembered the Leicester-Bedford railway line through Kettering being opened when he was 12 and he later helped to dig the cutting near Burton Latimer on the Kettering-Thrapston line.  While a railway “navvy” on this work he learned to read and write at the Cranford night school.

During his work as a goods guard he had a narrow escape on one occasion when another train ran into the rear of his train in a fog near Loughborough.  He escaped from his guard’s van just in time.

Mr Cockayne recalled seeing many of the old bare-fisted prize fights and claimed to have seen the celebrated contest between Tom Sayers and Jack Heenan at Farnborough, Hants, in 1869, the last in which Sayers fought.

His recipe for a long life once expressed to a reporter was: “A bit of bacca’, a drop of beer, and don’t go to meet your troubles, but take them as they come.”

The funeral will be at Burton Latimer on Saturday, the Rector, the Rev R W Sharpley, officiating.  A service in the Parish Church at 3 pm will be followed by the interment in the cemetery at 3.30 pm.

The Co-operative Federal Funeral Service have the arrangements in hand.


* There are several stories on the cause of the accident, but the most believable one, “It was caused by a baggage truck badly parked on the platform rolling off and into the path of the express”.

**  Mrs Alice Tompkins (nee Cockayne) Paul’s Great Aunt, whom he remembers well, living at 19 Station Road.

Click here to return to the Main Index
Click here to return to the People Index