Ebenezer Bell

By Morag T Fyfe

In the Burial Register for the Glasgow Necropolis is the following intriguing entry:-

4th August 1835. Ebenezer Bell, late clerk to Mr John Todd. Aged 72 years. Cause of death: accident (caused by injuries sustained in the blowing up of the Earl Grey steamer). Buried by son James Bell in Compartment Delta, lair seven (Single Grave).

In Glasgow Necropolis records the term ‘Single Grave’ is used for what is more usually called a common grave. Twelve burials took place in this grave between June and August 1835.

It turns out that the Earl Grey was a wooden steamer of 105 tons built in 1832 by Duncan & Co and owned by David Napier. She plied between Glasgow and Rothesay under the command of James Johnstone.

On the evening of 24th July 1835, while tied up at Greenock Quay, her boiler blew up killing six people and injuring about twenty more. Ebenezer Bell’s name is not among the Glasgow Herald’s list of those severely or slightly injured. Nonetheless his death, on 1st August, is intimated in the death notices of the paper.

As a result of the accident a competition was organized by the Trustees of the River Clyde for some practical means of preventing such an explosion in the future. The prize of 100 guineas was split between J B Neilson and George Mills who both produced designs for a safety valve.

Three years after Ebenezer’s death James Bell purchased a lair in compartment Omega in which he buried two infant children. The present stone on the grave seems to date from the death of James in 1883 and does not mention his father.

James Bell was a printer and with his partner Andrew Bain founded the company Bell & Bain in 1831 which is still in existence.

Glasgow Herald. 27th July 1835, 31st July 1835, 3rd August 1835
The Clyde from its source to the sea, by WJ Millar. 1888


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