Suicide of Joseph Pitchforth & Annie Quick

Towards the end of 1909, Annie Quick met Joseph Pitchforth, and they fell in love.

She was pregnant and the couple were planning to marry. Joseph had lost his job and was having difficulty finding work.

In April 1910, the couple travelled to Barnsley where they committed suicide by swallowing poison

In the early hours of Thursday 21st April 1910, Kenneth Bradley was awakened by a furious kicking of his front door of his home in Barnsley. Outside, he found Joseph collapsed on the ground and crying out the word Murder!. He said that he had murdered his sweetheart and had taken poison himself.

The police and a doctor were called and Joseph told them where they could find Annie, and then he died in great agony.

About the same time, Annie's body was discovered in a derelict building nearby.

On Joseph's body were two letters. In one of them, addressed: Dear father and mother, Joseph identified the girl as Annie Quick, and wrote that he and his companion had decided to take their lives and at the foot he had added the verse:

True lovers we have tried to be, as other lovers we have seen.

To the world all lovers must part.

Wherein lovers we shall meet, as broken-hearted lovers must part.

Goodbye, all.

Joe Pitchforth.

A small bottle containing salts of lemon (potassium oxalate) was found nearby, bearing a Halifax label and marked Poison.

The inquest heard that Joseph and Annie had last been seen in Halifax on April 16th, when they had left the town without saying where they were going.

Annie's employer, Mr Appleyard, identified her body, for her only known living relative was a brother in Wales. Appleyard had received a letter from Annie after her death, which he produced and read out in court. It began:

Dear Sir, Please forgive me for what I have done

and proceeded to send her love to his daughter, piano-teacher Manuela, and to the family cat, Prince, of whom she had been very fond – she called herself the cat's aunt.

Annie wished all her possessions to be given to Mrs Pitchforth, who had been like a mother to her. Mr Appleyard emphasised that Annie had been an exceedingly satisfactory servant.

Joseph father stated that his son's lack of employment had preyed heavily on his mind, and quoted from Joseph's final letter:

We have agreed to take our own lives, as she would not be left.

He also declared how fond the couple had been of one another. Thomas Pitchforth also gave evidence that, three weeks earlier, Joseph had declared that

if he did not get any work he would put an end to himself.

Dr Blackburn, who had conducted two post-mortems, said that both deaths were due to a form of corrosive poisoning, probably by salts of lemon. He also revealed that Annie had been in the early stages of pregnancy.

The inquest jury found that both young people had taken their own lives.

Mr and Mrs Pitchforth decided that Annie should share their son Joseph's grave at Stoney Royd.

The bodies were returned to Halifax for the funeral, and the coffins were taken to the Pitchforth family home at Clement Street. On 26th April 1910, hundreds of people gathered at Clement Street and in Pellon Lane to watch as two horse-drawn hearses carried the coffins. Eight young men and six young women, friends of the dead couple, walked alongside the hearses to the cemetery. Many more spectators attended the interment at Stoney Royd

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 15:04 / 12th May 2021 / 5831

Page Ref: MMQ19

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