The Volunteer [1963]

The Volunteer was a hot-air balloon which was launched by Mr Youings as a part of Mr Winsland's gala at the Piece Hall on Saturday 12th September 1863.

The inflation of the balloon began at 2:00 pm, and it was announced that at 6:00 pm, Mr Youing and a lady would make the ascent. There was some delay, and at 7:00 the balloon was released, without the lady. As it rose, the balloon snagged on telegraph wires which stretched across the quadrangle, barely missing the roof of the Piece Hall. It was carried by the gentle west wind to the chimney of Square Road Mill where it stuck to the top. The balloon collapsed and the net covered the mouth of the chimney, and Mr Youing was left suspended about 105 ft above the crowd, waving his hat to the crowd as he swung to and fro in the wind. After a hour, with the help of Foster Calvert, a plumber in Westgate, Youing lowered himself down from the chimney to safety and a hero's welcome.

The following morning, a group of local men – Foster Calvert, Charles Rawson, Samuel Pinder (a professional fixer of lightning conductors), and Daniel Mullan (Pinder's assistant) - went to recover the balloon. Pinder and Mullan climbed to the top, and Rawson attempted to reach them, but the rope broke and he fell to his death.

At the Inquest, the Jury recommended that, in view of the wires, chimneys and spires which are outside the Piece Hall, the place be not used for any more balloon ascents.

The Leicester Journal [Friday 18th September 1863] reported the incident

Dreadful Balloon Accident in Halifax

At Halifax Piece Hall, a Grand Balloon ascent was announced, the car of which, it was said, would be seated Mr Youing and a lady.

A little before seven o'clock, Mr Youing took his seat, but not the lady, and the balloon commenced the ascent. In leaving the hall, it came in contact with some telegraphic wires which pass over the hall. This had the effect of rendering the balloon somewhat unsteady.

After it had risen beyond the building, a slight breeze from the west carried it against the top of Messrs Firth & Sons mill chimney, and there it collapsed. The crowds of spectators were horrified, expecting every minute that the aeronaut would be precipitated to the ground. He, however, retained his presence of mind, and more than once raised his hat, of which the crowd took note and cheered. A rope was let down from the car, and to it were attached a pulley and another rope, which were drawn into the car. The pulley was fastened to the car, and the aeronaut was fortunate enough to reach the ground without being injured.

The balloon having become entangled with the lightening conductor or the cornice, remained at the top of the chimney all night. Next day, some men ascended to the top of the chimney to recover the balloon. When one of them – Charles Rawson – gained the top, the rope holding the pulley snapped. Rawson fell to the ground and was killed. His body was shockingly mangled


© Malcolm Bull 2023
Revised 16:11 / 8th October 2023 / 5687

Page Ref: Y30

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