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The Tragic Tale of Stuart Blaylock: A Grave Mistake

In the 'Birkenhead and Cheshire Advertiser and Wallasey Guardian' newspaper on Saturday, February 19th, 1910, the headline carried the sombre news of "Death of Mr. Stuart Blaylock." Stuart Blaylock, the beloved son of Mr. Alexander Blaylock, met an untimely demise at the tender age of 28. This tragedy was only compounded by the events that followed.

Image © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

It all began on an otherwise ordinary day, Saturday, February 5th, 1910. Stuart, who had previously enjoyed good health, suddenly fell ill. Little did he know that this day marked the onset of an ailment that would ultimately claim his life. Dr. W. Leask of Prenton was summoned for consultation, but matters took a grave turn when pneumonia set in. Despite the best efforts of medical professionals, Stuart's condition deteriorated rapidly. Dr. John Hill Abraham of Rhodes Street, Liverpool, was called for further consultation, but by then, it was painfully evident that Mr. Blaylock was in a critical state. Tragically, on a Wednesday morning, shortly after 9 am, Stuart Blaylock passed away.

The newspaper article goes on to say that the community extended their sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Blaylock and their family in the face of this profound loss. Stuart had been a dedicated worker, employed by Messrs. McGrath, McCo, shipping agents at Oriel Chambers, Liverpool, since completing his schooling. Later, he served as a clerk at the Birkenhead Docks and had a wide circle of friends.

The funeral of the deceased was scheduled for Saturday, February 19th, 1910, at 3 o'clock in Bebington Cemetery, where he would find eternal rest—or so it was thought.

However, it wasn't until a meeting of the Bebington Burial Board on Monday, April 11th, 1910, at St. Catherine's Institute on Church Road, that a shocking revelation came to light. A member of the audience presented a letter to the chairman, Mr. Bird, which was read aloud: "Are you aware that a funeral took place on Saturday, February 19th, and the deceased was mistakenly buried in the wrong grave?"

Mr. Bird was taken aback, as he had not heard about this before. Recognising the gravity of the situation, he assured the members of the board that there would be a thorough investigation.

It appears that Mr. Alexander Blaylock, the registrar of births and deaths and Stuart's own father, had made the plot location error. His son had initially been laid to rest on February 19th, 1910, in a grave that was not meant for him. Due to a mix-up involving similar names, Blaylock senior had assigned the wrong grave number, placing his son Stuart in one adjacent to his father's plot.

Continuing to read newspaper reports on the matter, it seems that during the funeral, Alexander realised that his son was being buried in the wrong grave but allowed the proceedings to continue. A couple of days later, he had his son's body exhumed and reburied in the correct plot, all without the full awareness of the Home Office, which was illegal!

It was reported that when the truth came to light, Mr. Blaylock requested the disinterment of his son's body from the erroneous grave and its reinternment in the correct family plot. It appeared that this was a retrospective petition, as Mr. Blaylock supposedly had already taken it upon himself to move his son's remains only days after the funeral!

Understandably, Mr. Togg, the clerk to the Bebington Cemetery Board, had no objections to the request, perhaps recognising the need for closure in the face of such a tragic mistake. The Archdeacon, who presided over the case in the Chester Consistory Court (a church court), acknowledged that such an application was highly unusual. Yet, he could not ignore the petitioner's desire to have his son finally laid to rest in the family's intended grave. The Archdeacon granted the request, allowing the disinterment and reinterment to proceed legally and appropriately, eventually!

I understand that Mr. Blaylock had supposedly organised his son's relocation, but who would decide to report it to the Burial Board? Yes, it was against the law, but he was merely trying to move his son to the appropriate plot instead of waiting for the authorities, which could have taken months, prolonging a very difficult time in the family's lives. Personally, I can't comprehend why someone would want to inflict more pain on a family that had already tragically lost their son.

In the end, Stuart Blaylock found his rightful place of rest in the family plot, putting to rest the unfortunate tale of a grave mistake.

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