Tommy’s final journey

West Derby Cemetery
FINAL RESTING PLACE: The Roman Catholic section of West Derby Cemetery where Tommy Burns was buried on 10th July 1897.

Tommy Burns died on the afternoon of Tuesday 6th July 1897 after diving from a platform on the pier in the North Wales seaside resort of Rhyl.

The police investigation was swift and the day after the tragedy, an inquest was held and an accidental death verdict returned by the jury.

Four days after he died, he was buried at West Derby Cemetery about four miles from his home in Farnworth Street in the Kensington district of Liverpool.

Tommy’s wife Marie and her sister had accompanied the coffin on a special train to Liverpool on Thursday when the Liverpool Echo reported:

Immediately after the inquest yesterday it was publicly stated that the wife of Tommy Burns was absolutely penniless and that she was unable to remove the body without assistance. Mr Tom Wood and Mr F. Geary, of the Pier, at once opened a subscription list and collected £3 18s [about £430 in today’s money], the balance of which after paying the charge for conveying the body to Liverpool was handed to the widow.

The body of the deceased swimmer arrived in Lime-street Station shortly after ten o’clock this morning, accompanied by Mrs Burns and her sister. One of Messrs. Porter and Son’s hearses was in waiting, and the coffin was quietly transferred from the railway carriage to the hearse and driven to the deceased’s residence in Farnworth-street.

Crowds pay their respects

The funeral was held on Saturday 10th July and the following Monday’s edition of the Liverpool Mercury reported:

… the simplicity of the closing scene in the man’s career forming a strong contrast to the exciting displays which Burns has made in the athletic world for years past.

The procession was timed to leave Farnworth-street at three o’clock, and by that hour an immense crowd assembled in the vicinity of the house to witness its departure.

Messrs. Porter and Sons were in charge of the arrangements, and they provided an open hearse, followed by three mourning coaches.

When the coffin, upon which were a number of wreaths, was placed in the hearse, a sympathetic murmur rose from the crowd. A large number of people followed the procession along West Derby-road, but eventually fell off, and the remainder of the journey was accomplished without much notice being taken of the cortege.

At the cemetery the attendance of the general public was not so large as might have been expected, but the remoteness of the burying place would, no doubt, have some effect of checking the curiosity of the public.

Tommy’s final resting place is in section RC8 of West Derby Cemetery, pictured above.

It is not known if the grave was eventually marked with a headstone but there is no obvious sign of one today.