Banbridge mystery which saw the wrong man buried remains unsolved after more than a century
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Matt Bankhead, who spent most of his life in Banbridge before moving to Edinburgh, said that research into his ancestry inadvertently led to the discovery of many bizarre stories relating to his home town, which he regularly shares on the Banbridge ‘Back In The Day’ Facebook page.
He said: “I started researching my family many decades ago and when more and more stuff came online it was a natural progression.
"Thing is, you invariably find that somewhere else on the page something much more interesting is happening.
"So generally I'm not scouring for anything to do with what I end up posting, which is stuff I think will interest or amuse Bann folk.”
One particular story found by Matt concerns the burial of a man turned out not to be dead.
Given that the story concerns a shoemaker, some may say it's cobblers, but the mistaken burial was reported both by the News Letter and the Irish Independent.
The report in the Belfast News Letter of Friday, August 3, 1917 reads: “On Sunday evening last, as already reported, an unknown man expired with tragic suddenness in Bridge Street, Banbridge and the body was subsequently identified at that of Peter Bradley, shoemaker, Rathfriland.
“Evidence to this effect was given at the inquest by Hugh Bradley, son of Peter Bradley, and the former had the body conveyed to Rathfriland and the remains interred in the family burying-ground there.
“On Tuesday a rumour gained currency that Peter Bradley was still alive and working at his trade as a shoemaker in Tandragee, and the Banbridge police wired to Tandragee and received a reply that Bradley was alive and working in the town. The information was duly conveyed to Bradley's relatives.
“The following is a description of the deceased - - Age about 65 years; about 5ft 6ins in height; grey hair, stout build; fresh complexion; wearing dark coat, trousers, and cap, no vest. No papers or documents were found in his possession.”
The Irish Independent carried a slightly shorter report which added that the unknown man's identity remains a mystery.
Matt said he would dig deeper to see if the mystery was ever solved.
He commented: “The death registration was never cancelled or amended and the story vanishes just as suddenly as it appears.
"It could be either a mischievous or gullible journalist or locals taking the Mickey out of them.
"Depending on which paper you read, the deceased's employer also identified the body. What is not explained is, if Hugh the son lived in Rathfriland, how come he was at hand to identify a man who collapsed in Bridge Street?”
He added: “There doesn’t appear to be any sign of any police involvement.”
Matt said that the Banbridge Chronicle archives could prove more enlightening but they couldn’t be accessed online. He plans to try and access the newspaper’s archives on microfilm when he is next home in Banbridge.