Mr. Edward Cornfield was a miner, of 3 Victoria Street, Blantyre. Born on 11th September 1890, he was the second son to parents John Cornfield and Mary Park. As a child, he lived at Harts Land, on Glasgow Road. He was a regular soldier in the 2nd Scottish rifles, and in 1911 at the age of 20, he was stationed at Muance Barracks along with dozens of other men at Cochester, England. He arrived in France in November 1914 and survived the whole of the war. He was a Sgt and was also captured in France in the spring of 1918. His wartime years earned him the nickname, “Big Ned.”
He worked in the pits as a miner once he came out of the army.
His life was a troubled one, perhaps due to this wartime efforts and the trauma that may have caused. Amongst news reports of his exploits, include him getting caught stealing fruit, was fined for cruelty to a cat, and was refused compensation on a claim his daughter fell through the wooden slats at the old toll bridge. He was also amongst a group of 6 men lifted by Police in 1920 when an officer was stabbed and was unable to prove who did it, resulting in the whole group being detained. He is also known to have went into a shop inebriated and caused bother and concern to the staff.
A report from the Glasgow Herald Saturday July 9th 1932, states – BLANTYRE DAMAGES CLAIM FAILS “Edward Cornfield, miner, 1 Govan Street, Blantyre, recently raised an action in Hamilton Sheriff Court against Messrs William Baird and Co. Ltd., coalmasters, claiming £250 as damages in respect of an accident alleged to have been sustained by his pupil daughter, Mary, for which he held defenders responsible. Defenders are the private owners of the wooden suspension bridge, which spans the river Clyde between Blantyre and Bothwell, and they have an arrangement whereby they lease out certain rights of access to the bridge. In his judgement yesterday Sheriff McDonald said it was not disputed that the girl Cornfield paid toll on July 31, 1930, and was actually on the bridge. There was, however, no corroboration of her story that her left foot, leg, and knee were injured on that occasion. The pursuer, he thought, had not succeeded in proving that the accident was due to the fault of the defenders or anyone for whom they were responsible. The coal owners were found entitled to expenses.”
Whilst some photos of him show hardship on his face (like this one shared by family member Greger Davidson), there was a softer side to this man.
He had married Julia Welsh, who died young on 1st June 1937 from intestinal obstruction, leaving him responsible for their children. In 1933 they had to squat in new homes in Blantyre having being evicted from his previous house. The case ended up in court and whilst other squatters moved on or in with family, Edward confided to the court that he and his 2 delicate children had absolutely nobody to turn to, friends nor family something the judge was sympathetic to.
Despite a suggestion of succumbing to the odd drink, Edward died in a road traffic collision. On 16th April 1938 at 8am in the Highlands, he was killed on the Rosehall -Lochinver public road, aged 47. At the time of his death, he was employed as a labourer by RHR Barter, a company not associated with Blantyre. His parents had already passed away by that time. With no remaining parents, at least one of his 2 daughters was taken into an orphanage. It was a tragic end to the end of the life of a popular local character.He will be remembered, not for being in a few local scuffles, but for going off to war, fighting for his country and family and surviving that episode. The name is not to be confused with another Edward Cornfield who was mistaken to have died (but didn’t) much earlier in the 1877 Pit disaster.
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