Relative pays tribute 100 years later

Who knows what was going through desperate Arthur Edward Pitcher's mind as he trudged through the snow 100 years ago from a Yarmouth workhouse on his way to seek gainful employment.

Who knows what was going through desperate Arthur Edward Pitcher's mind as he trudged through the snow 100 years ago from a Yarmouth workhouse on his way to seek gainful employment.

Sadly no one will ever know as the 62-year-old out of work labourer's body was hauled from the River Yare on January 9 1908 in what may have been a case of suicide.

To mark the anniversary, a moving tribute was paid to Mr Pitcher on Wednesday by a distant relative who was shocked by how far a man could fall in the days before the now taken- for-granted welfare state came into being.

Susan Hanson threw a posy of roses into the spot where a lonesome and broke Mr Pitcher is believed to have fallen or threw himself into the icy depths of the river - now Yarmouth's South Quay.


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Mrs Hanson, of Ripon, North Yorkshire, discovered the cruel fate of Mr Pitcher as she researched her family tree and forged a close bond with the unfortunate labourer, who is believed to be buried in an unknown pauper's grave.

Arthur Pitcher, who was born in Swaffham in about 1849, had entered the harsh and unforgiving environment of the workhouse after he had lost his job and his wife, Mary, and 14-year-old son had moved to Sheringham to seek work.

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As reported in the EDP in 1908, Mr Pitcher sent a poignant letter from the workhouse to his wife one day before his body was pulled from the river.

The letter, read out at an inquest, said: “It is snowing hard this morning and I am walking about. I pray God that you will never enter a place of this sort. I cannot come back and face people in the country; it will break my heart. I cannot let you know my address.”

Mrs Hanson, whose great grandmother's sister Mary married Mr Pitcher, said: “What happened to Arthur Pitcher was a tragedy and I am glad we can acknowledge his life 100 years on.”

During the ceremony her husband, Don, read out a poem dedicated to the labourer, which said: “What anguish in your heart that day? You lost your life in such cruel way. What sorrow brought you to this place, to welcome icy waves' embrace?”

After her husband's death, Mary Pitcher emigrated to Chicago, in America, working as a housekeeper until she returned to Britain in the 1920s. She died aged 79 in 1941.

A further mystery surrounds the Pitchers as the fate of their only son Arthur John is unrecorded by history.

Mrs Hanson is still trying to track down further details of the Pitchers and anyone with information can e-mail her at sue.hanson11@tiscali.co.uk

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