Exposure to asbestos at school - and in ‘snowballs’ - led to Mabel’s death at 72

Mabel Midgley
Mabel Midgley

A WIDOWER has paid tribute to his “lovely wife” who died after being exposed to asbestos at school.

Mabel Midgley inhaled the deadly substance, from the nearby Acre Mill, while attending Old Town Primary School, where boys would “throw it around like snow balls”.

The 72-year-old Mytholmroyd housewife said in a video statement before she died: “I remember the school was covered in white dust, which could only have been asbestos.

“I remember it would be quite dusty in the playground when we played there. I remember seeing asbestos in the gutters and fluffy white bits of asbestos in the air. They boys would make snow balls out of asbestos and would throw them around.”

Mabel was born in Todmorden in 1938 and moved to Olden Town, Hebden Bridge, when her father got a job in the area, She attended Old Town Primary School between 1945 and 1949 where she inhaled dust that was omitted from an extractor fan at the nearby mill.

Mabel’s husband, Keith Midgley, described his wife as “family orientated” and said that her father warned his children of the dangers of asbestos.

“She was lovely. She thought the world of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren,” said Keith, a former fire fighter in Todmorden, who married Mabel 52 years ago.

“Mabel’s father, Percy, wouldn’t let any of them work at Acre Mill because he had an idea of the danger.

“But, she had done very well. She got it when she was a child and it laid dormant until 14 months ago.”

Keith said that Mabel had been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma around a year ago and often had a shortage of breath.

He said that she went into the Overgate Hospice for pain relief around seven weeks before she died, on Monday, April 11, 2001, and came home for her final week.

Coroner Roger Whittaker recorded that the cause of death was industrial disease.

“I needed to be clear that Mrs Midgley died of asbestos poisoning and not with it,” he said.

“The evidence believes me to conclude that she was exposed to asbestos from Acre Mill while at school.”

She leaves behind a husband, her brother Derek, two children - Melanie and Michael - seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

The former Cape Asbestos at Acre Mill opened in 1939 and manufactured asbestos products. It closed in the 1970s and scores of people have suffered health problems as a result of its legacy.