John Hirst, also known locally as "Old Mogg", was a wool spinner and general labourer who died from exposure in January 1867.
He was born around 1805 in Meltham.
He married Martha Pogson on 6 January 1831. The couple had at least six known children:
Martha died in 1858, aged 47, and was buried on 5 June at St. Bartholomew, Meltham.
Within a year, John Hirst was likely living with his second partner, Sarah Ramsey. She was born in Ireland around 1833 and had previously lived in Manchester, where her son, James E. Ramsey, was born. They had at least five known children:
The age difference between John and Sarah, and perhaps the fact that he was continuing to expand his family, may have given rise to his nickname of "Old Mogg".
On the morning of Sunday 13 January 1867, labourer James Armitage called at Hirst's house and persuaded him to venture out into the bitter cold. The pair walked up to Harden Moss, where they spent over 2 hours drinking at "the beerhouse of Henry Hirst" before being turned out at 3pm. They returned when the beerhouse re-opened at 4:30pm and drank more beer until leaving to return home at around 6pm.
After the pair had walked about a mile, Hirst collapsed and was unable to regain his feet, despite help from Armitage. Armitage decided to return to Meltham, leaving Hirst lying in the lane. After warming himself at a pub in Meltham, he called round to Hirst's house and told Sarah that she "had better send in search of him up the lane". Apparently Sarah didn't believe him and instead sent one of her sons on a fruitless search to try and find John at one of the local beerhouses in Meltham. As her husband was "in the habit of remaining out late", she went to bed.
The following morning James Armitage and John Woodhead set out in search for Hirst and found him close to where he had collapsed the previous evening, "stiff and senseless, and his clothes frozen to the ground" but still alive. After procuring a handcart, they brought him back to Meltham where he was examined by local surgeon Mr. Haigh. Hirst died shortly afterwards from the effects of exposure. At the subsequent inquest, Armitage was branded as "callous, unfeeling, and inhuman" for leaving his companion to freeze to death and for not "making his real situation known to his friends".
John Hirst was buried on 17 January 1867 at St. Bartholomew, Meltham.
Sarah Hirst likely died in 1886, aged 53, and was buried at St. Bartholomew.