There is no doubt that this case is influenced by the conditions under which people had to work during the Second World War. William Boyd MccIlhagger was employed by Belfast Corporation at a Pumping Station were sewerage was discharged into tanks where, after the solid matter had sunk to the bottom, the liquid was pumped off before the solid matter was discharged into the sea via barges.
On 16 December 1942, in the midst of a gale and a rain storm, William started work at 6am. During his inspection of the tanks he must have been blown into one of them and tragically was drowned. There was no fence between the path alongside the tank and the tank itself, which protruded just one inch above the path.
William's widow, Eleanor, brought an action for damages under the 1938 Factories Act of Northern Ireland, for negligence at No. 2 Pumping Station in Northern Road, Belfast. William had worked there for many years and when he hadn't returned to the screening house by 7.05am two other employees went to look for him. They found his body opposite to a place on the path where they found his torch and where he would have had to kneel over the tank to see its state. Pre-war (1939) lighting had been switched off and no adequate guard rail had been erected.
The judgement was that Belfast Corporation had failed in its duty in Common Law to its employee. Despite the fact that William had worked under these conditions for some three years and had not complained, the onus was on his employer, and they had failed to protect him. He was not guilty of any contributory negligence. Damages were given under The Fatal Accidents Act of 1846, of £600.
William Boyd McIlhagga married Eleanor McArthur on 6 May 1908 at Lynn Memorial Methodist Church, Belfast. William was the second son of George McIlhagger and Mary Jane Boyd. Two of his brothers predeceased him, David and Henry Joseph. He was survived by John George, Samuel Robert and his sister Mary Kathleen.