Fred Lillie, Armless Announcer

While describing the relative safety of employment at the Schenectady GE works in 1913, we glossed over what was one of the most dangerous forms of employment of the time, railroad work. At that point, railroad work carried a fatality rate of 2.4 deaths per 1000 employees. Non-fatal accidents, of course, were even more common, and many were the workers who went home short a limb. Fred Lillie was one, as told in this 1906 Albany Evening Journal article:

Fred Lillie, the young messenger of the New York Central Railroad Co., who had his arms cut off in the West Albany yards about a year ago, has secured a position as train announcer at the Union station. He took up his duties this morning, but few of the many persons who passed through the station realized that the clear-voiced young man was armless.

Lillie was at one time employed as a messenger by the Central and made frequent trips between here and West Albany. About a year ago he jumped on the engine of train 29 at the Union station and started for West Albany. Arriving there he leaped from the engine while the train was in motion and fell across the opposite track with his arms spread across the rail. Another train came along at the time and severed his two arms near the shoulder.

He was taken to the hospital, where he recovered, and has secured a pair of artificial arms. Of course he is practically helpless, but the Central officials looked about to see what they could do for him, and it was decided that he could perform the duties of announcer very well. The megaphone which Announcer Day used has been suspended on a hook so that it just reaches Lillie’s mouth, and there is no doubt that he will make good as a caller of trains.

In 1905, Frederick C. Lillie was listed as 19 years old, a messenger living at 5 Clinton St. with family –  his 23-year-old sister, and his mother Mary and  stepfather Joseph Alexander. We’re sorry to say that while the loss of his arms led him to work that depended on his lungs, Fred’s lungs weren’t on his side either: he died of tuberculosis in 1907, at the age of 22. He is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery.

One thought on “Fred Lillie, Armless Announcer

  1. Wow, I was just looking around at and the Fred Lillie name just seemed to leap off the page at me. My Grandfather was a Lillie and he had an older brother named Fred. Unfortunately, I never met him, he passed away long before I was born. There were 3 brothers. Fred was the oldest, then came Norman and finally my Grandfather Victor. All were born in Britain, As a matter of fact, the family had immigrated to Canada. where my Great Grandmother had become pregnant with my Grandfather. She loved England so much that she would not allow my Grandfather to be born anywhere but. She packed up the boys, both in their teens at this point and sailed back and gave birth there. lol. I do know that Uncle Fred lived in the U.S.A. for a number of years only because my Grandparents had a big wooden pail that they kept toys for us to play with. I remember them saying that Uncle Fred had brought it with him when he came for a visit and the pail had originally been filled with oranges that he brought from the states with him as a gift for them. I do not know how he died. But I do know that he was very young and he had never married.

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