IT was without mounting concern that he watched the stranger get up from the railway bridge where he had sat for some ten minutes before squeezing through the wire fence to get onto the railway track near the New Forest station.

Discarding boards he had been carrying by laying them on the bank, the trespasser walked a further five yards and then placed his head on the rail.

The shocked railway employee Bill Holyland knew he had little time to prevent a tragedy.

A train was imminent.

He dashed down the track and grabbed the man who refused to move.

"Do let me bide," he pleaded. "I am better dead than alive and I want the train to go over me. It is nothing to do with you what I do."

James Avery, who had been waiting for the service on the platform, ran to the scene and the two men desperately tried to prise his hands from the rail but the stranger tenaciously clung on until he was finally pulled clear and dragged in tears to the station master's office.

The drama at Holmsley brought Burley-based Pc Whiting to the station.

After hearing the three men's accounts, Whiting told the man he was being arrested for attempting to commit suicide.

The man remained unmoved and he was taken to Ringwood for questioning. It was only then that the man admitted to being Daniel Gladstone, a penniless street artist.

"I wished they had let me do it," he began by way of explanation but then adopting a more conciliatory tone revealed: "I am very sorry for having attempted to carry into operation such a terrible act. I can assure you I should not have attempted to do so but for the circumstances I was placed in.

"I was debarred from ill-health to earn an honest living at my own profession. I could not seem to have the courage to face the hardships of the road without means of subsistence."

The thin, half-starved Gladstone was a pitiful figure as he was placed before magistrates sitting at Ringwood Town Hall the following day, April 17, 1909, when he was committed for trial in custody.

But Gladstone, 31, was in far better frame of mind when he appeared in front of Mr Justice Channell on July 3.

Pleading guilty, he heard Dr Richards, who was based at Winchester Prison, tell the court how he had put on nearly a stone and a half in weight in the interim.

"He has also improved in his mental condition," said the doctor, handing the judge a letter that revealed he had recently lost his livelihood and was in trouble at the time he tried to kill himself.

"Possibly his character was not all it might have been at the time," he commented of the contents.

The judge took note, jailing Gladstone for just one day which meant his release as soon as the court had finished.

Holmsley was a halt of the once Southampton-Dorchester line which opened in 1848, sweeping from Lymington Junction, Brockenhurst, inland through Holmsley - known as Christchurch Road until 1888 - through Ringwood, West Moors, Wimborne and Broadstone before turning back towards the coast to take in Wareham and finally Dorchester.

During the summer it was extensively used on Saturdays to convey holiday passengers to the seaside but otherwise traffic was always light and the station's closure had come under heavy scrutiny before the Beeching Report's recommendation.

It was finally axed for passenger traffic in May, 1964, though good trains still used the line to Ringwood from Broadstone until August 1967 after which the route was reduced to West Moors for occasional military trains serving a fuel depot until 1974.

It was consigned to history in 1977.

Holmsley's platform still exists with the station building converted into a tea shop, an ideal stopping off place for walkers who use the track.