Smith, William

Smith, William               1878 March 16th

An inquest was held at the Council Chamber on Wednesday morning, by Mr G Smith, city coroner, touching the death of William Smith, who died at 59, Green-Croft-street, on Monday evening.

The Coroner made a few remarks, in the course of which he said that on the previous Friday deceased was riding about, in a state of excitement, on a donkey, and from which he had repeated falls. When he went home on the same evening he was unwell, and continued so up to the time of his death; and it would be for the jury to consider if his falling off the donkey was the cause of death, or if came by it by any other means.

Jane Cole deposed that she resided in Barnard-street, and was a married woman. On Friday last between 12 and 1 o’clock she saw deceased riding a donkey in Queen’s-street (opposite the cannon), a crowd of people following him. She could not say if he were sober or not. She saw him fall off the donkey three times; and one occasion on the back of his head. She was quite certain that he fell off, and was not thrown off in any way. She did not hear him say anything, but he got on the donkey again. Previous to this – at about 12 o’clock – she saw him in Trinity-street riding the same donkey, and he fell off once then. She knew the deceased, but could not say if he were accustomed to riding.

A juror : I should like to know, as deceased fell off the donkey three times in succession, whether he was helped on the animal, or got on of his own accord?

Witness : I did not see any one put him on.

The Coroner : Were you sufficiently near enough to see? I was not close.

The Coroner : So you could not say if he were assisted on? No.

Another juror : Was there a large crowd? Yes. There was a very large crowd.

The juror : Did you know any of them? No. I did not take any notice.

In answer to the Coroner witness said she was on the pavement, and deceased in the road.

A juror : Did the mob consist of men and women or boys? There were boys and men, and a few women, but it was mostly boys.

A juror : Do you think you were sufficiently close to see if anyone lifted him on? No.

The juror : But you were on the pavement? Yes, but there were a lot of taller people than I there.

James Stanford, Milford-hill, said he saw deceased last Friday. When he saw him he was riding a donkey. It was about 12 o’clock. There were a lot of boys running after the donkey, and he accompanied them. He did not see deceased fall off the donkey. He saw him on the animal in Queen’s-street, but did not see him fall off. He could not say if he saw him opposite the cannon in Queen’s-street. He saw him in several streets riding the donkey, and in Trinity-street. He did not see him fall of there, but saw him get off. He saw him get off opposite the hospital. He also saw him during the day in Gigant-street, and in the Market-place. He did not see him on either occasions fall off the donkey. In the evening at about seven o’clock, he saw deceased at the “Woolpack,” but did not speak to him. He could not say if deceased were sober when he first saw him in the morning, but he was shaking all over. He did not hear him speak to anyone. He swore that on neither of the occasions that he saw deceased did he throw him off the donkey. He touched both the donkey and deceased as he was passing him, but he could not say in which street it was. He also moved the saddle, but when he did it deceased did not fall off the donkey. He saw the deceased on the donkey in Green-Croft-street, but he never fell off. He did not remember having lifted the deceased on to the donkey at all in this street. In Trinity-street he lifted deceased off the saddle, in order, to put the saddle a little further back. Deceased seemed to be weak and went and drank some water.

The foreman : I have an idea that he said that deceased got off in Trinity-street. Did he get off or did you lift him off?

Witness, after some prevarication, said he got off the saddle, but he might have put his hand on his (witness’) shoulder.

A juror : Could you tell from where the procession started?

Witness : From the “Woolpack,” wasn’t it?

The juror : Did you keep with the crowd, or did you leave them? I went into several streets with them.

The juror : Did you go into Milford-street with them? I can’t say.

The Coroner : Were you sober yourself? No.

The juror : Did you turn Wilkes’ corner with them? I can’t say.

The juror : My idea was – if it were possible for deceased to have fallen off, and he not to have seen it.

Another juror : I should like to ask if his (witness) services were engaged to accompany them through the city?

Witness : No.

The juror : Or yet paid for it? No.

Another juror : Did you see any person knock deceased off the donkey? No, I never did.

Mary Ann Smith said she was the widow of deceased, and resided at 59, Green-Croft-street. By occupation he was a gardener, and was 33 years of age. He had been in a bad state of health for some time past, but no medical man had attended him. He complained of pains in his stomach and pains in his head. On the previous Friday he was riding a donkey about half the day through the streets of Salisbury. She did not see him from the morning until 11 at night, when he came home. He appeared very bad, shaking all over, but she did not send for a medical man. He then went to bed, and on the following morning he seemed about the same. On Sunday night at 6.30 o’clock, she went for Dr Gordon who gave her some medicine, and afterwards came and saw him. She gave the deceased the medicine. The medicine seemed to relieve the pain, but deceased continued ill the whole of Monday, and died in the evening at about 8 o’clock. Deceased did not say much about his illness, but merely complained of his head being bad, He did not mention to her that he had fallen off, or been thrown off, the donkey. He did not complain of his head being bad on Friday morning, but said it was very bad when he came home.

Charles Abnor Smith, brother of deceased, examined the last witness, who in answer to his questions said she went for Dr Gordon, at 6.30 o’clock on Sunday, and asked him to come and see her husband who was very ill. She did not remember saying “come at once.” Dr Gordon said in reply to her request, that it was rather late.

The Coroner : I don’t see how this will elucidate any evidence.

Mr Smith said it appeared to him that his brother’s wife went to Dr Gordon at 6.30 asking him to attend her husband, and about two hours after she went again to Dr Gordon, and he then gave her some medicine, and shortly after attended himself. He understood that Dr Gordon made some remarks as to being paid, but if he were the parish doctor, he should not have mentioned anything about being paid, as that would have been done out of the parish funds, and he should not have objected to have attended his brother; and,

A juror : Is there not a proper channel to go through, before you go to Dr Gordon?

The Coroner said he understood there was.

Another juror to witness : Did you try to persuade your husband from doing this riding on Friday, when he complained of being unwell?

Witness : No, but I said he ought not to have undertaken the affair at all.

Another juror : Did any one accompany him home on Friday night?

Witness replied that she was in bed and therefore could not see.

Dr Gordon said he was a medical man practising in Salisbury. At about 6.30 on Sunday night the last witness came to him and asked him to see her husband who was suffering from pains in the bowels and diarrhoea. He asked how long he had been so, and she said since Friday. He told her he wished she had come before, as it was rather inconvenient at that time as he was going in an opposite direction. He gave her some medicine, and she went away quite satisfied. She returned at about 9.30, and asked him to see deceased, as he was still suffering from a great deal of pain. He said he would come, and asked her if she applied to him as a parish patient. She said no, and repudiated the idea altogether. He then asked her if she intended to pay him and she said yes. Shortly afterwards he saw her husband, at about ten o’clock.

He was lying in bed, and he said the pains in his bowels were not so bad, and the diarrhoea had ceased for some little time. Deceased had a difficulty in breathing, and his skin was pale and clammy, his pulse feeble, and altogether he was in a very weak state. He said nothing about a fall. He had heard what a previous witness had said with reference to a fall on the back of his head, and he thought it exceedingly probable that such a fall might have accelerated death. He had heard the manner in which he was engaged on Friday, and the excitement which that tended to produce, coupled with the state of his health, would produce the condition in which he saw him. Of his previous health, however, he could not say a great deal, but he had seen him about the streets, and he generally looked unwell. Probably if the excitement had been undergone by a stronger man it might not have had such an effect upon him, as it had upon deceased. He saw deceased again on the following Monday morning and he was delirious, and he understood he died the same night. There was no external marks or injury on the back of the head or body. If he had a violent fall on the back of his head it would have produced a mark, but, which, however, might have subsided after death.

The foreman : Was there any symptoms, when you saw him, such as you would expect to find from a person suffering from concussion of the brain?

Dr Gordon : The breathing was, but not in any remarkable degree.

A juror : Was he perfectly conscious when you first saw him? He was disinclined to talk, but perfectly conscious.

Another juror : Did you give any different —- after you saw him? I changed his medicine the following day.

The juror : What should you attribute his being delirious to?

Dr Gordon said when persons were near their death it was not unusual for them to be delirious.

Another juror : You could not say he had had a blow? I saw no marks.

Mr Smith expressed himself satisfied with Dr Gordon’s explanation.

The Coroner, in summing up the case, pointed out the discrepancies which existed in Stanford’s evidence, and the unwilling manner in which he answered some questions, but remarked that if he were drunk on Friday that would allow for it to a certain extent. As regards Dr Gordon, there seemed to be, before Dr Gordon explained, a doubt in deceased’s relative’s mind as to his having acted with sufficient promptitude, but there was not the slightest foundation for such a doubt, or that Dr Gordon acted improperly. In fact they had evidence to prove that the evidence he gave to deceased’s wife answered the purpose. In concluding, the Coroner said there was no evidence to prove that deceased was thrown off the donkey.

After a short consultation the jury returned a verdict of “Death from natural causes, accelerated by over-excitement,” and, wishing to express their disapprobation of Stanford, passed a vote of censure against him, and disallowed his expenses. The jury handed the fees to the widow of the deceased.

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