Ranger, Mary

Ranger, Mary            1880 October 30th

On Thursday night in last week a married woman named Mary Ann Ranger committed suicide, whilst in a state of temporary insanity, under peculiar and affecting circumstances. She was the wife of Albert Ranger, and with him resided in the Friary. The mother of five children, all of whom we hear are alive, she was a most devoted mother and a loving wife, and, with her husband, a very steady workman, lived a life of happiness and comfort.

Two years ago, however, the wife of a neighbour drowned herself; and the sad fate of the woman preyed upon the mind of one keenly susceptible, we should believe, to every excitement. Since the death of her youngest child, her spiritual condition had, too, excited doubts with her, and her salvation had become a matter of grave interest and hope. Of late, again, she had complained of queer feelings in her head. Nothing however – though temptations to destroy herself she confided to her husband – occurred to arouse a suspicion of her deplorable end.

On Thursday, her husband came home to tea; then, playing with her little child, she appeared cheerful and happy. In the time intervening between him ceasing work for the day, she, accompanied by her daughter, proceeded to a draper’s shop in Catherine-street. Some gloves were purchased, but, on returning home, she dispatched the little girl to a grocer’s to obtain some lard, promising to remain for her at the bottom of the street. The little girl returned from her errand, but her mother had then disappeared. Neither at home or at friends was she to be found, and the next morning the worst suspicions were confirmed by the discovery of her wedding-ring wrapped in a brief note to her husband in the pocket to a pair of his trousers.

Unable, she said, to see him go first, she was about to destroy herself, and her body would be found in the Britford water. The maternal instinct alive even in such a moment of painful aberration, she wrote, “Take care of the children.” Search was at once made. Portions of her clothes were at first found on the banks of the river – showing that she had partially disrobed herself, and, after, the body was found in about 3½ft of water. It was removed to a neighbouring public-house – the “Swan” at Harnham – ad there awaited the inquest.

This was held on the following morning (Saturday) before Mr R Wilson, jun. (deputy coroner), and a jury, of whom Mr Snook was foreman. The appearance of the body was calm and quiet, a placid and even happy expression reigned on the face, and there was not the slightest sign of any struggle having taken place. The first witness examined was,

James Hallett, postman, residing in the Friary, who said : I knew the deceased very well; in fact, she, with her husband, lived next door to me. She was missed from her home on Thursday evening, and I, with her husband, went over the town in search for her. We could not find or hear anything of her. On Friday I heard of the letter being found in her husband’s pocket; and, learning that she wrote her body would be found in Britford water, I went there in search of it. After a brief search I found, on the bank of the river, a skirt, a bonnet, a cape and boots, which were subsequently identified as belonging to her. The deceased I have known for more than four years. At times she was very low spirited. She was a very good woman. I have often heard her speak of the sad fate of Mrs Wheeler, a neighbour, who drowned herself two years ago.

James Henry Stock, bailiff to Mr Jervoise, of Britford, said he heard on Thursday early that a woman was drowned in Britford water, and the policeman who gave him the information wanted the water drawn off, so that the body might be recovered. Witness was informed that the body was somewhere in the stream called “the Navigation,” and consequently he drew the hatches up. Subsequently, about 150 yards below the hatches, he saw the body lying in the centre of the stream in about 3½ft of water. This was about a quarter of a mile from where the clothes were found.

Albert Ranger, husband of the deceased, deposed : My wife was 37 years old last November. I saw her alive last on Thursday afternoon, when, at four o’clock, I went home to tea. At that time she seemed all right, and really was in as comfortable spirits as I had known her for some time. Nothing unusual passed between us; only the ordinary intercourse of the tea-table accompanying the meal. My wife, indeed, was quite cheerful as she played with the baby. At seven o’clock I was returning from my work, when, at the top of the Friary, I met my little boy who inquired if I had seen his mother. I replied that I had not; and he then told me that some time before she had gone out with my daughter Bessie (Elizabeth), and, after purchasing some gloves, had, as they were returning home, sent back the little girl to Mr Fullford’s for some lard, but had disappeared before her return, and had not since been heard of. I was certainly surprised, and felt uneasy at her being out, as it was a most astonishing occurrence even for her to go out visiting at that hour. That night, she not returning, every endeavour was made to discover her and then information of her disappearance was lodged at the police-station. The next morning I found, in the pocket of a pair of trousers, her wedding ring wrapped up in a piece of paper, the paper containing the following words:

DEAR ALBERT, If I am not found before you get this, my body will be found in Britford water. I feel I can’t see you go first. Take care of the children.

Some time since the deceased had weaned her child, and the effect had been to produce an unpleasant feeling in the head; but for a few days previous to Thursday she had not complained of it. Dr Blackmore, indeed, attended her about six months since. My wife, was, however, of late, rather low, but, during the last two or three days, she was as cheerful as I have noticed her for some time. She never, however, threatened to do away with herself, though she told me she had had temptations. She had always withstood them. She never said what those temptations were; but I believe the sad death of Mrs Wheeler preyed upon her mind. When too, she attended a place of worship she would oftentimes dwell upon what she had heard. She would talk about her being saved; she had great hopes she was, but still these doubts would afflict her. She laboured, indeed, under something of a religious mania. She attended the Brown-street chapel, but not regularly. On Sunday evening, however, she was there with me. I never suspected for a moment she had any suicidal designs.

Elizabeth Wheeler (Ranger), daughter of the deceased, deposed : I am twelve years old. On Thursday evening I went out with my mother, and together we proceeded to a shop in Catherine-street. There mother bought some gloves; and, we were returning home when, near the “King’s Arms” in St John’s-street, she sent me back to Mr Fullfords’ to get some lard, telling me that she would wait for me. I hadn’t been gone more than five minutes, when, on returning, I found she had disappeared. This was about half past six. My mother, before I left her, said nothing extraordinary to me or kissed me. She had not been very busy abut the house during the day.

The jury, after a few words from Deputy-Coroner, returned a verdict of “Deceased drowned herself whilst in a state of temporary insanity.”

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