Bown, James 1883 January 13th
An inquest was held at the Salisbury Infirmary on Thursday morning by Mr George Smith (city coroner) and a jury, of whom Mr W Wells was foreman, on the body of Mr James Anthony Bown, a teacher of languages, who had been confined at the Infirmary since October last, when he was admitted suffering from injuries received by a fall whilst crossing the line at Porton, and who died early on Monday morning.
That the inquest was not called earlier was a matter of considerable surprise to the jurors, and was eventually traced to the action of the medical surgeon of the Infirmary, who had not considered it necessary. The following was the evidence adduced.
George Creed, on being called, said : I reside at Porton, near Salisbury, and am a railway porter in the employ of the South-Western Company. I remember the 30th of October last. I saw the deceased, James Anthony Bown, on the platform at Porton on that day; I had seen him there frequently during the last 18 months. On the 30th Oct I saw him when he arrived at 2 o’clock at Porton. He was there again to meet the 6.13 train to Salisbury. He arrived from Winterbourne on the up platform, consequently he had to cross the railway in order to get to the down platform, from which he had to start from Salisbury. He arrived some ten minutes previous to the arrival of the train for Salisbury. The deceased met with an accident when crossing from one platform to the other, about 60 yards from the proper crossing. I am not aware whether he fell from the platform or in crossing the line, but I found his body lying across the points. My attention was called to him by hearing him call out. He said he had fallen down and believed he had broken his leg. I lifted him up and placed him on a chair and with assistance conveyed him to the down platform.
Upon the arrival of the train I put him into a 2nd class carriage and came into Salisbury with him at his request. I took him with assistance on arriving to Mrs Thompson’s near the station. On arriving at Mrs Thompson’s, a medical man – Mr Gowing, whom the station-master had previously sent for, came. Mr Lee also afterwards arrived. The medical men directed his removal to the Infirmary. It was a very dark wet night when the accident happened. The station lights were lighted. The nearest light to where the accident happened was 27 yards. There were four lights on the down platform and two on the up platform. The two on the up platform were opposite the proper crossing, and one light opposite the crossing on the down platform, and they were all lighted at the time of the accident. I found deceased on the up line on the station side of the lights about 60 or 70 yards from the proper crossing. About a week previously I saw the deceased crossing at the same point and cautioned him against doing so. Since the accident the company has improved the platform and placed lights opposite the crossing.
Prudence Naerger said : I am training at the Infirmary as nurse and come from the Nurses’ Home. I was on night duty last Sunday night and the deceased was in the accident ward under my charge. He was suffering from an injury to the knee. I came on duty at nine o’clock pm; he was then in bed but awake. He spoke to me about eleven o’clock and afterwards went to sleep. I went to the ward again and saw him at 12 o’clock and also at two, when he appeared to be all right. He was alive at a quarter to four on Monday morning, but at twenty minutes to six, when I took him his milk, I found he was dead. I immediately fetched the night superintendent who fetched the house surgeon, and I remained in the ward until he arrived.
John Algernon Bown said : I reside at Highfield, Salisbury, and am a printer. I am a son of the deceased. I have seen the body of the deceased and identify it as that of my father, James Anthony Bown. The deceased lived at 4, Highfield, and was eighty-one years of age, and was a teacher.
Mervyn Seppings Wilson deposed : I am house surgeon of the Salisbury Infirmary. I remember the deceased, James Anthony Bown, being brought to the Salisbury Infirmary on the night of 30th October last. I examined him on arrival and found that the right leg was injured, but the nature of the injury was rather obscure. There evidently was a fracture and it was decided to be a fracture of one of the condyles of the femur. We examined the knee yesterday after death and found the injury as I have above described it to be so. He remained ill at the Infirmary from 30th October last until last Monday morning about 6 o’clock when he was discovered to be dead.
I saw the deceased the evening previous to his death and he then appeared all right with the exception of the knee. I found him dead when I arrived on Monday morning. I should say that death resulted from arrest of the heart’s action and weakness. The continuance in bed for so lengthened a period would contribute towards such weakness. Indirectly I consider it possible that the accident contributed to his death. He suffered a great deal of pain after the accident but on Sunday previous to his death he appeared easier. The shock to the system caused by the accident would be very great for a man of 81 years. I may add that whenever I inquired how he was, during the time he was at the Infirmary, he replied that he was perfectly well except the pain in the leg.
A juror closely questioned Mr Wilson as to the delay which had taken place. The juror pointed out that when death resulted from an accident it was habitual to have an inquest on the body. And Mr Wilson admitted that death perhaps indirectly resulted from that, but he said that he and the medical man who had attended the case did not deem one necessary.
The juror, however, reminded Mr Wilson, that though it was not his case he was responsible as house surgeon for such matters. The result of this delay had not been simply expense to the family, but had harassed their feeling – already wrought to a high pitch. Medical gentlemen when accepting such positions should acquaint themselves with the duty of the position.
The jury returned a verdict of “Death from Natural Causes.”
It was considered by the jury a very proper case for inquiry.