Of the 50 cases in 1887, unfortunately a good number are covered with a mere paragraph, in several cases reports consisted of two or more cases bundled together. Necessarily there is a lack of detail in some of the cases.
A typical case of A not knowing what B and C were doing is seen in the death of William Hill, a labourer at the Salisbury Great Western station, who happened to be sweeping out a truck at the same time as a goods train was being shunted together on the same siding. The real shock is at finding out the deceased man’s age. Witnesses in the case of Mary Durnin, a patient of Fisherton Asylum, differed in their description of the place of death, nurse calling it a shed, doctor calling it a summerhouse. I wonder which it was more like?
We have all heard of a husband and wife dying within a few days of each other – Sarah Safe‘s death was just such a one (and so was that of Jane Farley), with a witness who went by the wonderful name of Zipporah Rawkins, a washer-woman. Baby John Coghlan‘s death seems overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the mother, who the father seems to wish put in an asylum – and, of course, women were in those days sectioned into the Lunatic Asylum for problems attendant on child-birth.
Poverty and drugs seem to be behind the systematic deprivation of food enacted by mother and son upon William Pearce, and the case has echoes of the Dinah Hibberd case of 1888. John Ilsley suffered from what he and his wife thought was indigestion – it was clearly something more serious than that – and she was in the habit of rubbing him with a ‘flesh brush’ as he thought his circulation was poor.
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