Newman, Harry

Newman, Harry        1887 July 30th

A sad boating accident occurred on the Avon on Wednesday morning by which a young man named Harry Newman, 22, who lived with his father at Highfield Villa, on the Devizes Road, lost his life, his father, who has reached the great age of 82, being close by at the time, but unable to render personal aid. An inquest was held the following morning by Mr G Smith, city coroner, at the Rising Sun Inn, to which place the body was taken. Mr West was foreman of the jury.

The father of the deceased, whose Christian name is John, was the first witness. He said that deceased was 22 last September. He was a carpet salesman for his uncle, but had been out of employ for 12 months. On Wednesday morning, about 10 o’clock he supposed, the deceased met witness on the new iron bridge in Fisherton, and solicited him to go with him for a row on the river. Witness went with him, reluctantly, to Castle-street, to hire a boat. He proceeded with him up the river, until he felt so timid that he would not go farther. His son offered to put him out and said that he would go on alone; he would not turn back. On attempting to put witness out he stepped towards the bank, when his foot slipped or he stepped short and he fell into the water. He was not then out of his depth, but the wind caught the boat and sent it in the direction of the opposite bank, and in trying to catch it or the oar deceased got out of his depth. At this time witness was in the boat. He grasped some weeds, by means of which he drew himself towards the bank and got on land. He then saw his son struggling in the water and in a few moments he went down. He thought that he got entangled in weeds or had the cramp. He had an ailment in the side. The accident happened beyond Messrs Keynes’ nursery. Witness was told that the water at that point was about 8ft deep. There were many weeds in it. Witness was not able himself to render any assistance but he hallooed. A lad with a boat came and looked into the water but could not see the deceased. Two other persons – Andrew Sheppard and George Norton – came to witness’s assistance shortly afterwards. The body was recovered about an hour after deceased fell into the water, and was temporarily placed in a field. Whilst there the doctor, Mr Thompson, arrived, and attempted to restore life, but could not do so. The body was then brought to the “Rising Sun” where witness remained with it until arrangements were made. Deceased said he learnt to swim at school at Bath but witness did not see him make any attempt to swim on this occasion. He had been up the water on previous occasions and he told Mr Noyle that one day last week he met with an accident and was nearly drowned.

Andrew Sheppard, of 95, Castle Street, was called. He said that he was a boat proprietor. On Wednesday morning, about 20 minutes or half past 10, the deceased came to him to hire a boat; and he and his father went up the river in one about 15ft long. The boat was a safe one. The deceased had been in a habit of having a boat about two or three times a week, for the last six weeks. He seemed to manage the boat very well. He usually had a young friend with him.

The Coroner : What do you attribute the accident to?

Witness : There was a strong cross wind yesterday morning and my opinion is that in getting out of the boat he lost his footing and got into the water. The boat drifted across to the other side with the old gentleman in it.

The witness further stated that his niece came after him about 25 minutes to 11, when he was in Castle Street. She told him that an accident had happened up the river and he hastened to the spot as speedily as possible. He searched for the body but the wind was so strong that he could not see anything. He dived for it but could not find it, and he then sent for a crook and got it out. He sent for the doctor and Mr Mathews, the superintendent of police, and in the meantime did all he could to restore life, but without success. Witness was of opinion that life was extinct when the body was recovered. The deceased did not say a word to witness about his having met with an accident on a previous occasion. There were a few weeds in the water where the accident happened but he did not think that they kept the deceased down. He believed that when he was in the water his father held out an oar, and that the deceased in endeavouring to grasp it as the father was drifting away got into deep water.

Superintendent Mathews said that he was sent for about a quarter to 11, and when he arrived he saw the body in a field just at the end of Messrs Keynes’s Nursery. Finding that no doctor was present he did all he possibly could to restore life. About a quarter of an hour after he arrived a doctor, having been sent for, also came, and having examined the body he pronounced life to be extinct. The body was then removed to the “Rising Sun.” Witness searched it and found a watch, a bunch of keys, 2s and a tin box. The watch stopped at 24 minutes past 10. It had water in it. Witness had handed the articles mentioned to the father of the deceased.

Andrew Simpson Thompson, locum tenens for Dr Gordon, said he was sent for between 11 and 12 to go up the river to see a person who had met with an accident. On arriving he found that life was extinct, and from all the circumstances of the case he inferred that death was probably due to drowning, but he could not give a positive opinion without a post mortem examination.

The jury returned a verdict to the effect that deceased was accidentally drowned.

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