This year has a fair crop of the usual dubious drownings, indeed the newspaper headlines it one week as “The Drowning Season.” The most controversial – for me at least – is that of Ellen Symes, who clearly imbibed a lot of drink in her short stay in the city, and found her way into the river. But she also clearly accuses the man Ball of drugging and robbing her, and the police appear to have totally ignored this charge because of her drunken state at the time, seemingly not even doing the simple thing of tracing her movements over the previous day and finding witnesses to confirm or deny the story, implicitly trusting Ball’s account despite another witness saying he knows nothing good of Ball.
There is also some potential for debate in the Hirons child-burning case, in which the evidence of the two main witnesses is conflicting, and the jury seem to make it clear who they believe. The Reakes and Mitchell cases both show men where they are not supposed to be on the railway lines, as indeed does the Pike case – one senses the late-night returning footballers were not really paying attention to the line as they crossed.
Medical controversy raises its head, not for the first time, in the case of Jock, who, as a civilian worker in Bulford Camp, cannot be treated at the Camp hospital but must wait for outside help, dying in the meantime.
There is a clear reminder in the Shaw case of the crowds of labourers and navvies who were camped temporarily at various places on Salisbury Plain, and whose needs in the way of liquid refreshments were to be met. In 1904 their focus of entertainment was the Ram Hotel at Tidworth – which still stands – and nightly crowds of 300-500 men would descend seeking beer or spirits, with the inevitable resultant difficulties.
Finally, a pitiful tale in the Feltham case of the hardships of old age, the aged man walking seven miles to stand – probably somewhat afraid – in front of the Board of Guardians and ask for relief.
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