Wednesday 17 April 2024

41229 Squadron Leader Ronald George Wigg, (20/10/1914-4/8/1976). "could not bail out if I wanted to"

Ronald Wigg was born in Auckland and left his insurance job and New Zealand in 1938 to join the Royal Air force.  After training he joined No 65 Squadron at Hornchurch.  After action over France and in the Battle of Britain, Ronald was posted as an instructor in February, 1941.  With a little extra time on his hands, he penned the following letter to friends and family at home.





War in the air from the point of view of the individual fighter is graphically described by Flight-Lieutenant R. G. Wigg, a New Zealander who joined the Royal Air Force some time before the outbreak of the present struggle, in a letter home. He is a broher of Mr G. C. Wigg, of Waihi. 

“I have never fold you much of what happened during the blitz last summer,” writes Flight-Lieutenant Wigg. “You might like to hear about a few of my experiences. The rest of the boys think I am a good target for the Jerry fighters as after a fight I usually come home with several bullet or cannon shell-holes in my machine. Hope my luck holds. The enemy always seem to see me first and the first thing I know is showers of stuff rushing past. Never forget the first Jerry I saw. Was over Dunkirk and a M109 went whistling past with a dirty black cross on its side. Decided than that a war was on. However, about a minute later I looked behind and thought I saw a Spitfire following me. Soon found out my mistake when there were some terrific bangs as cannon shells and bullets hit the machine. This was the time I got some bits of lead in the back of my head. Did quite a bit of damage as the guns would not work nor the brakes or undercraft. What worried me most of all was the hood, which would not open as a cannon shell passed through the fuselage just behind the cockpit, leaving a big jagged hole which would not allow the hood to slide back. Could not bail out if I wanted to. Came back across the Channel, managed to get the wheels down with the emergency gear, but had to land without brakes or flaps. Was worried in case I overshot and ended up in the far fence. However got down safely and had to stay in the cockpit while they hammered the side so that I could get the hood open. 


“A couple of the others came down on the beach north of Calais. One of them found a deserted tank and drove it into Dunkirk and came back with the Navy. Another day I was up with two others and were jumped on by a dozen M109’s. The boys on the ground saw one come back, and, knowing my luck, guessed it was me. I had tracer bullets coming at me by the hundred but only one hit the aircraft. The other two chaps were ‘bopped.’ I came down below the clouds and saw a couple of heaps of burning wreckage. In wartime you get used to the boys being ‘bumped off.’ Surprisingly, it never worries us. Have also been bombed and machine-gunned on the ground. Since we have turned south it has been very quiet compared with the summer months. Unfortunately, we lost our most successful pilot recently. He had a bag of about 15 and was a blood-thirsty chap who always I moaned if he went up and did not have a fight. 


“Parcels are always appreciated from home, but hope you do not believe the German propaganda that food is scarce. We are well fed although there is a shortage of such things as chocolate, bacon, silk stockings and a few other items. Am going on leave on the 5th. There is a place over here run by a Lady Frances Ryder and she arranges for colonials (as we are called) to stay with various people all over England and Scotland.”  -Waihi Daily Telegraph, 17/3/1941.

Photo from "Battle of Britain London Monument."

Ronald's reference to having been "bombed and machine-gunned on the ground" was probably an account of the German attack on Manston airfield on August 12, 1940, when German bombs exploded amongst the Squadron's Spitfires during take off. Ronald's plane had its engine stopped by the blast, forcing a rapid landing and evacuation to the nearest bomb shelter.

In January, 1942, he was at Aden, part of an Operational Training Unit, then he joined No. ! (South African) Squadron to take part in the Battle of El Alamein.  In January, 1943, he was flying as a test pilot in North Africa until being posted back to the UK in July, 1945. On August 1, 1945, Ronald was transferred to the RNZAF, being released from the Air Force the following year with the rank of Squadron Leader.

I am indebted to the "All Spitfire Pilots" site for the above information.

Kaikohe Cemetery.

Kenmore Bruce Johnston, (1922-3/5/1941). "promise to be outstanding"

A Meningitis Victim

There died at Kawakawa Hospital last Saturday night Kenmore Bruce Johnston, second son of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Johnston of Mataraua. Ken was only 18 years of age. He arrived home on Wednesday evening having just fulfilled his annual territorial training in Waiouru Camp. He was in his usual good health. 

On Thursday he helped at various occupations about the farm, but on Friday complained of feeling unwell. On Friday night it was realised he was seriously ill, and he was taken to the Kawakawa Hospital on Saturday morning. He died the same night a victim of cerebro-spinal meningitis. 

The funeral, which was private, took place at the Kaikohe cemetery on Monday, the burial service being conducted by the Rev. C. Brierley. The deceased was a general favourite owing to his manly characteristics and calm, keen good sense. He finished his education at the Whangarei High School. He was a good runner and an excellent all round athlete, and gave promise to be outstanding in his chosen occupation as a farmer. The sincere sympathy of the residents of the district go out to Mr. and Mrs. Johnston in their bereavement.  -Northern Advocate, 15/5/1941.

Kaikohe Cemetery.

31128 Private Thomas Spence, (1896-10/9/1916) and 4824 Private Leonard Charles (1889-4/1917) King. ""



(Per Press Association.) WELLINGTON, last night. Private Thomas King, of 3 Company, 20th Reinforcements, who has been seriously ill with cerebro spinal meningitis at the Featherston Military Hospital for some days, died this morning. General Henderson, Director of Medical Services, states that of the other cerebro spinal meningitis cases in the hospital at Featherston on Saturday one was considerably better, while the other, which had only been suspected as cerebro spinal meningitis had proved to be suffering from that complaint. This latter case, however, was not severe. Since then two fresh cerebro spinal meningitis cases had been admitted to the hospital at Featherston, one of which was not severe.  -Poverty Bay Herald, 12/9/1916.

Leonard King joined the Australian Army at Toowoomba in 1915 and was captured by the Germans during the Battle of Bullecourt in 1917.  The Australian National War Memorial describes the General who commanded as having  "aggressive spirit coupled with poor planning."  The two battles for Bullecourt, which gave the Allies little advantage over the enemy, cost Australia 10,000 men. Leonard King died of wounds while a prisoner of war.


KING — Reported missing since February 1, Leonard Charles King (Australian Forces) eldest son of W. J. King, Ohaeawai, Bay of Islands.  -NZ Herald, 14/4/1917.

Waimate North Cemetery.

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Catherine Ryder, (1826-24/1/1875). "too vile for the refuge"

Catherine Ryder was charged by the Inspector of Nuisances with neglecting to clean her premises, and also with allowing water supplied by the company to run to waste. For the former offence she was fined 2s, and the latter 1s, together with costs.  -Evening Star, 17/12/1872.


Catherine Ryder alias Cameron, and Mary Thomson, were charged with being vagrants, and having no lawful means of support. Sergeant Calder said the accused were prostitutes, and kept a brothel in Pall Mall; they were continually causing disturbances, and at the time of their arrest they were calling out and conducting themselves in a most disgusting manner. The Bench sent them to gaol for a period of three months.  -Otago Daily Times, 12/12/1873.


Thursday, 21st August. (Before His Worship the Mayor, and A. J. Burns, E5q.,.1.P.) 

DRUNKENNESS. John Hunter was fined 5s. George Alexander, an old offender, was fined 10s, in default, sentenced to 4S hours' imprisonment. 

DISREPUTABLE CHARACTERS. Martha Lorton and Catherine Ryder, two women too vile for the Refuge, were sent to gaol, the former for 48 hours, and Ryder for a fortnight. Emma Lane was sentenced to a month's imprisonment.  -Otago Daily Times, 22/8/1873.

Theft of Jewellery. — Frank Thomas was charged, on the information of Catherine Ryder, a woman of ill-fame, with stealing a gold mounted greenstone brooch and pair of earrings, valued at £4 10s. Prosecutrix stated that accused, in company with two other men, called at her house in Clark street on Saturday evening, and being refused admittance broke eight panes of window-glass, besides doing other damage. She went for the Police, and on returning discovered that a box in her bedroom had been opened, and jewellery articles (produced) extracted therefrom. Witness gave her evidence in a very confused manner. Mr Bathgate: What countrywoman are you? Witness: Scotch. Mr Bathgate: From the Highlands? Witness: From Ross-shire. Mr Bathgate: I suppose you know Gaelic better than English. You can stand down. John Donoghue stated that prisoner gave him the stolen articles to pledge for 10s, adding that they had been given him some time ago. On. taking them to Mrs Davis's pawn shop he heard they had been stolen. John Samuel, pawnbroker, carrying on the business of Mrs Davis, deposed to the last witness bringing the articles to pledge, and on being told they were stolen said they belonged to his wife, but after further questioning, admitted that prisoner had given them to him. Constable Bain apprehended accused in company with Donoghue, when he stated that the jewellery had been given him by a boy named Thomas, but this Thomas denied. The further hearing of the charge was adjourned until next morning, to allow prisoner to call witnesses.  -Otago Daily Times, 22/8/1874.

The name of the woman who fell over the embankment in Clark street yesterday was Catherine Ryder, and not Mary Thomson, as stated by us. Last night she was not expected to live, but to-day is a great deal better.   -Evening Star, 15/1/1875.

Catherine Ryder, who sustained serious injuries by being thrown over an embankment in Clark-street by a man last week, died in the Hospital this morning. The police are unable to find the man. -Evening Post, 21/1/1875.

A married man named John Miller, recently employed at Sparrow and Co.'s Foundry; was arrested yesterday on suspicion of being the person who threw Catherine Ryder down the bank in Clark street. She died from the injuries sustained. A verdict of manslaughter was returned, and £25 reward offered for the arrest of offender. Accused, at the R. M. Court to-day, was remanded until to-morrow, and admitted to bail, himself in £100 and two sureties each of £25.  -Star, 8/2/1875.


Tuesday, February 9. (Before J. Bathgate, Esq., R.M.) 

Drunkenness. — Isabella Oswin alias Kid was fined 20s, with the option of three days imprisonment; David Tuppin L5, or fourteen days’; James Mahon 40s, with a like alternative. On a further charge of habitual drunkenness, Mahon was discharged with a caution. 

Obscene Language. — George Davis, for this offence, was fined L2, in default thirty davs’ imprisonment; James Wynyard 20s, or a week.

Maintenance. — John Donnoghue was charged on warrant, by Benj. Britton, master of the Industrial, with disobeying an order made by the Court binding him to pay 2s 6d per week towards the support of his son, an inmate of the Institution. — The case was adjourned for a fortnight to enable defendant to get the order.

Soliciting Prostitution.  Elizabeth Attiwell, charged by Constable Beasley with accosting persons in Princes street, was fined L3: in default one month’s imprisonment. 

Pawn broker’s License. — Robert M. Mark’s application for a pawnbroker’s license for premises situated in Princes street was granted. 

Alleged Manslaughter. — John Miller was on remand, with the murder of Catherine Ryder on January 14. — Inspector Mallard prosecuted and Mr Stout defended. Anne Kenny, charwoman and wife of John Kenny, laborer, said that eight o’clock on the morning of the 14th January she had occasion to go to the house of Mrs Carter in Clark street. She saw Kate Ryder, whose house adjoins Carter’s, sitting at her doorstep, and heard her abusing the accused. Noticing Ryder lift a brick, witness turned away and walked down Clark street to Mr Perry’s house at the foot of the street. After witness had been working at Perry’s some time she looked up at Mrs Ryder s house, which overlooks the yard, and noticed accused move nearer Ryder’s house. Witness continued at her work, and afterwards heard Miss Eager call out that Ryder was killed. Accused’s appearance was now different to what it was on the morning in question. He was now clean shaved, then he had a little hair on his face. Witness did not see accused from the morning of the 14th ult, till yesterday. He was then in the police station along with several prisoners, and she immediately identified him as the man she saw at Carter's. — Detective Shury stated that he had been investigating the case with Constable Henderson. When last witness was taken into the room at the watch house yesterday for the purpose of identifying accused, she looked along the line of prisoners, and pointing to Miller said, “That’s the man who assaulted Ryder."  Constable Henderson, who laid the charge, gave similar evidence. — Mr Gillies, clerk to Sparrow and Co., said that accused had been working for the firm as laborer for some months. He was not working at the time of the alleged occurrence. He was the best working man they had ever had, and was the last person witness would expect to see in the position in which he then was. — Flora Carter said that she was walking along Princes street with Mrs Frederick on the night of February 13, and when near the Octagon they were accosted by accused, who asked them to have a drink. They went with him to the Octagon Hotel, and he told them to go home and he would follow them. They did so, and accused stopped with witness, and Frederick slept on the sofa in the front room. Accused was the first to get out on the following morning, and while lying m bed witness heard Mrs Ryder abusing her. Witness got up shortly afterwards, and heard Ryder abuse accused. The latter said he would throw her over the bank if she did not keep quiet. There is a bank about 5ft from witness's house. Accused caught hold of Ryder, crossed her arms, and threw her on her back. She rolled under the fence over the embankment into Mrs Sutton’s yard. Three other witnesses gave evidence similar to the last witness. The most important evidence was that of a little girl named Lottie Young, who swore most positively that prisoner was the man whom she saw throw Ryder over the fence into Mrs Sutton’s yard. When taken to the police station on Friday, she said, on seeing prisoner, "It's very like him but he has got his whiskers off. Never said, “It’s not him.” 

[Left sitting.]  -Evening star, 9/2/1875.


Friday, 16th April. [Before His Honour Chief Justice Prendergast.)


John Millar was charged with the manslaughter of Catherine Ryder, on the 14th January last. Accused pleaded Not guilty. Mr Haggitt for the Crown; Mr Stout defended. The facts of the case have been fully reported, but it may be stated that the case :or the Crown was chiefly this: Deceased was a woman of ill fame, residing in Clark street, off Maclaggan street. Prisoner passed the night previous to the committal of the offence in an adjoining house, occupied by a woman named Mora Carter. In the morning, deceased, who appeared to have been drunk, abused Carter and the prisoner, whereupon the prisoner took her by the arms, and threw her down a steep embankment, or threw her so near that she rolled over the bank. Deceased was picked up, bleeding and injured, and died ten days afterwards, from peritonitis, resulting, it was contended, from the fall. The Police took up the matter, but had had considerable difficulty in proving the identification of the prisoner as the person who committed the offence, as he had shaved off a moustache and small beard, which he previously wore. A good deal of evidence was taken on the point of the identification of the prisoner. He was identified by women of the locality as being the man who threw the deceased down. As to the evidence on which the charge was brought to a termination before the case for the Crown was closed, namely, the medical evidence, we give the following: —

Dr A. J. Garland, who made the post mortem on deceased, said that with the exception of injury to the head, there were no external marks on the body. Peritonitis, namely, the inflammation of the abdominal walls, caused the death of the woman. A fall on the stomach from a height of 11 to 12 feet, over a bank, would be likely to produce peritonitis. Peritonitis might be produced without there being external marks or bruises ten days afterwards. 

By Mr Stout: Peritonitis might arise without any known cause. Witness would not positively swear what caused the peritonitis in this case. Peritonitis clearly caused the woman's death. By merely looking at the body witness could not say what caused the peritonitis. He could not swear that the fall of the woman had caused it. It could result from four or five different causes — cold, for instance. If he had been called in to see her, and any reasonable cause were assigned, he should attribute it to the cause assigned. 

Dr Yates, Dr Hulme, and one of the female nurses at the Hospital, gave evidence regarding the symptoms and state of the deceased after her admission. She was treated for peritonitis. 

Dr Yates deposed that a fall as described, would cause peritonitis, and if she fell on a log of wood it 'would more likely be produced. 

Dr Hulme, on Dr Garland's evidence of the post mortem examination being read over to him, said that the evidence did not account for some of the symptoms. Taking Dr Garland's account to be quite correct, it was a puzzle to: him (Dr Hulme) how certain symptoms could be accounted for. 

Dr Hulme went into the evidence in detail, giving his opinion on the points referred to therein, and said the post mortem examination, as described by Dr Garland, left him in doubt. He (Dr Hulme) could give no positive opinion as to the cause of the peritonitis from which the death of deceased ensued. He then described various causes that, independent of a violent fall, might have caused death.

His Honour, at this stage of the proceedings, said that he did not think Mr Haggitt could carry the case on any further. 

The Foreman of the Jury remarked that the Jury were quite willing to proceed.

Mr Stout remarked that the Foreman appeared to be under a misapprehension. It was not a question of adjournment — it was whether the case should go on.

His Honour: My impression is, gentlemen, that — though of course I do not like to express an opinion— I think it should be withdrawn. 

Mr Haggitt: Is it not a question for the Jury, your Honour?

His Honour: Of course — entirely. 

Mr Stout submitted that the Crown were bound to withdraw the case if the evidence were insufficient. 

His Honour reviewed the medical evidence, and read a great portion of the same. It was, he remarked, shown that there were abscesses on the liver and on the left kidney, and that such an abscess could have produced the peritonitis that caused death. There was no doubt that the deceased had been thrown, and that she was very much bruised and shaken. But for the Jury to bring in a verdict against the accused they would have positively to say that her death was caused by peritonitis resulting from the fall — undoubtedly, they must be quite clear that the peritonitis of which she died was caused by the fall. 

Mr Haggitt pointed out that the abscesses, instead of causing the peritonitis might have resulted from it. 

His Honour said that if they had not had a post mortem examination there would have been a case for the Jury, no doubt. They might have then come to the belief that death had been caused by the fall; but they had the post mortem examination. 

Mr Haggitt: Which apparently was incomplete. He did not know it was incomplete; but it was apparently incomplete. But if in every case where the post mortem was incomplete — and he merely assumed this was so — the prisoner was to escape, in spite of there being other circumstantial .evidence, it would be opening the door to a rather serious state of things.

His Honour pointed out to the Jury that they might assume that the woman received a very violent shaking on. being thrown over; but, to bring in a verdict against the prisoner, they would have to say that death could only have resulted from the fall, while Dr Hulme and Dr Garland testified that that could not be assigned as the sole cause — their evidence showed that death might have resulted from other causes. It was still a question for the Jury whether the peritonitis which caused death was induced by the fall over the bank, and if they so found they could convict. 

Mr Haggitt said if the Jury could attribute the peritonitis to no other cause than the fall over the bank, they were bound to convict.

His Honour: No doubt. 

Mr Haggitt: If your Honour thinks that under the circumstances I ought not to proceed with the case, I 

His Honour said he did not think Mr Haggitt could ask the Jury to convict after hearing the evidence of Dr Hulme. He then read and commented on part of Dr Hulme's evidence. 

Mr Haggitt: Of course, your Honour, I will be entirely guided by the opinion your Honour expresses. Your Honour has simply to direct an acquittal.

His Honour, addressing the Jury, said that to find the prisoner guilty of manslaughter they would have to say that the death of the woman could not have resulted from any other cause than the act of the prisoner — they would have to safely say it caused her death; they would have to say from the medical evidence that the peritonitis could not be attributed to any other cause than the fall. It seemed to him from the medical evidence that they could not attribute, without a reasonable doubt, the peritonitis of which the woman died to be due to the fall. That being so, it seemed to him that they ought to acquit the prisoner. 

The Jury, without leaving the box, at once agreed to a verdict of Not guilty.

His Honour (to the Jury): You understand, as I said over and over again, there can be no question that he was the man that threw her over, in a violent way, and caused the bruises on her head. But, to convict, you would have had to come to an undoubted conclusion that the peritonitis of which she died was the result of the fall, and that you could not find any other cause to which it might be attributable. The prisoner is discharged. 

Millar was thereupon released from, the dock, and The Court adjourned till this morning.  -Otago Daily Times, 17/4/1875.

Catherine Ryder's remains lie in Dunedin's Southern Cemetery, in an unmarked grave.

Sunday 14 April 2024

Albert Saies, (12/9/1892-8/9/1920). "caught on top of the saw"

Yesterday afternoon word was received from Kawakawa that an accident had occurred at the Waipuna timber mills, resulting in the death of Albert Farrer, a married man and father of one child. The victim had been working at a tail saw, when a piece of timber had hit him in the chest, causing injuries which resulted in his death. An inquest was held at Kawakawa yesterday afternoon.  -Northern Advocate, 9/9/1920.




The inquest held at Waipuna on Thursday last concerning the death of Mr Albert Saies on the preceding day disclosed some very distressing facts. Mr H. C. Blundell was the acting-coroner, and the jury associated with him were Messrs J. W. Jeffcote (foreman), D. M. Sinclair, J. J. Jackson and W. Lowrer.

A brother of the deceased, Frederick Saies, who, is also employed at the mill, said that he was working at the tailing-out when the fatality occurred. A piece of timber caught on top of the saw, was thrown back very forcefully and struck the deceased, who was working at the head of the breast bench. Another millhand, Edward Beasley, said that he observed the deceased put two 9xl pieces of timber on the top of the saw. Afterwards a portion of the timber flew back with such force that it penetrated the deceased's body, the point emerging a foot on the other side. Witness explained that the two 9xl pieces were cut off by the band saw and handed to the breast bench where they were made into 6x2, leaving a piece 3xl at the side. It was as the latter piece which recoiled and killed deceased, whose death was instantaneous.

Similar testimony was given by Albert Ashby, cutting foreman at the mill, who added that he promptly stopped the band-saw when deceased fell, and was present when another worker named Rodgers pulled the piece of timber out of deceased's body. All prescribed precautions had been taken by the Kauri Timber Company to obviate accidents.

After an adjournment to enable the jury to view the scene of the accident, evidence was given by Dr. S. Green, of Kawakawa, who said that he noted a wound on the right side of deceased's chest and a corresponding one on the left side near the shoulder. In the course of its penetration the timber would pass almost directly through the upper part of the heart and the great blood vessels, causing instantaneous death.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death, no blame being attachable to anyone. 

The funeral of the victim of the mishap took place at Kawakawa on the afternoon of Thursday, the cortege including all the mill staff and a large number of returned soldiers, Mr Saies having been a member of the R.S.A. The deceased, who was 28 years of age, leaves a wife and one child.  -Northern Advocate, 14/9/1920.

Kawakawa Ceetery.

Thursday 28 March 2024

Lewis McArthur Gardiner, (1901-29/4/1928). "some skill as a ventriloquist"

A collision between a motor cycle and a car at Inangahua Landing resulted in serious head injuries to Lewis Gardiner, of Hokitika. His cycle ran into a car, driven by Thomas Nancekivell, of Greymouth. The sufferer was admitted to Reefton Hospital. -Grey River Argus, 1/5/1928.

Advice has been received that the accident to Lewis Gardiner terminated fatally at Reefton Hospital early this morning. The deceased was injured while riding a motor cycle on the Buller road near Reefton on Sunday, and was picked up in an unconscious state, and removed to Reefton Hospital for treatment, death ensuing this morning. The deceased was about 27 years of age and had been engaged for some time timber stacking along the wharf and Quay for some months. His parents reside in Hokitika. The remains are being brought to Hokitika for interment after an inquest has been held. Deceased recovered consciousness at 10.10 on Tuesday but. was unable to recover from the shock.  -Hokitika Guardian, 3/5/1928.

Reefton Notes

The death of Mr Lewis McArthur Gardiner, who was seriously injured on Sunday last on the Buller Road, near Mr Leo. Bell’s place, took place at Reefton Hospital at 2.30 a.m. on Thursday morning. The deceased resided at Oweka for some time previous to his departure for Hokitika and was well-known throughout the district. He was fond of music and possessed some skill as a ventriloquist. When the accident happened, he was on his way home to his parents at Hokitika, after recovering from a severe operation for goitre. He was a native of Stratford, 27 years of age, and an only child. The interment will be at Hokitika. 

An inquest was opened at the Court House, yesterday, concerning the death of Lewis McArthur Gardiner. Mr W. B. Auld was coroner, with a jury of four of which Mr N. Lawn was chosen foreman. John McArthur Gardiner, father of deceased, stated that he was a resident of Hokitika. He identified the body at the morgue, Reefton, as his son. He last saw him alive three months ago. He was not in good health, just recovering from a serious operation, and went away for a holiday for the benefit of his health. He was used to riding a motor cycle. He could not tell witness anything about the accident.  

At this stage the inquest was adjourned to May 16, at 10.30 a.m., the principal witness being at present in Christchurch.  -Greymouth Evening star, 4/5/1928.

The funeral of the late Mr Lewis Gardiner took place on Saturday afternoon and was attended by a large number of friends. The pall hearers were four members of St. Paul s Dramatic Club, the deceased having been a founder member of the Club. The Rev. Knowles Smith conducted the services at the residence and graveside. A large number of, wreaths and floral tributes were received from sorrowing friends.  -Hokitika Guardian, 7/5/1928.

Motor-Cyclist's Death. 

At the adjourned inquest held at Reefton before Mr W. B. Auld, J.P., acting-Coroner, concerning the death of Lewis Gardiner, of Hokitika, who died from injuries resulting from a collision, between a motor-cycle he was riding and a motor-car driven by T. Nankivill at Rotokohu, the jury, without retiring, returned the following verdict: — "That the deceased met his death by a fall from a motor-cycle on the Buller road on April 29th; through slightly touching a travelling motor-car; that he was not in a fit state of health to ride a motor-cycle, and in the opinion of the jury immediate steps should be taken by the authorities controlling the road to protect travellers by having a suitable sign erected at the point where the accident happened, and that no blame is attachable to anyone."   -Press, 18/5/1928.

Hokitika Cemetery.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

Margaret Mary Donnelly, (1890-3/10/1913). "superior education and ability"


Death of Single Woman.

Probably Profound Toxaemia.

Excessively Rare Disease.

(From "Truth's" Dunedin Rep.)

On last Friday a young woman named Mary Donnelly, aged 23 years, took suddenly ill in a Dunedin boardinghouse, and died about 9 p.m. in the evening. The circumstances of her lonely end, and the peculiar nature of the cause of death aroused much sympathy and strange speculation in town, and finally resulted in the police taking charge of the case. 

Deceased lady came to Dunedin towards the end of last month and took, up her abode at 49 Hope-street. She remained much in the house, and did not seem to have any relatives in town. However, it transpired at the inquest on Saturday that her step-brother, a well-known dentist, resided in Dunedin, and that she had been employed as a clerk by an Invercargill firm. Deceased was a young woman of superior education and ability, and decidedly a favorite in the far South town. 

On Saturday, before Coroner Graham, at the morgue, the various circumstances in connection with the woman's death were Investigated. It was remarked, however, that the lady in whose house deceased had lived was not present to give her version of the affair. Having regard to the fact that the latter lady had summoned the doctor, it was naturally expected that she would be in attendance to render material evidence. Her evidence might have been material apart from any medical testimony. 

The first witness in the inquiry was Henry James Donnelly, a dentist, who resides in Dunedin. Mr. Donnelly is the deceased lady's step-brother, and in his evidence stated that she was a single woman, and earned her living in Invercargill as 

A BOOK-KEEPER. He did not even know she had come to Dunedin, and was not aware of any of the circumstances of her death. 

"Yesterday morning at about 6.15,'' said Dr. Fleming, in his evidence, "I got a message, to go and see a young woman who was very ill with jaundice. Some minutes later the messenger, who was a woman, said that it was a mishap, and she accompanied me to the house, No. 49 Hope-street. I found the patient in bed deeply unconscious, profoundly jaundiced, and practically pulseless; she had a temperature of 103. I discovered she had a certain mishap, and was manifestly dying. The woman of the house — she who came for me — said that if I considered deceased any way seriously ill I had better get another medical man. I accordingly rang up Dr. Macpherson, and we consulted together. We left about. 7.15, and I called again at 8.45. The girl died a minute after I had entered the room. I duly reported the matter to the police, as I found I could not give any satisfactory certificate of death. On instructions from the Coroner, I made a post-mortem examination yesterday afternoon, and found that there had been a mishap of the nature referred to — an early one which had happened quite recently. The internal organs .showed signs of profound toxaemia, and the cause of death was probably profound toxaemia of pregnancy, an excessively rare and little understood disease, and quite distinct from septic absorption, the common cause of death in such cases. One thing that could cause similar symptoms was phosphorus poisoning, and though I do not think death resulted from phosphorus poisoning, I have forwarded the contents of the stomach to the Government Analyst. 

Senior-Sergeant Dart: Can you say, doctor, whether the toxaemia caused mishap, or the latter the toxaemia? 

Dr. Fleming: I cannot exactly say. If she was well beforehand, as I understood her to be, then the toxaemia followed the mishap. There was 

NOTHING TO INDICATE whether or not the mishap was natural. The conditions were consistent with a natural mishap. There was no evidence of external violence. I do not think that the woman who came for me said anything but that deceased came to her on a Tuesday. I am not aware that the lady who come for me was a nurse or not. There was nothing about the place to suggest it is a private hospital. The disease is a frightfully obscure one, and though markedly associated with pregnancy, it sometimes occurred quite apart from it. 

Dr. Macpherson agreed in the main with the previous medical evidence, but said he would not like to state that toxaemia of pregnancy was the cause of death until the examination of the organs by the pathologist was made. A lot would be cleared up then. The conditions he found were quite consistent with a natural mishap. 

Evidence was next delivered by Ephraim Barbour McKay, auctioneer, Invercargill. Deceased lady, he said, had been in his employ for eight years. She left Invercargill at midday on Tuesday to come to Dunedin in order to see some acquaintances and was due back Friday night to take up work on Saturday. Her holiday was evidently not premeditated, for, as a matter of fact, it was when she had been informed that she was promoted to the position of head book-keeper that she then suggested she might take a few days before starting to prepare for her new duties. "I had been on my way to Christchurch,' said Mr. McKay, "when I saw the paragraph in the paper about the girl's death, and I at once made inquiries. She had done splendid work, but was not very strong." 

Coroner Graham adjourned the inquest sine die in order that the report from the Government Analyst might be received.   -NZ Truth, 11/10/1913.




Dr. Macpherson's Disclosures — He took Legal Advice — Invercargill Auctioneer's Strange Attitude — Declined to Answer Questions which might Incriminate — No Information from Chemist "Jimmy" Hayne — The Significant Silence of Miss Inglis — Is there a Mrs. Ritchie or Not? — The Coroner's Conclusions.

(From "Truth's" Dunedin Rep.)

On Friday last the inquest on the body of Margaret Mary Donnelly was resumed in the Magistrate's Court, Dunedin. Coroner Graham, conducted the inquiry, and the police were represented by Senior-Sergeant Dart. Lawyer Callan watched proceedings on behalf of the Donnelly family, Lawyer Hanlon saw to Miss Inglis's interests, and Auctioneer Ephraim Harbour McKay, of Invercargill, was represented by Lawyer Hay. 

Deceased lady belonged to Invercargill, and had been employed as a book-keeper by McKay. She came to Dunedin towards the end of last month, and died under painfully distressing, and singularly mysterious circumstances, in a house kept by Miss Elizabeth Simpson Inglis at 49 Hope-street. At the original inquest at the morgue, Dr. Fleming gave it as his opinion that death was probably due to profound toxaemia, and the inquiry was adjourned.

On Friday, 10th inst., the inquest was resumed to consider Miss Inglis's very important evidence, but that lady declined to answer several necessary questions, and finally assumed a comatose condition, with evident symptoms of probable collapse. As a consequence, the inquest was further adjourned until the 17th inst. 

On this occasion, additional evidence was taken, and the reports furnished by the experts  Mr. Bickerton, Government analyst, Christchurch, and Drs. Roberts and Champtaloup — were to hand. 

In answer to Senior-Sergeant Dart, Dr. Fleming, recalled, said he had seen the various reports mentioned. At the time he visited deceased, she was evidently suffering from acute toxaemia, From what he saw of deceased, and having considered the experts' reports since, he would now attribute 

DEATH TO SEPTICAEMIA. Septicaemia often occurred after a mishap, but it should not happen after an ordinary miscarriage or confinement. The use of an instrument would increase the chances of septicaemia when not carried out under thoroughly aseptic conditions. There was always a big element of risk after an instrument had been used, unless proper aseptic precautions were taken. He had no conversation with any interested party either before or after the girl's death.

Senior-Sergeant: Did anyone speak to you about a death certificate? — No. 

Had you any conversation with any chemist regarding the cause of death, inquest, or certificate of death?  None whatever. 

Did any person call to see you in connection with the death?  Yes; on the 4th Inst., Mr. McKay of Invercargill come to my house and said he had noticed in the papers that Miss Donnelly had suddenly died, and he was anxious to know where the body was. I directed him to 49 Hope-street. 

Did you see any douche affair in the room in which Miss Donnelly died? — I saw an ordinary douche-can commonly used for cleansing purposes.

Could such an article be used to arrest septiceamia? — It might by administering an aseptic douche.

Can you say if it were used in Miss Donnelly's case? — I cannot.

To Lawyer Callan: Miss Donnelly's was one of the most acute attacks he had ever known. He understood she was quite well on Tuesday and Wednesday — all happened within 30 hours. The girl was in a dying condition when he saw her. The symptoms had made their appearance on Thursday morning; witness was called on Friday. He could not do anything, even if he had been called in on Thursday, the thing was too acute.

Lawyer Callan: Could not some fresh incident take place between Thursday morning and Friday? —
What do you mean? 

Now, Dr. Fleming, please confine yourself to answering. — I can't see what could probably take place. 

And that is all you can tell us about this remarkable case? — What more is there? The case was unusual in running a very rapid course. 

Dr. Macpherson, recalled, said he saw deceased on the morning on which she died — about 7 a.m. He agreed with the previous witness as to the probable cause of death. Septicaemia might occur from an open wound — a fresh wound. A miscarriage would make it more probable, and, if artificially produced, it would become more risky, 

Senior-Sergeant: Had you a conversation with any person either before or after the girl's death? — Yes. 

Who was the person? — Mr. Hayne, the chemist. 

I HAD A CONVERSATION with him before the girl died. 

When did he see you? — He called at my house about 8 a.m. on the morning the girl died. I was in bed at the time, and I found Mr. Hayne in my surgery when I went down.

What did he say? — He said he wanted to take me into his confidence, and asked if I could go and see a patient who was dangerously ill in Hope-street — near by. He said the patient had had a miscarriage on Wednesday night, and was very yellow; and he considered her to be very ill, but did not think there was anything septic. 

What did you say? — I declined to go, or to be mixed up with any case in which he was in any way connected; but I said, after a while, that if I were called in by the people of the house or by another medical man I might go. 

What did Mr. Hayne say then? — He went over the names of several medical men, some of whom he would like to go for and others he did not care to approach. I said 1 could not advise him. He then went away, and I returned to bed.

What happened next? — About 7 a:m. I got a ring from Dr. Fleming asking me to go to 49 Hope-street, and I went. I had a strong suspicion it was the same case. 

Witness then related that he had consultation with Dr. Fleming. They were not long in the house, leaving at 7.40. Again Mr. Hayne turned up. Witness saw him for the second time as he (witness) turned out his dogs into Hope-lane to have a run. (This was at the rear of witness's house.) "Hayne approached me." said the witness, "while I was standing at my back gate. He apparently came from the direction of Hope-street. He may have come down Hope-street, or across Hope street, but he did not come up Hope-street, as I would have seen him previously. No. 49 Hope-street is nearly opposite Hope-lane, but a little higher up. The lane is a cul-de-sac. Mr. Hayne came over and spoke to me, saying, "You've seen that case with Dr. Fleming?" I replied I had. He said, "What do you think of the patient?" I said, 

SHE WAS MANIFESTLY DYING — that nothing could be done for her. "Do you think there will be an inquest?" he then asked. I told him that rested with the Coroner and Dr. Fleming. On going away, he said a friend, or her friend would see Dr. Fleming. 

Senior-Sergeant: Did you see Mr. Hayne again that day? — No; but I may mention that about 11 a.m. that day Mr. Hayne rang me up on the telephone, and said the patient was dead, and that Dr. Fleming had said she died of an acute form of liver disease, but that there was to be an inquest, as it would be the best thing under the circumstances. 

Senior-Sergeant: Now, Dr. Macpherson, can you tell me why you did not tell us that in the first instance? 

"Well," replied the Doctor, with evident uneasiness; "the whole matter is a most painful one to me, and I had not quite made up my mind what my position really was then. I know I would have another opportunity of giving evidence, and, in the meantime, I obtained the advice of several leading men in the medical profession. I also took legal advice; the legal advice decided me, as I was informed by a lawyer of standing that to withhold the information would be practically committing perjury. I did not give this evidence before because I was doubtful of my real position, and I practically confined myself to the questions put to me then. The information came to me in my medical capacity, but I was legally advised that under no possibility could I escape giving it without violating my oath. 

The next witness was Auctioneer Ephraim Harbour McKay, of Invercargill, in whose employment the deceased young woman had been as book-keeper. Witness was visibly agitated, and evidently felt his position keenly. His sighs of deep emotion audibly reached the press table from time to time, and his repeated refusals, delivered in tremulous tones, to answer any of the Senior-Sergeant's necessary questions, created a very painful impression in court, and unfortunately assisted the grave gossip current among all classes about town.

Senior-Sergeant: How long had deceased been in your employ, Mr. McKay? — For eight years as bookkeeper and typiste. Her position was a responsible one. 

You had promoted her to be head book-keeper? — Yes, about the time she left for Dunedin, and I informed her that her salary would be raised if she returned. 

Had she an office to herself?   Ordinarily she had one entirely to herself. 

How many offices have you? — Three. My brother is a member of the firm, and we have separate offices. 

Were you in Dunedin prior to Miss Donnelly's death? Auctioneer McKay showed evident signs of much agitation at this question, and, in solemn tones, appealed to the Coroner: "Your Worship," he said, "it seems to me most unfortunate that I am to be unfairly dragged into this case. I think it would be better at the start for me to say that


Senior-Sergeant: Were you in Dunedin the Monday before Miss Donnelly died? — I decline to answer. 

Did you find Miss Donnelly in her office on your return from Dunedin? — I saw Miss Donnelly that night (Monday) in the presence of my wife. They were both working — Miss Donnelly and another clerk. 

Did Miss Donnelly come down to work on Tuesday? Mr. McKay became agitated once more and appealed strongly to the Coroner: "Your Worship, I claim privilege and your protection. I decline to answer any more questions." 

On the ground that they may incriminate you? 

Witness: I'll answer no more questions. 

Coroner: But you must, or I will commit you for contempt of court. Might your answers incriminate you? 

Witness: Yes. 

Senior-Sergeant: Did you tell Detective Carroll that you were in Dunedin on the Monday? — I decline to answer. 

Lawyer Hay: I appear in the interests of this witness. The matter is one now in which the police seem to have some suspicion, and unfortunately Mr. McKay has been innocently involved. The facts in the case may be ambiguous, and my client has been advised that the proper course for him was not to answer, on the ground that his answers might unfairly incriminate him. 

Senior-Sergeant: If he alleges they will unfairly incriminate him it is tantamount to saying he's innocent. 

Lawyer Hay: Yes, he is innocent. 

Coroner: If he has nothing to conceal there can be no harm in telling the whole of the truth. If he declines to answer it will leave the presumption that he has something to conceal. 

Senior-Sergeant: Did Miss Donnelly come back to your house on Tuesday morning? 

Witness: Mr, Coroner, I decline to answer, and I claim your special protection in this particularly sad case. 

Coroner (with a sigh): I can't see the good of going on with this witness. 

Lawyer Hay: The reason why witness has taken up this attitude is owing to the recent developments in the case. Only this morning we had developments. 

Coroner: If his conscience were clean he would withhold nothing: the public will draw their own conclusions from his refusal. His present course of action leaves him to be 


Lawyer Kay: Mr. McKay's character is well known and will protect him in that respect. He is a resident of over 10 years, and nothing can be said against him. He is sorry now he ever took any part in it at all subsequent to the lady's death. 

A suppressed buzz of voices passed through the court as the name of Mr. James Hayne was called, and the florid, well-known "Jimmy" — matured, double-chinned and paunchy — ambled into the box. One could hear the proverbial pin drop, as "Jimmy" ogled the Coroner, and surreptitiously studied the court as he wiped his rolled gold pince nez. As the senior-sergeant glanced at his file of papers, "Jimmy" clapped his stumpy right index-digit and fat thumb to his cheek and chin after the studied fashion of Hall Caine — and obliquely surveyed his examiner.

Senior-Sergeant: What's your full name, Mr. Hayne? — James Reynolds Hayne.

 Your address and occupation? — I carry on business as a chemist in Princes-street, and I reside at 305 High-street. 

Sergeant Dart here suggested reading the evidence given by Dr. Macpherson, which Coroner Graham accordingly did. 

Witness: I must refuse to answer any questions after hearing that. 

Coroner: You cannot say that. I will commit you for contempt of court if you don't answer. What are your reasons? 

Witness: Dr. Macpherson's evidence is sufficient reason. 

Coroner: Do you consider that your answers may tend to incriminate you? — I do. 

Senior- Sergeant: Did you see Dr. Macpherson after 11 a.m.? — I decline to answer any more. 

Are you a frequent visitor at No. 49 Hope-street? — I decline to answer. 

Do you know or have you ever seen a girl called Margaret Mary Donnelly — the subject of this inquest? — I decline to give any answer. 

DID MR EPHRAIM BARBOUR McKAY CALL ON YOU, Monday, September 29? — I decline to answer on the grounds... 

Coroner (annoyed): But why? 

Witness: My answer might incriminate me. 

Senior-Sergeant: Do you know if a woman called Mrs. Ritchie recently lived at No. 49 Hope-street — up to three months ago? — I decline to answer. 

Coroner: It is no use going on, sergeant; the witness has made up his mind not to answer. 

Senior-Sergeant: Yes, sir; he declines to give any evidence that may throw light upon this poor lady's death. 

Owing to the collapsible state which Miss Inglis got into on the occasion she first tendered her evidence, she did not enter the witness box last Friday, but was accommodated with a chair convenient to the press table, and her sharp features still bore a high coloring, but she evidently was in a more satisfied frame of mind than on the previous occasion. 

Senior-Sergeant: Did you treat deceased in any way after the miscarriage? — I did not. 

To whom did the douche can in the room belong to? — It belonged to Mrs. Ritchie. I did not see it used by anyone. 

Was Mr. Hayne, the chemist, at No. 49 Hope-street that morning, or there at any time at all? — I decline to answer.

Coroner: Why? 

Miss Inglis (softly): It might incriminate me. 

Senior-Sergeant: Was there really a woman named Mrs. Ritchie up til three months ago — not yourself — as the occupier of No. 49 Hope-street? — I decline to answer. 

Where is Mrs. Ritchie now: no doubt she has heard all about this case — It has received wide publicity? — I decline to say. 

Have you not invented Mrs. Ritchie? — I decline to answer. 


On the morning that Miss Donnelly died did you try to send a message to Mr. McKay? — No. I did not. I tried to get him on the telephone, but could not.

Which Mr. McKay did you endeavor to get?   Mr. E B. McKay. 

How did you secure his name? — I only got it from the girl. No one instructed me to address Mr. McKay. 

When did deceased furnish you with his name?   It was when the girl was getting unconscious that I tried to find out her address. She mentioned McKay and "uncle" when she was getting bad, and I concluded McKay was her uncle. 

Did Mr. Hayne send you for Dr. Fleming? — I decline to answer on the ground that I might incriminate myself.

Coroner: You decline to answer because Mr. Hanlon shook his head. A burst of laughter from the body of the court greeted the coroner's remark, and the callous witness laughed and swayed merrily herself. On this occasion she needed no glass of water. 

Senior-Sergeant: Do you know Mr. Hayne, the chemist? — Yes, I met him in his shop. 

Does he visit 49 Hope-street? — I decline to answer.

You said previously you have received £10 from Mrs. Ritchie, beginning of October; now, Miss Inglis, did you not get that £10 from Mr. Hayne? — I decline to answer. 

Is not Mr. Hayne "Mrs. Ritchie"? —  I decline to answer.

Lawyer Callan: You said that Miss Donnelly mentioned "McKay"? — Yes, and she said "auctioneer." 

Whom did you try to ring up? — I tried to ring up "McKay, Invercargill."

Miss Donnelly mention Invercargill? — She did. 

This concluded the evidence. 

THE CORONER'S CONCLUSIONS. Coroner Graham: This is one of those painful cases which occasionally crop up, and which are shrouded with a certain amount of mystery, as the witnesses are all more or less interested in stifling the truth. The young woman had unfortunately become pregnant, and shortly afterwards a miscarriage occurred. There was a suspicious circumstance in her leaving Invercargill for Dunedin. She was on the eve of promotion in her employment, and was going to visit friends, but she came to Dunedin and stayed inn an obscure lodging-house in Hope-street, which had never been advertised, and which had no notice up to indicate it to be a lodginghouse. How did she come to know of the place? She was to have left on Thursday, but she suddenly decided to leave on Tuesday. She started off early that morning. She went to the place mentioned, where the miscarriage took place and she died. I can only come to the conclusion, which is, that the cause of death was acute septicaemia, the result of a miscarriage, but how the latter was brought about, whether naturally or by artificial means (owing to the refusal to give evidence by the only witnesses who could throw light on the subject, on the ground that such evidence might tend to incriminate them) there is not sufficient evidence to show.  -NZ Truth, 25/10/1913.

The contribution of Ephraim Barbour McKay, Margaret's employer, to her demise remains uncertain.  I have found a "Mrs E B McKay" but not found a divorce petition against him.  Such a petition would indicate a betrayed wife and suspicions of infidelity on Mrs McKay's part. It is entirely possible that Mr McKay was doing his best to help a valuable employee out of "trouble." That in itself would be enough to explain his refusal to answer questions in court.

Invercargill Eastern Cemetery.  ICC photo.