Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Violet and Amy Stokes - died 16/5/1886

The Stokes house was a typical working class rental in Dunedin in the 1880s.  It was lit with kerosene, which was also quite typical. I have used kerosene lamps while camping, but the kind of lamp in the Stokes residence would be more like ones I have seen in antique emporia than those in hunting and fishing shops.  Until reading the sad story of the Stokes girls, I had no idea that they could spontaneously explode.


THE Friends of Mr and Mrs John Stokes (late of St. Kilda) are respectfully invited to attend the Funeral of their late daughters Amy and Violet May (who were accidentally burnt at the late fire at Mornington), which will leave the Mornington Hotel To-morrow (Tuesday), 18th inst., at 3 p.m., for the place of interment in the Southern Church of England Cemetery. 

COLE AND SPRINGER, Undertakers, 152 George street.  -Evening Star, 17/5/1886.

A fire which unhappily involved the death of two little children occurred at Mornington on Saturday' night. The particulars so far as ascertained are as follow: — About 9.15 on Saturday night Mrs Stokes, wife of John Stokes, labourer, who resides in Maclaggan street, Mornington, put their five children to bed. The eldest, Edward (11 years of age), and the second youngest, Jane (two years of age), were placed together in a bed in Mrs Stokes' own bedroom. Two others, Albert (9 years) and Amy (6 years) were in the next room, while the youngest, only seven months old, named Violet, was lying in the cradle in the kitchen. The house, it may be mentioned, was a wooden one, and contained three rooms. When Mrs Stokes came out of her own bedroom she left a lighted kerosene lamp on top of a chest of drawers in that room. She went into the kitchen and sat down by the fire there to await her husband's return from Dunedin. She states that she had not been sitting down more than 10 or 15 minutes when she heard a crash, and on proceeding to the bedroom where she left the lamp alight she found it all in flames. She succeeded in rousing the eldest boy, Edward, but appears then to have unfortunately become confused and lost her presence of mind, as instead of snatching up the baby from the cradle, or attempting the rescue of the two children in the other bedroom, the poor woman ran to the house of Mr Muir, the next door neighbour, for assistance. Edward, the eldest boy, states that he was just going off to sleep when he heard his mother cry out "fire." He at once jumped out of bed, and taking up his little sister Jane, who was sleeping in the bed with him, made his escape with her to Mr Muir's house. But for the lad's prompt action there is little doubt that Jane would have been burned to death. Albert, the other boy, also managed to get out unharmed; but his sister Amy, who was sleeping with him, appears from his statement to have become confused, and instead of making her way out, unfortunately went into her mother's bedroom, where the fire originated, and there perished. Messrs Johnston and Winter, who were in the Town Belt, hearing Mrs Stokes' screams, ran to the back of the house. They found the building almost enveloped in flames, while the poor mother was rushing about frantically, appealing to those who had gathered on the spot to save her children. Johnston tried to enter the house, but could go no further than the threshold of the kitchen. In about five minutes after the breaking out of the flames Constable O'Sullivan arrived, and shortly afterwards Mr Carmalt, Superintendent of the Salvage Corps, bringing with him a small hose, put in an appearance. A line was formed to pass buckets of water obtained from the tanks of neighbours, all present giving ready assistance. Mr Muir's house was saved by placing wet bags and blankets upon it. After the fire had gone down, which was not until the house had been totally destroyed, Constables O'Sullivan and Christie, with others, made a search for the bodies of the two children. That of the baby was discovered by Constable O'Sullivan close to the kitchen fireplace. The body was intact, but burnt almost to a cinder. The body of the girl Amy was discovered by another searcher in the room where the fire started. Both bodies were wrapped up and conveyed to the Mornington Hotel, where an inquest will be held this afternoon before Mr I. N. Watt, coroner. Mr Stokes, the father, did not return home until 10.30 o'clock, and by that time the sad affair was over. As may be imagined, both parents were very much distressed. The family are at present staying at the Mornington Hotel. Mrs Stokes states that up to Saturday night last she had not burned any kerosene for months past, and she had only sent for a small quantity on that evening in order to have the lamp burning because of the illness of one of the children.
The cottage was owned by Mr Muir and was insured, but for what amount is not ascertainable. The furniture was insured for £50, but Mr Stokes estimates its value as considerably above that sum. It is to be hoped that the sad occurrence will lead to the re-organisation of the defunct Morningion Fire Brigade.   -Otago Daily Times, 17/5/1886.

An inquest upon the bodies of the two children, Amy Stokes (seven years) and Violet Stokes (seven months), who perished in the fire at Mornington on Saturday night, was held at the Mornington Hotel yesterday afternoon, before Mr Coroner Watt and a jury of six. The Mayor (Mr Stansfield) was chosen foreman.
The Coroner, in his preliminary charge to the jury, said: — I am instructed by the police report that the house in which these children were living caught fire and they were unfortunately burned. I do not know whether this is the best time for me to observe that many houses are burned down by explosions of kerosene lamps, and this appears to have been a case of the sort, so far as I am at present informed. I should like to state that if the wicks fit the burners, and the lamps are always filled before they are lighted, no explosion can possibly take place. When the lamps are lighted and half filled there is an explosive vapour on the top of the kerosene that ignites and bursts the lamp. The jury then viewed the body and the scene of the fire, after which evidence was called as follows:—
Elizabeth Stokes, the mother of the children, said: On Saturday night I got all the children washed and got them their suppers — I could not really state the time. It might have been nine o'clock or past — between nine and ten. I was sitting by the baby's cradle in the kitchen when I heard a noise which seemed as if it came from the bedroom. I ran into the room. My eldest boy Edward and his sister Jane were sleeping there. The fire had hardly got hold of the wall paper — it looked as if it was just beginning to flare. I told my little boy to get up and run into Mrs Muir's house next door directly. The lamp was in pieces on the floor. It had been left burning on the chest of drawers for the children. I told Mrs Muir I wanted her to come and help get the children out. I had left them all inside. If I had not run in there I might have got my children out. When I came back I could not get in at the same door.
To Mr Weldon — On Saturday night I put the five children to bed. I had sat about 20 minutes by the kitchen fire when I heard the noise. When I went in I saw the place on fire where the lamp stood. On my return from Mrs Muir I found Edward, Jane, and Herbert in the underground kitchen, but could not get to the two other children. My husband had gone down town to his mother's, and the children and myself were the only persons in the house. 
To the Coroner: I never trimmed the lamp on Saturday night, but I filled it. I trimmed it now and again.
Edward Stokes, aged 11 years, the eldest son of the last witness, said: — I was between sleeping and waking when I heard the lamp go off. It was on the chest of drawers in the opposite corner of the room to where we were sleeping. I got my trousers and ran out with Jane, the sister I was sleeping with. Before this I had heard my mother calling me. Herbert and Amy slept in another room — the kitchen. I did not see them or know whether they were out or in when I ran out. As soon as I got out of the door it was all in flames. I carried my sister into Mrs Muir's house. My mother was just coming back again, but she could not get in at the door for the flames. When I carried my sister out, our room only was on fire, but as soon as I got outside the whole house was in flames.
Herbert Stokes, aged 8, who was not sworn, said: My sister Amy was sleeping with me when the fire occurred. I awoke and found smoke in the room, and I got out of bed and ran down stairs. Mother's bedroom was on fire then, but ours was not at that time. I do not think my sister was awake. I left her in bed. When I got downstairs I saw her going into mother's bedroom. I called to her, "Come here, Amy," but she would not.
Robert Johnston, carpenter, living at Mornington, said: At about half-past nine I was in the hotel in a back room, when I heard screams outside. At first we thought it was only some row on the Belt, and paid little attention for three or four minutes. Then as they got louder we went out. I saw it was the house opposite on fire. It was all in flames when I got over. I rushed round to the back, and met Mrs Stokes at the scullery door. She was screaming out for someone to save her children. I tried to get into the kitchen, but the flames were coming out at the top of the door, and I could only get in by crawling close to the floor. I could see no children or anything. It was impossible for anyone to get into the house when I got there.
To the Foreman: No alarm was given from the Town Hall bell. I do not think if it had been rung anything could have been done to save the lives of the children. No one takes any notice of that bell now there is no organised fire brigade here.
Henry Stokes, furnaceman, residing in Mornington, said: I saw the fire and ran down at once. As I got opposite the hotel, the roof fell in. It was hopelessly on fire. I was helping to throw water on the adjoining house, and after about a quarter of an hour I heard there were children in the burning house. I went round to the front of the building, and saw what I thought to be a body lying on the floor. I asked for two or three buckets of water, and threw them where it was lying, and then went in, moved some sheets of iron, and took the body out.
Constable O'Sullivan, stationed at Mornington: I arrived at the fire between 25 minutes and half-past nine o'clock. The house was in a blaze right through. As nothing could be done I assisted to prevent the fire spreading to the next house. When it went down I found one body of a child close to the fireplace in the kitchen, and removed it to the hotel. I also removed the body of the other child to the same place. 
The Foreman: Was any member of the Fire Brigade or Salvage Corps here? 
Witness: Mr Carmalt was here some time after me. I have not the slightest idea whether he came up in the tram or on his machine.
The Foreman: What we want to arrive at is, whether if there had been a Fire Brigade or Salvage Corps here something might not have been done.
John Stokes, labourer, father of the children, said: I was down at my mother's when the fire broke out. I left my house between six and seven o'clock, and returned perhaps at ten o'clock, and found it was burnt down.
The Coroner said as far as he could see it was a wooden building, which would burn very rapidly. Mrs Stokes said she filled the lamp on Saturday evening, but she seemed somewhat hazy in giving her evidence, and he rather doubted from his own experience if she did so; but no doubt she gave her evidence truthfully as far as she knew. It was to be regretted that Mrs Stokes, instead of running for assistance to a neighbour, did not see her children out of the house, but that was want of presence of mind, and did not call, he thought, for any reprobation on the part of the jury.
The Jury, after consulting for a few minutes, returned a verdict of "Accidental Death," adding as a rider that in their opinion if there had been a Fire Brigade or Salvage Corps in Mornington the lives of these children might have been saved.  -Otago Daily Times, 18/5/1886.

In connection with the fatal fire at Mornington on Saturday last, a meeting of the residents of the district was held at Mr Aikman's house last evening, to consider the best means of relieving the wants of Mr and Mrs Stokes, who, in addition to the loss of two of their children, have also lost all their effects. It was resolved to make a public appeal on their behalf, and that subscription lists should be at once circulated in Dunedin and suburbs. Mr John Aikman was appointed treasurer. At the inquest, which was held yesterday, on the bodies of the two children (Amy and Violet) who were burned to death at the fire, the particulars elicited substantially confirmed the account which we published yesterday. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death, and added a rider to the effect that if a Fire Brigade or Salvage Corps had been in existence in Mornington the lives of the children might have been saved.  -Otago Daily Times, 18/5/1886.

Sir, — I am requested by Mr and Mrs Stokes to return their heartfelt thanks to the undermentioned ladies and gentlemen for their kind and generous assistance in their hour of need, and also to thank the gentlemen who have kindly assisted me in collecting the very handsome sum of L68 13s on their behalf. — I am, Sir, your obedient servant, JOHN AIKMAN. Mornington, 5th June, 1886. 
The names above referred to: — Per Mr John Aikman: Ferguson and Mitchell, L2 2s; John Aikman, L2 2s; Hordern, Brayshaw, and White, 30s; Cole and Springer, 34s; Paterson and McLeod, 20s; Herbert, Haynes, and Co., 20s; Robert S. McVickar, 20s; R. Hudson, 10s; a Friend, 43s; James Curie, 10s; Joseph Braithwaite, 10s; H. E. Williams, 10s; A. W. Morris, 20s; Robert Gillies, 20s; Neill and Co., Limited, 20s; Mackerras and Hezlett, 20s; R. Wilson and Co., 20s; W. Scoular and Co., 20s; Leslie, Lane, and Dobie (goods), 20s; North and Scoullar (goods), 20s; Brown, Ewing, and Co, 20s; Wright, Stephenson, and Co., 20s; M. Pym, 10s 6d; M., 10s; R. Glendining, 10s; H S. Fish, jnr. 10s 6d; R. Briscoe and Co., 20s; J. M. Ritchie, 20s; Union SS. Co., 20s; a Friend, 10s; Dalgety and Co., Limited, 20s; Butterworth Bros., 10s; G. Young, 10s; J. Scoular, 20s; A B C, 10s; A. Thomson, 10s; E. Star, 20s; Murray, Roberts, and Co., 20s; James Matthews, 20s; J. W. Kempthorne, 10s; Coulls, Culling, and Co., 10s; Hogg, Howison, Nicol, and Co., 20s; T. H. Trevena, 10s: amounts collected in 5s, 4s, 3s, and 2s 6d, L4 4s 6d. Amount collected by Constable O'Sullivan (Mornington), L7 3s. Per Mr Thomas Carroll: Donald Reid, 20s; amounts collected in 5s, 3s, 2s 6d, 2s, and 1s, L2 3s 6d. Per Messrs W. Campbell and A. Watson: Robert Rutherford, 20s ; Willam Wills, 10s; J. E. D., 10s; Alex. Kyle. 10s; Mrs G. E. Tennet, 10s; Mrs R. C. Paterson. 10s; Thos. Bracken, 10s; amounts collected in 5s, 4s, 3s, 2s 6d, and 2s, L3 18s 6d. Per Mr S. P. Martin: S. P. Martin, 10s; J. C. Seelye, 20s; C. Statham, 10s; employees, B., E., and Co. (retail), 17s 6d; amounts collected in 5s and 2s 6d, L1 7s 6d. Per Mr Millar Anderson: Millar Anderson, 10s; amounts collected in 2s 6d, 15s. Per Mr Lightbourne, 7s 6d. Total amount of cash and goods, L68 13s. 
Disbursements. Paid advertising, L1 11s 6d; cash handed Mrs Stokes, L46 0s 7d; goods received by Mrs Stokes, L2; paid sundry accounts at her request, Ll9 0s 11d. L68 13s. Evening Star, 5/6/1886.
Sixty eight pounds and thirteen shillings is worth around fourteen thousand dollars today.
Southern Cemetery, Dunedin.  DCC photo.

Monday, 22 June 2020

Mrs Julia Finch (1846(?)-17/5/1886) and Mrs Louisa Irwin (1844(?)-24/5/1886)

The original heart of the town of Dunedin was in the area known as the Exchange.  It had a limited amount of flat land and, between it and the much larger flat area to the north-east, was Bell Hill.  The first solution to the problem of Bell Hill was a deep cutting along the line of Princes street, known as The Cutting.  Buildings and streets on both sides of The Cutting were reached by steps.  Eventually the whole of Bell Hill between Princes street and the Harbour was removed to its present level.

Dowling street was also cut through, from Princes street and turning its corner to reach Rattray street.  Hard volcanic rock was found, and blasting was necessary.  It did not always go according to plan...


At 4.55 p.m. to-day, when a blast was being fired in the Dowling street cutting, from some cause a quantity of the rock was blown over the tops of the houses fronting Princes street, and, on falling, riddled several roofs.
At the London Portrait Rooms several pieces of the rock came through the roof, striking Mrs Julia Finch (sister-in-law of the proprietor), and killing her instantaneously. Mrs Louisa Irwin (wife of the proprietor of the London Portrait Rooms) was also struck, and is, it is feared, fatally injured.
Charles Millier, a driver in the employ of Tilbury Bros., expressmen, was also struck, receiving serious injuries to legs, hands, and arms. He was at once removed to Marshall's, the chemist, where he was attended to by Dr Wanless. The shot was fired by Jeremiah Rogers, under the superintendence of Mr William Barnes, the Corporation's inspector. Several other persons were more or less injured, but we could not ascertain their names or the extent of their injuries.  -Evening Star, 17/5/1886.
Work on the Dowling St cutting - Hocken Library photo.

An alarming accident, which was unhappily attended with fatal results, took place last evening in the very centre of the City. It happened after a portion of our last edition was issued, but we were enabled to publish in the remainder of our town edition the following brief particulars of the sad affair: —
At 4.55 p.m. to-day, when a blast was being fired in the Dowling street cutting, from some cause a quantity of the rock was blown over the tops of the houses fronting Princes street, and, on falling, riddled several roofs.
At the London Portrait Rooms several pieces of the rock came through the roof, striking Mrs Julia Finch (sister-in-law of the proprietor), and killing her instantaneously. Mrs Louisa Irwin (wife of the proprietor of the London Portrait Rooms) was also struck, and is, it is feared, fatally injured. Charles Millier, a driver in the employ of Tilbury Bros., expressmen, was also struck, receiving serious injuries to legs, hands, and arms. He was at once removed to Marshall’s, the chemist, where he was attended to by Dr Wanless. 
The shot was fired by Jeremiah Rogers, under the superintendence of Mr William Barnes, the Corporation’s inspector. 
Several other persons were more or less injured, but we could not ascertain their names or the extent of their injuries. 
The origin of the accident is to be found in the excavating works which have for some time past been carried on in cutting a street from Princes street to Rattray street. The earlier portion of the work was not difficult, the ground being of such a nature that it could be easily worked, but the presence of a good deal of rock necessitated blasting at times. Many a blast has been fired off there without any untoward result, but on the present occasion the outcome was of a most disastrous and distressing nature. Great blame is attachable to someone — of that there can be no doubt — but it would ill become us to attempt to sheet it home to any particular person, and we prefer to let the facts that will come out at the inquest speak for themselves. 
A few minutes before five o’clock yesterday evening a blast was fired off in the Dowling street cutting at a point about fifty yards distant from Princes street. It seemed to be generally known that an unusually large shot was to be fired, and in consequence a large number of people gathered at the end of the cutting to witness the effects. The charge, which was in a mass of rock on the south side of the cutting, was in a hole drilled 5ft. deep, and consisted of 2ft 6in of powder. On the explosion of the blast the spectators were horrified to see a quantity of pieces of rock, timber, and brushwood shoot into the air and fall with a tremendous clatter on the roofs of several of the buildings extending along the west side of Princes street in the direction of the Octagon. It was immediately felt that some serious results must have ensued, and a general rush was made for the premises in question. It is somewhat singular that the buildings nearest the blast were practically untouched, the debris hurled into the air by the explosion having passed over them and rained down on those at a greater distance. 
The greatest damage was done and the only fatal results ensued at the London Portrait Rooms, of which Mr F. H. Irwin is proprietor. This gentleman’s wife and a married sister, Mrs Finch, used some years ago to take an active part in the business, but of late Mrs Finch alone was constantly engaged there. Mrs Irwin was, however, at the time of the accident, sitting in Mrs Finch’s workroom in company with Mrs and Miss Vivian, who had called on business. Suddenly, as Mrs Vivian states, a frightful noise was heard, and Mrs Finch was struck down with a piece of rock, and never uttered a word. She sustained fearful injuries to the head and face, and died in a few minutes. Mrs Irwin was not seen at once to be struck, and when people began to enter the room she was inquiring confusedly as to what was the matter, and why the crowd had assembled. But the unfortunate lady was immediately found to have fared little better than her sister. She was struck on the head and between the shoulders, and has sustained a fracture of the skull and other injuries that make her recovery very doubtful. Miss Vivian, who sat at the table beside her mother, was also struck on the head and shoulder. Mrs Vivian marvellously escaped. Miss Vivian was taken to Dr Hocken’s house and thence home. The doctor describes her injuries as a large wound on the head exposing the skull, concussion of the left eyeball, and severe contusions of the shoulder and wrist.
The room in which Mrs Finch was killed faced Princes street, and she was at the time of the accident sitting at her usual seat at a table near the window. Mrs Irwin was standing close by, while Miss Vivian was sitting in a chair near them. From the appearances a large stone, weighing about half a hundredweight, struck the roof and thereon flew into fragments, all of which penetrated into the room, with the lamentable results already detailed. A large hole is broken through the ceiling, and through this aperture can be seen the iron roof of the building, with the orifice through which the stone fell. In the adjoining room another large piece of rock fell, but happily no one was injured by it. 
As soon as the serious nature of the accident was discovered, medical assistance was sent for. The body of Mrs Finch was taken to Mr Irwin’s residence, and Mrs Irwin herself was taken home as soon as it was possible to remove her. 
Considering the fact that portions of the shower of stones fell into Princes street it is wonderful that there is not a larger list of casualties to record. Actually the only bodily sufferer, beyond those already mentioned, is a man named Charles Millier, who drives one of Tilbury Brothers’ expresses. He happened to be driving by at the time, and a falling stone broke one of his thumbs, while another inflicted some nasty injuries on his arm and leg. Several very narrow escapes are related, but an expressman named Hastie had about the moat providential escape from death. He was loading his express at Mr Eliott’s fruit shop when the blast went off, and a big piece of rock actually knocked his hat off, then falling into the road and smashing the wheel of his vehicle. 
Next to the London Portrait Rooms, the building most damaged is Mr Elliot’s shop and restaurant, just mentioned. From the top of the hill at the back of Princes street it can be seen that there are three holes in the roof of Mr Elliot’s premises, but happily only one room was damaged. In this Miss Elliot was at the time sitting, and one piece of rock, weighing 171b, fell right at her feet. A larger circular table was broken, several other pieces of furniture damaged, a fender broken, and some shelves containing jams and other articles shattered. 
Montague’s Bazaar was not damaged internally, but the roof suffered a good deal, while a number of big stones fell in the back yard and did some damage. Some of Messrs A. Masters and Co.’s employees got a severe fright, a number of stones falling through the roof of the workshops, including a very large one, which crashed through that portion under which the female apprentices work. Very fortunately the girls had left the room five minutes before the blast went off, or else one or two of them would have been injured. One of the male employes was cut about the face with a splinter from the woodwork of the roof.
A sale had during the afternoon been going on at Searle’s auction rooms, but it fortunately concluded about a quarter of an hour before the accident occurred, otherwise there must have been a serious loss of life there. Some big pieces of rock fell through the roof, and smashed some crockeryware, but little other damage was done.
Mr William Barnes states that he instructed Rogers to put only 2ft 4in of powder in the drill. The general impression among mining experts who have visited the spot is that if the drill had been nearer the face the stuff would have simply fallen in the cutting, instead of going into the air; butjowing Jo the drill having been put down
some distance back the lateral resistance was so great that the whole force of the blast went upwards. Mrs Irwin was reported to have died at an early hour this morning, but such was not the case, as up to the time of our going to press she was reported to be in much the same condition as last evening.
THE INQUEST on the body of Mrs Julia Finch was opened this afternoon, at the residence of Mr Irwin, Cargill street, before Coroner Carew and a jury of six, of whom Mr Wales was chosen foreman.
Inspector Weldon was present, and Mr F. R. Chapman watched the proceedings on behalf of the Corporation. 
The jury having viewed the body, 
The Coroner said that they were all doubtless aware that the death that they were to inquire into had been caused by blasting operations in one of the streets of Dunedin. It would be their duty to ascertain whether anyone was to blame in the matter — whether the blasting operation required care, and whether that care had been shown. He proposed to merely take Mr Irwin’s evidence now, then to accompany the jury to the site of the accident and to the place where the blast took place, and then proceed with the inquiry in another place.
Mr Irwin deposed: I am proprietor of the London Portrait Rooms, and reside in Cargill street. The deceased, Julia Finch, was my sister-in-law. She had resided with me for some eighteen years. I was at my business premises yesterday afternoon. Mrs Finch was there also. While in the studio I heard a loud report, and looking through a window towards the south-west I saw a quantity of what appeared to be stones in the air. I next heard the crash of stones through the roof, I ran into the reception-room where Mrs Finch and Mrs Irwin were. When I went into the room I found it a mass of dust and dirt, and hearing Mrs Irwin groan I went to her. I found Mrs Irwin lying on top of Mrs Finch on the floor. I tried to move Mrs Irwin to another part of the room. I dragged her over with the assistance of Mr Bird, and then we turned to look at Mrs Finch. I do not think Mr Bird was in the room before me. At this time a crowd of people came into the room. I at once sent off for a doctor. Dr de Zouche arrived in a few minutes. Mrs Finch was in the same position when he arrived, except that she had been turned and was lying on her face. When I went into the room there was a large hole through the roof and ceiling. Parts of the scenery and several stones were on the floor. One of these stones, I think, must have been thirty or forty pounds weight. There was one stone near Mrs Finch.
The jury were then conducted to the buildings, the roofs of which were damaged by the explosion, and the site of the blast was also inspected. While in the cutting Mr W. Barnes was briefly examined on oath as to the nature of the blasting operations. He mentioned that the drill was 5ft 2in in depth, and that the powder was 2ft 2in deep. The inspection over, the jury repaired to the Resident Magistrate’s Court, where the inquiry was formally adjourned till Thursday at 10 a.m.  -Evening Star, 18/5/1886.

The tableaux vivants which wore to have been held at St. Paul’s schoolroom to-morrow night have, owing to the sad death of Mrs Finch, who was an old and much valued member of the congregation, been postponed indefinitely.  -Evening Star, 18/5/1886.

We regret to hear that Mrs Irwin, who was injured by the blast in the Cutting, is rather worse than better this afternoon.   -Evening Star, 22/5/1886.

We regret to learn that little or no hopes are entertained of Mrs Irwin's recovery from the injuries sustained in connection with the Dowling street blasting accident.  -Otago Daily Times, 24/5/1886.

TO THE EDITOR. Sir, — Kindly insert in the Times the following letter, written by the Bishop of Peterborough to the Covuicil of the Church of England Funeral and Mourning Reform Association. — I am,&c, E. G. Edwards. St Paul's Parsonage, May, 21. 
P.S. — I was pleased to notice that in the advertisement mentioning the time of Mrs Finch's funeral, her friends were not "requested to attend." The fact that so many were present showed how highly she was esteemed. It was also to be noticed that there were no plumes on the hearse, and no scarves worn. — E. G. E.  -Otago Daily Times, 25/5/1886.

On the 24th May, at her residence, Cargill street, Louisa, wife of F. H. Irwin.   -Otago Daily Times, 25/5/1886.

The Dunedin Explosion.
THE INQUEST. At the inquest on the fatal blasting accident Mrs. Vivian, in describing what she witnessed, said that Mrs Finch had just sat dawn at table when witness heard a dreadful noise, and the room was then in perfect darkness. She rushed out to the landing and called her daughter to came out quickly, but she heard no sound. She went into the next room, but there was a large hole in the roof there also and she could not stay there, so she sat on the landing. When she went back to the room she saw Mrs Finch lying in a pool of blood, blood was also trickling down her face. William Barnes, overseer of works, said he had not had much experience in blasting. At the works he only continued a practice which prevailed before he went there. After the blast he told Rogers he must have put in too much powder. He was too much frightened at the result of the blast to move, and he shortly after went home, without enquiring what damage had been done. Rogers, in evidence, said he had worked at blasting for about 40 years, but this was the first time he had done so in a town. He might have put a trifle more powder than the specified quantity in the hole, but nothing to speak of. There was nothing to measure the powder with. The inquest was adjourned till the 29th instant. It has transpired since the accident that the works were under the immediate control of the Mayor.  -Manawatu Standard, 25/5/1886.

The City Council
THE DOWLING STREET ACCIDENT. Cr Esther suggested that the Mayor and councillors should attend the funeral of Ihs late Mrs Irwin. The Mayor agreed that it was fitting that they should do so. He had wished to attend the funeral of the late Mrs Finch last week, but was prevented from doing so by the coronor’s inquiry being held all day. He was very much surprised that the inquiry was not suspended during the time of the funeral. The suggestion was agreed to.  -Evening Star, 26/5/1886

Our Dunedin Letter  (excerpt)
Deep and general sympathy is felt for Mr Irwin and his family. Mrs Finch was a lady who was universally liked and respected by all who came in contact with her. The City Council are to meet on Tuesday evening, when several Councillors will attempt to stifle the whole question; but, perhaps, it will be better for them to recognise that the whole of the facts surrounding the case will have to be discussed in open Council, sooner or later. Unfortunately, this is not the only melancholy fatal accident that has occurred since I last wrote...  -Tuapeka Times, 26/6/1886.

The remains of the late Mrs Irwin were followed to the Southern Cemetery yesterday afternoon by a large number of friends and others who deeply sympathised with Mr Irwin and his family in their sudden bereavement. The funeral cortege stopped first at St Paul's Church where part of the burial service was read by the Ven. Archdeacon Edwards, the service being choral as in the case of the late Mrs Finch. Mr J. C. Norman, the organist, played Chopin's Funeral March as the procession left the church. The mayor and several of the city councillors followed the hearse to the cemetery, and it was noticeable that many of the shops and places of business on the route were temporarily closed.  -Otago Daily Times, 28/5/1886.

The Dowling Street Accident.
The inquiry into the cause of death of the late Mrs Finch was concluded on Friday. The jury took an hour and a-half to consider their verdict. 
The Foreman said: The jury find your Worship that the deceased Mrs Julia Finch was killed by a stone projected by a blast fired in the Dowling street Cutting on the afternoon of the 17th inst.; that the said blast was unskilfully planned and over-charged; and that proper and safe appliances were not provided by the Corporation. 
The Coroner: That gentleman is a verdict of manslaughter. Is that what you find? 
The Foreman: We are not prepared to say it was manslaughter, but rather misadventure. 
The Coroner: If it was done through want of proper care or skill that amounts to a verdict of manslaughter. 
The Foreman: The jury do not think it was done through negligence. 
The Coroner: I think it amounts to a verdict of manslaughter. If you would like a little time to reconsider it, I will retire again. You must have misunderstood my direction. As I quoted to you from authority, homicide by misadventure is where one doing a lawful act without intention of harm, and using proper precautions, unfortunately happens to kill another person. 
The Foreman: The jury do not think proper precautions were taken, and they do not think it was negligently done, but unskilfully. 
The Coroner: But that is negligence. I will have the room cleared for a short time again so that you can reconsider, and say distinctly whether you imply that the deceased was accidentally killed or whether it was manslaughter. If I have to record the verdict as it is, I should record it as manslaughter, and therefore I wish you to reconsider it. 
The Foreman, after consultation with his colleagues, said: The jury have deliberated for a considerable time, your Worship, and that is the verdict which we have unanimously come to. If it amounts to a verdict of manslaughter then of course it must go as it is. 
Mr Haggitt, after perusing the verdict, said: It is a verdict of manslaughter against some person unnamed. 
The Foreman: The jury did not think it was a verdict of manslaughter. 
The Coroner: I think you had better reconsider it and say distinctly if you find a verdict of "Accidentally killed" or "Manslaughter," and add any rider you like. 
Mr Kettle : I think the jury mean that there was a certain want of skill, but that the person in question could not reasonably infer that the consequences would be what they were. 
The Foreman: The jury would wish the verdict to be accepted as it is your Worship. 
The Coroner: It would assist me if you would say more clearly what you mean. What I think is that you have misunderstood the law or do not take the direction I have given you. 
The Foreman: The jury do not see their way to alter the verdict in any way. The only way they could alter it would be by adding names. 
The Coroner : Very well — if you will add names. 
The Foreman: We do not see what we could add. We have said the Corporation did not provide proper appliances, and consequently we consider the Corporation liable. 
The Coronor: You cannot find manslaughter against the Corporation. It may be that in allowing blasting there they were creating a common nuisance, which would be a misdemeanor, but not a felony; that could only be in the case of individual members who commanded a particular act to be done or were present when it was done. You say the charge was unskilfully planned. Do you mean that was the cause of the stone flying which killed these two persons? 
The Foreman made a reply which was inaudible, in which he referred to the clay seam. 
The Coroner: Then, gentlemen, you think if you took time there is no likelihood of your agreeing upon any other verdict? 
The Foreman: We are sure we could not. 
The Coroner: And you wish it to be recorded in these words in the inquisition? 
The Foreman: Yes. 
Mr Kettle: I should like the foreman's statement as to the clay seam also recorded. 
The Foreman: The jury do not wish to add anything to the verdict. 
The verdict was entered accordingly, and the Coroner thanked the jury for their attendance and discharged them.  -Otago Witness, 4/6/1886.

The City Council
THE DOWLING STREET ACCIDENT. The following letters in connection with the recent fatal accident in the cutting will be brought before the Council; 
Dunedin, May 29,1880. The Town Clerk, Dunedin. Sir, — We are instructed by Mr Frederick Henry Irwin, photographer, whose wife was killed through the negligence of the Corporation by its servants by means of a stone projected by the blast fired in the Dowling street cutting on the afternoon of the 17th inst., to apply to the Council on behalf of himself and his nine children for damages for the loss occasioned to them.
By this unfortunate occurrence, brought about entirely by the negligence of the Corporation in not selecting competent and careful persons to conduct the blasting operations, and in not supplying proper and safe appliances to prevent accidents, Mr Irwin has been left a widower at the age of fifty-five with nine children, four of whom are girls, and four boys — the oldest being seventeen years of age, and the youngest only three years. 
We shall be glad to learn from you whether the Council have any offer of compensation to make, or whether they will compel Mr Irwin to resort to legal proceedings to obtain at the hands of a jury such a measure of compensation as damages can afford for the irreparable injury which the Corporation have inflicted on him and his family.
— We are, etc., Hackett Bros, and Brent.

Dunedin, May 26, 1886. To the Town Clerk, Dunedin, 
Dear Sir, — I am instructed by Mr Francis Eliott to inform you that his furniture has been damaged by the recent accident in Dowling street to the extent of L33, and to give you notice that unless this amount is paid to me by Wednesday next I shall take steps to recover it. 
Should the Council decide not to settle this claim, I shall be glad if you will refer me to some solicitor who will accept service of the summons. — Yours, etc., S. Solomon.  -Evening Star, 31/5/1886.

Local and General
The claim by Mr Irwin against the City Corporation in connection with the Dowling street blasting accident has been settled. The corporation pays Mr Irwin £1500.  -Otago Witness, 2/7/1886.


Dunedin, July 1. The City Council have received a claim from E. J. Finch, of Hokitika, husband of Mrs. Finch, who was killed through the Dowling-street accident. The claim is for £1000. The deceased lady had lived apart from her husband for 16 years.  -Western Star, 3/7/1886.

Local Gossip

In the days of my youth I remember often having impressed upon me by my old nurse and others, that nothing should be thrown away as valueless until it has been carefully laid aside for at least seven years. I have even heard the period of storing extended to fourteen years. Never mind how despised the object may be, how destitute of all value or utility it may appear in your eyes, if the teaching of this popular adage be followed, some value will, it is said, most assuredly be found attaching to the erstwhile object of your contempt. The truth of this sample of the wisdom of many and wit of one has just been approved by Mr. E. T. Finch, of Hokitika, who, at the end not merely of seven years, or even of fourteen years, but, after the expiry of sixteen long years, finds that value attaches to what he had cast aside as worthless. Mr, Finch was once married, but he would none of his wife; she was of no use to him, so he cast her aside, and for sixteen years she lived separate from him. But Mrs. Finch was killed by the Dowling street blasting accident in Dunedin, the other day and straightway, Mr. Finch finds a use for her. She being dead, has a marketable value, which he appraises at £1000, and has, accordingly, claimed this sum from the Dunedin City Council.  -NZ Herald, 3/7/1886.

The City Council will resist the claim of Mrs Finch's husband for compensation. Up to date L1,762 has been paid as compensation for injuries due to the Dowling street accident; and if Miss Vivian's claim be settled out of Court, the total liability of the Corporation is not expected to exceed L2,000.  -Evening Star, 6/7/1886.

Southern Cemetery, Dunedin.  DCC photo.

Southern Cemetery, Dunedin.  DCC photo.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

NZ423456 Flying Officer Norman Kitchener Baird 1918-20/8/1944.

Portrait from The Weekly News; 4 October 1944 - This image may be subject to copyright

ON FLIGHT FROM FIJI: (P.A.) WELLINGTON, this day. The Minister of Defence, Mr. Jones, stated to-day that two Lockheed Hudson bomber reconnaissance aircraft, with fourteen members of the R.N.Z.A.F., are reported missing on a transit flight from Fiji to New Zealand. A wide search has been carried out by air in difficult weather conditions, but so far no trace of the missing flyers has been found. The men are:— 
Flight-Lieutenant Wilbur Lange — Mrs. T. Lange, Auckland (wife). 
Pilot-Officer Kenneth Alexander Ross — Mrs. L. Ross. Wellington (mother). 
Flying-Officer Sydney Philip Aldridge — Mrs. S. Aldridge. Auckland (wife).
Flying-Officer Jack Andrew Olsen — Mr. A. Olsen, Auckland (father). 
Pilot-Officer Kenneth Brian Marshall - Mr. W. G. Marshall, Hawera (father). 
Flying-Officer David Oliphant Stewart - Mr. H. H. Stewart, Auckland (father). 
Sergeant George Arthur Bryant — Mrs. M. E. Bryant, Auckland (mother). 
Flying-Officer Norman Kitchener Baird — Mrs. N. K. Baird, Invercargill (wife). 
Sergeant Robert Bruce Gillespie — Mr. R. Gillespie, Auckland (father). 
Warrant-Ofncer Arthur Francis Dunstan — Mrs. L. F. Dunstan, Auckland (wife). 
Sergeant Thomas Bryton Carey — Mr. J. F. Carey, Auckland (father). 
Pilot-Officer Ivan Russell Johnson - Mrs. O. B. Johnson, Auckland (mother). 
Flight-Sergeant Thomas Hartley Ward — Mesdames I. and E. Partridge, Auckland (friends). 
Flying-Officer John Thomson Waugh — Mrs. E. Waugh, Wellington (wife).
Thick Weather Encountered The two aircraft were part of a formation of seven Hudsons which left Nausori, Fiji, at approximately 6.10 a.m. on Sunday. They flew in formation for half the route, when they ran into very thick weather and, in accordance with standard procedure in such conditions, they broke formation and continued individually. Five of the aircraft arrived in New Zealand, landing between 1.30 and 1.52 p.m. 
As far as is known no distress signals were sent from the missing aircraft. They had the maximum fuel capacity, sufficient for flying until 4.30 on Sundav afternoon, and when they failed to arrive at that time arrangements were made for an extensive search. 
At the first light of Monday morning twelve long-range aircraft carried out parallel searches along the likely routes of the missing aircraft, fanning out in the area in which it was assumed the aircraft might have come down, but without success. The search is being continued to-day. In addition to the Hudson aircraft two R.N.Z.AF. Catalina flying boats flew from Fiji to New Zealand on Sunday.   -Auckland Star, 22/8/1944.

Invercargill Cemetery.