Inquest

This article is about an inquest into the death of a man who was sickly and the conditions in which he died

By Stan J. O'Reilly

Background

William Anderson was sixty one years old and in a very bad state of health. He was suffering from exposure before being allowed into Rathdrum Workhouse. A native of Canada, he was widely travelled and ended up destitute, the years had not been kind to him. On the 9th of February 1876, at half three in the afternoon, he was taken to Wicklow Gaol. For some unstated reason he had torn his shirt and this was a criminal action. Anderson was a very weak man in a poor condition. On arrival at the gaol he asked Governor Storey to allow him to go to bed. The Governor noted his appearance and granted permission. He was later visited by the Governor and said that the heat of the bed in his cell had brought him to. The Governor then had bread and milk brought to him. Anderson left the bread but drank the milk. At ten o' clock that night the Watchman looked in on him and he was no worse. A doctor visited him in the morning and prescribed for him. This was Dr. Brew the Wicklow Gaol Medical Officer. He examined Anderson and he diagnosed: 'bronchitis and general debility. He considered him to be in an irrecoverable state from his first examination of him.' Cold and exposure had worn his health down before his admittance to Rathdrum Workhouse. He was taken to the hospital of the county gaol where he died on the 15th of February. An Inquest was called and both the Governor and Dr. Brew gave evidence. The Jury listened and controversy erupted as some of the Jury members stated that:

'before coming to a verdict, it would be well to know what state the man was in when sent from the workhouse, as the transmission of him to Wicklow Gaol might have accelerated his death?'

One of the Jury panel then asked Dr. Brew: 'was it in his opinion after seeing the man that he was in a fit state to be sent?' Dr. Brew remained uncommitted and declared he could not say one way or another. He was then asked if William Anderson had not been moved, would he have lived longer? Again Dr. Brew would not commit himself to a straight answer. Some Jury members felt the Inquest should be adjourned to obtain further evidence. The Head Constable stated if there was an adjournment he would have the doctor from Rathdrum Workhouse in attendance. Some time elapsed as the point was argued and the Jury then declared that they would deliver a verdict on the evidence before them. Their verdict was: 'William Anderson died in the hospital of the county gaol on the 15th inst. of bronchitis and the effects of exposure to cold contracted before his committal from the Rathdrum Workhouse.' The Jury also decided to add a rider to their findings: 'we have no evidence as to whether he was in a fit state to be removed from the workhouse.' Regardless of the verdict they delivered at the Inquest, some members of the Jury panel were obviously uneasy about the transportation of a dying man to Wicklow Gaol. The question of whether the rider to their findings would prevent such a thing happening again, remained to be seen. He was down before his admittance to Rathdrum Workhouse. He was taken to the hospital of the county gaol where he died on the 15th of February. An Inquest was called and both the Governor and Dr. Brew gave evidence. The Jury listened and controversy erupted as some of the Jury members stated that: 'before coming to a verdict, it would be well to know what state the man was in when sent from the workhouse, as the transmission of him to Wicklow Gaol might have accelerated his death?' One of the Jury panel then asked Dr. Brew: 'was it in his opinion after seeing the man that he was in a fit state to be sent?' Dr. Brew remained uncommitted and declared he could not say one way or another. He was then asked if William Anderson had not been moved, would he have lived longer? Again Dr. Brew would not commit himself to a straight answer.

Not Enough Evidence

Some Jury members felt the Inquest should be adjourned to obtain further evidence. The Head Constable stated if there was an adjournment he would have the doctor from Rathdrum Workhouse in attendance. Some time elapsed as the point was argued and the Jury then declared that they would deliver a verdict on the evidence before them. Their verdict was:

'William Anderson died in the hospital of the county gaol on the 15th inst. of bronchitis and the effects of exposure to cold contracted before his committal from the Rathdrum Workhouse.'

The Jury also decided to add a rider to their findings: 'we have no evidence as to whether he was in a fit state to be removed from the workhouse.' Regardless of the verdict they delivered at the Inquest, some members of the Jury panel were obviously uneasy about the transportation of a dying man to Wicklow Gaol. The question of whether the rider to their findings would prevent such a thing happening again, remained to be seen.

  By Stan J. O’ Reilly.

This page was added by Heritage Student on 19/02/2020.