Lurgan Coat of Arms The Armagh Guardian

8 September, 1858  


A very distressing case of suicide occurred in Lurgan Workhouse on Sunday morning last, and became the subject of a coroner’s investigation on Monday. It appears that certain charges are hanging over some of the officers in the workhouse, in which the mistress, Harriet McCloskie, was implicated. An inquiry commenced on Thursday last into those charges; and since that day the mistress was observed to be suffering from mental depression, under the effects of which, on Sunday morning, she terminated her existence.

On Monday, Joshua M. Magee, Esq., of Newry, coroner, held an inquest on the body. The following jury was sworn : –

John Douglass – Foreman; James Kennedy,
R. J. Evans, John McMullan,
John Ross, William W. McClure,
Joseph Conn, John E. Anderson,
Arthur Donnely, Henry Mercer,
James Campbell, Joseph Hall.
John Waite,  

Several of the Guardians, including Mr. Hancock, Vice-Chairman, Mr. Charles Douglas, J.P., and others, attended to watch the proceedings. Mr. Morris, solicitor, was present on behalf of the officers. The following evidence was given : –

WILLIAM McKELVEY, master of workhouse, sworn and examined – I saw deceased in bed at five minutes past ten on Sunday morning. I asked her did she see my razor. She said not. Jane Jordan, a pauper, was in the room at the time. Jordan cleans my room. On asking her about the razors, she replied they were on the dressing-table in my room. It was after that I asked deceased. She was sitting up in the bed at the time, and said she did not know. I left the room then. My room and deceased’s are on the same corridor and adjoin. I rose that morning at 45 minutes past 5. After breakfast I found that the razor I had shaved with the previous day had been removed. Deceased had been up before witness. I advised her to go back to bed, as she seemed uneasy. She did so about nine o’clock. She had attended to her duty as usual up to that time. The last time I saw her down stairs she was sitting on the form in the dining-hall with the school-mistress, Miss Anderson.

I breakfasted with her that morning in my sitting-room down stairs. She ate very little. I urged her to take food, and not be fretting so much. She drank two cups of tea, and one nip of bread. I then told her to lie down on the sofa in my room. She did so, and I left her. I saw her in her own room upstairs after that, appearing as if going to undress. I asked her was she going to bed. She said yes. I left her and sent Jordan to her. About ten minutes after I asked for the razor. Jordan came running in and said, “Master, the mistress has turned her face to the wall, and won’t speak.” I then ran in and saw the blood. I put my hand to her head, and saw blood in very large quantities on her neck and on the bed. I think she never spoke after. I then heard a shout below that Mr. Hancock was coming. He said, “My God! send for the doctor.” The doctor came shortly afterwards. I think she died in about an hour and a-half. I found the razor afterwards in her bed under her right arm. She was lying on her right side. On Saturday I said I would resign, and advised her to do the same. She said she wished to God we had done so on Thursday last. She said she blamed Ann Curvy, the fever nurse, for being at the bottom of a conspiracy against the officers. Deceased was forty-eight years of age.

JANE JORDAN (pauper), examined – I have been in the house between six and seven years. I attended the mistress and the master, and cleaned their rooms for three years. I saw deceased about six o’clock. She was up then. I asked her did she find herself any better that last night. She said she was. I saw a pound-note lying on the stand of the looking-glass. She said she was going to send it to her daughter, Maria. She told me to look after it, and see that Maria would get it. She said she was so disturbed in mind she could not lie in bed, and would rather be wandering about. A few minutes after she went down stairs. I then began to clean up both their rooms. She saw the master’s razors in their cases in his room, in their usual place on the dressing-table. About nine o’clock, went to the parlour, and saw deceased walking round the table; she did not speak. I said, “Mistress, dear, what makes you in such a despairing state ?” She said, “They had sworn away my life and character, and I cannot live.” I told her to rely on God, and not on the arm of flesh. I gave her a drink of cold water, at her request, and left her sitting on the sofa. She (witness) then went to prepare for church, and when coming down stairs, met the master, who told me to go to deceased who was not well. Went up. She was standing in her own room, in her bed-dress. She stood about ten minutes, and never spoke, looking at me. I then said, “Mistress, dear, go to bed.” I turned to fold down the bed for her, and kissed me. She said, that would be the last time, and asked me to look to her children if any thing would occur. I said, I would be a cold dependence. She went to bed, and I sat down beside her. She said “Be sure and remember that I sent my daughter this ring – look after it that she get it.”  I asked her would she take anything. She said she would take some whey. I went to the master in the dairy for her pint of milk.

Saw no bottle on the table, nor smelt any unusual smell. Made some whey, and returned to her room. Found her in bed as I had left her. She drank some of the whey. I sat down a little at the bed-side. I asked her was her head very bad. She said it was very bad. She lay down for two or three minutes and did not speak; then turned round and asked was Mr. Hancock come. I said not, that he would not bother her to-day. She said “Don’t say so, for he will be here in a few minutes.”  I said “Mistress, dear, many a wrong notion you take.” “Oh, no.” she said, “I am not much astray for Miss Curry swore my life and character away to Mr. Hancock last night, and to think to live I cannot. Two of the inmates, Margaret Denison and Ellen Copeland, told me so.” She lay a long time before she spoke, and then turned round and asked for a glass of the coldest water she could get. I had to go down from the dormitory to the yard to get her the water. When I came back, found her turned to the wall – when I left her, her face was to the window. Called to her that here was the water, but she made no reply. I got on a chair, and tried to lift her head, to turn her round, but could not move her. The head was bent or stooped off the pillow, lying over against the wall. Did not at that time see anything particular. She lay motionless. I then went into the master’s room. He came in and called to her, but she made no answer. He put his arm under her head, and turned her partly round. Her face and breast was all covered with blood. The very name of Mr. Hancock was like a life-stroke or a dagger to her. She would hide in any hole for fear of Mr. Hancock. Mr. Hancock was about four hours in the workhouse on Saturday evening.

Maria Duncan (infirmary nurse) proved that deceased got a bottle of laudanum from her on the previous day.

WILLIAM ROSS McLAUGHLIN, M.D., examined – I am medical officer of this workhouse. Was called on yesterday morning between ten and eleven o’clock. Saw deceased. Found her lying in bed on her back, with a very extensive wound upon her neck, extending from one ear to the other, fully eight inches in extent; it was deep in the left side; cut through the skin and tissues in the neck, laid the carotid artery bare; and on the right side, a part of the windpipe was cut through. The carotid artery was laid bare, but not cut through. The wound was bleeding, but she was still alive. Just examined whether any important blood-vessel had been cut. I satisfied myself there was not. I brought the edges of the wound together by stitches, and used other means to stop the bleeding. After the administration of some whiskey and water, she appeared to rally. Up to this time I had hope, but I remarked that the stupor which existed from the first time I saw her still continued. Although I attributed it to the loss of blood, I suspected another cause. Her symptoms were those which would be produced by a narcotic poison. The stupor began to increase. I asked the infirmary nurse had she been in the surgery. She said she had. I introduced the stomach-pump and it smelt strong of laudanum. She died in about an hour and a-half. I think the cause of death was the combined cause of loss of blood and opium, as the loss of blood would cause the opium to be absorbed into the system faster that otherwise.

By Mr. MORRIS – Saw her desponding during the last week, and her despondency seemed increasing. Injected the whiskey and water through the nose, when I found I could not get into the stomach (from the wound in the throat) any other way.

The Master re-examined – On Thursday evening after the board-meeting. Mr. Hancock told me in the male bath-room that the worst of it would be that one would be dismissed, and the other reprimanded; but now, since solicitors had been brought, it would be a stand-up fight before the Commissioners and the Guardians on one side, and the officers on the other. I told deceased that conversation. Mr. Morrison, the schoolmaster, read the charges against us, the officers, on Saturday night. Deceased was there. The principal charge was that Mrs. McCloskie and I were living as man and wife, and other charges which he considered frivolous.

A verdict in accordance with the medical testimony was given; the jury adding that the act was committed whilst deceased was labouring under temporary insanity.


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