Monday, November 16, 2009

Death of William HODGE (1811-1863)

As the SMH rolls out at I’ve been having an occasional dig. I found the following follow-up article on William HODGE’s death in 1863:

Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 28 April 1863, p4
DEATH of MR HODGE, OF GUNDAGAI - In our issue of Friday, the 24th instant, we extracted a paragraph from the 'Wagga Wagga Express' announcing the death (supposed from poison) of Mr. William Hodge, wardsman of the Gundagai Hospital. The 'Wynyard Times' reports that an inquest was held at the hospital on the 13th, before the district coroner, on view of the body of the deceased, when, after hearing evidence at considerable length, the jury returned a verdict that deceased died in an apopleptic fit. It appeared that deceased had, about three years since, whilst endeavouring to prevent the escape of prisoners from the lock-up in Gundagai, received very severe injuries in the head, from the effects of which he never completely recovered. He had likewise suffered for a length of time from an abscess in the ear.

The death certificate was registered 16th April (five days after the death), hence the cause of death being that of the inquest. It does not refute that he took poison, but seems to suggestive causalities for his state of mind. Apoplexy, or being out of one’s mind, was often a way of rationalizing suicide. One reason for this was that a finding of suicide causes forfeiture of an estate to the Crown. See for example the inquest on John Blanchard in Sydney in 1832 here ( where the initial inquest was overturned to prevent this. All of this, of course, is just an opinion.

The article also gives a little more detail on William’s occupation in Gundagai (wardsman of the Gundagai Hospital) and confirms his role as a police-man a few years prior. Unfortunately inquest records do not remain in any detail, but a more detailed report may come in a local paper.

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