Thursday, 20 March 2014

"Tommy is cold." (Thomas George Hart) 1871, Shortland cemetery.

Gold and grog - Thames, 1871.

Elizabeth Park Sherrard, alias Scott, was down on her luck.  In March 1871 she was charged at the Thames Police Court with stealing a gold locket.

Her hard scrabble life had seen her drift into theft and drink, and although referred to as Mrs Sherrard, there was no Mr Sherrard.  She had possibly followed a husband to the Thames  goldfields and been deserted. 

In the curious police case,   Elizabeth was charged with stealing a gold locket valued at 15s from Mrs Schafer's* house.  In a strange twist, Mrs Schafer herself was charged with stealing  a gold watch and chain, the property of William John Hart, a miner.   William Hart was described as the "protector" of Elizabeth Sherrard.

Elizabeth Sherrard was found guilty and sentenced to one month's imprisonment with hard labour.  She said she had three children and wanted to know who would care for them in the meantime.  She was also four months pregnant to William Hart, whom she had lived with for the past eight or nine months in Baillie Street,Thames. 

Seven months later, in a  small cramped cottage  in which a light burned all night,  the nine week old baby of Elizabeth and William woke crying.  It was 1 o'clock on a Monday morning and William got up, took little Thomas George Hart from his cradle in the kitchen, and gave him to his mother in bed.   The crying soon stopped and the household went back to sleep.  Elizabeth's small daughter, Annie, also had a bed  in the kitchen, the kitchen and sleeping area all being one room.  The bed of Elizabeth and William  was pressed against the wall. William slept on the outside of the bed. The baby was on the other side of his mother, against the wall.  

At 3am Elizabeth got up to make herself a cup of tea, which woke William. He leaned across the bed remarking that the baby was very cold.
Elizabeth picked up the child and cried "the child is dead - is dead - is dead!"
William went for Dr Lethbridge, who came immediately.

Or so went the story William Hart initially told at the inquest held at the Globe Hotel, Rolleston Street.

Under examination he also said that sometimes the child slept with its parents, but at other times in a cradle.   The child had been sickly for the past four weeks and vomited up its food. William did not know whether it was teething.  It was constantly vomiting. It was fed other food besides its mother's milk. The mother's milk was short, he said,  indeed so short that she had five or six times gone into fits or mad through the scarcity of it. This was occasionally, for two or three days she would be right enough, then again would become short.

Elizabeth and William were not married, he admitted, but had lived together for 15 or 16 months. The child was born on 14 August. William said he was sometimes away all night at the mining claim and was frequently absent.  From what he saw, the child had received every care and attention since its birth.

In response to questioning, William said that when Elizabeth got up at 3am  she was quite sober. But he  began to crumble under the skeptical gaze of the court and gave contradictory answers.

The previous  Thursday and Friday, Elizabeth was not sober. She was sober, however,  on Saturday, Sunday and Monday - sober enough to attend to her household duties.  He then said he saw her take some liquor during that time. She had a glass of ale with him on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. He did not see her take any spirits, though, not  for seven weeks.
Sometimes they got their beer from the public houses - sometimes from "other men."
The Coroner commented "You must have been a pretty good customer to the alehouses."

William said he went to bed at eleven on the night in question.  He was sober.  He did not help Elizabeth to bed because, he now said, she was the worse for liquor.  He incongruously added that she was not drunk.  He had no spirits in the house on the night.  There might have been some there but not that he knew of.  Further questioning saw him now admit he heard Elizabeth ask for some brandy at about 2am.  She asked little Annie for it. 
William did not know where the child got the brandy from, but it was somewhere inside the house.  She might have got it from under the bed. He did not see how much the child gave to her mother, but she did not have more than one glass of brandy.

Mr Bullen, on behalf of the Crown, drew attention to the previous evidence of William and said no doubt the coroner and jury would regard his evidence as worthless.
How did he reconcile his statement that he had not seen Elizabeth drink spirits for seven weeks, with the statement that she had only drunk a glass?
William disingenuously answered that he did not actually see her drink.  The child put the bottle on the table and told the mother to help herself.
The coroner and jury remarked on the evident prevarication of the witness.

Anne Elizabeth Sherrard was called but was too young to be sworn. She was thought to be about five years of age. She said she did not know how old she was.
She said she remembered  her little brother dying the night before.  Annie's  innocent evidence undid  that of William, who was referred to as her father.

Her father and mother went out last night before dark, she said,  and she took care of her little brother, as she often had to do.   Her mother often went out and  no one was in the house to take charge of the child but her. Her mother left meat and little Annie  gave it to the tiny child when he cried. Sometimes Annie went looking  for her mother, at other times she  fetched her other sister.

Last Saturday night  and Sunday her mother was drunk. When she and William  came home last night her mother  was 'half tight'.
They went to bed when they came in.  The baby was asleep in the cradle in the kitchen.  Annie went to bed in the kitchen at the same time as her mother and father.
She heard the baby cry at one o'clock.  She knew the time because her father got up, looked at his watch and told her mother.
He lifted the baby out of the cradle and put it bedside the mother, who was lying down on the bed.  The baby stopped crying, but Annie did not go to sleep. 

 Her mother asked her to give her some brandy.  After her mother and father had come home, her mother went out again and got a shilling's worth of brandy.  Both Elizabeth and William drank some before they went to bed.
Annie got the brandy bottle out of the safe where food was stored. She poured the brandy into a tumbler and gave it to her father.  He drank half of it and gave the other half to her mother.
After drinking the brandy, her mother lay down and afterwards got up to make herself a cup of tea. When her mother got out of bed, her father put his hand on the baby and said  "Tommy is cold."  Mother said "Then he is dead."   Tommy's face was all blue.

Sometimes Annie had bread and milk for breakfast and sometimes bread and butter.  She had always plenty to eat, she said.

Margaret Frick of Baillie Street  gave damning evidence about Elizabeth Sherrard.

On Friday afternoon William Hart had  fetched a policeman, but he did not take Elizabeth who was being a nuisance.   The neighbours had been annoyed at Mrs Sherrard's screaming.
On Friday evening Mrs Sherrard was drunk and also Mr Hart.  Mrs Sherrard went out and left the baby with the little girl, Annie.   The girl was carrying the baby like a lump and Margaret Frick told her to lay it down.  Annie then gave it some cold milk out of a bottle.

On one occasion when Mrs Sherrard  went out all day leaving the baby, she heard it crying.  
" I went to give it a drink of milk from my own breast."  Although Mrs Sherrard was very good to her children when sober  " I consider that she neglects her children from her drunken habits."

Mrs Sherrard had been drinking on Saturday, Sunday and Monday; she was not perfectly sober on any of those days, according to Margaret.

"At six o'clock this morning," said Margaret, referring to the few hours after the baby had died,  "I saw her with Hart.  They were linked arm in arm.  She was drunk and he was not sober."  

Elizabeth Sherrard  could not be questioned at the inquest  - she was drunk and in no fit state.

After about an hour's deliberation the jury found that Thomas George Hart came to his death "by being overlaid by his mother on the night of 23 October while under the influence of liquor."

Mrs Sherrard was then discharged from custody, provoking the  Thames Advertiser  into an outraged outburst.

"If anything were wanting to increase the general desire for stringent regulations on the liquor traffic, it should be supplied in the horrible case that has just occurred at the Thames.
It appears that the mother had been on one continued round of drunkenness, although her infant was but two months old.  The immoral relations of the parents, the evident perjury of the father, the inability of the mother to give evidence because she was drunk, the influences under which the other little children were living, the freedom with which drink is obtained, and the painful but natural result, combine to produce a picture of the most revolting kind perhaps ever presented in this district.  That the child was smothered by his drunken mother is clear, and it is impossible to suppress indignation on seeing that the law cannot reach the murderess..."

Baby Thomas George Hart (Tommy) was probably buried in an unmarked grave at Shortland cemetery.

Although Elizabeth said she had three children previous to Tommy being born,  only Annie is mentioned in newspaper reports.  It is likely there were other children in the house, and an older sister in domestic service somewhere nearby. 

In January 1878, a  girl named Annie Sherrard appeared as a witness in an assault case in Auckland.  Annie Sherrard had been taken out of an orphan home by a family who employed her to look after their children.  If it is the same Annie, she would have been aged 11 or 12, a not uncommon age for girls to enter domestic service in those days.  It is highly likely Elizabeth Sherrard's children  ended up in an orphanage due to her neglect or death.  
William Hart was probably long gone.

"She may take ale, or porter, in moderation..." Rules for 1870s childcare.

*More on Mrs Schafer - described as an "irrepressible and interesting half caste"  - in my next blog.   

Source Papers Past
Image - Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries 4- 8717

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A Line of Duck Boards - Thames Heritage Event

An awesome performance from my book at the Pumphouse, Thames over the past two nights.

Many thanks to the cast -

Maggie Gill

Tony Gill

Jenny Coley

Graham Tearle

Celia Newby

Richard Whale


 Narrator Mark Skelding

Director Rex Simpson 

Lighting Tina Harkner

There is a video but unfortunately we are having trouble loading it - watch this space!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Thames Heritage Festival

      A terrific week for Thames - and for a great night out go along and see the wonderful dramatisations from my book A Line of Duckboards.

18th March
to Wednesday
19th March
  Line of Duck Boards

' A Line of Duck Boards' sees seven actors bringing to life the stale 
sentences and big stories from the Thames Star between 1916 and 
1946. Hidden away in the letters to the editor or in the social columns,
 author Meghan Hawkes has mined little gems now dusty and unread,
 of the ordinary, sometimes extraordinary, trivial, light hearted, and
 occasionally sad stories.

Venue: The Pumphouse, Bella Street, Thames - 7.30pm
Price: $10.00
Contact: Rex Simpson   Ph: 021.2650900

Thames Heritage Festival 2014
- Friday 14th March to Sunday 23rd March 2014 -

Thames Heritage Festival is a fantastic celebration of our heritage.

Thames has a rich history dating back to the first contact between Pakeha and the Tangata whenua.

During March we will celebrate our district's history in this festival of events.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

The conduct of Dr Buckby. (Joseph Green) 1899, Paeroa cemetery

Karangahake main street, 1898.  Struggling families and doctor's bills, despite the gold.

Little Joseph Baxter Green, aged three years, of Karangahake, had been unwell for several days during April 1899.   Dr Buckby, of Paeroa, had been in attendance, but on his last visit he gave the child up as hopeless.

Dr Forbes, who happened, on the endless rounds of a doctor,  to be  passing about midnight, was pressed to see the boy, but by that time Joseph  was unconscious and died shortly thereafter.

When Joseph's family later sent for a death certificate, Dr Buckby, through Mrs Buckby, refused to give one until the account had been settled.

When Constable Connor made inquiries,  Dr Buckby  said he refused the certificate because Dr Forbes had been called in,  and his account had not been paid.

The post mortem was held by Dr Forbes who found Joseph had died from convulsions caused by enteritis.

The coroner remarked on the absurdity of the inquest having to be held in such a case, and warned both doctors that the jury would probably attach blame to one or the other of them.

The jury did, adding a 'stringent rider' that they  "wished to call the attention of the authorities to the conduct of Dr Buckby in refusing a certificate of death, after having been in attendance several days, his reason apparently being to extort payment of his account for medical assistance."

Dr  Arthur Grey Hesilrige Buckby was of frugal stock.   He was born  at Sutton-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England. His father, also named Arthur Grey Hesilrige Buckby, was a surgeon and apothecary from  Smeeton.

The were related to a line of aristocracy - the Baronets of Nosely Hall,  Leicestershire.  This  family descended from Roger de Hesilrige, who came with William the Conqueror from a place of that name in Normandy.  Roger de Hesilrige settled in Cumberland, the area taking his name.  He was created Baronet in 1622.

Dr Buckby, Snr, was Medical Officer at the Workhouse in Southwell, Nottinghamshire.  Finances were never far from his mind. In 1857 he  wrote to the Poor Law Board  complaining the Southwell Guardians had not paid expenses for certain cases he had attended. 

In October 1860 he again wrote to the Poor Law Board asking what constituted a pauper who was not allowed medical treatment. 

In December 1872   he wrote to the board regarding the refusal to pay fees due to him for vaccinations.

Two years later, his son  Arthur,  graduated at London's Guys Hospital as a doctor.  At only 20 years old,  he was the youngest  student to pass the examinations.  He joined his father at the Southwell Workhouse.  A brother, Robert, was also a workhouse medical officer.

The post of workhouse medical officer was not always an agreeable one.  Medical officers often had to pay for any drugs they prescribed, which may explain the family inclination towards penny pinching.

For those in strife, ending up in a work house was a dreaded last resort.  Southwell had been  built in 1824. The parish's poor rates bill, which provided relief for  the homeless, the poor, the sick and destitute, was escalating, and the workhouse became the only form of help.  Strict rules were intended to discourage anyone who was not genuinely in need.   Men, women and children were housed separately and were unable communicate with each other or friends outside. All inmates were required to perform  manual labour.  Beer, tobacco and snuff were banned;  the diet was plain and never enough.  Medical provisions were often grim, with questionable  nursing duties carried out  by elderly female inmates.  Many could not read and mixed  up  labels on medicine bottles, others were hard of hearing, visually impaired or  fond of  a drink.  The wards were  cramped and poorly ventilated.  A sustained campaign, led by the medical profession during the 1860s, saw  the government pass an act in 1867 which forced workhouses to run separate infirmaries.

Southwell Workhouse - last hope of the destitute.

Young Dr Arthur Buckby practiced for some years in the grim surrounds of  Southwell Workhouse before becoming a surgeon for the West India Mail company's steamers where he evidently  heard of the lure of  the colonies, particularly Te Aroha, New Zealand. 

He arrived  in  October 1883, aged 30,  to a welcome reception.   The Te Aroha News said  "we are glad to welcome two gentlemen who came on Wednesday last...Dr Buckby arrived in Auckland a little over a week ago.  He came out from Home as a surgeon in charge of the ship Hermione.  He heard of an "extraordinary vacancy" and forthwith made tracks to Te Aroha,.. He arrived on the very day another practitioner, Dr Richardson did."

The advent of two doctors was "without question, most opportune, for even with the present influence of the population and the still larger one that may be shortly expected, medical aid will be in much greater request although this is undoubtedly one of the healthiest districts in New Zealand."

News  of his arrival  was promptly advertised in the local newspapers -  "Dr Buckby, Licentiate of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow,  commenced practice in this district."

 "He has fully determined in settling here," confided the Te Aroha News, but in fact, he never did. 

In 1884 he married Martha, eldest daughter of Mr James Clarke, Te Aroha.  Martha had been born on the ship 'Owen Glendower'  as it approached Auckland Harbour in 1863. 

By October  1884,  the doctor's rooms were being let at Te Aroha, and he and Martha had moved on to South Taranaki in the North Island where he worked at the Patea and Hawera Hospitals.  A first child,   a son, also named Arthur Grey Hesilridge,  was born in 1885,  followed by a daughter, Dorothy Wynfred,  in 1886.

By  1888 the family had moved to the South Island where Dr Buckby was Medical Practitioner for the  Grey Valley Coalminers Association, in Westland.  A third child,  daughter,  Agnes Catherine Millicent, was born the same year.

Dr Buckby ran into some strife in 1893 at Brunnerton when  he was served with a writ for one thousand pounds damages by the liquidator of the Greymouth Dredging and Gold Washing Company.

By May 1894 Brunnerton folks were  presenting the Buckby's with a handsome silver service prior to their departure - back to South Taranaki for two years.

 October of 1896 saw  the Buckby's  in Gisborne, where the doctor had taken over the practice of Dr Smith Hozier, and was advising patients  that he  could be consulted at his residence.  They were only there a few months before Paeroa  newspapers announced the arrival of  'Dr A G H Buckby, Late of Brunner Coal and also Patea and Hawera Hospitals,'  in early 1897.  This marked a more settled time for the family - they were to stay in Paeroa for ten years. 

In 1899 Joseph Baxter Green of Karangahake died, but apart from the censoring by the jury, there seem to have been no further consequences for Dr Buckby.

In 1901, at the Thames Charitable Aid Board meeting,  an account was forwarded by Doctor Buckby for 2 pounds 12 s 6d for professional services to a  Mr Crutchfield who had since died.
The account was first submitted to the Ohinemuri County Council, but was rejected by them.  Mr Crutchfield  had been working for the council at the time he was taken ill, and Dr Buckby attended him expecting to get his fee.  The board informed Dr Buckby they could not recognise the claim.

In May 1904, a farewell from Paeroa for Dr and Mrs Buckby was held  at the "nicely decorated" Choral Hall.  There were a large number of present, but unfortunately the busy doctor was unavoidably absent from his own party.  There was card playing, supper and dancing which "kept up merrily" until 1. 30 am.  In a speech, regret was expressed at their departure from the district and appreciation was also expressed at the willing way in which Mrs Buckby always helped at social functions over the years.   "The success of the evening was to due the organisers who had spared no pains in having everything in order," said the report, suggesting, despite his insistence on bill payments,  there were no hard feelings towards the doctor.

The family now moved north - to Ohaeawai in the Bay of Islands.  The doctor was still watching his accounts - in 1906 he was  involved in a dispute over  charges for administering chloroform during an arm  amputation.  In 1908   the Ohinemuri Gazette noted Dr Buckby was " at present on a visit to Paeroa", but from then on he seems to have settled  into life up north.  He still had occasional encounters with the law - in 1912  he gave evidence after treating a man whose horse collided with a bus on the wrong side of the road.  In 1919, settling accounts again,  a judgement order was made against Jack Johnson for payment to Dr Buckby of 15 shillings a month (4 pounds 12s total).

During the 1920s the now retired  Dr and Mrs Buckby  were observed by the Northern Advocate  attending orchestral concerts, and the doctor took up poultry breeding.   He won a prize with an Orpington Cockerel at the Whangarei winter show, and sold cockerels, Orpington and Silver Wyandotte, from prize birds.

Dr Arthur Grey Hesilrige Buckby  died on 6 September 1925 at Kamo, Northland. A few days previously he had been reported in the local paper as playing golf.  He left a widow, three children and two grandchildren.   He was noted as being a cousin of Viscount  George Cave (former Lord Chancellor), and a cousin of Sir Genille Cave-Browne-Cave - "the famous cowboy baronet."

His doctoring life had seen him minister to the destitute of England, and travel across the world to tend to the medical consequences of pioneer New Zealand life.   He dealt with mining accidents, railway accidents, rip saw cuts, poisoning with match heads, kicks by horses and  buggy accidents.  He handled  lunatics, inebriates and suicides. He patched up the victims of  revolver accidents, dynamite accidents and  bush mishaps.   He attended the  victims of drownings, and fires, and everything in between.
Medical practice in those early days was a strenuous calling with patients often  scattered far and wide. A  doctor was expected to do his duty and answer every call, regardless of poor roads, rivers to ford and bush to negotiate. 

The fee's doctor's charged frequently caused contention.   Letters to the Editor were ardent on the matter.

'Weka' in the Evening Post wrote in 1910   "through excessive fees charged...thousands are prevented from consulting a medical man...with the result that many of them suffer lifelong pain, disease or deformity...If a slight operation is necessary, or a course of medical advice, the patient and his family have to live poorly, and give three to six months (or more) savings to pay a bill..."

'X' wrote in the Dominion of a woman who had two children born in New Zealand -  the medical expenses were nine pounds.  She got the money by going out and washing and cleaning prior to both occasions.  "Here is a family in which the doctor's attendance during the mother's confinement cost as much as the husband earns in 18 days... Judging by the size of the doctors bills one sees in the 'Mercantile Gazette' week by week, the case quoted is by no means uncommon... it  is difficult to believe that the old ideal of medicine as a self sacrificing and humanitarian profession still exists among the doctors of today.  In its place we have the trade of surgery which retains the old tradition of charging the wealthy more than the poor, and to it has been added a new principle of charging everybody as much as possible."

'Another married man' wrote to the Evening Post saying in any part of England that he had been in, medicine and advice could be obtained for one shilling.  In New Zealand it could not be got for under 10 shillings.
"Doctors talk about  their bad debts.  I reckon if they got 25 percent of their accounts they would still be doing well.  The working man out here with a family is handicapped.  Some people wonder at the low birth rate.  I don't"

Little  Joseph Baxter Green was buried at Paeroa cemetery.  A letter written by 'Experience' to the Evening Post in 1910,  would have  resonated with his despairing parents -

 "On two different occasions I had two doctors consult on account of sickness with my children.  On both occasions the fee was demanded before leaving the house - one guinea each time please...It takes me three days to earn a guinea, and a doctor stays quarter of an hour in my house, consulting with another doctor, and then demands a guinea..."

Brunnerton, Grey Valley, Westland

A progressive Taranaki township - Hawera Hospital

Martha Buckby died at Kamo in 1937.

In 1905, daughter  Dorothy married James Whitelaw, of Whangarei.  Dorothy died in 1957.

Daughter Agnes Catherine Millicent Buckby, known as Budge, died a spinster in 1964. 

Son Arthur was in the Royal Army Medical Corps during 1905-1908.  He was dishonourably discharged in 1908.   He was noted as having tattoo's - a skull and crossbones  on his left forearm. and a  skull with a snake on his  right forearm.   The RAMC is a specialist corps in the British Army, providing medical services to all British army personnel and their families. 

 Sir Grenville Cave - the famous cowboy baronet -

Southwell Workhouse is the most complete workhouse still in existence

(Sources:  Papers Past,,, National Trust Southwell Workhouse,  Leicestershire  Pedigrees and Royal descendants, Wikipedia. Photo sources:  Sir George Grey Collections Auckland libraries  AWNS 7-A9025, 19031126-10-2, 1901 0426-73)

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014