(Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19010829-5-5 ')
Although only one and a half miles from the town of Paeroa on the Thames Road, Jane Hainsworth and her 14 year old daughter, Annie, were anxious about being so isolated. In September 1898, the head of the household, James, a carpenter, was away in Auckland. Home alone with several of her children, Mrs Hainsworth was startled at 8 pm one evening by a sudden noise.
She thought someone was coming in the house and hurriedly asked Annie to lock the door. The key was not in the lock, but had to be taken from a nail. It took some fear-filled seconds to fasten the door.
After locking the door, Annie looked round to her mother appearing very pale, and instantly collapsed, falling on to a sofa and then on to the floor. Her mother carried her outside to the fresh air and sent for Dr Buckby. The doctor could do nothing on his arrival but pronounce life extinct.
At the inquest it was established mother and elder daughter had been "rather timid at living alone so far from town." Dr Buckby said Anne was quite a delicate girl and was suffering from slight inflammation in the left lung. The cause of her death was put down to syncope, caused by fright. Newspapers, with mild surprise, reported Annie's sudden demise as "death from fright."
In 1903 the anniversary of Annie's death was remembered in the Evening Post.
"In loving memory of Annie, the dearly beloved daughter of James Henry and Jane Hainsworth who died suddenly of fright.
Five long years are passed today
Since our dear Annie was called away
The trial was hard, the shock severe
To part with one we loved so dear
Though cruel death has snatched from view
A dearly loved one kind and true
Death cannot from our hearts efface
Her tender smile, her loving face
Her words, her actions, are not dead
But in our hearts are daily read
Inserted by her loving parents, sisters and brothers.
In August 1907 Annie's mother Jane also died suddenly at her residence in Ellerslie, Auckland, aged 51. Shortly after 5 am on a Saturday Mr Hainsworth was woken by the cries of his wife. When he asked what the matter was, he got no reply. A doctor was sent for, but before he could arrive Jane died.
An inquest found her death resulted from failure of the heart.
Quite possibly the Hainsworth's had an inherited heart condition on their mother's side. Out of ten children four, including Annie, died fairly young. One son died aged 8, another aged 45, and a daughter aged 51, the same age as her mother.
Nine years before Annie died, in 1889, the young son of Edmund Thomas Dufaur, Solicitor, was playing at his grandfather's house in Parawai, Thames. Edmund Dufaur specialised in Maori land settlements and his wife, Louisa, was Maori. Edmund worked out of the Cosmopolitan Chambers in Queen Street, Auckland, while his wife and children resided in Thames. Child minding appeared to be shared at the busy household of Louisa's extended family. On the morning of 9 May, around 11, Louisa left her young son at her father's house. A 15 year old boy named Tata was in charge of the child. Tata was partly deaf and, owing to this, was regarded as 'silly' and 'stupid.' Tata was amusing the boy by brushing his hair and putting on a hat. While the child was looking in a looking glass, Tata discovered a revolver and curiously picked it up, unaware it was loaded. He turned round the revolver's chambers then heard an explosion and a cry from the child.
Tata became frightened and picked the child up and ran to the veranda. He smelt clothes burning so took him to the riverside. He took the child's clothes off but didn't wash him or take him into the river as it was too high.
Mira, the house help, had gone outside to perform some duties, taking some children with her. She was not long gone before she returned and found the room full of smoke. She then called Karaka, the child's great grandfather. Tata appeared with the child in his arms and said he had been killed. Mira gave the child to Karaka, who took him on his back and started for town to look for Mrs Dafaur.
Mrs Dafaur chanced to meet Karaka and Mira on the road and was told her the child had been accidentally shot by Tata. They rushed to the hospital where Dr Williams told them the child was barely hurt. After the wound had been dressed, they took him back home.
Tata had meanwhile disappeared - in the direction of Paeroa it was thought. The police wired there with a view to intercepting the boy. He was later arrested at the residence of Mrs Wickcliffe, a relative, at Paeroa "in connection with the shooting of the half caste child."
The little boy Dufuar meanwhile was put to bed. He was given some milk and bread but he threw it up. To everyone's astonishment he died at 10 that night.
At the inquest Tata said he was looking at the revolver and pressed something when it went off. The revolver belonged to his father. There were no others in the room except himself and the child. He didn't point the gun at the child. He ran away because he was frightened he would be killed by his own people.
The Coroner pointed out contradictory evidence of Tata - he said the child was at the other end of the room, while Dr Williams evidence showed that the revolver was in close proximity to the child's chest when it fired.
Dr Williams, Resident Surgeon, Thames Hospital, said the child was pale, wet and cold with fright when brought in. There was a small wound on the left side of his chest, a little below the apex of the heart. There was little bleeding and the wound had not penetrated the chest. There were no others marks on his body and before the wound was dressed it was ascertained that it was only superficial. After the wound was dressed the child was well enough to be taken home.
The jury reached a verdict of accidental death - to which they added a rider that the parents were to blame for leaving firearms within the reach of Tata who was "known to be of weak intelligence."
The doctor's opinion was that death resulted from fright, and not from the effect of the wound, which was a trifling one. "In such circumstances as those occurring to the deceased, death is sometimes the result," noted the Thames Star.
Evidently dying from fright, or being scared to death, is medically possibly. If a shock to the system is sufficient enough it can trigger a massive surge of adrenaline, stunning the heart so severely it ceases to beat. This sudden cardiac event has several names. Parasympathetic rebound is thought to be a reaction of the nervous system during intense fear. In people with cardiovascular conditions it can trigger a heart attack or collapse. Stress cardiomyopathy is likely set into motion by an excessive, uncontrolled activation of the sympathetic nervous system, the part of the brain responsible for the control of the body's "flight or fight" response including increasing heart-rate, respiration and perspiration.
James Henry Hainsworth died in 1937, aged 87.
Annie Hainsworth is buried at Paeroa cemetery.
I was unable to discover the Dufaur child's name or where he was buried.
The New Zealand law firm now known as Cairns Slane was founded in 1874 by Edmund Thomas Dufuar.
|Thames Advertiser, 1889|
(Source: Papers Past, Cairns Slane, Cyclopedia of NZ 1902, Wikipedia)
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