Margaret (Maggie) Jones 1883-1895

During the last three years the Charity has embarked upon a number of memorial restorations and none can be more poignant and moving than the one containing the remains of Maggie Jones, her parents and four sisters. When found, the memorial was broken in three pieces with the cross and base half buried upside down in the mud. With the aid of a mechanical hydraulic lift and some precise and loving care it is now fully restored. Here then is Maggie’s story as told from a report in the WELSHMAN newspaper, page 8 dated 30th May 1895. No Coroner’s investigations/reports exist in the Carmarthenshire Archives so we can be very grateful of this detailed account of the coroner’s inquest as it happened 124 years ago….The newspaper report begins with the headlines…


DISTRESSING FATALITY IN CARMARTHEN. A Child Drowned in the Towy. Mr Thomas Walters, coroner for the borough of Carmarthen, held an inquest on Wednesday evening last at the Town-hall, on the body of Margaret Jane Jones, aged twelve years, who was drowned in the Towy at about half past eight on the previous night. The inquiry was largely attended by the public. Daniel Jones, compositor, 5, Sawmill-terrace, said the deceased was his daughter, and she was twelve years of age on the 28th of October last. He last saw her alive between seven and half past on Tuesday evening. At half past nine, the same night, her dead body was brought home. Henry Luxon, master of the SS Alpha, said that about 8.30, on Tuesday evening, he was coming up the river. When about 160 yards below the Pothouse Quay he saw two children fall into the water and drift along with the tide. There were several people on each side of the river, and a witness raised an alarm. He next jumped into a boat with one of his crew, and rowed to the spot where be had seen one of the children disappear. He did not see the child reappear on the surface of the water until he lifted her out with his boat hook. From the time she fell in till he picked her up she was, in his opinion, under water for about a quarter of an hour. His steamer was aground during this interval. After recovering the body he took it ashore and did what he could to restore animation until the doctor arrived. Several gentlemen assisted. The Coroner: What means did you adopt? Witness: We got her boots off, rubbed the soles of her feet, tried to clear her throat, rubbed her arms, and put some white pepper to the nostrils. We turned her face downwards. Continuing witness said he did not notice the slightest signs of life in the child from the first. The doctor arrived in about fifteen or twenty minutes. Ann Barnett, widow, 3, Jones’s place, the Quay, said she received the child from Captain Luxon. There was then no sign of life. She did not witness the occurrence. John Olive, ironmonger’s apprentice, of the Boar’s Head, Lammas-street, said he was down by Pilloffi when he heard the alarm that two children had fallen into the water. He hurried to Pothouse Quay and saw Captain Luxon and men in coracles, searching for the body of the deceased. He arrived at the Pothouse four or five minutes before the body was found. As soon as he saw it picked up he ran up the town at once to find a doctor. He called on Dr Bowen Jones, in Lammas Street, and saw the doctor himself. Witness told him that some children had fallen into the river, and that they were nearly drowned. He asked the doctor then if he would go down, but he said something to the effect that he did not think he would get paid, or that he wanted to know who would pay him. The Coroner: What was the impression on your mind as to what the doctor said? Witness: That he would not go down because he did not think he would be paid. That is my impression. The Coroner: What did you say then? Witness: Nothing. I then went home. The Coroner: Did you go to the Quay again? Witness: No. The Coroner: Did the doctor ask you whose child this was, or anything about her? Witness: No. A Juryman: Did you tell the doctor the child was drowned, or that she had fallen into the river? Witness: I told him I thought she was drowned. I was very excited at the time from running. A Juryman Did you make him understand distinctly at the time that the child was drowned? Witness: No, perhaps not, but I gave him to understand that medical assistance was wanted. Another Juryman: Did you convey to the doctor that his presence was urgently needed? Witness: I did. George James Hodges, store keeper at the United Counties’ Asylum, of 46 Francis-terrace, said that as he was passing the Town Hall at half-past eight ‘on Tuesday evening, he heard that a child was in the river. He made at once for the Pothouse, and pushing his way through the crowd, found the child lying on the ground. He immediately commenced artificial respiration, and continued it until Dr Parry arrived, which was in about quarter of an hour. He then assisted Dr Parry in the work. From the very first, witness was of opinion that the child was dead, for, on trying in the usual places, he could not discover any pulse. The Coroner: Have you had lessons in restoring the drowned? Witness: Yes. Dr C P Parry deposed that he was called to the Pothouse at about a minute before quarter to nine by a man named Williams, in the employ of Mr Bland Davies. The Coroner: He gave you to understand that you were urgently wanted by Dr Parry?: Yes. On arriving at the Pothouse, he found the child lying on the bank, and Mr Hodges was performing artificial respiration. Witness and Mr Hodges then carried on the work in turns till about half-past nine. He did not stop to examine the child when he first arrived, but he thought she was dead when he arrived. The Coroner: Assuming a person was immersed, how long would it take to produce death? Dr Parry: Sometimes four or five minutes. There have been some cases which have been immersed for half-an-hour and recovered. But, as a rule, death occurs in four or five minutes. In the present case, he should have expected that the child would have come to the surface by her own struggles. The Coroner: The sooner medical aid is given the better? Dr Parry: Yes. The Coroner: Minutes are of great importance in a case like this, are they not? Dr Parry: Yes. Continuing, witness said Mr Hodges thoroughly understood artificial respiration, and he was as good in this case as a doctor. The Coroner: Do you go as far as that? Dr Parry: I don’t think he would be as good as a doctor in every kind of case, but in the way of performing Sylvester’s method of artificial respiration he would. The Coroner: Would he be as good as a doctor under the present circumstances? Dr Parry: Yes. The Coroner: Then, to put it another way, you back Mr Hodges against the profession (laughter). Dr Parry: Well, that is all we do-use Sylvester’s method of artificial respiration. There was nothing that could be done in the case except this. In his opinion, the absence of a medical man, when Mr Hodges was there, made no difference. In reply to further questions, Witness stated that no other medical man, besides himself, was there. Strong Remarks by the Coroner. The Coroner, in summing up, said he did not think there could be any difficulty in this case for the jury to arrive as to what was the cause of death. There were circumstances in the case, however, which they ought to consider, not that they would do any good to the little child who was dead, but in future it might be of advantage to them when similar cases occurred. The difficulty he found from the evidence was to gauge the time that elapsed between the actual falling into the river and the picking up. According to Captain Luxon, a quarter of an hour elapsed before the child was picked up, but when one was in a state of great excitement minutes went into five minutes, and seconds into minutes. If the other witnesses were correct, and especially if Dr Parry was correct, Captain Luxon must have been under some misapprehension as to the time the child was in the water. However, all the witnesses agreed that there was a man present who was as competent to deal with the case as any man on the medical register of England, and he did all that could be done, under the circumstances, to resuscitate the child. Whatever time the child was picked up it was evident that she was dead. The Coroner then proceeded as follows: One matter I am bound to refer to, and that is the evidence of the witness Olive. However unpleasant a task it may be, it is my duty to refer to it, and I shall not shrink from it. You have heard in evidence of two doctors being sent for. One was sent for before the other, and, as we have heard from Dr Parry—and as commonsense would tell anyone of us – time, in a case of this kind, is a matter of great importance. When the witness Olive heard the alarm that a child had fallen into the river he ran up to the Pothouse and saw the child picked up out of the water. He tells you he then immediately went away to fetch a doctor. He ran up Blue-street, and saw Dr Bowen-Jones in Lammas-street. I must be careful as to what I say now. I do not want to say anything unpleasant to anyone. It is most unpleasant to have to say anything like this, but so long as I occupy the position I do I shall do my duty. If I do anything wrong, men let those who have the right to do so remove me; but whether it be friend or foe, I must express my surprise that any person in the medical register of England and Wales, should have given such an answer to a person who came to ask for his assistance under these circumstances (applause). I do not know whether Dr Bowen Jones is present or not, but I can only account for his conduct in one way. It does not matter whether this child was in the water ten minutes or half-an-hour, -whether she was alive or dead, so far as Dr Bowen Jones’s conduct is concerned. He did not know, when the witness Olive went to him, whether there was a chance of restoring the child or not. He was told sufficient to have induced any man, be he peer or peasant, or pauper, to have done what the instincts of normality would have prompted any one to do (loud applause). I hope that then, there are conditions in life where pounds, shillings, and pence, do not come into question at all. No one is more willing to give credit to the medical profession than I am. They perform duties in many circles gratuitously, and it is in the nature of their peculiar calling to do a great deal gratuitously, but who would ever think of stopping to ask who would pay him for saving a drowning child or a drowning man (applause)? Would anyone who sees a person in danger hesitate and wonder who is going to pay him for saving that person? I can only imagine that Dr Bowen Jones was labouring under some misapprehension at the time, and I can only hope that he did not take the matter in the proper light. As I said before, it is most unpleasant for me to have to make these remarks, but I cannot help referring to this matter when it comes under our notice in the way it has. I believe thoroughly that in infringing the laws of humanity there follows a punishment equally as great as when we infringe the laws of the land. However, that we have nothing to do with here. If my feelings have led me to say things that I ought not to have said, I am extremely sorry, but it is difficult to express one’s condemnation in mild terms of such conduct as has been brought before us in regard to this matter. It may be said of what use are these coroner s inquests? If coroner’s inquests are of no use let the coroner and his court be abolished at once. If they are of no use why are we required to make a solemn enquiry? Let us make it an enquiry and not a farce. Another matter the Coroner referred to was with respect to the police in relation to inquests. He did not think it was the duty of the coroner to find out evidence or to ascertain what witnesses might be called. He made these remarks because there was some little disagreement between himself and Sergeant Jones. The officer was perfectly sincere in what he thought to be his duty, but he (the Coroner) thought that the police were the proper persons to produce evidence before the coroner and the jury, and if there was any difficulty in the case, of course the coroner would give what advice and instructions he thought fit. If it was a case of murder, the police would, make all the enquiries they could, and he thought in all cases they should conduct enquiries and collect evidence. The jury then retired, and in about half an hour returned into Court with a verdict of “Accidentally drowned.” They also added the following rider: The jury express their displeasure at the conduct of Dr Bowen Jones in not attending when called upon. They think that grappling irons and instruction boards should be placed freely on the Pothouse, and a policeman placed there during spring tides. The Foreman: The majority of the jury are in favour of the rider, but not all. The Coroner- But this is your verdict! The Foreman: Yes. The enquiry then closed. The funeral takes place today (Friday) at 4.30 p.m. at St. David’s Church, for men only.

Once again hydraulic lifting equipment was needed to lift the cross from the ground into position after the base was re-aligned and strengthened. The grave contains the remains of Maggie, her four sisters (all of whom died before their 6th birthday) and her parents. Daniel, the father was the oldest who passed away in 1937 aged 89. Now 82 years later, dignity and respect has finally returned to this tragic family.

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