Suicide of a Young Woman at Conisborough.

June 1881

Mexborough and Swinton Times, June 3.

Suicide of a Young Woman at Conisborough.

Sad End of a Love Affair.

The melancholy news was circulated in the village early on Monday morning that a young woman – who was well known, not only here, but also Mexborough, Swinton, and other parts of the district – had committed suicide by jumping into the River Don at a late hour on Sunday evening.

It was ascertained that the name of the person was Margaret Wheatley, of the age of 23 years, who had lived almost the whole of her life with her uncle and aunt. The story could not at first be credited because there was not a more respectable and sensible girl to be found in the village.

She was known as a good-natured intelligent young woman, and, having been for many years in the company of her uncle – Mr Isaac Shaw – an able manipulator of the violin, and also an accomplished pianist, she had imbibed a taste for music, and not infrequently sang and played in public.

She had also, it is believed, acquired a liking for poetry. However, the incredulous soon had their doubts. Remove, for the mortal remains of the poor girl were to be seen conveyed through the streets to her home.

Enquiries as to what had led to such a sad end, reveal the following fax. For the last three or four years. The deceased had been in the employ of Mr Swift, tobacconist, Barnsley. About eight weeks ago she was summoned home to attend to and who is suffering from two strokes, and during that time was perceived that she became very despondent attacked, whilst on other occasions she would, as her uncle, stated, “be as merry as a lark.”

At first it was thought this was on account of having left her situation, but this surmise was soon given up, and a certain pieces of paper were found lying about the house, on which so was some and writing of the young woman, showing conclusively that the cause of the sadness was attributable to a very different reason. On these pieces of paper a number of verses on “love” were written, and the uncle and aunt guessed at once that some young man was at the bottom of it. It had been stated that she had deeply falling in love with a young man, but latterly he had not paid a such attention as to show he was reciprocating her attachment to him, and this had prayed on her mind that she had told a female friend she contemplated drowning herself. She had even been seen, it is said, sitting alone by the water’s edge for a considerable length of time. One evening last week, with the supposed intention of then ending their existence, but that’s only persons Passing and re-parsing that she could not carry out their intention. From the subjoined couplets, which we copy from a writing this, it will be perceived what her state of mind has been. Thus,

Gentle death when wilt thou come and take

A life that wearies me

And again

Tell him I love him yet.

As in the olden time.


I wish the grave could hide me

for there alone is peace

Another verse also spoke of “a heart being broken.”. This sad occurrence has, as might be imagined, cause quite a sensation in the district.

The Inquest.

At noon, on Tuesday, an inquest was held on the body, before Mr Nicholson, coroner, at the Red Lion Inn. Mr Greaves was Foreman of the jury. Mr Sykes, of Doncaster, the superintendent of the West Riding Police, was present at the enquiry.

The body having been viewed the first witness called was.

Isaac Shaw will deposed: I am a cabinetmaker, and live at Conisborough. I have known deceased since she was born. I’m uncle of the deceased. She was living with me at the time of her death. She has been in a situation – it tobacconist shop – at Barnsley; that was the last place she was at. She has been at home about eight weeks. She waited upon my wife, who is ill.

She had been very depressed in spirits at times, and that of the time she was as merry as a lock. I sometimes thought it was because she had left situation, but I fancy there is a bit of love in it. There used to be a young man named Spencer, living at Conisborough, who I think she loved.

About 6:10 on Sunday night I last saw her alive. She attended church, but was not there on Sunday last, nor on the Sunday previous

Superintendent Sykes: it has been rumoured that she was pregnant.

Witness: But there is no truth in that.

Superintendent Sykes: It has been reported that she was enceinte

Witness: But there is no truth in the statement: she was as honest a girl has ever walked.

The East Superintendent remarked that it was as well to ask the question, so that they might be clear on the point.

The Coroner observed that there were always rumours afloat when affairs like this took place. He thought it was a very curious case.

Superintendent Sykes: There must be something underneath will stop I understand she had been in a desponding state for some time.

Alice Farnsworth deposed: I am unmarried and live at Conisborough. I have known deceased since she was a little girl.

Occasionally we took walks together. She used to call for my brother and myself on a Sunday. We went towards Conisborough cliffs generally. Nothing of particular note took place during our walks on Sunday last. I’m not aware she was engaged to anyone. She made no allusion to anything of the kind. I knew nothing of her private life. At the beginning of the evening she said, “I wish Mrs Shaw was better, so that I could take another situation.” I have noticed that she has had an unhappy look. She was naturally, I believe, of a melancholic disposition. She said, “I am miserable and wish it was ended.” She did not say what she meant, and I did not ask. She never made any allusion to suicide. It would be about 9:50 when I last saw deceased. We were then in Church Lane. We had been to the station to see a lady friend. She was very cheerful when we separated.

The jury had no question to ask.

Thomas Downing deposed: I am a wood Turner, I was specially appointed to drag the River. I commence to drag about 10:30 o’clock on Monday morning. The reason I was asked to drag was because a girls hat had been found by a Broughton on the embankment and it was believed someone was in the water. I sent some more men to bring cable and we were dragging for about an hour before we came across the body. When the body was found it was taken to the house where the young woman lives. We saw some footprints in the soil at a point known as SerpentĀ“s well and it was near there where the body was found.

This being the Hall of the evidence, several German observed that the deceased had written various pieces of poetry on love and they thought it would be as well to produce the papers. Police Sgt Morley there handed to the coroner to 3 papers in which verses up for it had been written in pencil. They had apparently been copied from books and were all on “love.” – Chiefly of a desponding nature. A few of the verses are given above.

The coroner: it is evident that a love affair is connected with the unhappy girl’s death. It is a very clear case of suicide.

After a brief consultation, the jury returned a verdict of “suicide by drowning.”

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