The Conisborough Tragedy

August 1890

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 22 August 1890

The Conisborough Tragedy

The tragedy which occurred at Conisborough on Saturday has an element of mystery about it which is likely to prove utterly insolvable. A young fellow named Hoye, a native of Caston, in Norfolk, came to the village about a year ago, he having found employment on the new cottages then being erected in the Denaby portion of Conisborough.

For some time he had lodged with a woman named Rebecca Beckett,  and was looked upon generally  as an inoffensive lad, quiet to a degree bordering upon tameness. The latter, however, is a characteristic of the farm labourer class to which Hoye belonged before making acquaintance with Yorkshire. His stay in Conisborough was lengthened after the cottages were completed, as he found it more profitable to work at the Holywell Brewery than to return to the miserable wages of his native county.

For reasons which cannot be understood at present his landlady informed him that he must leave her house. Whether there were any germs of insanity in his composition is not known, but either from insane jealousy or out of mere diablerie he purchased a pistol and determined to take the life of the woman who had treated him, it is said, with the utmost consideration. On Saturday afternoon he fired four shots at the unfortunate woman, all of which took effect, and then, turning the pistol upon himself, inflicted a mortal wound.

It is said by an eminent scientist that the generality of men are mad in a more or less degree. This bold assumption is toned down somewhat by Carlyle, who holds that the people of Great Britain are “mostly fools.” A fool is a mild kind of madman, and it may be taken for granted that the term insanity admits of comparison. There is every reason to believe that the act of which Hoye was guilty on Saturday was the outcome of a disordered mind. Young men of nineteen, vigorous with the elasticity of youth, do not when sane throw their lives away recklessly as young Hoye determined to do.

A verdict of felo de se seems in this instance unnecessarily harsh. It must be understood, however, that a jury is bound to deliver a verdict according to the evidence adduced, and that there was no other course open to the twelve men who inquired into the circumstances attending the death of the young Norfolk man than that which they decided to take. Probably there was a motive for the crime, for even a maniac’s actions are not entirely swayed without a cause. Whatever may have been the reason for the tragic act, it was so rashly executed, and committed in so foolish a manner, as to lead us to think that Hoye was suffering from the same maniacal thirst for blood which finds its vent in the running amuck of the fanatical Malay. The very absence of thought for the future which lay before him, and the dismissal from his mind of those prospects of a golden youth and a happy middle age which are dreamed by every young man in vigorous health abundantly prove that young mind, at the moment be committed the rash deed, was not well balanced.

In the meantime the poor victim lingers on, happily unconscious of her condition. The one bright spot in the dark tragedy shone out when, suffering from four bullet wounds, the mother called appealingly for her child. The great love of a woman for her offspring was testified to by the agonised call of the poor stricken creature for the infant which she probably will never see again. and if she has any heinous faults the utter abnegation of self shown in the words she uttered after the tragedy had been committed should go far to prevent aspersion.

Unfortunately the fate of the suicide will not have the effect of deterring others from emulating his action, and the worst enemy which society has in matters of this kind is the faculty of imitation which is so strongly developed among imaginative people.