Troubled Minds

The Scarborough Mercury 6 July 1888 –

Sad Suicide at Filey

Yesterday (Thursday) morning, a farm labourer named Milner committed suicide by hanging himself. From particulars to hand it seems the deceased resided with his mother in East Parade. The family are natives of Reighton but about twelve months ago removed to Filey. Since that time Milner has been in work, latterly to Mr. Robert Smith, farmer, Church Farm. Deceased was the youngest son of the late Mr. Thomas (sic) Milner, who died suddenly some time ago from heart disease, and ever since this sad event deceased has been depressed and low spirited and would meditate for hours about his father. At times he became so despondent that he betrayed signs of slight mental derangement and required medical care and attention to rouse him to a sense of his position. Latterly he has behaved in a very eccentric manner, which necessitated frequent visits from Dr Tom Haworth, who in conjunction with his father Dr [James] Haworth has treated deceased for hypochondria. Though a tall fine man this despondency had such an effect upon him that he hardly ever, when walking, looked up, his eyes being fixed in the ground. He left home early in the morning to go to his work as usual and took his dinner with him, intending to return home in the afternoon. He however went home between eight and nine and complained to his mother of feeling unwell, and when asked what was the matter with him he said he thought the weather had a great deal to do with it. His mother then sat down to breakfast, after which she left the house, telling her son, whom she never saw again alive, that she would not be far away, as she was merely going to make a few purchases in the town. She soon returned, and on entering the house her first thoughts were for her poor son, and not seeing him where she expected to find him she asked of the children where John had gone. She received an answer to the effect that he had gone upstairs, and her anxiety prompted her to go up at once to ascertain whether he had gone to bed or not. Not finding him in the first room, she went to the upper story of the house, and when near the top, her eye rested in the ghastly sight of her beloved son hanging by the neck from the top bannister rail. She was almost overpowered by the sight, but a recollection of her first duty enabled her to overcome her emotions and she quickly sought assistance. A neighbour at once came, and quickly cut the body down, but examination showed the poor fellow to be dead. While this was proceeding, a messenger was dispatched to Dr Haworth, who lost no time in arriving, but on seeing the body the doctor pronounced life to be extinct. The noose and everything had been most carefully prepared, the rope even having been measured, inasmuch as the feet of the deceased were but a few inches from the floor when he was suspended. It appeared from the marks on the neck that death had not ensued very quickly but had resulted from sheer strangulation. From the appearance of the deceased and the arrangements, apparently he had lowered himself down from the bannister after securing the rope at the top. The rope was a portion of the family clothes-line, and of a strong quality.

Deceased was well known in the town and district as a steady and industrious young fellow and his unfortunate and untimely death has caused much regret among the townspeople, by whom he was greatly respected. He was in his 22nd year. An inquest was held this afternoon before the district coroner.

Although the newspaper report suggests that grief over the death of his father was the only cause of his mental imbalance, John had suffered a more recent loss. His unmarried sister, Mary Jane, had borne a son in the summer of 1887 but the wee chap died in the first three months of the following year. Frank had been baptized at St Oswald’s on 13th July 1887 and had the child lived I think John would have been celebrating his nephew’s birthday rather than hanging himself.

John was the second of five sons born to Edmond Milner and Sarah Ann née WATTS and you can find him on the FamilySearch Shared Tree.

Matthew Milner was seventeen years old when older brother John killed himself. A decade later, he had a near death experience. The Yorkshire Evening Press carried the story on 29 November 1898.

A FILEY FARM FOREMAN IN TROUBLE

Edwin Johnson (21), labourer, was indicted for shooting at Matthew Milner, with a revolver, with intent to murder, at Filey, on September 13. He was detained on a charge of attempted suicide, on the same day. To the first charge he pleaded “not guilty,” and to the second (suicide) “guilty.” – Mr. Kemp appeared for the prosecution, and the prisoner was defended by Mr. C. Mellor. – In his opening statement Mr. Kemp said that there was a second count on the indictment, charging the prisoner with intent to do grievous bodily harm. The prisoner was engaged on a farm at Filey occupied by Mr. T. Smith, but on September 12 he refused to do certain work and left the farm. He bought a revolver for 6s. 6d., and some cartridges at Scarborough, and returned to the farm the next day. He entered the stackyard shouting religious texts. He was seen to be carrying a revolver but said to Wharton Smith that he did not intend to harm him, and that he wanted to see the master. Mr. Smith, however, went for a police officer after the prisoner had fired a shot in the air, and when the prisoner heard that the master had gone for the police, he asked who was “stacking.” He then saw Milner, who was “stacking,” and who had taken the place occupied by the prisoner, and said, “He is a devil to take a man’s job from him.” He then fired at Milner, and the bullet whizzed past. When a police officer arrived, the prisoner put the revolver to his own head and fired, with the result that he lost an eye, and for some time was in considerable danger. – Evidence supporting Mr. Kemp’s statement was given. – Matthew Milner said he had no quarrel with the prisoner. He saw the prisoner point and fire but had no idea whether a bullet was discharged or not.

Mr Mellor, for the defence, contended that the prisoner did not know the dangerous character of the weapon he was carrying. He only wished to frighten the people in the yard. His conduct was of one half-mad or half-drunk, and he was the only one to suffer by it, and he had suffered terribly.

The learned judge advised the jury to dismiss from their minds that the prisoner had intent to murder.

The prisoner was found guilty, and sentence was deferred.

Two days later –

Edwin has a place on the FamilySearch Shared Tree and there his life is thought to have ended around 1900. I have searched through all sources readily available to me and the only death registration that fits at all closely indicates that Edwin did not go blind but continued to do heavy work as a farm labourer. At the beginning of the Second World War the Register places him at Charleston Farm near Grindale. A single man in his sixties, and unlikely to have married subsequently, a death at the age of 91 that could be his was registered in Scarborough in the September Quarter of 1968.

John and Matthew Milner had three sisters. (There are four on the Shared Tree but I think Emily is a cuckoo.) Sarah Ann, the middle girl, remained single and census enumerators in 1901 and 1911 found her living with her mother in Filey. She died in the East Riding Lunatic Asylum in 1919, aged 43. You can find photographs of the institution online by searching for Broadgate Hospital. It was a huge place. Over 900 inmates were buried in pauper graves there but have not been forgotten. Sarah Ann’s mother may not have been able to care for her daughter but she arranged for her body to be brought home to be with her father, brother John and nephew Frank. Sarah Ann senior would join them three years later.

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