Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Suicide at Seaton Delaval

Mary Coyle and Michael Convey were married on 12 October 1857 at the Roman Catholic chapel in Felling, near Gateshead, Durham. Mary was the younger daughter of Peter and Mary Coyle, and the sister of my 2x great-grandmother, Barbara Quinnin. 

Both families were living at Bill Quay, where they worked as labourers in the different works in the area. The Coyles had only recently moved out of the Sandgate area of Newcastle, where Peter was an innkeeper. Peter was now working in the nearby chemical works at Bill Quay, a stark contrast to his former occupation. At that time, the Quinnin family were still living in Sandgate. 

Mary and Michael went on to have at least nine children in different colliery towns and villages north of the Tyne. They went back to Sandgate, Newcastle, then onto Benton, Backworth, Wallsend, Howdon and finally Hartley, close to where Barbara and the Quinnin family were living.


Mary and Michael's eldest daughter was Ellen, who was born in 1860 at Newcastle. Ellen was married in July 1878 at Willington Quay, to John Gray, a miner originally from Cheshire. I can assume that both her parents were deceased by that point. Shortly after their marriage, the couple moved to nearby Seaton Delaval, even closer to Ellen's aunt Barbara. Together they had six boys and all was well, until tragedy struck.




"An inquest was held at Seaton Delaval yesterday by Mr J. R. D. Lynn, coroner, touching the death of Ellen Gray (29), who, as reported in our columns yesterday, drowned herself in a pond on Saturday night last. - John Gray, husband of the deceased, said he went to bed about 4:30 on Saturday afternoon and woke up at 8 p.m. His wife was then washing the children and crying. She afterwards kissed the children and attempted to leave the house, but he prevented her. She then tried to get out by the window, but he got hold of her skirt. She said "Let me alone," and went out through the window. He did not see her again until she was brought in about half-past ten, dead. - In cross-examination, witness acknowledged finding a bottle containing gin in the house, but emphatically denied either striking his wife or using harsh language. - Robert Sturrock, gasman, said he was getting his supper about 8:30, when he heard cries of "Oh! My!" proceeding apparently from a pond within 30 yards of his house. He flung the person (he did not know whether it was a man or a woman) a rope, but no effort was made to catch it. - Robert Dixon, miner, said he launched a raft and found the body about half-past ten, in six feet of water. - Michael Gray, 11 years of age, son of deceased, said he went for some gin after his father went to bed; but to all questions as to whether his father and mother had quarrelled he answered, "I don't know." - The jury found that "deceased had committed suicide whilst in a state of temporary insanity."

And so, the Gray boys were now motherless. John Gray eventually did remarry and had more children, but not for some years. I'd like to think that my 2x great-grandmother Barbara stepped in and helped to care for her great-nephews, but sadly this is something I shall never know. 

This wasn't the last tragedy to hit the family, but I shall save that story for another post.