Home » Irwin » Suicide in a Fit of Despondency

Suicide in a Fit of Despondency

William McLean Irwin, the second son of Archibald Irwin and Margaret Doyle was born on 9th January 1839 in Kensington, West Derby (Now part of Liverpool). Spending the early part of his life in Everton, he enlisted in the 4th Kings Own Royal Lancashire Regiment whilst still a teenager.

The King's Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster) cap badge.

The King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster) cap badge.

Whilst serving with the army, he was stationed for a time at Prince Edward Island, Canada and it is, presumably, here where he met his wife, Patience Smith, a woman six years his junior. William continued to serve with the army and, by the time of the 1871 Census (where he was recorded in Farnborough, Hampshire), he had risen to the rank of Colour Sergeant.

William and Patience had nine children, the final three being born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where the family had decided to settle after William retired from the army in 1879. He had several changes of occupation whilst in Canada, becoming a farmer, dry goods clerk and, finally, a book keeper.

The building that was formerly the Apothecaries Hall in Charlottetown.

The building that was formerly the Apothecaries Hall in Charlottetown.

On April 30th, 1903, at 5.45 pm, after a period of illness, William entered the Apothecaries Hall in Charlottetown where he purchased an ounce bottle of carbolic acid. On reaching the street, outside W. A. Hutcherson’s store, he took the cork from the bottle and drank the contents. After discarding the empty bottle, he walked a few steps, caught himself on a post outside the aforementioned store and promptly fell.

A crowd quickly gathered to see what had happened. It soon became apparent what had caused the fall and an antidote was quickly administered before the partially conscious man was taken to his home in King Street. Unfortunately, only a few minutes after reaching his home, despite a doctor being summoned, William passed away.

After hearing the facts, Coroner Dr. R. McNeill decided that an inquest would be unnecessary and determined that William had committed suicide in a fit of despondency after suffering from illness.

William McLean Irwin’s funeral took place a few days later at St. Peter’s Cemetery, Charlottetown.


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