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The death of the daughter of an Upper Albert St resident was ruled accidental. Photo: Supplied

Death ruled accidental

Mary Trumper very seldom left her house in Upper Albert Street, Grahamstown, Thames, but the harried mother of five children did need to go out on June 18, 1872.
Three of the children were at school and she and her husband, Thomas, were home with the two youngest.
At 11am Thomas left for the Thames Advertiser office where he had worked the past five years as a compositor, arranging the text in the newspaper before it was printed.
Sometime later Mary put the fire out before she departed with the youngest child to get some necessities, leaving the front door open behind her.
She also left three-year-old Alice alone in the house, doubtless thinking she would be quicker without a toddler in tow.
She was away about 20 minutes during which time Alice got on to a stool, took matches from the mantelpiece and set her clothes on fire.
Around 2pm at the Thames Advertiser office Thomas Trumper was told he was wanted.At the door he saw one of his neighbours, Mr Watson, who told him that his child had been hurt and Doctor Croft sent for. At the house, Dr Croft found Alice in her mother’s arms, badly injured.
She had been tended to with the help of neighbours and salad oil applied to the burns. Several matches were lying about.
Dr Croft administered what he considered proper remedies but despite the kindness of neighbours and his medical skill, Alice died the next morning.
The inquest was held at the Fountain Hotel, Pollen Street. After taking evidence the coroner said that despite the distraught mother’s absence, the jury had enough evidence before them as to the cause of death.
In other circumstances he would have referred to the child being left alone, but he knew how difficult it was for mothers not to sometimes run a risk by leaving their little ones occasionally.
In this case he did not think there was any blame. The door had been left open, and the fire put out, so that only the minimum of risk was incurred. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.
Alice was buried at Shortland cemetery.
Five months later another daughter was born to Mary and Thomas Trumper but tragically two years later Mary died aged 30.
She was buried at Shortland cemetery next to Alice. A few weeks later Thomas Trumper returned with his children to his native Australia.
Before he left, his colleagues made him a presentation, the formal language understating the calamities he had suffered:
“ln taking your departure from the Thames for Sydney, we, your fellow workmen and friends of the Thames Advertiser office desire to testify our respect and esteem towards you by begging you to accept the accompanying expression (£10 12s) of our regard, with sincere hopes for your future welfare. Wishing yourself and family prosperity and happiness.”
Thomas thanked them for the presentation and for their good wishes which had been shown not only on this occasion but on many others since his arrival at Thames.