The line between being eccentric and insane can be both razor thin, or as wide as the seas. A thin line allows you to step back and forth with some ease between the two worlds. It’s considered razor thin for example, when you live as a pauper, but have lots of money on credit at the bank. Billionaire Howard Hughes did that.
However, the gap between eccentricity and insanity can we very wide as well. When it’s wide, you are pretty much stuck on one side of the spectrum, once you crossover to the insane side. Wide for example, would be if you had your dead mother sitting up in the house on the Eastern Road, in Nassau, talking to her everyday, while the corpse decomposes.
Well, in 1866, that is exactly what happened.
In December 1866, poor Sarah Farquharson, an elderly woman, from the Eastern District of New Providence, was helped along to her grave by her daughter Julia Ann Dreggs.
Julia Ann, the dearly devoted daughter, had apparently forgotten to feed or look after her mother.
Poor Sarah Farquharson, seemingly died from natural causes occasioned by starvation and want of a good bath.
Two of the Worst Jobs in the World 1866
One of the worst jobs in the 19th century was being a coroner, the other was being on the coroner’s jury. Why were these the worst jobs? Well, you got to see death sans all the good stuff modern technology would later afford, like photography and refrigeration.
In 1866, the coroner and the coroner’s jury saw bodies in the same state death had visited them. It wasn’t pretty. There was no colour photography. There was no refrigeration. One needed a strong stomach and handkerchiefs with lots of lavender to cover one’s nose.
If these were two of the worst jobs in England, imagine what it was like in a hot climate like the Bahamas.
Decomposition came doubly fast in the heat of the West Indies. The longer a body stayed out of the ground after death, the more harrowing the sight when it came to the Coroner’s Inquest. For it was at the Coroner’s Inquest where the remains had to be examined by the jury.
NASSAU, DECEMBER 1866
On Thursday 27th of December 1866, a woman, from the Eastern District, just casually mentioned in passing conversation to a neighbour that her mother was dead.
Casually being the operative word.
The neighbours made inquiries.
By inquiries in 1866, this meant that the neighbours went into the dirty little house and found a woman dead for many days, if not weeks.
The authorities were sent for.
Having to act quickly, given the advanced state of the body, a coroner’s inquest was called immediately on the day. The jury met on the Thursday, probably at the house where the decomposing body was discovered.
It would have made little sense to move rotting bones and skin, by horse and cart, across the rocky streets of New Providence. The poor woman had been through enough.
The following is the inquest report.
An inquest was held on the afternoon of Thursday last, by the Crown Coroner W. M. G. McClure, Esquire., MD, and the jury, on view of the body of Sarah Farquharson, a very old woman, who resided in the Eastern District.
The circumstances of this case are rather peculiar; it appears from the evidence adduced at the inquest that the deceased and her daughter were the sole occupants of the house where they resided, the interior of which was in a filthy state—- squalid wretchedness was every where visible, and one would naturally enough suppose abject poverty was their lot, yet strange to say the deceased had Ledger folio at the Public Bank with quite a respectable some of the credit on her account.
The first information of the death of the old lady was given by the daughter, on the morning of the 27th instant—- having very casually mentioned the same to the neighbours, they of course made enquiries, and the truth of the statement was correct; but what was the horror, not only of the neighbours but of the jury, when they found that the death must have occurred some days before anything was known; the body when viewed by the jury was in a very advanced state of decomposition.
The jury in giving their verdict of “death by natural causes” occasioned by want a proper nourishment and attention, added that steps should at once to be taken, by the proper authorities to ascertain the state of mind of Julia Ann Dreggs, the daughter of the deceased; the jury appear to think that this young woman is insane.