John Chalmers McPHERSON - fatally shot aged 10
John Chalmers McPHERSON (1894-1904)
was born 16 February 1894 in Dannevirke to:
James McPHERSON (1844-1926) & Agnes Drew CHALMERS (1855-1925)
Hawkes Bay Herald, 31 July 1884 McPHERSON-CHALMERS - At the Manse, Waipukurau, on the 29th July, by the Rev. Alexander Grant, Presbyterian minister, James McPherson, Dannevirke (formerly of Strathspey, Scotland) to Agnes Drew, elder daughter of John Chalmers (formerly of Linithgowshire, Scotland)
John Chalmers McPHERSON was accidently killed in Mangatera 21 December 1904 aged 10 years 10 months. He is buried Grave 58, Block F Settlers Cemetery, Dannevirke next to his mother
Bush Advocate, 21 December 1904 - FATAL ACCIDENT
BOY SHOT DEAD AT THE BUTTS
... A shocking fatality occurred at the Cadet shooting range at Mangatera this morning. It appears that a squad were practicing firing under Captain McLennan, who had just risen from firing a few shots at the target, when he was approached by Master McPherson, who in a jocular way remarked "You have just managed to win your badge, Sir!" At that instant a rifle went off and McPherson fell dead at Captain McLennan's feet.
... From the investigation which followed we learn that the accident arose through one of the boys secretly placing a cartridge in a rifle which he then laid on the ground. Another boy in the squad, thinking it was his turn to shoot and not knowing the rifle was charfed, picked it up. As he did so he heard a sound in the direction of where Captain McLennan and young McPherson were standing, and turned round to ascertain the cause, and just as the rifle was brought into line with the latter's shoulder, the rifle by some means went off and the bullet penetrated the body of young McPherson under the left arm the exit being above the right shoulder, the bullet thus passing through the neck.
... Will all despatch *Dr Reid Mackay was summoned to the range, but upon arrival he found that he could do nothing, as life was absolutely extinct, death having been instantaneous.
... At the time the accident occurred the victim and Captain McLennan were standing fully six yards behind the firing line, and it is almost certain that had the bullet not struck young McPherson it would have, in all probability, proved fatal to Capt. McLennan, as they were both standing side by side at the time.
... Master McPherson had only reached the age of 10 years and 10 months, but was a bright, intelligent lad, and his untimely death will be a severe blow to his parents, who will have the deep sympathy of the entire community in their sad bereavement.
... In justice to Captain McLennan it is only fair to say - in case he may be blamed for allowing fire arms to be used carelessly - that it is the practice not to allow the cadets to place a cartridge in the rifle until the boy has taken up his position before the target. The fact that the rifle in question was secretly loaded was against all instructions, and could not have been foreseen.
... An inquest will be held by Mr Buick, J.P., to-morrow, at 10 a.m.
* Of Note Dr Reid Mackay's mother, Mrs Thomson, accompanied by her husband arrived at Dannevirke that night on a visit from the Old Country. They had been spending the last three weeks in the Hot Lakes district
Bush Advocate, 22 December 1904
... The flag was flown half-mast at the North School to-day, out of respect to the late John McPherson, who was accidently shot at the butts yesterday
Bush Advocate, 22 December 1904 THE SHOOTING FATALITY
... An inquest into the circumstances touching the death of John McPherson, who was shot at the butts yesterday, while rifle practice was being carried out, was held this morning before Mr T. Lindsay Buick, J.P.
... The following jury was empanelled:-
A. E. Ranson (foreman), C. Thompson, W. J. Wylie, W. Dobson, S. Ashcroft and C. Blackiston, Sergeant Cruickshank conducted the enquiry on behalf of the police.
The jury, having viewed the body, Sergeant Cruickshank called:
... James McPherson, butcher, father of the deceased, who deposed that his son was 10 years 10 months of age, and was a member of the North School Cadets. Was aware that deceased was to attend a practice of the cadets yesterday. Had heard of the circumstances under which deceased had lost his life. Thought the death of his son was accidental.
... Dr Reid Mackay, being sworn, said he was summoned yesterday at quarter to twelve to go to the cadet range. On arrival he found the body of John McPherson, life being extinct. On examination he found a wound of entry in the left arm pit, and a wound of exit above the right shoulder, the bullet having traversed the chest above the heart, causing instant death.
... Duncan McLennan, teacher in the North School, in his evidence said he was also a Captain in the New Zealand Rifle Cadet Volunteers. There were two companies of Education Dept. Cadets, which were quite distinct from the other (Defence) corps. Had always taken target practice at the school. Deceased was a member of the No. 1 Company (Captain McLennan's Corps). Yesterday there was rifle practice at the butts, and witness was in charge. Only five boys were at the range. Their names were John McPherson (deceased), Jack Withfield, Alex Johnson, Alex. Calder and Sidney Laws. Fifty rounds had been expended up to the time of the accident. He had just finished shooting and placed the rifle on the mound, with the muzzle towards the target, and walked back towards the boy who was keeping the score book (couldn't be certain about his name), who was about 19 feet behind the firing line. Deceased was close to the boy who was keeping the scores. Deceased jocularly remarked, "You have only just won your badge, Sir!" While talking witness heard a report, and at the time was standing almost beside the boy. Saw that he was struck, and almost immediately he fell. At first witness thought he was only wounded badly, and so at once sent for Dr Mackay. Spoke to Jack McPherson, the deceased, but there was no response. Both witness and deceased were standing to the left of the firing line. After the report he looked towards the firing line and looked to see who fired the shot, but was a bit confused. As far as he could remember it was Alex Johnstone who fired the shot. He was not certain whether Johnstone was in a prone position or standing up, but he thought he was in the former, It was the custom when one boy had finished for witness to call out the name of the next boy who should fire, and until that order was given no boy had any right to touch or much less load a rifle. No order had been given. Several boys were on each side of witness while he was doing his practice, watching the result. How long they remained there he could not say. Witness was much upset over the accident.
... The foreman asked what method Mr McLennan adopted when the boys were on the mound shooting - Witness replied that every boy loaded his own rifle, and each boy was allowed to complete his shooting before the next began. There were no recruits, and the boys were all experienced in shooting. The ammunition was always kept on the mound, and was not served out to the boys until they were in a porision to fire. The rifle which he (witness) used he presumed was used also by the deceased. There were two rifles out, but the other one had a rod in it all the time. and was never used. Had no personal knowledge as to who loaded the rifle. When he put the rifle down it was unloaded. When finished he threw the empty cartridge case out, which is always the custom when a shot is fired.
... The rifle was here produced, and Mr McLennan, in reply to Sergeant Cruickshank, said there was no defect in it.
... In a further reply to the Sergeant, Mr McLennan stated he was under the impression that the fatality was a pure accident.
... Mr Wylie asked whether Mr McLennan knew who loaded the rifle - Witness replied that Laws, a cadet at practice, was lying clos to him, and from enquiry among the boys it was the unanimous opinion of the lads the Laws had loaded the weapon. He further remarked that he believed Alex. Johnson, was unaware that the rifle was loaded when he picked it up.
... The Coroner asked what time elapsed before the rifle was fired after witness left the mound - Witness said he did not know the exact time, but it would be about the time he would take in walking a distance from the mound of about six years.
... In answer to a juryman, whether every care had been taken, witness said he had done everything to guard against accident.
... To Sergeant Cruickshank - This was the first accident that had occurred, and this completed the third year the boys had been at target practice.
... Alex Johnson, aged 11 (who was not sworn), de[psed that he was at rifle practice at the butts yesterday. The deceased, John McPherson, was there too. Witness was lying on the mound when Mr McLennan was firing, and on his right hand side, next to him. He thought it was Sidney Laws who was on the left of the previous witness. When Mr McLennan had finished he left the mound, and sent to where John McPherson was standing. When Mr McLennan put the rifle down Laws was next to it on the left. Did not see Laws do anything to the rifle. When he picked the rifle up for the purpose of shooting, Laws was close to him. He did not see Laws touch the rifle. Mr McLennan told him it was his turn to shoot. Could not remember what caused him to turn round towards Mr McLennan and deceased. When Mr McLennan got up too, and went a little way behind with him. Witness could not remember how he came to have the rifle in his hand. He did not load it, or see anyone else do so. Did not know how the rifle went off, as he did not have his ginger on the trigger. Had no idea of what happened, as he got such a fright.
... Sidney Laws, 11 years of age (Sidney Frank Henry Laws, base born 1893 to Ellen Mary laws), said he was kneeling on the mound while Mr McLennan was firing, but got up when he did and walked away to the rear with him. He was about a yard away from Mr McLennan when the shot was fired. He saw deceased fall, but he did not see Johnstone pick up the rifle, but thought he fired the shot, as he commenced to cry. He did not put all the cartridges in Mr McLennan's rifle, as Johnstone put the last eight in, but he did not see any cartridges put in the rifle after Mr McLennan had finished firing. He did not hear Mr McLennan tell Johnstone that it was his turn to shoot. If he had done so witness must have heard him. No one was allowed to touch the rifle unless ordered to do so. He was quite certain he did not put a cartridge in the rifle after Mr McLennan had finished firing. He saw Mr McLennan empty the old cartridges out after his last shot was fired, and the breach of the rifle was left open.
... Alexander Calder, 14 years of age, said he was sitting down on the left side of the mound and about 3 years away from it when the accident occurred. As he turned to look in the direction of the mound he saw Johnstone pick up the rifle and turn it round in front of him. Just as he got it round with the muzzle pointing in the direction of deceased it went off.
... The witness here illustrated by means of the rifle exactly how it was lying, and how Johnstone was turning it round when it exploded.
... Continuing, he said that in his opinion Johnstone was turning round to ask Mr McLennan's permission to shoot. He did not see any one put a cartridge in the rifle after Mr McLennan had finished with it. Johnston never left the mound after Mr McLennan had, but witness could not say anything as to the position of Laws. It was not half a minute between the time that Mr McLennan laid the rifle down till the shot was fired, but it was long enough to enable the rifle to be loaded. Johnston was not ordered by Mr McLennan to shoot, and no one was allowed to touch the rifle or the ammunition unless ordered to do so.
... Mr Soundy (Arthur Walden Soundy), headmaster of the North School, gave evidence to the effect that Mr McLennan was a strict disciplinarian, and a most careful man.
... This was all the evidence and the jury after a brief retirement, brough in a verdict that John McPherson met his death at the Cadet Rifle Range on December 21st, 1904, by the accidental discharge of a rifle, and that, in their opinion, Capt. McLennan, the officer in charge, took every reasonable precaution to avoid an accident, and they considered no blame attachable to him.
Bush Advocate, 23 December 1904
LETTER OF SYMPATHY
... Mr McPherson yesterday received a telegram from Colonel Loveday, Commander of the Public School Cadets, expressing sympathy with him in the death of his son John