It is 1:45 in the afternoon of Tuesday, the 19thof May 1904 and building work on Stornoway Town Hall has been brought to ahalt. William J Macdonald, a 21 year-old House Carpenter originally from Avoch,a few miles North of Inverness, but currently living at 27 South Beach Street,has just died of a fracture of the skull.
His death was registered on Saturday, the 14th ofJune (the figure is a little unclear), the delay being occasioned because itwas registered ‘on the information of the Procurator Fiscal’, the cause beingderived ‘…per verdict of jury.’
I have not discovered any online references to this tragic eventbut no doubt some of the newspapers of the time will have reported upon it.Meanwhile we may catch a glimpse of William three years before his death when,at the time of the 1901 Census, he was an 18 year-old ‘Carpenter Apprentice’, the eldest of the remainingsix children of William Macdonald, a 50 year-old Baker, and his wife Catherinewho was aged 44.
The family resided at 3 George Street, Avoch, Ross-shire andwere affluent enough to employ a Cook. Adecade earlier they had been living at 20 & 21 Margaret Street and, as wellas two fellow Bakers and an Apprentice Baker, the Macdonald household alsoincluded a General Servant (Domestic). The oldest child, 9 year-old Jessie AnnMacdonald, had been born in Avoch as would be the case with all of her siblings.
I stumbled upon this unusual death by chance when I saw thephotograph of William Macdonald’s memorial here: http://gravestones.rosscromartyroots.co.uk/picture/number14047.asp. The phrase ‘accidentally killed at Stornoway Town Hall’ immediately grabbedmy attention but what held it was the fact that this impressive memorial hadbeen ‘Erected by his employer’.
Sadly, when William’s death was recorded in Stornoway, hewas said to be 25 years old rather than his true age of just 21, for WilliamJames Macdonald had indeed been born in 1883.
His memorial also shows that amere two years after his death the family suffered a second untimely death withthe loss of Jessie Ann at the age of just 25…