Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tales from the Trunk # 3

Cumnock Poisoning Case

A member of the Bryson family was, in late 1906, the victim in The Cumnock Poisoning Case.

It came about like this.

Mungo Bryson & Grace Dickie had a number of children. One, Agnes, brought her family to New Zealand in 1863. A second, Margaret, married William McKerrow in 1840.

Grace Dickie McKerrow was the fourth child of William McKerrow and Margaret Bryson. Grace was unmarried and had her own home in Ayr when her Aunt Grizzel, her father’s half sister who had married William Lennox, a farmer, in 1863, died after an illness in 1904. William Lennox had been ill at the same time. Grace, who had been looking after her Aunt before her death, was pressed by her to continue to look after Mr. Lennox. This Grace reluctantly agreed to do. She sold her home, except for a box of books she gave to a friend, and moved to Cumnock as housekeeper to the then deaf, elderly, childless, and retired William Lennox.

In 1906, a mysterious parcel arrived, containing a tin of shortbread with a card saying "With happy greetings from an old friend".

A few days later Grace had some of the shortbread and within an hour and a quarter, Grace had died in great pain.

The police investigation lead, a few days later, the arrest of Thomas Mathieson Brown of New Cumnock.

Following a preliminary hearing on 8th March, the case against Brown was heard before five Judges in the court of Justiciary, Edinburgh, on 18th, 19th and 20th March 1907.

Brown had a History of epilepsy for some forty years. and had shown signs of insanity.

The jury returned the verdict that the accused was "now insane" by a majority believed to be 11 to 4. Brown was ordered to be detained during His Majesty's pleasure.

Grace was well liked and respected. The "Scotsman" referred to her as a "lady of much intelligence and a rare amiability of character" (26 November 1906).