1879; Tragedy at the George Inn, Weymouth.

The imposing George Inn has stood on Weymouth’s quayside for centuries in one form or another.

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Wealthy businessman Sir Samuel Mico had purchased the George Tavern in the 17th c for use as his residence when he came to Weymouth to see to business matters, many of his trading ships came into what was then a very busy trading port.

When he died he left the building to the town of Weymouth, along with a large sum of money.

Samuel Mico decreed that £500 of it was to be used  for the preaching of an annual sermon in the local church.

He also stipulated that money was to be given towards the binding out of three poor children apprentices.

And of course, not forgetting those sailors who toiled long and hard so he could trade overseas, he deemed that some should go towards the relief of ‘ten poor decayed seamen of the town,’ namely those aged 60 and upwards.

That charity is still going strong in the town to this very day.

But that’s not really what this tale is about.

It concerns the sad story of one of the residents of the George Tavern further up through its extensive history.

In 1879 forty two year William James Hines and his wife Sarah were living in the George Inn on Weymouth’s bustling quayside, along with their large family.

William was a Hampshire born man, but had moved to the Weymouth area with his family to start a new life as a licensed victualler.

Weymouth harbour

Move along to September 1879 and their whole world was about to be turned upside down.

Dad William had just purchased himself a second hand gun, a fowling piece, he fancied a spot of hunting, probably on Weymouth’s then extensive Backwater.

For some unknown reason, William handed this gun to one of his young sons, 15-year-old William  to take upstairs. Of course, you can only guess at whats coming next, knowing young boys propensity for getting up to mischief.

William, or Willie as he was known in the family, did as his father bid and carried the gun upstairs, but upon hearing his younger siblings happily playing in their bedroom he sprang into the room surprising them. Willie then turned towards his little brother, pointing the fowling piece  whilst uttering those fateful words” I will shoot you Bertie.” 

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William then jumped up onto the bed, carrying on with what seemed at first like a jolly ruse, he carefully put the cap on the gun, pointed it towards the ceiling, was just about to pull the trigger, when suddenly he lost his balance, stumbled and fell.

Both Willie and gun landed on the floor, followed by an almighty explosion!

Smoke and the acrid smell of spent gunpowder filled the tiny room.

Mum Sarah, working the bar downstairs, heard the explosion and the hysterical screams that followed.

She ran up those stairs two at a time, fear gripped her heart.

Sarah opened the door to a room out of Dante’s hell.

Tragically, nine year old Bertie, or to give him his full name, Albert Issac had been stood in the wrong place at the wrong time…the shot went straight through his neck, its merciless course ripping out skin, muscles and tissues en route.

Little Bertie lay dead on the floor, his blood and skin splattered the walls.

Sister Florence, only aged 7 at the time was besides herself, as was William who began  to realise the enormity and horror of what had just happened. Over and over again he cried out “I have shot Bertie; I did not try to do it.” Unable to comprehend how in a mere second, his life could have turned into such a living nightmare.

The following Monday an inquest was held at the Guildhall under the watchful eye of Mr Giles Symonds.

The parents and children were called to give their sorrowful evidence before the court.

Willie’s story differed to that of his younger sister, he claimed that he had been stood on the bed, but the gun had accidentally gone off, knocking him to the floor. In the chaos of the horrific incident it’s often hard to recall facts, but despite this, the Coroner had no doubt…there was one man to blame for this, and one man only…the father!

The jury retired for 1/2 hour, and returned with their verdict on the death of Albert Issac Hines ,” That the deceased met his death by the explosion of a gun, through proper precautions not having been taken.”

The very next day, distraught Dad William was brought before the courts and charged with manslaughter of his own young son Bertie.Image

The body of little Albert Issac Hines was lowered in to the cold earth on the 24th September in the graveyard at  Wyke Regis.

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For his siblings and parents, the memories of that dreadful day could not be quite so easily buried.

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http://www.weymouth-dorset.co.uk/melcombeharbour.html (history of the buildings on the harbourside)

http://www.weymouth-town-charities.org.uk/mico.html (Sir Samuel Mico)

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37 Comments Add yours

  1. suth2 says:

    What a dreadful event for a young family.

    Like

  2. cannasue says:

    You can,t begin to imagine how they must have felt. The brother William who accidentally shot his sibling, the young sister who witnessed it, the Dad who was blamed, or the Mum who entered the room to find that scene.

    Like

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