I took a chance and ordered the death certificate I believed was for the right Walter TAYLOR. It arrived just before Christmas and has given me much to think about. Walter died relatively young, at age 40, and his death certificate says he died from asphyxia by drowning “on or about” the 1st of January 1894 at the Australian Brewery, Bourke Street, Waterloo (Sydney). The death was not registered until 10 days after his death and an inquest was held on the 4th of January.
At first glance I thought maybe he was an employee at the brewery and may have fallen into the beer vat. He was a brassfinisher by trade, and I’m not sure how this would fit in with brewing. Added to that, the delay in the inquest and the timing of the event made it less likely to be work related. Maybe he broke in looking for a drink on New Year’s Eve 1893.
Thanks to the online newspapers digitized by the National Library of Australia and Google, I did not have to go far to find the available information. A trip to the State Library of Queensland to view the newspaper issues I could not find online completed the picture.
In the Sydney Morning Herald on the day of the inquest (Thursday, 4th Jan 1894) there is a small piece on page 5 which reads:
A PECULIAR DROWNING CASE: The body of a man, name unknown, was found floating in a water tank at Cornwell’s Brewery, Bourke-street, Waterloo, yesterday afternoon. The police, who were informed, removed the body to the South Sydney Morgue. It is that of a man, from 30 to 35 years of age, 5ft 7in high, fair complexion, brown hair, sandy moustache, eight weeks growth of beard, grey eyes, two or three teeth missing from upper jaw, dressed in a blue serge suit, and elastic-side boots. The body appears to have been in the water five or six days.
The Sydney Mail, Saturday Jan 6, 1894 has the exact same text, but no mention of the earlier inquest. The Sydney Morning Herald for that weekend was not online, so I went to the Library and looked it up on the microfilm. The inqest was reported in the Saturday paper as follows:
DROWNED IN A TANK: A magisterial inquiry was held by the Deputy City Coroner yesterday afternoon at the South Sydney Morgue touching the death of a man, name unknown, whose body was found on Wednesday in an unused water tank at Cornwall’s Brewery, Bourke-street, Waterloo. Death was shown to have resulted from asphyxia from drowning. An open finding was recorded.
Walter was buried at the Rookwood Necropolis on the 5th January. My guess is that his wife Robina still did not know his fate at that point. She and the Coroner are the joint informants on the death registration. I have tried to find any later mentions in the newspapers to no avail. The identification of the body does not appear to have reached the news.
I am still sadly lacking the information on Robina’s fate. I’m not sure how scandalous a death Walter’s would have been. The reported results of the inquest give no read idea as why he was where he was at time of death. Robina’s sons were 16 and 13 at the time of her husband’s death. Maybe that would have been old enough for her to leave them in Australia and return to family in Scotland? Maybe she found another partner and assumed his name without being legally married? Either way I have been unable, as yet, to piece this puzzle together. Any help would be appreciated.