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Orphan Number: 4230
Orphan: Henry OSBORNE
Mother:OSBORNE, Martha
Mother's ship:Sir Robert Seppings
Father's ship:
Age when admitted:4yrs
Date admitted:19 Jul 1853
Date discharged:16 Sep 1860
Institution(s):Queens Orphan School
Discharged to: died
Remarks: died of suspicious circumstances - buried 18 Sep 1860 at St Johns Cemetery, New Town
References: SWD6, 28, South Australian Advertiser 3 Oct 1860

This orphan has been claimed by: Wendy Kurz

I have no family connection other than the Head Schoolmaster, William Pennefather Latham (mentioned in the article below) being my Great Great grandfather. It's a very sad story about little Henry Osborne. He and the other boys must have been terribly hungry.

From the South Australian Weekly Chronicle, Saturday 13 October 1860  (found on TROVE, National Library of Austalia)


The Hobart Town Mercury of the 19th of September contains the following strange report of a coroner's inquest : — An inquest was held yesterday afternoon at the Queen's Orphan School, New Town, before A. B. Jones, Esq., Coroner, -to enquire into the death of Henry Osborne, aged 11 years and 2 months, an inmate of the establishment, who died on the 16th instant.  The Coroner explained the nature of the case to  the Jury, to the effect that it had been reported to him that the deceased had died under somewhat strange circumstances, and that 23 of the children were similarly affected. It had been supposed that the illness had arisen from the boys eating the ends of composition candles. William Pennefather Latham, head schoolmaster, having been sworn, and deposed to a view of the body of the deceased, said — The deceased had been in the establishment ever since I have been here [early 1860]. The deceased has partaken of the same food as the other children. He was admitted into the hospital before tea on the 14th, and died on the morning of the 16th. He complained of headache. There were lights burnt in the dormitory — composition candles or stearine. I kept the key of the dormitory. Forty-five boys had been ill, of whom twenty-six were in No. 2 dormitory. By a Juror — The boy had previously enjoyed good health. Jas. M. Quinn stated that he had sent some boys to the hospital; they complained of pain in the head and stomach and were sick. The moment a boy was ill he was sent to the matron, who had him removed immediately to the hospital, where he remained until he was discharged by the medical officer. Witness had charge of the keys of No. 2 dormitory at night. The candles burnt were composition candles. Mrs. Ann Bourne, sub-Matron of the Establishment, said — I sent the deceased to the hospital on the evening of the 14th, about tea time at 5 o'clock. He was not discharged thence before the doctor saw him. Boys were never discharged before the doctor saw them. The boy died on Sunday last. Dr. Benson saw the deceased the same evening. The candles were placed in the dormitory lanterns by the housemaid. The lanterns were then locked, and the keys were handed to the masters. The lanterns were cleaned by the housemaid not by the boys. Sarah Rollinson, nurse in the hospital at the Orphan School, deposed to the deceased coming into the hospital on Friday evening. He said he was sick and had a pain in his chest. Witness asked him if he had been eating candles, and he said yes. He held up the first joint of his forefinger, and said he had eaten about half the size of that. Several other boys had been admitted into the hospital, all but three said they had been eating pieces of candles. Some told witness without asking, and the others she asked. Some of the boys said they got the pieces of candle out of the yard, and others said they picked the bits which they had stuck to the lanterns. There are lanterns used in the hos pital, and witness cleaned them in her own room. The deceased had a cold and cough about two months ago. He had been employed as an assistant in the hospital, and was so employed from Monday to Friday. Dr. W. Benson, Superintendent of the Queen's Orphan Schools, stated — I find from the books that the deceased had been in the establishment since the 19th July, 1853. He was admitted into the hospital on Friday evening, and complained of headache, pain in the stomach, and sickness. He was vomiting. His pulse was small, sharp, and quick. There was great drowsiness, with coldness of the extremities. I directed the use, both externally and internally, of stimulants, and I saw that these remedies were applied. These means were used, but without rousing the boy from the state of stupor, checking the vomiting, or increasing the vital power. About 4 o'clock in the afternoon of the 15th, tetanic muscular action (spasms and cramp) first appeared, and convulsions ensued, and continued till midnight,when they ceased, and the boy died. I omitted to mention that from the first he had a peculiar tallowy appearance of countenance, with an unnaturally brilliant appearance of the eyes, whenever he opened them, which was seldom. He was not conscious at all times. He told me he had been eating candles, and said he had eaten a piece the previous Saturday. He did not say what kind of candle. He must have known that other boys had eaten candles. He said it was the burnt end of the candle that he ate — about an inch in length. Eighteen boys had been previously affected, and in all 45 had been at tacked. All had headaches and the greater number sickness. All had been partaking of the same food, and of water from the same source, and so have the rest of the establishment, including the officers, but no symptoms of a similar character had yet appeared either on the girls' or infants' side, or among the officers or their servants. The piece of candle now produced was of the same kind as those used in the establishment. I was not present at the post mortem examination, but I saw that the brain was vascular and the lungs congested. I should say that this was the cause of death. Such appearances are sometimes compatible with death from arsenic. I do not speak from experience, but from reports of cases. The symptoms of the deceased -were also compatible with pneumonia, which would produce congestion of the lungs. The dormitory is ventilated by fans, and by openings in the walls. In my opinion the dormitories are not sufficiently ventilated. There are three candles in each dormitory which are kept alight all night. Dr. Tumley said — At the request of Dr. Crowther I made an analysis of the stomach of the deceased for the detection of arsenic. I am of opinion that no arsenic was present in the tissues of that organ. I also analyzed a portion of the stearine candle, manufactured by Howard & Co., of London, and in these I was unable to detect the presence of arsenic. I firmly believe that these candles do not contain arsenic. The candles were the same which Dr. Crowther received from Dr. Benson. The jury, after a short consultation, returned averdict : — Died from natural causes, namely, Pleuro pneumonia. The jury attached a rider to the verdict — calling the attention of the Government to the insufficient ventilation of the dormitories.


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