Ship’s fireman charged with attempted suicide

144919'1915 paper copy 'Picture by Neil Silk'05/12/14
144919'1915 paper copy 'Picture by Neil Silk'05/12/14

At the Scarborough Police Court, before Messrs W Rowntree and John Farquhar, Hugh Durning, ship’s fireman, no fixed abode, was charged with attempted suicide by throwing himself overboard from the local steam trawler Nil Desperandum, on July 3rd.

He went to sea in the ship for the first time on June 29th and returned to harbour, after having been out for three nights, on Friday July 2nd. They stayed in the harbour that night, and proceeded to sea again about 10 o’clock on the following Saturday morning. When the ship was about six or seven miles out at sea, the accused came up from below and went on deck. He was seen with one foot on the rails and the other on the ballast bar. He was told by one of the members of the crew to get away, but he replied: “I’m going, skipper,” and with that deliberately jumped overboard. With assistance he was got on board again, the ship was headed for harbour, and the accused was placed in the hands of the police. It appeared the man had had some drink just prior to putting out to sea again on the Saturday morning. It was said that he was sober, however, and was thought to be in a fair condition to perform his duties. There was, nevertheless, no question at all that he had had a considerable amount of drink when he was brought into custody. There was one thing the accused said to the second engineer which should go in his favour. It discounted the theory of attempted suicide. It appeared that the accused, on being asked by the second engineer to clear some ashes away, said: “No, I’m going overboard. I’m going to swim ashore.” With that he deliberately jumped overboard. When he was formally charged at the police station the previous day he had recovered sobriety, and said: “I fell overboard, I know that.”

Thomas Cammish, skipper on board the Nil Desperandum, said he saw the accused on the quay about 7.30am on Saturday morning just before they went aboard. The accused then appeared to be in his usual condition. He did not see him again until they were about six or seven miles out at sea. He then came on deck from below and stood with one foot on the rails and the other on the ballast bar. Witness told him to get down. He replied: “I’m going overboard,” and with that deliberately jumped into the sea. Witness ordered the boat astern and picked him up. He was swimming towards the ship and did not look as though he wanted to drown. He was not swimming towards the shore at all. He did not give any explanation as to why he jumped overboard.

By the Chairman: The accused did not say anything when he was got on board. He was a “drowned man”. Another minute would have done for him. Continuing, witness said he had never seen the man before he was given work on the Nil Desperandum.

Edward Wilson, mate on board, said prisoner had had some drink but not enough to have any effect. In his opinion he was quite capable of performing his duties. He did not think it possible for him to swim seven or eight miles to shore, for that was rather a ticklish job. He could not say anything about the prisoner’s act. He only helped to rescue him. He was as good as dead when he was pulled on board. He must have been in the water about 10 minutes, not a long time by any means for a good swimmer. He swam as well as he could.

William Henry Anderson, the second engineer, 9 West Place, said he could not say whether prisoner had had any drink. He was always a cheerful man.

By the Chairman: He could not say what his reason was for jumping overboard.

PC Lawson said in consequence of information he received he went down to the quay on Saturday morning. He went aboard the Nil Desperandum and saw accused lying helpless on the deck. He was in a state of collapse, but was then gradually recovering. He took him to the police station in a cab. There was an indication of drink in his breath. When he was formally charged the previous day he had replied: “I fell overboard, I know that.” He also said to witness: “If it had not been for the drink I should never have done it. If I get through this alright I shall never touch it again.”

Prisoner, in the course of a statement, said he had been drinking whisky in the morning and he thought it went straight to his head. He was on shore about an hour before returning from Aberdeen and had been coming to Scarborough for eight or nine years, off and on. He had been in the town on this occasion about a fortnight or three weeks. He was a single man.

In answer to the chairman, prisoner said, “I do not think I knew where I was going to when I jumped overboard” (laughter).

The Chief Constable said the prisoner would find difficulty in procuring a berth on a Scarborough ship again.

The prisoner was remanded to the following day, when it was announced that he had enlisted in the army. He was, therefore, bound over in the sum of £5 to be of good behaviour for 12 months.