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William Spurdle Drowning


The following accounts come from the 1878 Taranaki Herald newspaper published in New Plymouth. The reports contain details of the drowning, death notice and inquest of Frederick William Spurdle, who was known by his second name William.


Waitara River in Waitara, New Zealand. The drowning occured down stream (left of photo) from the bridge. Photo by Lila Smith.

Taranaki Herald

Volume XXVI, Issue 2931, 24 September 1878, Page 2


We have received the following telegram from our correspondent at Waitara: — A lad named William Spurdle, about fourteen years of age, was drowned in the Waitara River yesterday. He fell out of a boat. The body was recovered by divers shortly after the accident, but life was extinct. The parents live at Waitara. The particulars of the accident are as follows: — Three or four lads were amusing themselves in a boat pulling up and down the river. One of the lads, William Spurdle, stood upright on the thwart with an oar in his hand, and in attempting to ship it in the rowlock he overbalanced himself and fell into the river. Immediately on the alarm being given, Sergeant Coffey, Mr. Humphrey Bayly, and Mr. George Tate, hurried to the spot, stript, and went into the river; and, after diving about some considerable time, Mr. Bayly recovered the body. Every means, under the direction of Mr. Moore, to restore animation was resorted to, but without avail. The accident has caused considerable excitement here, as the lad from his general conduct and behaviour was much liked.

Taranaki Herald

Volume XXVI, Issue 2931, 24 September 1878, Page 2

The lad Spurdle, who was unhappily drowned at Waitara yesterday, was a runner for the HERALD, at Raleigh. We must ask the indulgence of our subscribers there for a few days until our agent can make other arrangements for the delivery of the paper.

Taranaki Herald

Volume XXVI, Issue 2933, 26 September 1878, Page 2


SPURDLE.— Drowned in the Waitara River, on the 23rd September, William son of Mr. Oliver Spurdle, of Waitara, aged 13 years. The funeral will leave Mr. Spurdle's residence at the Waitara, to-morrow (Friday), at 2 p.m.

Taranaki Herald

Volume XXVI, Issue 2933, 26 September 1878, Page 2



An inquest was held on Tuesday, at the Bridge Hotel, Raleigh, on the body of William Spurdle, when the following evidence was taken : —

Wilson Johnson deposed : I was in a boat on the Waitara River with William Spurdle, deceased. It was in the afternoon. I was not pulliug, but deceased, was sculling the boat. The oar slipped out of the half rounder at the stern of the boat as he was sculling, and he fell backwards over the side of the boat, and sank under water, and then came up again, and threw his arms about. He did not call out after he fell in the river. I called out. I don't remember what I said. I tried to get him out, but could not reach him, as the boat had "way" on it. I did not throw anything over for him to catch at. When the boat touched the shore I jumped out, and Lizzie Spurdle, his sister, who was on tho bank watching us, jumped in and pushed the boat off. l am nine years old. I was in the bows of the boat when Willie fell over; he would not let me pull. Lizzie was waiting for the boat to come in.

Burton Charles Lawrence deposed: Yesterday afternoon I was riding down Queen-street, Raleigh, when my attention was drawn by Mr. Perry, who said a boy was in tho water. I jumped off the horse and ran to the river, just in time to see the' boy's hands above water. He sank, and did not rise again. Lizzie Spurdle was in the boat, about two or three yards from where he sank. Where the boy sank there would be from eight to nine feet of water at that time. I cannot swim a stroke, and Mr. Perry said he could not. B. Gollop immediately stripped and went in the river, but did not reach deceased. George Tate then went in, and dived. Messrs. F. and H. Bayly and Constable Coffey all went in and dived for the boy. By this time the bubbles had ceased to rise, and I went for a drag. I came back in two or three minutes, and found the body had been recovered, and was ou the bank. From what I saw then I think life was extinct. The boy was in the water about half-an-hour.

Philip Callow Moore deposed: Yesterday afternoon about 5.45 p.m. I saw Humphrey Bayly and George Tate recover from the Waitara River the body of William Spurdle. I was by when the body was brought on the bank. I used all the means laid down by the Board of Trade for restoring life, for about half-an-hour, but without avail. I am of opinion that the body was dead when it was brought out of the river. There were no marks of violence whatever on the body, and death was caused by drowning. The boy was about thirteen years of age.

This was all the evidence. The foreman said some life-preserving or restoring material ought to be obtained; further, that the greatest praise was due to those gentlemen who went into the river to recover the body.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.