1873: Frightful Gun Accident at Cuckfield

Hastings and St Leonards Observer - Saturday 19 April 1873


A most melancholy and fatal gun accident occurred at Cuckfield on Easter Monday, by which a little boy six years of age, named Raymond McAdam, the youngest son of CoL McAdam, of Borde Hill House, met with his death. The inquest on the body of the poor little boy was held on Wednesday at Naldrett’s Farm, on the Borde Hill Estate. The first witness examined was Colonel McAdam, who deposed that his son Frank was well accustomed to the use of the gun.


Frank Robert Preston McAdam deposed: 'I went out on Monday afternoon with deceased and two boys, named Murrell and another, Charles Bridgen, to dig out a kingfisher. I took a gun with me and left it in the grass, under the viaduct, loaded. On my return I thought I saw a moorhen or rat, and I ran and got the gun and gave it to William Murrell to hold, and told him it was on full cock, and he had better put it on half cock. I began to do up my boot, and, looking round, saw him meddling with the lock, the gun being pointed towards the head of the deceased, not more than two or three yards from him, and ran and took the muzzle up.


'Before I had time to touch it - it went off. I took the gun and fired the second barrel and threw it on the ground. No one was touching Murrell when the gun went off.' George Murrell corroborated. He said Master Frank gave the gun to his brother to hold. His brother asked if he had not better half-cock it. He did not see the accident, but was a little behind. He could just see their heads over a bank. He heard a gun go off and ran and saw Master Raymond lying dead. Master Frank said 'Oh, my God, can it be my own little brother?' and lay down on the grass by his side. He afterwards asked him to shoot him. He said, 'No, it would make bad worse.” He told his brother and Brigden to go to the house.


Charles Bridgen, in evidence, stated that the gun was pointed towards Frank, who pushed the barrel away saying, 'Don’t point the gun at me,' and the muzzle then pointed towards the deceased, and the gun went off and shot him. William Murrell corroborated. When Master Frank pushed the barrel away it pointed towards deceased, and his thumb slipped off the hammer, and the gun went off and shot deceased in the back off the head. The Coroner said there was some discrepancy respecting the evidence touching the gun, but he thought the last evidence correct, and that Master Frank in his hurry had been mistaken. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.


Illustration: Based on artwork by Figuier, Louis, 1819-1894 Gillmore, Parke, in the American Museum of Natural History Library


Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

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