On looking through old newspapers recently, I encountered a fatal accident that occurred in Eden, during June 1885. 

It involved two friends, George Hill Wilson (who lived in the townland of Killymuck) and George Downing from Dreenan.  Dreenan is my own townland, it borders Eden. 

Note, Killymuck means “the wood of the pigs.” 

Eden refers to “the brow or the face of the hill.”

The details, as reported by a couple of local newspapers at the time, are as follows.

“A very sad accident occurred to two men, named respectively George Hill Wilson and George Downing, road contractors, who are well known in the County Derry as such, which resulted in the former being killed on the spot, and the latter so seriously injured that no hopes are entertained of his recovery.

It appears that Mr. Downing, accompanied with his horse and cart, went to Mr. Wilson’s house in Killymuck for the purpose of arranging some matters with him about some contracts they had on hand, and whatever arrangements were made, resulted in Mr. Wilson’s accompanying Mr. Downing to his house in Dreenan.

They reached a portion of the road situated in the townland of Eden, known as Causson Road, where a large bog-hole adjoins the road. It was then about 11pm, and it appears the horse took fright, and in the excitement the deceased pulled the wrong rein, with the result that the horse fell into the hole.

Both men were thrown violently from the cart, the wheel of which then passed over the deceased’s breast, killing him instantly, Mr. Downing sustaining, at the same time, very serious injuries.

Both men are most respectable farmers.

The deceased, being married, leaves a wife and family for whom the utmost sympathy is expressed.”

As reported in the Derry Journal & other newspapers
June 1885

George Hill Wilson’s Inquest and Death Registration

An inquest was held on the 15th November, and a certificate sent on to Bellaghy by the coroner, William McIvor, for County Londonderry. 

On the 22nd November, George Thompson, the Registrar in Bellaghy, added the record of George Wilson’s death to his files.

George Wilson accident

He says that the accident happened  “at a point on the public road, opposite the field of George Downing in the townland of Eden, Parish of Tamlaght O’Crilly, about 8 perches from what is called the New Line to Canaghrily Wood.” 

Note, due to the registrar’s tiny writing on the original document, the transcription of the name of this wood may be wrong.

UPDATE Thanks to Bernie McCarthy, the wood has been identified as Annaghelay Wood.  I enlarged the original as much as possible, see right.

The Bellaghy Registrar goes on to reference the nature of the deceased’s death, saying it came about due to “injuries accidentally received by the upsetting of his friend’s cart in which he had been riding, the cart falling upon deceased and producing fatal internal injuries, duration of life about two hours.”

The Fate of George Downing

There is no record afterwards, in the newspapers, regarding the fate of the badly hurt George Downing.    Although they apparently did not expect him to live, given that there is no death registration, or reference to his demise in the newspapers, he appears to have survived.  

My efforts at further research were hampered, because there were several George Downings in Dreenan (I counted four) at the time, and yet another George Downing in Eden!

Note, Mulholland was the most common surname in the area at that time.  Downing was the second most common surname.

Further Research

During the above research, into the deceased man, I discovered a fascinating meeting, in 1883, two years prior to the above accident, at Louis Walsh’s hotel in Maghera. 

It involved the purchasers of glebe land in Country Derry and also focused on the big issues involving land at the time in Ireland.  

George Hill Wilson was a leading man in these meetings and served as Treasurer for the group. 

The meeting was attended by many people, from as far as twenty miles distant. 

I imagine the surnames will be of interest to some.  The details will appear in a future article.