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Dight, Arthur Hilton (1878–1918)

The life of a returned soldier came to a pathetic and tragic end on Thursday last at Narandera, when Mr. Arthur Hilton Dight, civil engineer, aged 40, a single man, employed by the Irrigation Commission at Leeton, died from the effects of poisoning by cyanide of potassium, self-administered, at the New Junction Hotel.

Deceased had done two or three years' active service in Egypt, Gallipoli, and France, and about six months ago was discharged medically unfit, suffering from shell shock and dysentery. Since his return his health has been indifferent, and he has had several attacks of colitis, and shortly before going to Leeton was an inmate of Dr. Murton's private hospital in Sydney, being treated for that complaint. He also suffered at times from hallucinations, thinking that someone was following him to persecute and injure him, and suffered much distress of mind in consequence, although he never gave any reason to believe he contemplated taking his own life.

On the 3rd inst. he left Leeton for Sydney, and started to return on the 6th. He left the train, however, at Narandera, and went to the New Junction Hotel, where shortly before noon he was seen by the licensee in the front parlor of the hotel, seated at a table with his portmanteau open before him, apparently engaged in writing. About noon he went to the chemist's and asked to be supplied with some cyanide of potassium, stating that he wanted it for the purpose of poisoning rabbits. The chemist declined to supply him unless he brought a witness to the sale. He went out, and in a few minutes returned with a witness, and was supplied with a ½ lb tin of the poison. At about 5.50 p.m. deceased went to the bar of the hotel and ordered a whisky and soda, which he took into the parlor, saying 'Good-bye' as he went out of the bar. There was nothing peculiar in his manner at anytime during the day. He appeared quiet and reserved, but quite normal. Soon after he left the bar the licensee heard some knocking in the parlor, and on going in saw deceased kneeling at the table hammering something on the table. He asked what he was doing, and deceased replied, 'It's all right. I am only breaking something.' The licensee went out, but a few minutes afterwards he returned and saw deceased lying on the couch with his eyes wide open and breathing heavily. The licensee thought he was in a fit, and telephoned for the police, who arrived in a few moments, and found life extinct. The police made a search, and found some cynaide of potassium on the table, some loose in the deceased's pocket, and also the tin purchased earlier in the day. A letter written in pencil was found in deceased's handwriting on the table. It contained a rambling, incoherent statement with regard to some imaginary persons trying to do him an injury.

An inquest was held on Saturday, the verdict being that death was the result of poisoning by cyanide of potassium, self-administered while deceased was suffering from temporary derangement of intellect, the result of shell shock and illness incurred while on active service.

The members of the local branch of the Returned Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia accorded deceased a military funeral. The Citizens' Band preceded the funeral cortege out of the town, playing the 'Dead March,' several returned soldiers marched to the grave, over which they fired a volley, and Bandmaster Homann sounded the 'Last Post', the funeral service being delivered by the Rev. A. Boyd.

Deceased, although himself a stranger at Narandera, was a cousin of the wife of Mr. Y. G. Lindeman, for some years manager of the Commercial Bank here, and a brother of Mrs John Walker, wife of the Rev. John Walker, of St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Ballarat, who was well known here, having visited the district on different occasions on organising work, while his son, Rev Arthur Dight Walker, for some time occupied the pulpit of the Narandera Presbyterian Church.

Original publication

  • Narandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser (NSW), 11 June 1918, p 3 (view original)

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Dight, Arthur Hilton (1878–1918)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/dight-arthur-hilton-17606/text29255, accessed 21 November 2017.

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