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Archibald Campbell (1834–1867)

On Monday morning we were shocked by hearing a rumor that Mr. Archibald Campbell, the Custom House landing waiter at Morpeth, had been found dead in his bed. A little later and the report changed to the effect that the deceased gentleman had deprived himself of life on the previous evening; and on proceeding to Morpeth to ascertain the truth, it was with deep regret we found the latter rumor was indeed founded on fact. The coroner, Mr. J. Thomson, was in attendance early in the afternoon, and a jury was soon empanelled for the purpose of ascertaining the true circumstances under which the fatal deed was committed. The jury at first proceeded to view the body, which presented a shocking spectacle. The deceased, who was dressed with the exception of his coat, lay on his back on the floor, literally in a pool of blood; from his position he must have been standing before a looking-glass, which was placed on a chest of drawers, and beside which was a kerosene lamp, at the time when he inflicted the fatal wound. The instrument used, which had been laid down on the other side of the looking-glass, was a razor, around which, had been wound a necktie, evidently to prevent it from closing. Having witnessed this sad scene, the jury and the coroner proceeded downstairs to the room used by the deceased as his office, and which had been sealed up on the previous evening. Here the papers, &c, appeared to be all in good order; two cheques were found, one for a small amount, evidently in connection with the Custom-house business; the other for £24 being on account of salary. Among the leaves of blotting paper a document was found in the handwriting of the deceased, and doubtless contained the last words he penned, the incoherent nature of which gave incontestable proof of the aberration of mind under which the writer had then laboured. Nothing else remarkable was discovered in this apartment, except, perhaps, a small-bore rifle which appeared to be loaded, although not capped. The jury then adjourned to the inn kept by Mr. Taylor close by, where the inquiry was commenced by the examination of Miss Mary Emily Darby, who had been visiting in the family of the deceased for some weeks past, and who deposed that she had known the deceased for about ten years; he was a kind, quiet man, although sometimes excitable; for some time he had been unwell, and often complained of a pain in the head; on Sunday he went to Newcastle to see Mrs. Campbell, who is staying there under medical treatment; he also went to consult Dr. Bowker on his own account; he returned by the train in the evening, and partook of tea with the family at a little after 6 o'clock; he said his wife was better, and that she was coming back, on Saturday next if the doctor would permit; after tea he went to his office, where he remained all the evening while he was there, and so engaged, the witness took in one of the children to him to wish him good night; he came up to the drawing-room about half-past 8 o'clock, and walked for a little while in the balcony; he then came in and sat down to the table and said that his head was very bad, and that he felt giddy; his voice seemed strange, and his eyes looked quite wild; he jumped up suddenly, and said he was better; he then lay down on the sofa; witness asked him if she should make him anything, and he asked for a cup of chocolate; she felt his forehead, which was burning hot, and she told him so, when he looked at her in a very strange manner; the witness then went to the kitchen to make the chocolate, for the servants and the children had all gone to bed; while doing so she heard a curious noise proceeding from the house; this being repeated she looked out, and saw a light in Mr. Campbell's bedroom; she then heard a noise like something falling, and running upstairs to the bedroom door, which was open, looked in, and saw the deceased lying on the floor, with a great deal of blood all over his chest, just as he was then lying; witness did not go into the room, but at once ran off to Mr. Whytlaw's, and informed that gentleman of what she had seen; this was about 9 o'clock in the evening. The next witness was Mr. John Whytlaw, manager of the Branch of the Commercial Bank at Morpeth, who stated that the last time he saw deceased alive was on Sunday afternoon, when he called in for a few moments, on his way from the train; he only stayed a few minutes, excusing himself on account of his head, which he said was very bad; he appeared ill and exhausted; about 9 o'clock Miss Darby came, and said something was the matter with Mr. Campbell; witness at once went for Dr. Getty, and took him to Mr. Campbell's residence; there they found the deceased, as already described; witness locked the bedroom door, and sealed up the office in conjunction with Dr. Getty. Dr. Getty deposed to having gone with the last witness, and found the body lying as already stated; he examined the body, which was quite dead, and found an extensive wound on the neck, extending from the left ear completely across the neck; the carotid artery and the jugular vein were divided on the left side, as was also the larynx, just above the pomum Adami; from the extent of the wound, and the importance of the parts injured, the witness believed death must have been almost instantaneous; the razor seen by the witness lying on the drawers would have produced such a wound, and his impression was that deceased must have inflicted it upon himself. Senior-constable John Gordon also gave evidence to the effect that on being informed of the occurrence by Mr. Whytlaw, he had placed a constable in charge of the premises; he also deposed to having found in the presence of the coroner and the jury, the written paper before alluded to. The coroner having briefly summed up, the jury proceeded to consider their verdict, which, after a short deliberation, they returned as follows:— "We find that the deceased, Archibald Campbell, committed suicide while laboring under a fit of temporary insanity." We need scarcely say that this unhappy event has cast a perfect gloom over the town of Morpeth. Most of the places of business had their shutters up, the steamers had their flags half-mast high, and everywhere the utmost regret was expressed for the untimely end of one so much respected as Mr. Campbell has been, and the deepest sympathy for his unfortunate widow and family of young children.

Original publication

Citation details

'Campbell, Archibald (1834–1867)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 April 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]




5 May, 1867 (aged ~ 33)
Morpeth, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

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