There was a tragedy in 1888 when a fifteen year old girl was accidentally shot dead by her brother, who did not realise the gun was loaded.
On the afternoon of Sunday 11th November that year at 62 Chatham Street, Catherine Lang asked her widowed mother Elizabeth for a book called Good Thoughts By Great Minds. She was told to go upstairs and see her brother Hugh as he had it. A few moments later Elizabeth heard the sound of a gunshot and on going to a bedroom to investigate, was pushed out the way by Hugh who was in a distressed state.
Catherine was lying on the bed with a wound to the head, while a revolver was on the floor. A doctor was called but life was pronounced extinct and he stated that death had been instant. Hugh, who was a junior clerk and in a state of total shock, accompanied his grandfather John Dickson to the detective office.
Hugh made a statement which read "My sister wanted a book which was in the room where my cousin sleeps. I went to get the book, she followed me. I was on my knees getting the book when I saw her sitting on the bed. I saw the revolver which I had in the box and pointed it at her in a playful manner. She said 'Oh, I am not frightened of it.' I must have pressed the trigger too tightly and it went off. I did not know it was loaded, although I must have loaded it myself. The revolver was my fathers."
John Lang, a commercial traveller, had died eleven years previously and detectives established that it had belonged to him. Hugh was detained at the detective office pending an inquest, which was arranged for two days later before Clarke Aspinall at the Coroner's Court.
Hugh's mother Elizabeth explained that she was aware Hugh had a revolver belonging to his late father, but was unaware there were also cartridges. His uncle and cousin both said they had heard the shots and at first thought it was a firework. Hugh gave evidence himself, saying that he had two pistols and a revolver belonging to his late father, but he hadn't remembered which of them was loaded.
Mr Aspinall told the jury it was one of the most painful cases he had ever dealt with and it was for them to decide if the firing was accidental or not. They returned a verdict of accidental death, with a comment that firearms should not be allowed to come into the control of youths. The Coroner told Hugh that he was free to go and that it was clear he and his sister were greatly attached and he had been greatly affected by the incident.