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The Denbighshire Free Press, Saturday, September 22, 1888


A very painful sensation was created throughout the district on Thursday morning by the startling statement that Mr Elias Owen, the third son of the Rev Elias Owen, Efenechtyd Rectory, and Diocesan Inspector of Schools, had been found that morning by 2 of his sisters, hanging from a pair of reins attached to one of the trees in the Efenechtyd Churchyard. As soon as discovered he was cut down by one of his sisters, whilst the other held him in her arms, but life was extinct before medical or other aid could be of any avail. The distressing news produced a profound feeling of pity for the deceased, and the deepest sympathy and commiseration with the family, more especially with the father, the Rev Elias Owen, a man universally beloved and respected for his genial character, sterling worth, and valuable and successful labours throughout his diocese. He was from home at Anglesey at the time of the sad occurrence [his brother, Rev. Elijah Owen and family lived there], and the receipt of the news was naturally a terrible shock to him. Deceased was a young man well-known, and a great favourite with the young people of the district. He was a celebrated football player; one of the best goal-keepers in Wales, and as such was well-known and universally liked, being withal a genial and agreeable young man. He was about 26 years of age, married to the daughter of the late Mr Parry, steward of the Pool Park estate, and has left a young widow and two young children.

yew trees Efenechtyd The yew trees in Efenechtyd churchyard (2017)

Deceased, who was a student at Lampeter College, was now over on his vacation, and from some cause or other, had of late manifest great depression of spirits, and seemed to fear the results of his final examination now pending. Latterly these fits of depression had been severe, but not such as to lead anyone to suppose he contemplated so sad an end for himself, but going home late on Wednesday night from Ruthin, he soon afterwards left the house again, going to the churchyard. The poor fellow seemed to have suddenly determined on self destruction, possessed himself of a pair of reins, which he attached to a yew tree, at a point only some five or six feet from the ground, put a running noose around his neck, and strangled himself, being found soon after on his knees, in the position named, by his two sisters, who had gone out to look for him. These young ladies with commendable presence of mind and pluck, cut him down and carried him into the house, where they and their mother resorted to every possible means to keep up and restore animation, but it was to no avail. As we have mentioned, the Rev Elias Owen was away from the house at the time. He and deceased’s brothers were telegraphed for, and, as quickly as possible, on Thursday afternoon they arrived home.

The facts of the case were communicated to the coroner, Dr Evan Pierce, who held an inquest at six o’clock last evening at the Rectory.

The foreman of the jury was Mr Evan Davies, and they, in company with the coroner, viewed the body. The first witness called was Miss Mary Owen (sister of the deceased), who said that of late the deceased had been in very low spirits. He came home on Wednesday evening at ten minutes to 12, and stayed there for about 20 minutes when he went out. Deceased was very low-spirited, and had once expressed the wish that he was dead. Getting uneasy at his absence witness, in company with her younger sister, went out to seek him. She had suspected that he would attempt to do something to himself, and had taken with her a knife. Seeing the gate of the churchyard open, they entered and after traversing the yard without finding him, turned to go back, but, on nearing the gate, found their brother under the yew tree on his knees by the side of a gravestone. They both went to him and witness, on raising his head, found that there was a rein around his neck. Putting down the knife which she took with her, on the tombstone, witness lifted his head up and told her sister to cut the reins. Her sister did so, and they both carried him into the house where they laid him down. When they cut the reins from his neck the deceased still breathed, and continued to do so when they laid him down in the house. On laying him down, they and their mother tried to produce animation by rubbing his body. This failed to do so and in about fifteen minutes after carrying him out he died. The deceased died without saying anything, though he appeared as if he desired to do so.

Miss Maggie Owen (the other sister) corroborated the foregoing evidence. Mr W Pierce Owen, solicitor, Aberystwyth, an elder brother of the deceased, deposed to the low spirits deceased was in when he saw him last. This being all the evidence, the Coroner, in summing up said:- Gentlemen, - This has been a very serious and solemn enquiry, but after the very lucid and conclusive evidence we have just heard, you will, I am sure, have no difficulty in arriving at your verdict. This satisfactory evidence has greatly shortened the enquiry, and there are now only three points for you to consider – was the death caused by another or was it the deceased’s own act, and if it was suicide, was the deceased suffering from a temporary derangement which would render him irresponsible and not accountable for his actions. In my opinion there is not the slightest doubt but that the deceased committed suicide whilst labouring under temporary insanity. We are all aware that he was a member of a much respected, highly educated, intelligent and moral family, but unfortunately it is my sad experience that talented and cultured men are as frequently the victims of that nervous depression which so often ends in suicide as those of inferior abilities, less culture, and lower position in life. It is a most deplorable fact that suicide is greatly on the increase, and may perhaps be accounted for by the equally sad fact that insanity is also alarmingly increasing. I will now leave you, gentlemen, to consider your verdict.

On their return the jury recorded the verdict that “the deceased committed suicide during temporary insanity” and added that they were pleased with the way the Misses Owen had given their evidence, and also with the ability with which the Coroner had conducted the enquiry, and the clear and considerate manner in which he had examined the witnesses.

The Coroner, having thanked the jury, then requested that the Misses Owen might be sent for, and when they entered the room, accompanied by their brother, he (the Coroner) said: Miss Mary and Miss Margaret Owen, the jury desire me to express their admiration of the very satisfactory and decisive manner in which you gave your evidence, and I fully endorse their sentiments. Though evident most painfully affected and overcome, you did not allow your feelings to interfere with your duty; and I must say that during the forty years I have been Coroner, I have never examined witnesses who gave their evidence more satisfactorily and intelligently. Indeed, throughout the whole of this most tragic occurrence, you both appear to have received strength from above to guide you in all your actions, and to have been endowed with extraordinary wisdom, courage, foresight, and determination. You deserve the greatest possible credit for your brave and noble conduct, and are as honour to your sex. You will always have the satisfaction of remembering that you did your duty unflinchingly under most trying circumstances, and I trust you both may long be spared to be a blessing and a comfort to your parents and family. Before we part, I feel I am expressing the feelings, not only of the jury and myself, but of the whole neighbourhood, by assuring the bereaved relatives and sorrowing friends, that they have our most sincere and heartfelt sympathy and condolences in this great sorrow which has so unexpectedly befallen them. The funeral (which is private) takes place today, Saturday.

carved cross The carved cross (right) was treasured by Eva, the daughter of this Elias Owen. It may have been carved by a parishioner or by a member of the Owen family, perhaps because there could be no memorial in a churchyard for someone who has committed suicide. On it is written "Sept 20th 1888" and "In loving memory of Elias".

Evidence, not mentioned in those proceedings, is presented in the section about Elias, which indicates that the real reason for his suicide was the discovery that his wife had been unfaithful, though it is unclear at what point this was known to Elias's family.

A further article, in The Denbighshire Free Press, Saturday, September 29, 1888 was published, to include some important points that were unreported in the above account of events:

THE LATE MR E OWEN EFENECHTYD – Our attention is called to an omission in our report of the evidence last week. We omitted to say that when the deceased reached home the family were in bed, but that Miss M Owen and her sister immediately got up, went downstairs, and let him in, deceased remaining in the house some time ere going out again. The reins used, it should have been said, were leather, accounting for some of the effects produced, and the prompt and effectual service rendered to deceased by his sisters and mother was evidenced by his opening his eyes. It is pointed out that these are important points in the evidence, which escaped our attention. The funeral of the deceased took place on Saturday, when there was a large attendance, although the funeral was a private one, and deep sympathy was manifest with the bereaved parents and family. The Revs basil Jones, Llanfair, and Walter Jenkins, Ruthin, conducted the service.

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