Res­i­dents riled by no beer and foul smell

Benalla Ensign - - Front Page -

Coro­ner. The Coro­ner pre­vi­ously ap­pointed had re­signed al­most im­me­di­ately when he learnt that he would not be re­im­bursed for his ex­penses.

Be­fore re­frig­er­a­tion, bod­ies were stored some­where cool to await Dr Henry’s re­turn.

Dur­ing that time only per­sons au­tho­rised by the Coro­ner or the Deputy Coro­ner were per­mit­ted ac­cess to the body.

Per­haps the coolest place in Be­nalla was not the cel­lar of the Com­mer­cial Ho­tel.

How­ever, Ge­orge Sharpe, Jus­tice of the Peace and Shire Pres­i­dent, presided over coro­nial in­quiries. He also owned the Com­mer­cial Ho­tel.

So it was in the cel­lar of his ho­tel that all bod­ies await­ing au­topsy were stored.

How­ever, Dr Henry had not au­tho­rised any­one to have ac­cess to bod­ies stored there. This meant that no-one could en­ter the cel­lar to change a keg when one ran out.

This led to bit­ter com­plaints in let­ters to the ed­i­tors of lo­cal news­pa­pers dur­ing one hot sum­mer Dr Henry was away. There were three bod­ies in the cel­lar of the Com­mer­cial Ho­tel await­ing his re­turn. Noone could buy beer in the ho­tel. The kegs had run out. No-one could en­ter the cel­lar to change the lines un­til Dr Henry con­ducted his three au­top­sies.

Although we have no records now to prove it, we can pre­sume that Ge­orge Sharpe ar­ranged for a cel­lar­man to be au­tho­rised by Dr Henry to en­ter the cel­lar and change keg lines for all fu­ture oc­ca­sions.

That way, Sharpe’s cus­tomers could con­tinue to drink beer at his ho­tel and he could con­tinue to be paid for body stor­age. Ge­orge Sharpe was a shrewd busi­ness­man.

This was not the only time the is­sue arose.

In 1881, James Dick was crit­i­cally in­jured at Chiltern when a brake han­dle of a train be­ing shunted hit him in the belly. He was re­turned to his Be­nalla home. Dr Ni­chol­son at­tended. Dick died the next morn­ing. Although a doc­tor had ex­am­ined him, the Coro­ner re­fused to al­low his body to be buried or moved un­til an in­quest had been con­ducted. This was as the law re­quired.

It was Fe­bru­ary, but Mag­is­trate Wy­att, act­ing as Coro­ner, saw no ur­gency. He held the in­quest eight days later. By that time, those liv­ing in the street where the body was kept had all moved out.

To Dr Ni­chol­son’s fury, the town blamed the smell on him for not is­su­ing a death cer­tifi­cate.

No doubt ea­ger to en­cour­age busi­ness for his cel­lar, Ge­orge Sharpe railed in lo­cal news­pa­pers about stor­age of Dick’s body in a do­mes­tic res­i­dence.

— John Barry, AN­ZAC Com­mem­o­ra­tive Work­ing Party, Coo-ee — Hon­our­ing our WWI


Au­topsy de­lay: The grave of James Dick.

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