Search

fullybooked2017

Tag

Suicide

THE STRANGE DEATH OF HORACE DIMOCK . . . part two

Header

The Great and the Good (minus one or two of the medical fraternity from Wisbech) gathered to pay their last respects to Horace Dimock, in his home village of Stretham. There had been a kind of ‘lying in state’ in the family home, before the mourners assembled at the church, ready to make the procession up the hill to the village cemetery. A beautiful old funeral bier still exists inside the village church, and may well be the one which carried Horace Dimock’s body on its final journey.

Bier

The newspaper commented thus:

Many of the mourners came the other side of the Isle, where, week after week, Dr. Dimock had served his patients faithfully and well. The mourners assembled outside the family residence in Red Lion Street, where the young doctor lay dead, and few of them were allowed look upon his face for the last time. Dr. Dimock, in a will made prior to one of his sea voyages taken for the benefit of his health, expressed a wish that flowers should be sent by the family in the event his death, and this wish was respected on the present occasion. Floral tributes, however, came from elsewhere, chiefly from Wisbech—and the inscriptions on them showed the high regard which the doctor was held by those amongst whom he had laboured. One wreath bore the following inscription, which fairly represented the feelings of Wisbech: “In loving sympathy, for one who worried the few, but loved the many.”

Funeral 3

The report continued:

It was expected that the funeral of the late Dr. Horace Dimock would be largely attended, but the villagers of Stretham were scarcely prepared for the crowds that trooped into their midst on Friday. One of the oldest inhabitants, in conversation with our representative, looked upon the attendance at the funeral as a fine tribute to the popularity of Dr. Dimock, and said he had not seen anything like it in the village before.”

The mourners were met at the churchyard gate by the Rev. S. Stuart Stitt and the choir, one of whom acted as cross-bearer. The surpliced churchmen led the mourners into the sacred edifice, and the coffin, covered with beautiful wreaths, was taken thither on a wheeled bier, which was placed near the entrance the sanctuary. The service was conducted by the Rector. The choir sang“On the Resurrection Morning.” and Now The Labourer’s Task Is O’er. You can listen to the tune of this lovely old Victorian hymn by clicking the media player below.

Hymn

WreathsThe floral tributes included the following:

“In deepest sympathy and loving memory of The People’s Doctor, from members of the Wisbech Working Men’s Liberal Association.”

“With deepest sympathy, from the residents of Gorefield and Leverington; With united, sincere, and deepest sympathy, from the staff and employees of the G.E.R., Wisbech.”

“With deepest sympathy, from the parishioners of Elm— “Greater love hath no man than that he laid down his life for others”

‘With deepest sympathy, from the Rev. and Mrs. S. Stitt; For Dr. Horace, with love, from Hilda: With deepest sympathy for our late beloved doctor from the M. and G. Joint Staff, Wisbech—”Gone but not forgotten.”

The newspaper account concluded:

“The cinematograph was at work during the afternoon, and one photographer more bold than the others of his fraternity, erected his apparatus on top of a churchyard monument. The interment took place in the cemetery after the first part the service had been held in the parish church. The proceedings were orderly, with the exception that one Wisbech man gave vent to some strong language, which had reference to the way which Dr. Dimock had been treated. The police, of whom two were in plain clothes, had an easy task to perform, as compared with what might have happened under certain circumstances.”

Postcard 3A century or more later, what do we make of the affair? What happened to the participants who survived? Reading contemporary accounts, it is difficult to believe that Horace Dimock was a totally innocent party. It would have been perfectly possible for him to have won the hearts of his patients, many of them from the poorer side of society, at the same time as conducting a hate campaign against those fellow professionals against whom he bore a grudge. The less lurid of the postcards allegedly sent by Dr Dimock were reproduced in the press, along with detailed evidence by so-called handwriting experts.

The ordinary people of Wisbech were not sitting on the fence, however: to them, Dimock was a victim of a vile conspiracy, and a modern martyr. It must also be remembered that this was not a period in British history marked by many episodes of popular unrest. This was still the Golden Age of the British Empire, and despite his death three years earlier, the benign spirit of Edward VII still hovered over his subjects. Within twelve months of Dimock’s suicide, Europe would be torn asunder by a terrible war which would lay waste to a generation of young men.

What of Dimock’s fellow Wisbech doctors? Dr Meacock, who was the most vociferous of Dimock’s detractors, was to make the headlines again, some twenty years later, but this time in his capacity as a magistrate. Dr Gunson went on to serve with distinction in The Great War. He survived to return to general practice, and is remembered in a street sign near his former home, which was one of the targets of the Wisbech mob in the dark November days of 1913.

Ghost Passage

And now, in 2020? The Dimock home in Stretham has long since been demolished. Horace Dimock’s grave lies next to that of his father, who had died three years earlier. His father’s tombstone is still clear, but the inscription beneath Horace’s cross is barely readable. It is only by comparing the original funeral photographs with modern images that we can be certain of Horace’s last resting place.

Final montage

 

THE STRANGE DEATH OF HORACE DIMOCK . . . part one

Header

It all started with the National Insurance Act of 1911. For the first time people paid
into a scheme which gave them some protection against sickness and unemployment. It was the beginning of the Welfare State. Among doctors a
sequence of events was set in train. In Wisbech, an unassuming town in the Cambridgeshire Fens, it would end with tragedy and riot. Before 1911 there were private GPs who gravitated towards wealthier areas. The 1911 Act provided insurance cover for about 12 million workers earning less than £160 a year and included the free services of a GP. The individual became a ‘panel patient’. The difficulty lay in finding a private doctor prepared to work at panel wage rates.


Postcard 3In Wisbech this was a problem
because no doctor would do it. A new doctor, Dr
Horace Dimock, was drafted in to help clear the case-load. Though the poor of
Wisbech took him very much to their hearts, his arrival created hostility among the
other doctors. Dimock was a local man from the village of Stretham, but the local
private doctors, fearing a cut in their incomes, turned their backs on the Government’s health reforms.
In October 1913, Dr Dimock’s already difficult relationship with other doctors became impossible. These other doctors were receiving malicious postcards and anonymous letters supporting the wonderful work of Dr Dimock and criticising them. One of the doctors receiving the hate mail, Dr Meacock, informed the police and Dr Dimock was arrested. He was taken before local magistrates and was remanded on bail. Dr Dimock appealed to the Medical Defence Society but discovered they were already acting for the other doctors. Dr Dimock returned tired and distressed to his home village, Stretham. The next morning he was found dead. He had taken an overdose.

 

On 30 October 1913, the news broke in Wisbech of the death of Dr Dimock. A crowd gathered and rushed to Dr Meacock’s town house by the river and stoned the windows. The local police called for reinforcements but the situation got out of control. Eventually the Mayor of Wisbech read the Riot Act and the police went in with their truncheons.

This is how the riot unfolded, according to one newspaper.

“There was tremendous excitement and grief when the news reached Wisbech. On Thursday evening, October 30th – two days after Dr. Dimock’s death – four or five thousand people attended a meeting in the Market Place. The meeting was orderly enough, although the speaker declared that Dr. Dimock had been “persecuted from the day he came to Wisbech”. Tributes were paid to his services “especially to the poor”, and the crowd, standing with heads bare and bowed, passed a resolution of sympathy with his relatives and then sang “O God our help in ages past”. But, said a reporter “apparently an undercurrent was at work”.

“Hundreds of people went & stood in front of Dr. Meacock’s house on the North Brink. There were cheers for Dr. Dimock and loud boos for Dr. Meacock. Then stones were thrown, and several windows were smashed before the rush from the police broke the crowd up. But they crossed the bridge over the river and reassembled again in front of Dr. Gunson’s house in the Crescent where,  booing and hooting, they smashed all the windows. The police charged again and drove them away – only for them to return to Dr. Meacock’s house.”

 
This is the obituary from the British Medical Journal, for the unfortunate young doctor.
Obit

Before we continue with the saga of the Riots, it should be mentioned that the new welfare measures were a national issue not confined to the Fens. The Riots were widely reported in newspapers up and down the land, and the matter of doctors’ panels in the town had been raised in Parliament earlier in 1913. This is the report from Hansard, and if at least one of the names seems familiar, he was Captain William Benn, MP for Tower Hamlets and Junior Lord of The Treasury. He went on to serve with distinction in The Great War and was, of course, the father of the late Tony Benn.

WISBECH MEDICALPANEL

HoraceSo, the people’s favourite, Dr Horace Dimock (right), was dead by his own hand, as a result of persecution form his fellow medical men in Wisbech. Was it as simple as that? Had the other doctors received hate mail? Did Horace Dimock have ‘previous’? Here is another side of the story, widely reported in the press, up and down the land. Was Dimock a victim of a concerted plot organised by the establishment, or was he a foolish man with a hatred for anyone who dared to disagree with him?

“As soon as he (Dr. Dimock) came to Wisbech, anonymous postcards of all degrees of scurrility and obscenity were sent the secretary of the hospital, to the doctors, and to various lay members the community. These postcards in (hand) printed characters, not script, were found to resemble most closely those used some nine years before in a number of scurrilous documents that were sent to a medical student at St. Thomas’s Hospital (London)who was living in the same lodgings also occupied by Dimock. A writing expert considers that the St. Thomas’s Hospital documents and the Wisbech documents were, undoubtedly written in the same hand, and anyone who examines the two sets of documents must agree with this. These documents were sent in such a fashion that the wives of the Wisbech doctors saw them. The police, then taking the matter in hand, saw Dr. Dimock post documents at certain pillar-boxes, which were kept under careful observation until the officials of the Post Office could open them. In both cases postcards or similar documents were found near the top, addressed to Wisbech doctors, in the suspected writing, and of a libellous nature.”

But then on the other hand, one of Dr. Dimock’s admirers spoke up in his defence.

“Who are the authors of the anonymous and libellous letters and postcards written to the late Dr. Dimock, which he received from the first day he began to work in the town ? Why have colleagues called him “blackleg”, boycotted and ignored him? Who repeatedly pulled down and defaced his brass plate, and were they acting for others? Who threw the gate to his back garden off its hinges, and who smashed his windows? Who repeatedly called him the telephone at night to attend to distant cases which not exist? and What evidence have the police regarding the secret persecutors of the doctor, which, it is hoped, may lead to an arrest?”

Not to be outdone, Dr Meacock was not slow to reply in the press.

CLIPPING 1

Sadly for our modern tastes, the salacious postcards allegedly sent by Dr. Dimock were not revealed in their full glory in Meacock’s letter, as newspaper readers of the time were expected to use their imagination much more than we are today. It was also evident, according the outraged Meacock, that Dimock was something of an amateur artist. Dr Meacock finished his letter regretting that Horace Dimock had died – if only because that sad fact had prevented justice from being done, and seen to done.

CLIPPING2

Meanwhile, the public disturbances had continued, not without a few moments of unintentional humour.

“Since an early hour this evening a mob has been parading the streets and demonstrating alternately before the residences of Dr. Meacock and Dr. Gunson. At nine o’clock a double police cordon was drawn across the bridge which gives access to the street front of Dr. Meacock’s house, and the crowd, which must have numbered about 1,500 strong, concentrated upon Dr. Gunson’s in the Crescent .The Police who barred the way were subjected to a fusillade of squibs and detonators, the explosion of which, though harmless, sounded remarkably like revolver shots. An arrest in Bridge-street before ten created some disturbance, and three or four stones were thrown at Dr. Gunson’s windows, one or which was broken. About ten o’clock night there was a recrudescence of the rioting in the neighbourhood of the Market-square. A crowd numbering several hundred invaded Market-street, and in a few moments had broken every window in the surgery.”

Further rioting took place on Saturday night. The streets were crowded with people, but there was no trouble until nearly ten o’clock. Then the people formed into mobs, and powerful explosives were discharged. Several of these exploded perilously near the faces of some of the police on duty. One bomb was so strong that it smashed the window in a jeweller’s shop. That was the only damage to property during the evening, the crowd seeming to be more anxious to attack the police than damage the property of residents. This was probably due to the fact that the police had been too vigorous in  their handling of the crowd on the previous evenings. From ten o’clock until two this morning there were continuous conflicts between the police and civilians in various parts of the town, and the mob was really more riotous than it had been on any previous occasion. The rioters attempted to rush the cordon of police guarding the approach to Dr. Meacock’s house, but the constables used their batons, and the crowd was repulsed, several men and women being knocked down and others receiving hard blows from the batons. A number of police were struck in return.”

The worst disturbance took place about 11.30 in the market-place. About 2000 people were assembled, and a rowdy element commenced throwing explosives and empty bottles at the officers. Three or four of the bottles struck policemen, inflicting nasty cuts their faces. Then the police drew their batons and charged into the crowd. They hit hard, and several of them were struck heavily in return. One aged man was hit on the head with such force that he sustained a bad wound, and was treated by doctor. The man alleges that he was standing at the top of the passage where he lives and was struck without any provocation whatever. Another man received a blow in the mouth and some of his teeth were knocked out. Order was restored in the market-place about one o’clock, but when the police attempted to clear the streets there was a renewal of the disorder. Blows were freely struck, and there were instances of of stand-up fights between civilians, while police constables on duty in the outskirts of the town were attacked at several points by villagers returning home. It was not until two o’clock this morning that order was restored.

One former Constable clearly was a gamekeeper turned poacher.

“There was a sequel to the recent disturbances yesterday at a local police court, when Ernest Langford, an ex-policeman, pleaded guilty of having assaulted the police, and was fined 20s. Constable Wallace said that on Saturday night the police had just cleared the demonstrators from the Bridge, when Langford rushed across and hit the witness on the head with a stick. The blow knocked off his helmet plate and also the chain. The defendant ran away, but fell down, and was stopped by another constable. He was rescued, however, by the crowd and got away. The Defendant expressed regret, and stated that he had been a police officer, and was discharged from the force with a good character.”

PART TWO – DIMOCK’S FUNERAL and AFTERMATH
will follow on Saturday 20th June

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑