The mystery of William Percy Radford, killed aged 15

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: The Adelaide Observer newspaper in its February 12, 1887 edition carried an article about Wiliam Percy Radford's death.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: The Adelaide Observer newspaper in its February 12, 1887 edition carried an article about Wiliam Percy Radford's death.

The mystery of who put flowers on the grave of William Percy Radford at Emu Bay has been solved.

But exactly how the 15-year-old farmhand met his untimely and tragic end back in 1887 probably never will be.

The Islander ran an article on February 28 after being contacted by the Emu Bay Progress Association about flowers being placed on William's newly refurbished grave. 

A Facebook post of the article resulted in Bev Nolan commenting that former Kangaroo Island resident Pat Thalborne had stopped in at the Emu Ridge Oil Eucalyptus Distillery and stated she had just put flowers on the grave of a long-lost relative at Emu Bay.

Seeing the article in print was local KI Lions member Bevan Patterson, who knew that old friend Mrs Thalborne had been in contact some months before to make a donation as a thank-you for installing the headstone on William's grave.

William Percy Radford was her great uncle, or her grandmother's oldest brother.

Mrs Thalborne has since told The Islander that despite living on the Island from 1945 to 1997, she never knew her relative was buried at Emu Bay.

"We must have driven past his grave dozens on times on the way to the beach at Emu Bay but we had no idea he was buried there or had even been on the Island," she said.

It was only when her sister in Victoria was researching the family tree that she found out the troubling report on William's untimely death.

William Percy Radford died while working on a farm at nearby Wisanger in 1887 where he was allegedly badly treated by a farm manager.

The family does not know how William came to be on the Island only that his parents were from Hallett Cove, and perhaps he left home at age 15 to find his fortune on the Island, only to meet his death.

The Adelaide Observer newspaper in its February 12, 1887 edition carried an article about the Coronial inquest into the boy's death that was held in Kingscote with the headline "Ill treatment of a boy". Read the original article below.

A Jury returned the following verdict: "That William Percy Radford come to his death by violence. There is not sufficient evidence to criminate any person, but there is evidence that Kent Nash brutally treated deceased."

Mrs Thalborne meanwhile said she was delighted with the work of the Emu Bay Progress Association and Lions Club to restore the cemetery and his grave.

She was more than happy to make a donation of $100. "It's only right that we pay for his headstone," she said.

Mrs Thalborne and her late husband Brian moved away to Adelaide in 1997 but her son still has a shack at Vivonne Bay.

So she and her cousin Nancy Bayment came to the Island in late February to place flowers on the grave and catch up with old friends.

In another undiscovered Island connection, Mrs Thalborne after living on the Island for many years found out that her grandparents Charles and Frances Malycha also lived on the Island in the early 1900s but left after a couple of years because Frances suffered from hay fever.

The Emu Bay Progress Association meanwhile continues to work on an interpretative sign for the newly refurbished cemetery and would appreciate any information on anyone buried there.

Contact can be made with Ann Jamieson at Jamieson Marine.

The KI Pioneers Association meanwhile has also been following the William Percy Radford case and offers its services in solving any historical mystery. 

FLOWER MYSTERY: We can now reveal that Pat Thalborne placed the flowers on the grave of William Percy Radford back in late February.

FLOWER MYSTERY: We can now reveal that Pat Thalborne placed the flowers on the grave of William Percy Radford back in late February.

"Ill treatment of a boy"

(The following is the Adelaide Observer article from Feb. 12, 1887)

The adjourned inquest was held by Mr J.W. Daw, JP, at Kingscote today, on the body of Percy Radford, a lad aged 15 years, who died suddenly on Sunday, January 30.

The enquiry was opened on February 1, and postponed for a doctor to come from Adelaide to make a post-mortem, the body being badly bruised.

Dr. Ellison said he had duly examined the body, and found it in an advanced state of decomposition.

The tissues round the kidneys were bloodstained and adherent. There were also signs of local peritonitis.

The injury was such as might have been caused by a recent blow. He was of opinion, under certain circumstances, that what he described—that was the injury to the tissues round the kidneys—would be sufficient to cause death in the way of shock or exhaustion.

Under appropriate treatment the boy might have recovered. The injury would probably be caused by violence.

He bad no evidence to show any external wound, the body being too decomposed.

He could not give an opinion as to the bladder, not having seen it. The boy must have been in much pain before his death.

He believed the injury would be more recent than six weeks prior to the boy's death.

The injury to the kidneys would accelerate death. Deceased might have gone about his duties, but he was suffering from pain.

Sickness would be a symptom of his injury. It would also cause pain in the stomach and head. Kent Nash said - The boy received a blow by accident.

While cutting suckers my axe slipped and struck the boy on his left hip. I said, "Oh, it hurt you, my boy."

He said, "No, Mr. Nash." I should have mentioned it before if I had thought of it. John Florance deposed - Nash came to Mr. Bell's for Mrs. Florance, and told her the boy was bad.

He is an excitable man. He is harsh-spoken. Never heard that the boy's ankle was put out through Nash kicking him.

The boy came to me when ploughing crying and said, "Nash kicked me because I did not pick up enough scrub."

He asked leave to spend Christmas with me, and I said, " Yes; will Mr. Nash let you?"

He said he did not know, and added, "Nash ran a pitchfork into me the other day."

The boy was crying. I was raising a stump, and could not get it up. I said, "You better go home, I must do five chains grubbing or get no supper."

The Jury returned the following verdict: "That William Percy Radford come to his death by violence. There is not sufficient evidence to criminate any person, but there is evidence that Kent Nash brutally treated deceased.

The boy was insufficiently fed, and therefore suspicion is left in our minds that he caused his death. We are of opinion that the authorities are to blame in delaying to dispatch a doctor till Saturday."

Upon hearing the verdict Nash contended that there was not one tittle of evidence to support it, and that it was arrived at through prejudice.

He is now taking steps to clear himself of the slur cast upon him by the verdict.

[Upon enquiry at the Destitute Board Offices in Adelaide we learn that this boy Radford had been in no way under the care of the poor-law authorities.]

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