THE LATE MR JAMES SHAND.
Mr Shand arrived in Otago by the ship Phoebe Dunbar in 1800* along with his father and the other members of the family, he being a youth of thirteen years at the time, and his school education far from perfect. Within a short time after their arrival death removed his father, so that the whole burden of providing for the household devolved on the widow and the eldest son James. Some good friends lent assistance, and the small farm at Green Island turned out so prosperously that in a short time a considerable area was added to its extent. As years rolled on and the younger branches matured, James had to look out for himself, and, as showing one phase of his character, his first venture was to obtain a horse-power threshing-mill, with which he travelled over the roadless Taieri Plain, working for the settlers who chose to engage his services. Whilst at this first spec he reached Mr Rennie’s farm at West Taieri, and was so pleased witb. the character of the ground that he purchased there his first acres, which afterwards extended into the large and celebrated farm of Abbotsford. Had he only contented himself herewith things might have gone well with him, as in this farm he possessed about the finest land in the province. The land-thirst, however, was on him, and he would not be content with the low and fertile plain ; he must also have the higher country, so as to hold the upper and the nether springs. Following this the celebrated land in Southland, in the Win ton district, allured bis attention, and broad acres there were added to the estate; then succeeded the Henley purchase, to be speedily completed by the Edendale domain. It was a rapid accumulation, excelled, however, by its more rapid dispersion. In 1882 he was the registered owner of 31,443 acres in Otago and Southland, besides a joint proprietor in Southland of 9,848 acres, valued at L 33,365. At the date of his disappearance he had not an acre to leave as a heritage to his family, Not satisfied with the production, he must add thereunto a means for disposing of his stock direct to the consumers without the intervention of other agencies, and to carry out this project he lavishly expended in fitting up a beef mart in Dunedin, which proved indeed a white elephant. In his grain sales, too, he was also doomed to disappointment, caused by his own rashnaas in shipping the cereals when they were not thoroughly hardened ; so thot their destination being reached the condition in which they arrived closed the best market against them. In almost every fresh proposal to find an outlet for surplus stock, whether in meat preserving, frozen meat, cattle markets, farmers’agencies, or other mode of improving the position of his brother farmers, as well as his own, he was always to the front, his opinion often I elng asked and obtained and acted upon as it suited. Mr Shand was a member of almost all the boards and councils which inundate the Taieri district. Road, river, drainage boards, school committees, County Council, and everything that was local received far too much of bis attention. Going further afield he was in 1860 elected to succeed R, M. Robertson in the Provincial Coiiuoil, and returned at both the succeeding general elections thereto, in 1871 and 1873, on the last occaeicn heading the poll over Messrs Donald Reid and James Allen, his colleagues, by a considerable majority, and continuing a member until the abolition of the Provincial system in 1876. As a member of the Council he was of good service in several matters ; sometimes, however, accused, like the rest of public men, of logrolling, particularly in regard to the Outram Branch Railway. His most prominent position, however, in the Council was his appointment, along with Messrs J. L. Gillies and W. H. Reynolds, to arrange the terms for reunion between Otago and Southland. The fact of his being a large owner of land in both provinces was the qualification on which he was selected. Perhaps none of the Otago settlors occupied a more prominent position as an agriculturist than did Mr Shand. Both the extent of his holdings and the superior quality and adaptability of the soil for the various puiposes intended indicated that he was well fitted to judge and determine what was best suited for cropping, grazing, or mixed husbandry. Add to this the natural energy and enterprise for Which he was noted, and it was no wonder he soon became one of the largest and most influential of our landholders. Unfortunately, however, combined with his good qualities there was a vaulting ambition, together with an innate vanity easily excited, and which, by being acted on by designing men, undoubtedly caused his disasters. One other deficiency in his character was impetuosity—an almost complete lack of that cool clear-headedness so essential to the carrying out of all great schemes. Had he left the management to calmer bands his schemes would have been successful, but his own ‘'ramstam” style was a barrier in the way of complete success.
The dark cloud in which Mr Shand’s sun has set should cause a gentle criticism of his errors and shortcomings, and rather evoke sympathy for the widow and six young children whom he has left behind to mourn his loss. Gently scan thy fellow man, And gentlier sister woman ; Gin they should (tang a kcnnin wrang— To err, it is but human.
Nor should the existence of another be forgotten— “ the widowed mother, feeble, old, and grey,” whose cup of sorrow has run over through this latest afflicting stroke. Her later years have indeed been a continuance of sorrows. Under a rough brusque exterior, James Shandpossessed a warm, honest heart, and the Taieri Plain is largely indebted to his enterprise for its rapid development.
THE INQUEST. The coroner’s inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of James Shand was held at Abbotsford Farm this afternoon before Coroner Carew and a jury of six, of whom William Snow was chosen foreman. The following evidence was taken
John Shand, farmer, residing at Winton, said that he was a brother of deceased, who was born at Aberdeen, and came to the colony thirty-eight years ago. Witness had not seen much of him lately, the last time he saw him being on the 26th of May last. Witness had had a letter from deceased on the third of the present month, wherein he stated that he intended coming to Southland. Witness knew nothing which bore upon the present matter, and could not say he had noticed anything particular in deceased’s manner. He had, however, no opportunity of seeing him lately. Deceased could swim with his clothes off, but was not a proficient swimmer.
John Tohill, platelayer, residing at Outram, said that yesterday, while coming over the Taieri Railway Bridge, about sixteen minutes past twelve, he saw an object in the water thirty or forty yards below the bridge. It resembled a man’s hand shut. Upon examination he found it was the body of James Shand lying in the river. He could not get the body ashore, but got the assistance of Walter Callick, and they turned the body on its back and brought it ashore, fastening it close to the bank with a rope. Callick informed the people of the neighboring houses, and witness told the search party. William Moore, laborer, on Abbotsford Farm, said that he was working in the garden on Friday morning, when he saw Mr Shand walking from the house towards the fence in the direction of the river. There was no gate in that direction opening on to the river. Mr Shand was fully dressed, and walking quicker than usual. Ho could get a view of the lower part of the farm from the fence. Early in the morning Mr Shand spoke to witness, asking him generally what he was going to do that day. Witness noticed nothing unusual in his manner and appearance, which were much the same as usual, Mr Shand had been lately much quieter than he used to be formerly. James Patrick, manager of Abbotsford Farm, said that deceased was living on the farm. Witness saw him about nine o’clock on Friday morning. Deceased had been to Henley the previous day. Witness asked what he thought of the Henley ground, with the view of taking up land there. Mr Shand answered “Not much.” Witness said he thought the late Thomas Shancl’s place was better, and Mr Shand replied “ Much too wet.” Deceased did not seem inclined to carry on a conversation, and
witness left the office. He had not seen deceased since. He had known Mr Shand for three years. He seemed low-spirited, about the change.
James Ashcroft, Official Assignee, said he had known Mr Shand since the Provincial Council days, and had had his affairs twice through his hands. He last saw the deceased at the office in Dunedin on Wednesday. He had been in the habit of consulting witness about the future and discussed various plans,and witnesshad given his advice. The question discussed that particular day was whether deceased could take some off the late W. T. Stand’s land on lease, his. friends being willing to advance certain money. He said the land was too low, and they would all be drowned. He seemed to be much depressed, and expressed anxiety about his family, as ho had done before, saying that he could nofc take the managership of so large a family, and did not know when he would leave Abbotsford. Witness aald * 4 Make vour mind easy about that till after Christmas,” and asked him whether hewanted any money, as witness had some money left out of the allowance. Deceased said “ No.’’ Witness gave him seme papers,, consisting of accounts, sales of stook and implements, which Mr Shand said ho would like to take and go through to see that everything was accounted for. He signed for them. Witness found these papers on Tuesday in the Abbotsford office. On several occasions deceased complained of insomnia, and on the last occasion witness had remarked that therewas a danger of Shand losing his bead. Witness had therefore, out of kindness and consideration, tried to cheer him. There was something peculiar in his look and manner, and his constant complaint of lose of sleep made witness afraid of a change. Deceased was easily elated and easily depressed. He keenly felt the entire loss, of his homestead, and to the last seemed to have a hope that he would not be sold up. Lately he was less excitable, but quietly depressed. Constable M'Kenzie, stationed at Outram, said that he was engaged from last Saturday up to yesterday in searching for the body of Mr Shand, On Saturday morning his coat and hat were picked up on the river bank. The articles were close to the edge of the river, about half a mile from the railway bridge. Witness searched the spot and found footmarks going down the bank at the water’s edge, but no similar footmark* returning from the water. A search party was organised to drag the river, and continned their examination until the body was reported to be found. Witness then proceeded to the spot. The body was fully dressed, and seemed to have stiffened in a : swimming position, the arms and legs being ! drawn np at half stroke. Witness searched the body and found a gold watch and chain —the watch stopped at 10.17—and a purse containing 2s 9d; but no letters. The Body was conveyed to AbboUford Farm. There were no marks of violence on the body. On Tuesday afternoon, when searching, witness was shown a complete suit of clothes all wet except the trousers, which had been damped by contact with the other clothes. Small grains of sand and slime were to be found on parts of the clothing. The water need appeared to have been clear, not river water. The clothes were found under a bush near the garden gate. They belonged to Mr Shand. The only clear water about the farm was contained in large concrete tanks. The last letter (produced) that Mr Shand wrote seemed to be a sensible epistle. The Coroner, after perusing this letter, said it was not a hopeful letter; it showed that the writer was disheartened, not being satisfied with T. Sband's land.
Witness, continuing, said that the time hung heavily on deceased’s hands. He did not seem depressed. To Mr P. Duncan: From the position of the body it is quite possible that deceased got cramped while swimming. It was consistent with that theory that the sand found in deceased's clothing—discovered in the garden—was similar to sand on the farm. To a juror: The trousers had not been in contact with water; the other clothing had been submerged. To Mr Duncan; Clay was found in some parts of the clothing. To a juror: It was quite possible that deceased slipped into the river. There was nothing to show the contrary. To Mr Duncan: One mark on the bank showed the slip of a foot scraping the ground for a few inches.
The Coroner, sannniug up, said the eridence adduced clearly showed that deceased had voluntarily gone into the water. The other clothes being found wet would lead to the conclusion that this was not the first time deceased had attempted suicide. If the jury found that deceased was drowned they must consider what state of mind he was in when he went into the river. Be was a man easily depressed, and had been unfortunate in his transactions. The question for the jury to consider was whether he was accountable for his actions.
The jury having deliberated, The coroner was called to direct them.
The Foreman asked if it was competent for the jury to return a verdict of “Found drowned.”
The Coroner replied that if they were satisfied that deceased deliberately walked into the water they should return a verdict accordingly; if not, they should return a verdict of “Found drowned.”
After further deliberation by the jury, the coroner was again called in, and he read the evidence of Messrs Ashcroft and Moore. After another deliberation the foreman said that the jury had come to the conclusion that deceased drowned himself while of unsound mind.
THE FUNERAL. The funeral took place this afternoon, and was largely attended, the Road Board and County Council being represented, and the prominent farmers of the Taieri and surrounding districts, besides the intimate friends and relations of deceased being present. The remains were interred in the West Taieri Cemetery. The Rev. Mr Kirkland (Presbyterian minister) officiated at the grave. Several clergymen from town were also present. General sympathy is felt with Mrs Shand and children in their sad bereavement.
Permanent link to this item
THE LATE MR JAMES SHAND., Evening Star, Issue 8022, 26 September 1889