A NURSE WRITES ON THE DUNMORE SHOOTING TRAGEDIES 1938
NURSE FOR WILLIAM, DOROTHY TROTTER WRITES IN TROTTING THROUGH THE YEARS
There was a request to take a young Army Officer of 24 years of age from the King Edward VIII Officers' Hospital, back to his home in Donegal, to a small village six miles west from Londonderry. He had become engaged in the April and was going to be married in the June to Miss Helen Mackworth of Knowle End, Sidmouth, Devon - related to the Lascelles Family. William was the only child of Col. Robert McClintock and his wife Jennie. He had smashed his back up in the Gold Cup Race, his horse falling on top of him, he would never be able to sit up and was quite feelingless from under his arms down. He would have to be fed, washed, daily enemas and catheterised.
The old Dr Rankin, who lived seven miles away, came once a week from Newton Cunningham. There were four gardeners, two resident servants, and Bridie the cook. No electric light, except what was made by the Colonel, oil lamps, and the telephone was down at the main gates - where John Galey, the Head Gardener lived.
I duly met Mrs Jennie McClintock at 11 am inside the gates of Hyde Park Corner, opposite St George's Hospital. She was to be sitting on a seat on the left with a tweed suit on, wearing a rose in her buttonhole and a newspaper under her arm. I went to buy myself a new dress first, at Marshall & Snelgrove - it was a navy blue with a plaited sky-blue chiffon scarf threaded through from the neck to the waist - just the job, no hat but gloves and a navy bag and shoes!! I can see the scene now as though it were yesterday, pigeons being thrown bits of bread, the band playing in the distance and riders riding round in Rotten Row - sun brilliant.
After a talk of about twenty minutes, I was engaged without any hesitation. My orders were to meet early in the morning, about 7 am, on a stretcher on a trolley at Kings Cross Station. With him would be his Fiancée, Miss Helen Mackworth and Nurse Joan Hawkey, who had been helping to look after him for a short time at the Officer's Hospital. She was not fully trained.
A special compartment had been booked for us, actually next to the Guard's Van, for our trip up to Strangraer and we were to cross by the night boat to Belfast - Larne. There we would be met by Mrs Landale who was Mrs McClintock's sister, have a wash and brush up and go by special ambulance for one hundred miles to Dunmore House, Carrigans. Mrs McClintock went ahead and I told her to see to get a hard bedboard for William's room.
The time came and went and I had to see to all his treatment on the journey. We wore summer dresses, no uniforms, which was GRAND and were miles out in beautiful country. That afternoon seems like only yesterday that the ambulance went up the drive with us at 3 pm and, of course, we had little Barney, Helen's dog!! The other two dogs, Nol and Jambo, came out to greet us. There were tears and whimpers because they could not understand why their young friend could not get up. The gardeners were lined up and the maids and Col. and Mrs McClintock, and we were introduced!!
After we'd got William up the stairs to his bedroom overlooking the garden, we all had some good cups of tea and I got William washed and then asked the four gardeners to take me down the staircase on the stretcher to the walled garden outside, where he would be taken daily, while the summer was with us, to lie in a shelter. This was a practice for me to tell them where the bumps were!
Helen had her own room across the landing and
Nurse Hawkey and I had two single rooms on the floor above. Sheep
bleated in the fields and summer was at its best - bats coming out
at night and coming into my room. I often found one or two hanging
off my clothes, asleep, in the morning. Nurse Hawkey kept her window
firmly shut. The corncrakes were in the long grass - craking - all
summer and in the corn! This was the place to observe the seasons
and it reminded me of Netherfield - there were ducks and hens too!
The fields too were blue with the flax and there were two ponds. I
often swam in the lower pond amongst the weed and bulrushes, when I
was off duty. Helen and I went once a week in a little Austin 7, to
Derry to do the shopping and Col. McClintock took either Nurse
Hawkey or me out sightseeing. I have seven very old photos which I
took with my Brownie II - with Helen in and the dogs, Col.
McClintock and one dog, one dog on his own, and Helen took one of me
swimming in the pond!
It was eventually arranged that William and Helen would be married in the house on Monday 26th September, as he was getting much worse and would not get better. His mother was dead against the marriage and was in a very disturbed state.
On the Saturday, September 24th, the four gardeners finished work at 12 noon, but were to come back again in the evening to take William in from the garden. Whilst we had lunch, Mrs Mc Clintock always went out to the garden and fed William his lunch. At 10 minutes to 2 pm, daily, I gave Col. McClintock the Mist. Pot. Cit. medicine to take down to him in the garden, this he did, but came running in a few moments later to me in the dining room, "Come quick nurse, William is dead". I flew out down those steps from the porch and down through the little iron gate under the archway to find that the whole of the top of his head was missing and bleeding profusely. We both o us looked at each other and I said, "Where is your wife?" Guns were the order of the day and all three were good shots, Col. and Mrs McClintock and Helen.
Helen had gone up to her room to rest - I made it a daily rule that she should go up and rest at 20 minutes to 2 pm, from the dining room. I asked the Colonel to go immediately and tell John Galey at the Lodge to get the other three gardeners and come for me to take William's body up to his room, and to ask John to phone Dr Rankin and tell him he would be coming for him.
My mind was perfectly calm, fortunately. I covered my dear patients body up with a red rug and walked down the path where I found Mrs McClintock's leather gardening glove, she was always pruning roses and cutting off bits and pieces. I thought she might be hiding in the potting shed but dare not go and look. Soon the gardeners arrived devastated and in tears - Master William! We carried his body in and up the stairs and they laid it on the bed. We met no one. I then went across the landing and broke the news to Helen. She wept bitterly and then suddenly brightened up saying, "Of course I can never live without him". She was surrounded by wedding gifts on the bed and downstairs the cake was in the far room. I had made arrangements with Miss Alexander, who came almost daily, to bring flowers for the little altar I'd made, at 3 pm. She was the sister of Field Marshall Alexander. I then said to Helen, "I must leave you" and kissed and hugged her - we had become such great friends and left her with little Barney on her bed, "I must go and look for Mrs McClintock." I went downstairs and found dear Maggie Bradley, the housemaid aged 24, and said, "Come with me Maggie, we'll go and look for the mistress." I decided we would go and look through the window of the potting shed, from the shrubbery, but before we'd even got there I almost fell over Mrs McClintock's body - she had shot herself from under the chin and was lying on her back. Her head was hanging up in the tree with her earphone hairstyle fallen apart and the rooks from the rookery above were at it.
I was horrified and dear Maggie fell in a faint! At that moment I heard the Colonel's car chugging up the drive followed by Dr Rankin in his. I ran through the grass to tell them and they came over and examined her body. Fortunately Maggie had come round by then and the next thing was Martha Magee, the other housemaid, coming running out on to the step, "Come quick, nurse, Miss Helen has done it now!" - all within the space of an hour.
Col. Mc Clintock, Dr Rankin and I then tore up the stairs into William's room and found Helen lying in a pool of blood, but not dead. She had gone across the landing with her dog and found William dead on his bed, under the blanket. She was unconscious with brain matter oozing from her ear. I prayed to God that she would die - her little dog was running round in circles in a terrible state. Fortunately the room was in shade as it faced south. The dog was removed from the room and I remained with Helen till she died, just after 3.45 pm.
At 3 pm came dear Miss Alexander in her car, up the drive, with flowers. I hung out the window. Someone went to her and told her, and she just went on round and down again, and out of the main gate.
That evening the inquest was held in the house with oil lamps burning and the maids were in a very distressed state and when I went down to the kitchen in the basement to tell Bridie, she flung her arms around me, and said, "I knew something would happen - the lid on this stew jar has jumped up and down for days and days!"
Of course reporters were there in the evening, and at the Inquest held at which I had to speak, and after midnight I took the undertaker up to William's bedroom to see all three bedrooms. The gardeners had got Mrs McClintock's body in and her head. The undertaker literally vomited and Nurse Hawkey said she could not attempt to help me lay them out, so I did it on my own, weeping and praying as I did so. It was 6 O Clock in the morning when I finished.
Sunday was a sunny warm day and reporters were over from England invading the house. I kept well away. Mrs Mackworth had phoned to say she would not be coming to the funeral on the Monday and, of course, we had to phone the few guests who were coming to tell them of the tragedy. Mrs Mackworth's request was that she wanted Barney shot and he was to be buried with her daughter! in Carrigans church yard on the Monday. At 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon I had to take Barney up to the woods behind the house, with John Galey, tie him to a tree and watch him being shot. That just about finished ME.
Mrs Landale was phoned and came with her daughter and son, Roy, who was an officer in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, for the funeral on the Monday. Nurse Hawkey and I stayed with the two remaining dogs to keep them quiet, they were missing the family so much. Nurse Hawkey returned to London on the Tuesday and nothing has been heard of her since.
Back in England on the Sunday, Arthur Pugh, who had got engaged to my sister Alice in London, was on his way up to Yorkshire in the train from Marylebone and had got the "Sunday Times". In the train, he saw on the back page - "STOP NEWS, Triple Shooting Tragedy in Co. Donegal" and realised I was the nurse in charge. My Father had been on his morning rounds and met Arthur at the station. He showed him the newspaper. Of course, he was horrified and was frantically trying to get Col. McClintock on the phone but was told there was no phone at the house, but they got through to the Lodge. The report was, "Dorothy is perfectly all right and is in command of the situation", which was a great relief to the family.
I was asked to stay for another two weeks, which I did, sending back all the wedding gifts to those who had sent them - mostly army friends in Britain, and the gardeners and I had endless bonfires down in the garden. Col. McClintock wanted every photo of his wife and son burned, all William's certificates from Wellington College where he had been at school - the big Army School. I finally left and was taken back to the boat and seen off at Larne by Mrs Landale and her daughter and back by train to King's Cross, arriving in the October. There on the station were my parents and I did a dead faint.