St Johnston and Carrigans

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Triple Death in Carrigans 1938

 

The small village of Carrigans was shaken by a gruesome tragedy in September 1938.  The scene was Dunmore House. 

Back in the dark days of the tragedy, Dunmore House belonged to Colonel Robert Lyle McClintock. 

He married Jennie Margaret Casson-Walker (depicted left) on 11 Nov 1908.  They had been both in India.  Her speed and skill at mathematics earned her the reputation of a being a genius in the subject.  She was one of the three daughters of Sir George Casson Walker.

They had one child, a boy, William George known as William.

Monday, September 26th, 1938 was to be a day of celebration.  A wedding was to be held in Dunmore House with the reception afterwards also in Dunmore House.  When the day came, it was instead a day in which the McClintock family and the community pondered the events of the previous Saturday - a day of horror, bloodshed and death.  Instead of a wedding, there were three funerals.  The mother of the groom-to-be, the groom-to-be and the bride-to-be.

Some time earlier, William proposed marriage to a 22 year old Devonshire girl called Margaret Helen Macworth of Sidmouth.  She accepted and the wedding date was set.  The day of his 25th birthday was chosen - 26th of September.  His mother strongly disapproved of the impending union.  His father who was involved in the Boer War and in World War 1 chose to say nothing. 

William was a second lieutenant in British Army.  In April 1938, he was involved in a horse-riding accident at Sandown Park and fractured his neck.  As a result he was paralysed severely.  He spent three months in hospital in England.  Dorothy Trotter and Joan Hawkey were appointed as his nurses.  Dorothy took that position in June 1938.

William was put on a plane and brought back to Dunmore House.   The two nurses came to Dunmore as did Helen Macworth.  The wedding preparations soon commenced.  William didn't get out of his bedroom much.  So he passed the long hours by talking to Helen, his mother and by singing.

On Saturday 24th September, William asked to be taken out in the fresh air to the walled garden in the grounds.  The sun was shining.   He was settled in a stretcher.  He was writing a letter to his aunt. 

The wedding cake had been set up in the dining room on the sideboard. 

His mother Jennie Margaret McClintock left the house.  She arrived in the garden armed and shot him in the head.  Soon after, the body was found by his father.  Nurse Crumlish attended to him but he was beyond saving.  She had been in Carrigans that day to deliver a baby as she was a midwife of the district.  The body was taken into the house.  Jennie Margaret was not to be seen.  Later her body was discovered by the tool shed in the garden.  She had died through a self-inflicted shot to the head.  The murder and suicide weapon lay by her side.  Dorothy and a maid, Maggie Bradley, had found her.

The bride-to-be, Helen, was distraught upon learning from Dorothy that her fiancé was dead.

William was placed in his bedroom. 

Helen was subsequently discovered missing and to everyone's horror they found her wounded in the head from a gunshot in the bedroom where they had placed the body of William.  She had shot herself in the head with his rifle and died an hour later of shock and haemorrhage. 

No gunshots were heard at any time.  There were no witnesses to any of the deaths.

The nurse Dorothy Trotter who knew Helen well said that the girl had been saying that if he died she would go with him.  Helen wanted the impossible and had deluded herself into believing that he would recover from the paralysis.  Perhaps this had an psychological effect on her that unhinged her mind and his been shot dead drove her over the edge.  Helen had had to deal with the fact that William George was getting worse and in effect he was slowly dying.

The bodies of Jennie Margaret McClintock and William George McClintock and Miss Macworth were interred in the Churchyard of Killea Parish Church, Carrigans.  They were buried on the day chosen by the tragic couple for their wedding.  September 26th 1938 brought sadness to the village not the joy of a marriage.  Macworth's dog Barney was put to sleep and buried with her.

The Inquest was held in the house on the evening of the deaths.  The Colonel testified that his wife had suggested that he and she commit suicide after killing William.  He paid little attention to her and she stopped saying anything more about it.  She had been raving at times within the previous three months.  Her mind snapped probably because she felt that she would lose her son if she let him marry.  She took the gun and then shot him in a state of unsound mind.  Presumably she then proceeded  to shoot her husband but for some reason she couldn't carry it out.  He according to Nurse Crumlish had been cutting a hedge on the estate at the time.  So she may have given up and shot herself.  The inquest concluded that Jennie had gone insane and shot her son in the garden, then shot herself dead and that Helen also died as a result of suicide.

Dorothy wrote a book that detailed the tragedy.  She became Dorothy Meyrick.  She visited the crime scene twice in the 90's with writer Ken McCormack.  Soon after the deaths she had been instructed to burn everything that belonged to William George.  His books and even his photographs ended up on this bonfire.  She lit the bonfire in front of the house.  Dorothy died at the age of 91 in 2004 in Wales. 

Two former maids of the McClintocks, Mary and Martha, spoke to Mr McCormack at the time of his visits.  They were the last to see Jennie alive.

The McClintocks left Dunmore in 1940.  The Colonel died in 1943.  He is interred with his wife and son in Carrigans.

There is a strong and seemingly dependable oral tradition that Agatha Christie had stayed at Dunmore House as the guest of the McClintocks and had been introduced to some local people.  Jennie Margaret Mc Clintock had a sister called Dorothy.  Dorothy married Campbell Christie.  Campbell Christie was Agatha Christie's brother-in-law ...

A new book is soon to be published about the tragedy, called "The Mysterious Affair at Dunmore", by Frank McGurk and Ken McCormack" ~
Also go to www.dunmoremystery.com to get full details of the story and book.


Dorothy Trotter wrote in her book:

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 Macworth 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 Macworth 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 Macworth 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 Macworth'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.

By Dorothy Trotter in her own words


Article from the Irish News Sept 27 1938

Tragic Donegal bride-to-be is buried in her wedding dress
 

LIEUTENANT William George McClintock (24), his fiancé, Miss Helen Macworth (22) of Sidmouth, Devon, who were to be married yesterday and Mrs McClintock, his mother, were buried in the parish churchyard at Carrigans, near Derry yesterday. Mother and son were interred in the McClintock family grave and Miss Macworth close by.

Miss Macworth was in her bridal gown and the bridal bouquet was placed on her coffin.

Mrs McClintock shot her son, who had been crippled in a hunting-field accident, and then herself.

Miss Macworth, finding her fiancé dead, shot herself.

Quietly and with only a few people as mourners, apart from the half dozen family members, the funeral took place from Dunmore House, Carrigans, Co Donegal yesterday. Mr McClintock and Miss Macworth were to have been married yesterday afternoon at Dunmore House.

The wedding cake, prepared for the celebration, was given back to the family cook who had made it and all signs of festivity had been removed.  The coffins, which were conveyed in Individual hearses to the parish church at Carrigans, were carried up the aisle by estate workers. In a seat close to the remains were Colonel McClintock, the 65-year old veteran of the Boer War and Great War, with bowed head, and District Inspector Landale, Antrim. His wife's nephew.

Women present wept as the coffins were carried out of the church to the burial ground, the organist playing How Brightly Those Glorious Spirits Shine.  The colonel, who had kept up bravely during the last couple of days, broke down and wept as the coffins were being lowered into the graves.  No member of the family of Miss Macworth attended.  Other mourners included Mr Bertram Barton (cousin), Mr James Stevenson DL. Banagher (relative) and Lt Col Gledstanes DL.

The service was conducted by the Rev David Kelly BA, rector of Glendermott who was to have officiated at the wedding.  As the coffins were carried out by estate workers to the burial ground adjoining, the organist played The Sands of Time Are Sinking.  The graves had been lined with asters, sweetpea, laurels and ivy, a service voluntarily performed by tenants of Carrigans village which is on the Dunmore estate. In a reference at the service, Rev Mr Kelly referred to Mrs McClintock's work for the Protestant Orphan Society and foreign missions, and added in reference to the triple deaths: "This was a tragedy. A triumph of love. The bond of love was stronger than the thread of life."

 

Jennie McClintock with her dogs.  She sent this photograph to her friend Mrs Long.

Jennie McClintock's handwriting on the back of the photograph

 

 

Helen Macworth


Dorothy Trotter


 

Inscription on gravestones

 

To The Memory of

Jennie Margaret McCLINTOCK

Born 3rd Feby 1885 died 24th Septr 1938

And of William George McClintock

Lieut Royal Artillery

Born 22nd Septr 1913 died 24th Sept 1938

Dearly loved wife & son of

Colonel Robert Lyle McClintock, C.M.G., D.S.O

Royal Engineers

Of Dunmore

Born 26th March 1874 died 11th July 1943

“Sleep after Toyle, Port after Stormie Seas

 

 

 

In Memory of

Helen MACKWORTH

Who passed into the life eternal

On Sept 24th 1938 aged 24

 

LINK TO DETAILS ABOUT DUNMORE HOUSE CENSUS 1911

 

http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/pages/1911/Donegal/Killea/Drunmore/500587/

 

 

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