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On the 11th December the Department received a letter from the clerk of the vestry of St. Mary Abbotts, Kensington, enclosing a copy of the report of their medical officer, and calling attention to the following remarks with reference to the reported death of a  girl from typhus fever.  “It is possible that the child may have died from brain trouble, e.g., meningitis.  Her father “states that she was much excited and anxious in connection with an approaching school examination, and that until she became delirious, on the 3rd day preceding death, she constantly engaged in calculations, recitations, &c.”  He also adds in a footnote that since his report was in type, he had received notice of the death of another girl attending the same school from “over application to study, meningitis”.  Having ascertained the names of the children in question, the Department at once communicated with the School Board, and requested that inquiry might be made into the circumstances.  The cases were accordingly duly inquired into, both by the managers of the school, and by one of the Board inspectors (Mr. Ricks), who reported to the School Management Committee of the Board.

The following is a brief history of each of the two cases:-

 MABEL FOTHERGILL, aged 12, daughter of John Fothergill, upholsterer, residing at 69 St. Ervans Road, entered the school Jun 1879, passed Standard I. November of same year.  In November 1880 she was not examined, but in 1881 she passed Standard II., in 1882 Standard IV., and was preparing to be examined in the V. Standard in November 1883.  On the 1st November, however, she was sent home poorly, and the next day was taken to a dispensary, but became rapidly worse and died on the 7th.   The doctor refused to certify the cause of death, and called for an inquest.  A post-mortem examination was held, and after hearing the medical evidence the jury returned a verdict of death from typhus.  The following resolution was passed by the managers of the school: “The managers have considered the case, and have no evidence before them that the child “died from any other  cause than that arrived at by the jury at the inquest”.  The only ground upon which the medical officer doubted the conclusion at which the jury had arrived, appears to be the fact that although no precaution were taken, no other cases of typhus occurred in the house or among the schoolfellows of the deceased, although some of the latter were allowed to see and kiss her body.

 FLORENCE TURNER, 12 years, daughter of William Turner, dairyman, 15 Colville Road, admitted to Buckingham Terrace Board School from a private school February 1881, passed Standard IV., November 1882, and was preparing for Standard V., when she was taken ill, and died 26th November 1883.  The medical man certified her death to be caused by meningitis produced by over application to study.  As the result of their investigations the managers of the school expressed their opinion that the girl was naturally predisposed to illness to which she succumbed, and that the illness was accelerated by the school work, which, though not arduous for ordinary girls, proved too hard for her.  It appears that the mother had been expressly cautioned by her medical attendant that her younger children were liable to suffer from “brain irritation”, and should not be kept too closely at school.  The following general observations were made by Mr Ricks on the two cases:-

  1. That neither of the two children attended very regularly

  2. That the home lessons given were neither long nor difficult.

  3. That there was no necessity for any undue pressure to make these girls pass the standard examination, as both were bright intelligent girls, and foremost in their standard.

  4. That no complaints were made by the parents in either case as to the treatment of their children. 

In conclusion Mr Ricks expressed himself satisfied that in neither case was there any foundation for the statement that overpressure brought about or accelerated the deaths of the children.