1st December 1861


On Monday an inquiry was held touching the death of Matilda Scheurer, 19 years of age. She was engaged as an artificial florist in the warehouse of M Bergerond, of Judd-street, Brunswick-square, and up to the time of her death she had been employed in artificial leaf-making.

Mrs Louisa Scheurer, a widow, mother of the deceased, deposed that she was present at the death of her daughter on the previous Wednesday morning. On the Thursday her daughter was taken ill and complained of a pain in the side and intense thirst. She was seized with vomiting and the refuse of the stomach was of a greenish colour. She had been ill several times before, and complained of pains in the stomach and sickness for the last year and a half. She was in the greatest pain until she became insensible, when death put an end to her sufferings.

Mr Paul, surgeon, of 23 Burton-crescent, Kew-road, deposed to knowing the deceased well. He had attended her four times within 18 months while suffering under the same effects. She had on those occasions recovered under his treatment. He had made a post-mortem examination, and found the body of a greenish yellow colour. The eyes were also of that colour. The nails were very green, and the countenance was of a particularly anxious character. The lungs gave presence of arsenite of copper, the liver being highly impregnated. The stomach was much inflamed, with bunches of gangrenous ulcerations. The cause of death was acute inflammation of the mucous membrane of the stomach, produced by the inhalation of the arsenite of copper.

Mr Paul explained that the artificial leaves that the deceased was engaged in making were made of wax, and that, while wet, emerald green powder was sprinkled upon them. He then produced a small glass tube for the inspection of the jury, into which he had placed from four to five grains of the emerald green used for the leaves, and on applying it to the spirit lamp by the aid of a blow pipe, he found at the lower end of the tube a deposit of metallic arsenic, and at the upper end arsenious acid. The powder was as light as magnesia, and as easy blown about, and the inhalation of the above mentioned quantity was quite sufficient to kill an adult.

Mr Paul said he had had several cases of similar character, eruptions on the neck and face being the usual appearances. A sister of the deceased had died under the same circumstances, and was sent to the hospital, where she was treated for fever. Now that he had discovered the real cause of the affliction, he should for the future recommend as an antidote the administration of the hydrate peroxide of iron. He never before had a fatal case.

M Bergerond said he employed 98 girls in his establishment, and for the purpose of their preservation he had suggested the wearing of masks, but it was objected to by them as producing excessive heat.

The jury then returned a verdict in accordance with the medical testimony.


At ten minutes past one o’clock on Sunday morning, one of the immense piles of building characteristic of the High-street of Edinburgh suddenly and without a moment’s warning fell, burying a great number of people in the ruins. The house was situated on the east side of the High-street, about halfway between North-bridge and the ancient building known as John Knox’s house. To the front of the building showed seven stories, and in the rear there was an additional story, owing to the sloping character of the ground.

Like most of the houses in that part of Edinburgh, the destroyed building, which was one of the old wooden houses of the sixteenth century, masked by a more modern stone front, has seen many vicissitudes of fortune and from the being the residence of nobles has descended in the social scale until it has reached the humblest class, nearly every room giving shelter to a distinct family. The immense block of building was thus densely populated, and it is estimated that not less than 100 people must have dwelt in it.

On Saturday afternoon, the occupant of one of the shops on the street floor observed a slight break in the plaster and a deflection of the roof, and immediately sent for a builder to examine the structure. A temporary prop was inserted and after examining the upper stories of the house without discovering signs of a general depression the builder concluded that the flaw was merely a local one, and no further steps were taken. Within twelve hours, however, the whole house fell inwards and collapsed with a fearful crash.

The work of excavation is still going on in the ruins of the fallen building. The total of the dead is now thirty-two, but more are expected to be found.

Many remarkable escapes were made, and one or two instances occurred of preservation of life under almost miraculous circumstances. A young man, named Adams, was carried down by the falling wall and deposited on the pavement on the opposite side of the street with only slight bruises. Just before the accident, a police sergeant was passing the building when his attention was attracted by a slight scuffle on the other side of the street and he crossed over just in time to escape the avalanche which might have crushed him to instant death. A little boy was extracted by the firemen, after about five hours’ digging for him in the morning, and the little fellow was heard to encourage the efforts in his behalf by calling out, “Heave away, my lads; I’m no deid yet.”

The catastrophe created an immense sensation in Edinburgh on Sunday, and the terrible event was referred to in all the pulpits. Never before in the history of the city has there been such a prodigious loss of life from a domestic accident. The lack of municipal supervision which the disaster indicates is the apparent cause of the calamity.

Mr Charles Dickens, now in Edinburgh, has been actively interesting himself in the unfortunate matter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s