Shocking Accident at McLaren Vale in 1858

Event Dates:

27 January 1858

A most distressing occurrence recently took place at McLaren Vale, which has resulted in the death of two persons, both residents in that neighbourhood. We give the particulars as they were elicited at the inquests, which were held by Mr. Colville, J.P. On the 27th January last between 8 and 9 o’clock in the morning, John Sparrow, a builder at McLaren Vale, went to the house of a Mrs. Mason in a state of delirium tremens. Mrs. Mason’s mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Power, was in the house; and on the fire there were a fountain and pot, both containing boiling water.

Sparrow went to the fire, and put his hands into it; and when Mrs. Power endeavoured to remove him, he threw the scalding contents of the fountain over her, and in his insane rage inflicted other violent injuries on her. Sparrow was himself scalded from the elbows to the tips of the fingers, and from below the breast down to his right leg. He went into violent convulsions shortly after the occurrence, and died at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Mrs. Power was dreadfully scalded, and was carried to the house of Mr. David Colvin, where she lingered till the morning of the 10th instant, and then expired. During this interval, Mrs. Power, though suffering excruciating agony, retained her consciousness, and made statements to her medical attendant (Dr. Thomson), to the Rev. Mr. Melville, and to the Coroner himself which were repeated in evidence at the inquest. Dr. Thomson stated, on that occasion, that Mrs. Power had been severely scalded on her arms, chest and back, slightly on the face, and had four or five contused wounds; and also that she complained of great pain at the pit of her stomach, which she ascribed to Sparrow’s kneeling upon her, and dragging her violently along the floor.

The verdict on the first inquest was, that the said John Sparrow came to his death by the injuries received in being scalded, combined with delirium tremens. At the second inquest the Jury found that the said Elizabeth Power came to her death by the scalding and other inquiries done to her by the deceased (John Sparrow), the said John Sparrow being in a state of insanity. Sparrow was a widower, and has left four children, all girls who have been sent to the Destitute Asylum.


1858 ‘Advertising‘, Adelaide Observer 27 February, p. 7. , viewed 12 Feb 2024,
1858 ‘Advertising‘, Adelaide Times 12 March, p. 1. , viewed 12 Feb 2024,
1858 ‘DESTITUTE BOARD‘, South Australian Register 27 April, p. 3. , viewed 12 Feb 2024,

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