Saturday, May 26, 2012

Russell, R. T. B.


A pathetic story was told at Belfast (Ireland) at an inquest held on Major R. T. B. Russell, formerly of the 69th Foot, who served in the Crimea and through the Indian Mutiny, and who died from the effects of cold and starvation. He was the holder of several medals, yet he died miserably in Belfast Workhouse, and was buried in a plain deal coffin at the expense of a few strangers, who had befriended him for some years, and who were the only mourners who stood round his humble grave.

Major Russell was the son of Captain Thomas Hart Russell, who was also, it is said, an officer in the 68th Foot, and he was born 76 years ago in a mansion on the shores of Lough Neagh. When he retired, from the Regular Army Major Russell took the same rank in the Antrim Artillery, and was for many years identified with that corps.

He was left in fairly good circumstances, but his resources were dissipated by lawsuits. For the last eight or nine years he had lived alone in a wretched kitchen house in a dirty back street in Belfast, eking out a miserable existence by hawking tea from door to door. In spite of his wretched appearance his military bearing and finely chiselled features easily marked him out from the common run of hawkers, and some of those on whom he called were led to befriend him.

He might have ended his days in comparative comfort, but he could not be induced to accept anything but trifling aid, and for the last 3 or 4 years neither fire nor light was seen in his wretched home. Major Russell was a teetotaler and a staunch Episcopianan, and such was his love for dumb animals that during his last illness he refused to travel in a tramcar because he believed the horses were overworked. Kind friends found him weak and dying, and without food in his fireless room, and provided him with medical aid and necessary comforts. It was too late, however, and he died soon after he had been removed to the workhouse. Long exposure to cold and want of food had hastened his end, the doctor said, and the jury returned a verdict accordingly.
Feilding Star, Volume XXIII, Issue 1385, 15 March 1902, Page 2

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