Anne Cameron Inquest -1856
by John Dye

Transcribed handwritten material from the office of the Procurator Fiscal of Tobermory, currently held in the Argyll Archive at Lochgilphead.

Poor Anne Cameron died, perhaps of puerperal fever contracted during the birth of her second child at Shielfoot, or possibly due to post-natal depression.

She was carefully nursed by her caring family, but one dark night, two weeks after the birth, she slipped away from her house during the night and was found dead two days later.


Precognition of Witnesses - Sudden death of Ann Cameron - 1856
Compeared Alexander Cameron, Crofter residing at Shielfoot in the parish of Ardnamurchan and Shire of Argyll who says:

When Ann Cameron became unwell, Dr Howie came immediately

I am 37 years of age. My wife Ann Cameron was delivered of a female child on the 13th of March 1856. She continued to go on favourably for the first 8 days when she fevered. I sent my brother Hugh Cameron who lives under the same roof with me for Dr Howie on the night she took ill.

He came and I saw her prescribed Medicines and became as I thought much better, tho' she continued to be very weak. From this date she was waited on night and day & every attention paid to her possible. Her sister Mrs McPhee, Aharacle was oftner with her than anyone else. She was assisted by my mother who lives with me and several of our neighbours - up till Saturday 29 March 1856 she continued to improve tho' she kept very weak. She complained of nothing but weakness, she said she had no pain. She was not able to get out of bed without assistance and even then she remained up only for a very short time till the bed was changed and aired.

When a week later, Alexander Cameron returned home after a day's fishing, Ann was still no better and he made her some gruel and climbed into bed beside her

On the above day I went out early in the forenoon to fish and was all day on the sea. I left Mrs McPhee and my mother in the house. On my return home I found that Mrs MacPhee had gone home and that there was no one in the house along with my wife, whom I found in bed, but my mother. I asked her how she had spent the day, she answered pretty well, tho' she was very weak. She was pretty cheerful. My mother prepared supper and I partook of it about 9 p.m. My wife also sat up in bed and partook of some - it was porridge. After supper my mother went to bed in the same apartment, and fell asleep. I sat up for two hours during which my wife also slept. When she awoke I was sitting at the fire and she asked me to prepare a drink. I made a meal gruel and gave it to her after sweetening it with sugar. She tasted it, taking only a mouthful or two, and returned it saying that she did not like it. She had the child with her. I proposed to take it and give it to my mother which she consented to. I did so. She then asked me to go in beside her to the bed and to lay down at the back. I told her that as I had been on the sea all day I would sleep very heavy and that if I went to bed at all I would lay down at the outside as it would be readier for me to get up during the night if required.

I went to bed beside her exactly by my watch at ½ pat 11 p.m. We lay awake for a short time and talked about how she felt. She said she was better and that she had passed the day very well. I told her to try again to sleep as that was the first thing to make her well. She stopped talking for about 10 minutes and, thinking she was asleep, I fell asleep myself and slept soundly.

In the night she got up and crept out of the house

I awoke in a very short time afterwards and found that my wife was not beside me. I got up and awoke my mother but she said that she had not heard her. Before going to bed I barred the front door and snecked the door of our apartment. I found the room door as I had left it but on going to the front door I found it open. I ran out naked and went round the house thinking to find her there. I returned to the house immediately and roused my brother Hugh, who also got up. I then dressed myself and on looking at my watch found that it was exactly ½ past 12. We immediately went out and knocked up our neighbours and commenced to search for her. The morning was very dark, more than ....

(part missing)


(the next part is from the statement of Hugh Cameron)

They found Ann's body at twelve noon the following day

with my brother in that part of his declaration where I am referred to. I was awoke on the night in question by his cries. He was greeting bitterly and in great grief. I got up and learned that his wife had got up and gone out while he was in bed asleep. I put on my clothes and went out and roused the neighbours and continued to search for her from that time till the following day, Sabbath, at 12 noon, when she was found dead near Hugh McPherson's house. We live under the same roof tho' in different apartments. I had thus an opportunity of seeing them every day. They lived happily and agreeably together. They were only two years married, and was always kind to her & spoke kindly about her when she was not present. All which is truth.


Compeared Janet Cameron or McPhee wife of and residing with Hugh McPhee, Crofter, Aharacle in the parish of Ardnamurchan and County of Argyll, aged 33 years. Says:

Ann had been well for the first week after the birth of her daughter

The Deceased Ann Cameron, wife of Alexander Cameron, Shielfoot was my sister. She was about 2 years married and was delivered of her Second child on the 13 of March last. I saw her again on the following Saturday and she appeared to be going on favourably. I returned home that day thinking it unnecessary to remain with her,and I visited her regularly till Wednesday 19 when her improvement was become more apparent.

Janet came down for two days when Ann fell ill

On the following day, Thursday 20th March, her husband came to me at Aharacle and said that his wife had taken a bad turn during night and had been seen by Dr Howie. I immediately went to see her (the distance between her house & mine being about 2 miles) and remained two days and nights, watching & nursing her. She was very weak and complained greatly of Weariness.

I again saw her on sabbath - she was very weak and she said she thought she was dying. I remained with her during that night, she spoke sensibly, still complaining of great weariness. I returned home on Tuesday & did not see her again till Thursday the 27 March. My sister Flora having taken my place as nurse during the above absence. She was very weak on this Thursday but she was able to sit up in bed and give the child the Breast.

She came down for a further two days in the week following, leaving on that fateful afternoon before the return of Alexander from his fishing

I remained with her till Saturday the 29th at 2 p.m., when I left & went home leaving her in charge of her mother in law. I thought her much better as she was able to raise herself in bed & sit up without assistance. Shortly before I left I made and aired her bed. She got up and walked to the side of the fire and sat there while I did so. It was not more than 15 minutes. She walked from the bed to the fire alone and without assistance. On returning to bed she was unable to walk & had to lean on my arm. She had on in bed two petticoats, two bedgowns, and a pair of Stockings and a cap. I left my tartan shawl beside her in bed to put over her shoulders when she sat up to give the child a drink.

During my visits and stay with her up to this time she once or twice spoke to me expressing a desire to go home to her mother at Ardtoe. She said that her brother might send the cart for her and have her taken there. She gave no reason for his beyond expressing a desire to be out of that bed. I gave her no encouragement, she was not in fit state to be removed and I attributed her wish to be away to a notion. I saw nothing but kindness and attention shewn to her on the part of her husband and his relations and she made no complaints against them. She always spoke sensibly to me but I saw she had a very unsettled look. She complained of great heaviness

(ends here - JD)