William was the youngest
son of William Coubrough, surgeon, Falkirk and his wife Margaret Aitken.
He was born on 20 Jul 1834. He led a very chequered career!!
He married Jane Bryson on
24 Nov 1859 at Redding, Stirlingshire. He was a printer who lived in the
High Street, Falkirk (probably the family home). His family disapproved of
the marriage. From later information we learn that the marriage was an
unhappy one right from the start. However, with his many changes of abode
and work places, William does not give a very stable picture of a family
man! In fact a lawyer later was to say “From his childhood upwards there
was no doubt that he was of weak intellect. He was weak not only in mind,
but in body.”
Two babies – Jessie Steven
C. b. 2 Jan 1861 and Margaret Aitken C. b. 13 Oct 1862 were taken out to
Australia with their parents in 1863.
N.B. All the legal
paperwork says Australia – the 1881 census says New Zealand!!
That didn’t work out
either. William felt his wife was gossiping behind his back and alienating
him from his business contacts. He always seem to think she was also
unfaithful to him. Jane returned to Falkirk in 1873/74 with the girls (or
maybe Margaret had died in Australia because she was not with the family
in 1881 census and neither her marriage or death has been found in
Scotland so far) and William born 1869 and John Archibald born 1871. Emma
Jane was born at sea on the way home!
William returned to
Scotland in 1877. After a short time in Glasgow he returned to Falkirk and
set up a printing and bookselling business. That lasted two years before
he sold up. Around that time he was in court for assaulting his wife and
fined 30/- or 30 days in prison.
By the 1881 census he was
back as a printer in Glasgow lodging in 99 Dundas Street. I think young
William died in 1887 in Falkirk but that needs to be checked out. Jessie
married Beaumont M. Burrell, a road surveyor living on Islay on 10 Jul
1889. They emigrated to Montana and she tragically died there on 16 Apr
William was still lodging
in Glasgow in 1891. We are told he frequently journeyed to Falkirk to
spend time with his sister Ellen (Helen Dawson C. 1823 – 1894). He was
very upset when she died. Perhaps that precipitated the next happenings?
He planned to go to America, bought his ticket and then changed his mind!
He also purchased a gun!! He was in London for a short spell before
heading back north to Glasgow.
Jane had been
unsuccessfully trying to get arrears of aliment from him especially after
he said his sister left him money. He offered to give his daughters £200
to set up a milliner’s business. Jane travelled to Glasgow and went to his
lodgings to demand settlement. The landlady said at that stage she hadn’t
even known he was married! Later, she reported that William seemed to get
into a ‘ frenzy when he thought of her and also threatened to shoot her.’
Ellen’s Will showed that
she and her sister Margaret had left everything to one another. Did
Margaret give William some of the £380 Ellen had left??
The family in Falkirk had
not seen William for some time when he suddenly called at the house in 46
High Street around 11 – 11.30 am on 10 Jun 1895. Jane was dealing with
clients – she ran a “servants’ agency” from the house. The girls did
dressmaking. He entered the parlour and began talking about a settlement.
He wanted Jane to go to Glasgow to sort things out. Emma remained with her
mother as Jane was a little afraid of her husband – with due cause. He
produced his pistol and fired twice at Jane wounding her on the chest and
back. Then he turned on Emma. However, with all the screaming etc. help
was soon on hand. Meanwhile William put his gun in his mouth and shot
himself. He dramatically laid down as though dead and imagined he and Jane
would ‘appear together before a judge with whom perjury was impossible’.
The police arrived and he was taken to the Cottage Hospital. Jane was
treated too and recovered from her traumatic incident. William was
assessed to see if he was insane. He was held in Glasgow Prison until the
His special defence pleaded
in court in Glasgow on 29 Aug 1895 was that he was insane at the time of
the attack and as a result was given eight years penal servitude. He spent
time in Peterhead Prison which is where he was found in 1901 census.
Lengthy reports of the attack and subsequent case were printed in the
Emma married George Clark,
a commercial traveller living in 27 Alma Street, Falkirk in 1898. I didn’t
find any children.
Helen Dawson C. married a
draper from Crieff, Frederick Ninian Hunt on 2 Apr 1905 in Falkirk. There
were at least four children.
Her father died on 8 Sep
1915 in Larbert Asylum. His usual address was recorded as Gartcows Farm,
Falkirk. What connection did he have with the farm?? He was 81 years old
and died of arteriosclerosis. The informant was his daughter Emma who was
living in Manse Place, Falkirk. William left a Will and £157.
Jane died on 21 Nov. 1923.