I recently read a sad article from the Leicester Chronicle which demonstrates how life has changed over the past 100 years . George Scott Grainger aged 51 was admitted, unconscious, to the Leicester Royal Infirmary around 6.15pm on Monday 30 September 1890. He later having never regained consciousness. George, who was a gardener working at Victoria Park and then living at 17 Oxford Road, Clarendon Park, had obtained some Corporation Diarrhoea Mixture from the Town Hall (people provided their own bottles) earlier that day. However the mixture contained in the bottle George was holding when his wife found him contained tincture of opium, not Victorian Immodium.
At the inquest Jane Grainger, said that on the morning of his death she left before George to go to work and he was not then complaining of diarrhoea. At 2.30pm she was in Victoria Park and could not see her husband so she asked his colleague James Norwell where he was. Norwell told her he had obtained medicine, so she “knew he must be very ill as he strongly disliked medicine.” Jane went to look for George and found him lying in a field on Evington Lane, with the bottle in his hand. He complained of diarrhoea. He said he had consumed the entire contents of the bottle and felt quite well, and wanted to stay where he was as he was comfortable, but was moved in Dr Greasley’s carriage to the Highfields Hotel and afterwards to the LRI where he died.
A couple of things struck me about Jane’s story. Firstly, it was very odd indeed that George’s own bottle should have contained opium, as the Town Hall folk must have dispensed quite a lot of diarrhoea mixture and it would soon have been obvious if their stock had replaced or contaminated with tincture of opium. So perhaps George found that diarrhoea mixture was not efficacious and bought his own cure – opium – instead (opium was used in some diarrhoea preparations). Secondly, when Jane found that her husband was not at work as expected, she naturally went to look for him. But in a field in Evington Lane? Perhaps all is not exactly as Jane described. Perhaps she was used to finding him lying intoxicated in a field and knew where to look for him. It’s a good job the powers that be started to tighten the regulation of opium, making it harder for people to accidentally poison themselves, even if it sounds like George had quite a peaceful ending.
Jane had moved from 17 Oxford Rd by the time of the census in April 1891. So many people seemed to have passed in and out of Clarendon Park without leaving much trace. Poor George – in both senses – was buried in a common grave without a headstone at Welford Road cemetery and his wife never joined him.