A Death by Drink or Not?

Today marks the 124th anniversary of the death of Cornelius McMahon my mother’s great-grandfather. Cornelius left Ireland with his parents and siblings when he was in his 20s, the family had lived through most of the famine but decided to leave. He settled in Ayton, Grey Co., Ontario, married and had seven children. I was surprised to find that he was ‘accidentally killed’ when reading his death record.

Naturally, I wanted to explore this more and I contacted the Wellington Archives which houses newspapers that cover Grey Co., Ontario.

Initially, when reading through the newspaper account I was impressed to read when he was attending an event in nearby Durham he…

was given a place of honour on the platform with all notable men present.

But this quickly turned to dismay when I read…

Before leaving for home he became intoxicated, being addicted to drink.

The newspaper goes on to report that Cornelius and his companion John McIntee both had imbibed too much at the event and on the journey home…

…the colt became unmanageable and on the the road leading through the swamp on this side of Varney ; that both were thrown out and when he [McIntee] went to McMahon’s assistance he found him dead.

The cause of death was declared a broken neck, Cornelius was 69 years old.

McMahon Corn. acc. death001

Mount Forest Representative Sept 21, 1893 pg.8

Another search to see if the coroner’s report had made its way into the newspaper and I found a retraction of the previous story.

…there was nothing in the evidence to show that the unfortunate man was the worse of liquor at the time of his death, and as it is alleged he was not, we cheerfully state these facts and regret the report got abroad and found its way in these columns that he was not sober.

McMahon Corn. acc. death002

Mount Forest Representative 5 Oct 1893 pg.8

So was Cornelius a drinker or not? Did the newspaper have to retract because it was an error? Or maybe the family just didn’t want it said? I am sure I will never know, and no matter what he is remembered.

Cornelius McMahon.

St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, Ayton, Grey Co., Ontario 

Cornelius McMahon 1824-1893; His Beloved Wife Sara McCue 1825-1915; May Their Souls Rest In Peace; Sarah McMahon Wife of Michael Culliton 1886-1925 Rest In Peace.