Story: Suicide

Telegram announcing a suicide, 1889

This telegram was sent from A. Grant, district traffic manager at the Dunedin railway station, to the railways head office in Wellington on 23 December 1889. The telegram told of the suicide attempt of the stationmaster, George Ashcroft. The telegram reads: 'Regret to inform you that Mr Ashcroft shot himself this morning & is now in a precarious situation. I believe financial difficulties were the cause. Mr Ollivier the Cashier came down last night. Shall I get Mr Kneeshaw to go into accounts or will you send someone else. Will wire further particulars later.'

George Ashcroft died soon after and the inquest suggested that financial difficulties caused by speculation in mining shares was the principal motive. Ashcroft was aged 31 and married with three children. He was a regular church-goer and the suicidal act occurred in St Paul's church, where he had gone to pray for his wife and children. Until the 1950s financial problems were a relatively common cause of suicide attempts. Ironically Ashcroft's uncle, James Ashcroft, was at the time the official assignee in bankruptcy for the Otago district.

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Archives New Zealand - Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
Reference: R 4 18 1890-99

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How to cite this page:

Jock Phillips, 'Suicide - Social factors and suicide', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 30 November 2023)

Story by Jock Phillips, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 16 Jul 2019 with assistance from Sunny Collings and Rosemary Du Plessis