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Henry Watts Bailey

Henry Watts Bailey – A Sad Suicide

Henry Watts Bailey was born in Tamworth, New South Wales, in 1857, when the population of the town was a mere 260 people. It was a very dry, dusty, hot place to raise a family.

Henry Watts Bailey 1879 Approx
Henry Watts Bailey
   1879 Approx

Henry met his future wife Julia Duncan around 1877, they quickly fell in love and were married in Tamworth on 5 June 1879.  The birth of their first daughter, Sarah Ann Clementina, followed almost exactly 9 months later.

By 1 May 1882 the small family had moved to Brown Street in Armidale where Henry and Julia had their second child, Edward Thomas. Work became increasingly difficult to find for the young upholsterer, and many conversations about leaving the area in search of work took place, after the children were tucked into bed.

“Henry, we have two children to provide for, we would have nothing if we were to take them to Singleton” Julia implored.

“But my friend writes that there is work enough for all down there, trust me Julia, I will work hard at whatever I can and I will provide a home for you and our children, I promise” Henry said.

“You know I trust you, I love you Henry, I’d follow you anywhere, I’m just scared for us”, Julia said, as she held him close.

Henry and Julia’s third child, Herbert Howeth, was born near Singleton in 1884, but work proved much more difficult to come by than the young family had thought it would be. Henry would walk for miles looking for work every day, and with each passing day he became more despondent. He started drinking.

On the night of March 9, 1885 he was a bit “tipsy” when he walked into the house. He spoke to Julia briefly, saying that “she was not to be cross, as he had been out trying to find work”. He picked up young Herbert and planted a gentle kiss on his head, placed him back on the floor then walked into the bedroom. Julia next saw Henry drinking from a small bottle.

“Oh Julia, I’ve drunk it, now I’ve done it” Henry cried, and then he ran out the door. Julia was frantic, screaming for Henry to come back to the house as she ran after him, but Henry ran along the street until he was met by a man going in the opposite direction, who gently lowered him to the ground.

Henry died on March 9th 1885, on the side of Elizabeth Street in Singleton just near the courthouse, from swallowing a large dose of pure carbolic acid, an horrific way to die.

Singleton Court House, Elizabeth Street
Singleton Court House, Elizabeth Street

At the inquest which followed, Julia tearily told the packed courtroom that Henry ” had been a kind and loving husband”.  ” I don’t know any cause for the act except his not being able to get work” she cried.

Henry was buried at the Whittingham Cemetery, just a few miles out of Singleton.  His headstone sits on the boundary fence segregated from those buried on sacred ground – man’s attempt at eternal punishment for taking his own life.  What a profoundly sad end to the life of a man who so clearly  loved his wife and children.

Headstone on the boundary fence of Whittingham Cemetery
Headstone on the boundary fence of Whittingham Cemetery

Details of Henry’s death and the subsequent inquest were obtained from:


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