Blaris Old Burial Ground where
Daniel Rice from Bachelor's Walk
was to rest on Tuesday February 12 1907.
THE drowning of the two children Martha and Thomas Rice at Wallace Park on 22nd May 1899 had touched people of all classes and creeds throughout the district of Lisburn.
This was evident from the lists published in the local press at the time containing the names of people who had donated to a fund set up a short time after the tragedy. As on the 10th June 1899 a sum of £43 17s and 3d had been collected by Messrs. Robert McMullen and Samuel J. Nelson. Donations of £2 each had been received from eminent people such as Sir John Murray Scott, Bart. and J. Theodore Richardson, Esq. J.P. Other contributors to the Rice fund included local JP s, clergy, police officers and business owners.
A letter to the editor from a reader was published in the Lisburn Standard on 1st July 1899. The writer asked for the people of Lisburn to protect children from having a similar fate as the Rice children and criticised the lack of protection at a crossing and steep banks on the river Lagan. Emotions were running high.
The debates would continue and the remaining Rice family would have to deal with the tragic loss of their loved ones over the coming years. The grief borne by parents Daniel and Sarah would be unimaginable. Yet Sarah would have extra burdens to bear less than eight years later. The local press in early February 1907 were reporting the disappearance of a town porter. He was named as Daniel Rice. It was rumoured that at 7.30 pm on that evening Daniel had spoken to a young man and had informed him he was going to the pond at Wallace Park.
After the disappearance of Daniel Rice the park ranger Mr Wright, assisted by Mr McGurk a lighter man, decided to drag the pond. The gates to the park would have been closed at 7pm on the night of Daniel's disappearance. The pond was dragged between Sam and 3pm on Sunday 3rd February.
Nothing was found and Mr Wilkins, the chairman of the Urban Council, gave permission to run off the water in the pond. Members of the Park Committee attended the pond the following Wednesday morning during their weekly visit. They did not consider it necessary to order a final search after apparently satisfying themselves there was nothing to be found. The pond was refilled.
It was reported the local police were criticised about their lack of apparent action in the disappearance of Daniel Rice, although the press explained the police "were not supposed to act in such a case unless there was a suspicion of foul play." There were no clues and no explanation for the disappearance. Sarah Rice and her daughter were by now in a state of distress and anxiety.
Their distress would turn to grief on the announcement of the discovery of their loved one's body on Sunday 10th February 1907 at about 10.30am. The body of Daniel Rice was found by a search party led by Mr James Barnes, or Burns, from 58 Bachelor's Walk, described as a friend and neighbour of Daniel Rice. He had been grappling in the Lagan canal, and had found the body within yards of Blaris Bridge. Another report said the body had been discovered at a place known as Ritchie's Locks, at Sprucefield. The remains were returned to the deceased's home, wrapped in a rug, between twelve and one o'clock that afternoon.
The inquest into the death was held on Monday at 11am at the Courthouse in Railway Street by the Coroner Dr Mussen, JP. Sarah Rice, the widow, was examined and it was reported she was "suffering intense grief" and had to be assisted into the witness box. She told the inquest jury that she had not noticed anything strange about her husband's behaviour, although he had fretted about the loss of the two children some time ago.
He left home between 9.20 - 9.30 am on the morning of Tuesday 29th January, without saying where he was going.
William Rice, a postal official, residing in Smithfield met the deceased at about 10.15am at Moore's Plantation, situated on the Hillsborough Road. William greeted Daniel Rice to which he replied 'Are you just going home?" These appear to be his last words.
Doctor Magill told the inquest he examined the body of the deceased at the Rice family home and found no marks of violence. From its appearance he concluded the death had occurred about ten days ago.
After considering the evidence placed before them the jury returned a verdict of "found drowned".
The funeral -of Daniel Rice took place on Tuesday 12th February 1907. The remains were removed from the Rice family home at Bachelor's Walk at 2pm for interment at the family burying ground at Blaris.
It was reported that there was a large attendance at the funeral, of which a significant number of merchants from the town paid their respects and with others sympathised with the grieving widow and daughter of the deceased.
I would be interested in hearing from anyone who may be able to assist in providing some information about Daniel Rice's wife, Sarah (nee Corkin) and their only surviving daughter Eliza Jane Rice.
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