On Tuesday, July 13, 1915, the Daily Colonist newspaper of Victoria, British Columbia, reported that my great-grandfather, William Percy Robinson, was “in serious condition at hospital as a result of deplorable affair”. William, or Will as he was known to his family and friends, had been operated on at the Provincial Jubilee Hospital following an accidental shooting by his neighbour in the tony neighbourhood of Oak Bay.
His neighbour and friend, R.W. Mayhew, was arrested, charged with “the infliction of grievous bodily harm”, and released on $2,000 bail.
According to the newspaper account, my great-grandfather (an accountant employed by the British American Paint Company and living at 2508 Oak Bay Esplanade) arose in the middle of the night to investigate noises emanating from the chicken coop in Mayhew’s yard. At the same time, Mayhew emerged from his house on the adjoining property at 2548 Oak Bay Esplanade armed with a shotgun loaded with bird shot and, upon seeing what he took for a chicken thief disappearing into the raspberry bushes, discharged the gun. Because my great-grandfather was shot at close range, the resulting wound was considerable and the force of the shot was enough to break his femur. According to evidence given by Mayhew, the gun was discharged unintentionally as he stumbled.
A follow-up article in the newspaper (published on or around July 15, 1915 and containing dispatches from July 13 and July 14) discusses Mayhew’s arraignment in the Oak Bay police court, in which the prosecution asked for, and received, a week’s stay in the case to determine the progress of the shooting victim, who remained in hospital in serious condition. The newspaper account also tells of how Mrs. Robinson, my great-grandmother, did what she could to stop the bleeding from the wound until the ambulance arrived, and describes Mayhew as being “much cut up” about the incident. Mayhew helped his wounded friend into the ambulance and then went to the police station to give a voluntary statement.
The article published around July 15 is hopeful for the recovery of the patient, but sadly, recovery was not in the cards. Infection had set in, and the discovery of antibiotics would be more than a decade in the future. A subsequent article published July 21 tells us that the “unfortunate event terminates fatally” (headline pictured above). “William Percy Robinson died at the Jubilee Hospital last evening from wound infection,” the article reads. “He had been an inmate for nine days, following a regrettable shooting accident … A police trial was held at Oak Bay court, and later at the bedside, when the depositions of Mr. Robinson were taken by the magistrate. The result was the complete exoneration of Mr. Mayhew.”
Above is a page from a memorial photograph album prepared for Will’s widow, Bessie, by her father-in-law, Alfred Robinson, showing the gravesite in Ross Bay Cemetery as it looked in 1915.
Below is a photograph taken by me in 2010, showing the gravesite as it looks today.
William Percy Robinson died on July 20, 1915, aged 38 years, leaving his wife Bessie and a young son, Frederic, my grandfather.
Robert Wellington Mayhew went on to become Reeve of Oak Bay (1933-1935), a federal Member of Parliament (1937), Minister of Fisheries (1948-1952), and Canada’s Ambassador to Japan (1952-1954). He died in 1971 at the age of 90.