Shocking Pea Rifle Accident

Narandera Argus

5 October 1906

Two children Killed.

On Friday afternoon last two infants, children of Mr. James Gilbert, overseer on Mr. W. J. Mackay’s Big Plain run, were brought to the Narandera Hospital, each with a bullet wound in the head.  One child was a baby boy of 8 months, and the other a little girl aged 2 year and 8 months.  The baby expired almost immediately on admission, being in a dying condition on arrival; and the little girl lived only until the following day.

The lamentable circumstances surrounding the accident are somewhat remarkable, and serve to emphasise the very deadly nature of the pea rifle, a plaything to be found nowadays in the hands of mere infants. 

It appears that Ronald Mackay went out from Narandera to Big Plain on Friday to shoot rabbits; and on arrival there went to the overseer’s hut, placing his pea-rifle against the wall.  He then proceeded some seventy yards distant, to where the Gilbert children were playing, and picked up the baby.  He was still holding the child in his arms when James Gilbert, aged 11 years, went over to the hut and picked up the rifle.  The latter walked towards the group of youngsters, examining the weapon and fingering the trigger.  He had only advanced about twenty yards, and was still fifty yards from the other children when the rifle went off. 

The bullet first struck the baby which was on young Mackay’s knee, passed through the child’s head, and lodged in the forehead of the little girl.

The terrified children cried for assistance, and with all possible speed the injured children were brought into Narandera.  The injuries in both cases, however, were such as to place the sufferers beyond human aid, both children expiring soon afterwards, as above stated.

The incident aroused much sympathy for the bereaved family: and it is hoped, will direct earnest attention to the danger attending the careless use of firearms.