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Donald Robertsons Tombstone in Eshaness

In 1842 a murder took place in Eshaness, well maybe more an accidental death, you can decide.

Laurence Tulloch was 37 years old, married with a wife called Agnes and they had two daughters. They lived together at Clothister, near Sullom, where they had a small farm and a grocers shop.

Donald Roberson was 63 and lived at the Scarff, near Hamnavoe, with Donald Anderson who was a life long friend. Neither man had married and they shared the house with two female servants and one male servant, a nineteen years old, who was the son of one of the women servants.

Donald Robertson had some days before, visited Laurence Tulloch's shop and had asked for four ounces of 'salts' meaning Epson Salts, and either by mistake, or because of carelessness, he had been sold the same amount of Saltpetre. On Sunday, 4th June Donald Robertson took an ounce and a half of the 'salts' dissolved in water and three hours later he was dead. He was buried four days later at the Cross Kirk Cemetery, at Brecon. A tomb stone was erected at his grave and it reads ;

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Donald Robertson
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"Donald Robertson, born 14th January 1785. Died 14th June aged 63 years. He was a peaceable, quiet man, and to all appearances a sincere Christian. His death was much regretted which was caused by the stupidity of Laurence Tulloch of Clothister (Sullom) who sold him nitre instead of Epson Salts by which he was killed in the space of five hours after taking a dose of it "

On August 19th 1848 Laurence Tulloch's trial took place in Lerwick. He was charged with culpable homicide and the reckless and negligent sale of Saltpetre instead of Epson Salts. The case was heard by sheriff Charles Neaves and fifteen men formed a jury, some of them were Eshaness men who had been friends with Donald.

Several people testified to Laurence Tulloch's good character, but when the jury returned with the 'pannel', he was found guilty on both charges. The jury then asked for leniency, in view of his good character and their believe that the death of Donald Robertson had been an unintentional accident. The sheriff respecting this appeal by the jury ordered that Laurence Tulloch be incarcerated in the Prison of Fort Charlotte, for a space of eight days and thereafter be set at liberty.

Liberty was easier given, than lived, in a small community, where neighbours ostracised Laurence Tulloch and his family. A combination of guilt about what he had unintentionally done and of being shunned eventually forced the family to leave Shetland and it is believed they went to Aberdeen.

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