Mabel and Harold Carter owned a dairy farm at Kitty Kitty, Cundle Flat. Mabel’s half-sister, 18 year old Elizabeth “Bessie” Taylor, lived with them as a dairymaid.1 She was engaged to a labourer called Francis Dennes. On the morning of the 29 December 1929, Bessie went to Francis’ room and asked him to come down to the cow yards with her while she milked the cows. Being a Sunday morning Francis wanted to sleep in because he had to travel later that day. Bessie was upset and went off to the dairy alone. Five minutes later Francis changed his mind and went to the dairy.
When Bessie finished her work she told Francis she had swallowed a bottle of poison. Francis didn’t believe her even after she showed him the empty bottle. Bessie had a quick temper and often threatened self-harm following an argument. She told others of what she had done but having heard this threat before they did not believe her. During breakfast Bessie didn’t eat and when she tried to get up from the table she fell to the floor in a fit.
Harold Carter made her drink saltwater to induce vomiting while Francis went to get help. They sent for Dr Erby of Wingham but it took two hours to reach the property, by which time Bessie had died. Francis was distraught and was with her until the end.
The inquest found that Bessie died from “strychnine poisoning wilfully self-administered”.2 She is buried on the Kitty Kitty property where a cloth has always been tied to the fence to indicate her grave.3
Author: Janine Roberts
1 NSW BDM, Birth Index for Elizabeth Taylor No. 15343/1911, Birth Index for Mabel Jewhurst No. 3047/1901, Marriage Index for Mabel Jewhurst and Harold Carter No. 6440/1917.
2 Dungog Chronicle, 21 January 1930, 2.
3 Interview with the Taylor family, April 2021.