Reported 280 Years Ago (August 21 1739): Labourer is killed in Belfast by falling wall

The front page of the Belfast News Letter of August 10 1739, which is August 21 in the modern calendar
The front page of the Belfast News Letter of August 10 1739, which is August 21 in the modern calendar
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From the Belfast News Letter of August 10 1739 (which is equivalent to August 21 in the modern calendar):


Yesterday as the workmen were pulling down the Barracks, part of the wall fell upon one John Shaw labourer, and kill’d him on the spot; he has left a wife and five young children, in a very poor distress’d condition; another at the same time, had his leg very much hurt.

Extract of a Letter from Bourdeaux, dated August 4. N. S.

The reprisals against the Spaniards being published in England, we hear, that they are hard at work, especially on the coast of Biscay, fitting out Row-boats and Privateers, which undoubtedly will very much interrupt the British and Irish trade hither a severals that are here, are pressing away in their ballast, and those coming will soon run a very great risk.

[This looks like a strangely fast travelling piece of news. It is a letter that is placed under news from Belfast, which suggests that the letter was sent to that city from Bourdeaux, as they then spelt the southern French city, yet it is dated August 4, a mere six days before the date of the newspaper, which would be an remarkably fast time for a letter to travel that distance in 1739.

But on closer study it is dated such in N.S., which means New Style, or the present calendar that was already often used at that time. Therefore it is in fact from July 24 in the old calendar, and the letter has actually taken 17 days to travel from France and be published.

It contains word of the closeness of war with Spain]

LONDON, July 31.

We hear, that the Spaniards have seiz’d several of our merchants ships at Cadiz. And, that the two Spanish ships in the river are excepted in the order for taking off the embargo.

Last Sunday night there was a great meeting of the ministers of state at Sir Robert Walpole’s house at Chelsea; and the same night a messenger was dispatched to the right hon Horatio Walpole, Esq; at the Hague.

[Walpole was Britain’s first ever prime minster. Boris Johnson is the 55th]

His excellency the count de Cambis, formerly ambassador extraordinary from the court of France to this court, is daily expected to return with the quality of ambassador and plenipotentiary from the said court, his house in Hanover-Square being fitting up for his reception.

[Relations with France were uncertain amid the grave tensions with Spain]

The Molly, Grey, bound from London to Scotland and the Streights, was lately lost on the coast of the former.

We hear there is an account in a letter to one of his majesty’s principal secretaries of state, dated from Vienna, that the earl of Crawford, one of the 16 peers of North-Britain, who served as a voluntier in the Imperial army, under the veldt-marshal count Wallist, was along with the young prince of Waldeck, when was killed in the late fatal action with the Turks, and that his lordship was missing when the express came away. Another express was hourly expected last night from Vienna, with farther particulars of the above-mentioned action.

[The first surviving News Letter in October 1738 had reported this peer’s death while serving with the Christian Holy Roman forces against the Mulsim Ottomans. The next paper then said he was alive. This report above was also wrong. The peer had in fact been injured in the Battle of Krotzka in July. He would later fight the Jacobite uprising]