HC Deb 13 May 1895 vol 33 cc1050-1

I beg to ask the Lord Advocate whether his attention has been called to a paragraph in The Belfast Irish News of the 2nd inst., from which it appears that the Procurator Fiscal at Hamilton had, on the 30th ultimo, to take the dying deposition of a young man named Joseph Rankine, of Airbles, who had his spine dislocated at an initiation into the second degree of Orangeism in Motherwell; whether he is aware that young Rankine was blindfolded, and, while undergoing certain rites, fell to the ground and was picked up unconscious; whether he is aware that some time ago David Hall, while going through a similar process of promotion at Belfast, by ascending "the first three steps of Jacob's Ladder" blindfolded, fell back and was killed; and whether he will make inquiry into the matter, to see if any steps can be taken to save the members of this society from the danger to which this mode of promotion exposes them?

*THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR,) Clackmannan and Kinross

From the information furnished to me, it appears not strictly correct to say that the Procurator Fiscal was sent for to take the dying deposition. Joseph Rankine attended a meeting of an Orange Lodge at Motherwell, on Saturday the 27th of April last, to go through the ceremony of initiation into the second degree of Orangeism. I am informed that he was taken blindfolded into the hall, and was there put into a blanket, or net hammock, and swung about in it. By an unfortunate accident, his neck received a twist during these proceedings. He called out that he was injured, and the ceremony was at once stopped, and Rankine was conveyed home, and examined by two medical men. They were both of opinion that he had sustained a fracture or dislocation of the spine at the back of the neck which would probably prove fatal within a few days. He is, however, still alive, and his condition is regarded as more hopeful; but I am told that if he survives he will probably be paralysed for life. No blame was imputed by Rankine, or his friends, to anyone. The witnesses refused to describe the ceremonies practised on the occasion, on the ground that it is against the rules of their society to do so. With regard to the case of David Hall at Belfast, I am informed that, on 7th July 1893, he attended a meeting in the Orange Hall for the purpose of getting a "degree" in the society, that his eyes were covered with a handkerchief, and that in stepping on to a table he lost his balance and fell back, sustaining such injuries to the spinal column as resulted in his death. The jury returned a verdict that— he came to his death from the effects of an injury accidentally received, or by misadventure. There was no secrecy observed in this case, and the members of the lodge volunteered to give all necessary information. It is difficult to say what steps could be taken to protect the members of such societies from dangers to which they voluntarily expose themselves.