Circumstances of a Peculiarly Distressing Nature


Another funerary monument in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, this one carved by Sir Francis Chantrey in 1826. It represents the Hon William Stuart, Archbishop of Armagh who died in London in 1822 at the age of 68 owing to an unfortunate error. As recounted by The Gentleman’s Magazine at the time: ‘The death of his Grace took place under circumstances of a peculiarly distressing nature, which have excited in the breast of every human being, to whose knowledge they have come, feelings of the deepest regret and commiseration. This melancholy event was unhappily occasioned by an unfortunate mistake in administering a quantity of laudanum instead of a draught. His Lordship was attended in the morning of the 6th by Sir H. Halford, who wrote a prescription for a draught which was immediately sent to the shop of Mr Jones, the apothecary, in Mount-street, in order that it might be prepared. His Lordship having expressed some impatience that the draught had not arrived, Mrs Stuart enquired of the servants if it had come; and being answered in the affirmative, she desired that it might be brought to her immediately. The man had just before received it, together with a small phial of laudanum and camphorated spirits, which he occasionally used himself as an external embrocation. Most unluckily, in the hurry of the moment, instead of giving the draught intended for the Archbishop, he accidentally substituted the bottle which contained the embrocation. The under butler instantly carried it to Mrs Stuart without examination, and that lady not having a doubt that it was the medicine which had been recommended by Sir H. Halford, poured it into a glass and gave it to her husband!- In a few minutes, however, the dreadful mistake was discovered; upon which Mrs Stuart rushed from the presence of the Archbishop into the street, with the phial in her hand, and in a state of speechless distraction. Mr Jones the apothecary having procured the usual antidote, lost not a moment in accompanying Mrs Stuart back to Hill-street where he administered to his Lordship, now almost in a state of stupor, the strongest emetics and used every means which his skill and ingenuity could suggest, to remove the poison from his stomach, all, however, without effect.’
And the moral of this unhappy episode: always check anything brought to you by the under butler…

Greatly Distinguished


The only full-length statue by French sculptor Louis-François Roubiliac can be found in Armagh Cathedral. It represents the doctor and philosopher Sir Thomas Molyneux, Physician General to the Army in Ireland and Regius Professor of Physic at Trinity College, Dublin who died in 1733. The work was commissioned some years later by his son Sir Capel Molyneux and after arriving in Ireland in 1752 was removed to the family seat, Castle Dillon, County Armagh where it was placed in a wood beneath a temporary wooden shelter, the idea being that a more permanent structure would be erected in the grounds. When this failed to materialise, the statue was moved to the vaults beneath the house. Finally when Castle Dillon was rebuilt in the early 1840s the statue was presented to Armagh Cathedral and placed in its present position. The plaque beneath the figure depicts a physician attending a bed-ridden patient, thereby emphasising Molyneux’s medical career. The inscription advises that he was ‘greatly distinguished in his generation for professional skill, varied learning and private worth.’