LOOK BACK IN TIME: 22 June 1878

The Isle of Wight Observer published on 22nd June 1878 featured two tales of Islanders with delusions!

INSANITY. – On Thursday, Maria Rann, who has been lodging in Hill-street, was brought before the Mayor and Major Leeds, and Dr. Beaton having certified to her insanity, she was committed to Fareham Asylum. The poor woman has had a strange appearance for some time past, and laboured under the delusion that a house in the upper part of the town was her property, and she occasioned some annoyance by knocking at the door and threatening to turn the people out if they did not pay her the rent.

There have been a considerable number of lunatics sent from this town lately, and the governor of the county asylum says the number of insane persons he receives from the Island is very large, and out of proportion to its size and population.

A WOULD-BE PREACHER. – The congregation of the Gosport Congregational Church have been recently disturbed by a diminutive tailor, named James Harris, who fancies he has a mission to preach. On going into the vestry on Sunday, the pastor of the church, Dr. Colborne, found Harris there making preparation to conduct the service, and donning the preacher’s robe. Force had to be used to prevent him from going into the pulpit, and, of course, there was quite a disturbance. On Tuesday, Harris was brought before the Gosport magistrates and when called on for his defence showed that modesty was not one of his characteristics, for he stated that he wished to carry out the service peacefully, but some thought that because his stature was short they could look down on him. If people were short in stature God made up to them in their mind. He hoped the Bench would look on the case in a Godlike manner and dismiss it, so that he might support his wife and family. He was a good, hard-working , intelligent, useful person, and it was a pity he should be debarred from shedding joy around him. He should like to do all the good he could, and should like to shed joy on all there. He hoped the magistrates would dismiss him (laughter). – The magistrates, after a short deliberation in private, said they had taken the evidence and prisoner’s statement into their consideration, and also the fact that he had already been cautioned for a similar offence. The Act imposed a penalty of £5 or two months’ imprisonment, but, taking a lenient view of the case, they would fine him £4, or 14 days’ hard labour. On the application of the prisoner a week was allowed for payment. – The prisoner, on leaving the Court, bowed to the magistrates, and said “Good morning, gentlemen” – The Court, which was crowded, was frequently convulsed with laughter at the eccentricities of the prisoner.