Tales from the passed: Harry Bosanko

Harry’s Last Day

Harry was buried at St John’s Anglican cemetery in Te Awamutu.

Eleven year old Harry Bosanko was having a hard time of it. The night before, his mother, Fanny had reprimanded him for being naughty and the next day was not much better.

On Friday January 26, 1906 the Te Awamutu lad was outside under the trees when his mother came looking for him and asked him to come inside.  He initially resisted but came in afterwards and sat down to read ‘The History of the Indian Mutiny’. Shortly after, with things still uncomfortable between them, his mother said she was going into town. She saw Harry go outside but was never to see him alive again.

Three days later, around 1pm, a lad named Edward Maynall was searching for hen eggs in some fern and scrub down a side street close to the township’s centre when he made the shocking find of Harry’s body. Constable McPhee was promptly alerted. He found a pea rifle, containing the empty case of a discharged cartridge, underneath Harry. Harry’s mother had thought that he had gone to visit his uncle, Fred Gibson, who lived about four miles away, at Mangapiko, something that he often did.

At the inquest it was established that Harry had died from a bullet wound to the chest. His mother said that although he was not in a very bright mood the last time she saw him he made no threats of any sort and didn’t say that he would run away. Frank Kerr, Harry’s stepfather, said that the boy was never punished harshly.

It transpired that Harry had borrowed the pea rifle from Mr and Mrs Fraider, telling them it for his stepfather who was going to shoot a dog.  A few seconds later the Fraiders heard a shot just outside their house. On being asked to give back the rifle Harry replied “no fear” and ran off with it up Walton Street.  Constable McPhee testified that Harry was a well-cared for boy. In his opinion his death was accidental.  It was possible the rifle’s trigger had caught in thick scrub and gone off. Dr Brewis, of Hamilton, had examined the spot where the incident happened. He agreed with Constable McPhee.  He thought it also possible that Harry had stumbled while the rifle was pointing towards him.

The jury returned a verdict that Harry was accidentally killed by a bullet from a pea rifle, but how the rifle was discharged there was no evidence to show. A rider was added that the Government should introduce legislation to prohibit the use of pea rifles by boys.

Pea rifles, so named because they fired pea sized bullets, were very popular, inexpensive and the cause of many accidental shootings among boys and younger men. Despite the verdict speculation remained and it was felt investigations did not really throw any light on the mysterious affair.

Harry was buried with his father Richard Bosanko, a celebrated stud sheep breeder, at St John’s Anglican cemetery in Te Awamutu.

What other mysteries lie in the grounds of old St John’s Church? Photo: Mary Anne Gill

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