THE Echo was first appeared on January 1, 1870, and in its first fortnight 150 years ago, it published some hugely intriguing stories.

One day, Robert Lowley, a railwayman at Darlington’s Bank Top station, was having his leg amputated after falling under a coal wagon; the next he was dead. One day, 15-year-old servant Mary Sarah Middleton was found dead in the home of druggist and tea dealer William Iley in Chapel Row, Shildon; the next it was declared that she had died after accidentally taking laudanum.

The most extraordinary story, though, ran for several days, starting under the headline “Atrocious attempt to murder a rival in love”.

The arrested man was Joseph Chick, a steward on the screw steamer Franklin, a Lambton Colliery boat, at Sunderland docks. He had been living for four years with a married woman, Mary Ann Burton, who had thrown him out a month earlier. Although she had admitted that they had carried on sleeping together, the attempted murder had taken place on the eve of her marriage to Captain Thomas Sandy, of a ship called the Alexander Adam, whom she claimed not to have known when she broke up with Chick.

On January 3, Chick had called at her home in Lambton Street, pleaded with her to call the wedding off, and “brutally blackened her eyes”. He then produced a pistol, cocked it, pointed it at the captain’s head and “fired three shots in rapid succession”.

“The first shot grazed his temple, the second hit his right shoulder and the third punched the muscle of his left arm,” reported the Echo. “One bullet rolled down his shirt sleeve and on unbuttoning his wristband it dropped out, while another rolled down his pantaloons.”

Captain Sandy was so unharmed that he went through with the wedding on January 4, and on January 5, appeared in court, alongside his bride, to testify against Chick.

The case, said the Echo, was heard amid sensational excitement, especially when details of Mary Ann’s previous lovers were given in court. The magistrates, though, decided these had nothing to do with the attempted murder, and sent Chick to Durham Assizes to face justice.

JANUARY’S exhibition in Darlington library is dedicated to the 150th anniversary of The Northern Echo. All sorts of memorabilia is on display: photographs, books, old newspapers, a silver teapot, a clothes brush and even a Nig Nog Club badge. The exhibition is in the local studies section.

It finishes on January 30 when Chris Lloyd, who compiles Memories, gives his talk on WT Stead, who is perhaps the paper’s most famous editor, certainly its most infamous and definitely the only editor to die on the Titanic. The talk, Attacking the Devil and Sinking the Unsinkable, is at 2pm in the library. Tickets are £2. Please book by calling 01325-349630 or email or call in.