Jun 8, 2009

An Almost Forgotten Lyttelton Grave

Thomas Rousel Stevenson from Yorkshire had signed on at London in May 1901 as a Greaser aboard the Shaw, Savill & Albion Company's 14 year-old emigrant ship RMS Gothic.

The 7,750 ton steamer (above) had subsequently embarked passengers at Plymouth, before proceeding to Tenerife in the Canary Islands for coal. Well bunkered, the liner headed for Cape Town and then Hobart, before reaching Wellington. She sailed from the Capital on the 6th of June, arriving at Lyttleton on the following morning. Backing into the port's No.5 Wharf (below), she prepared to load chilled meat and butter over the next twelve days for her return to London via Cape Horn, Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro.

Granted shore leave, twenty six year-old Thomas was looking forward to visiting friends at Woolston that cold Winter's evening. Taking a train from Lyttelton, he fell from the carriage (in the vicinity below) fracturing his skull. Found later that night, he was taken back to the port, where an operation was performed at the hospital, but he died on the following morning.

In Lyttelton's Anglican cemetery, a Marble tombstone was erected at the expense of the Officers and crew of the Gothic. No longer marking the site of his grave, it's now set into the retaining wall of a path, which passes through the centre of the cemetery.

There is some confusion over Thomas's surname. Rousel, originally meaning a man with red hair, was an Anglo-Norman surname of great distinction and may have been considered somewhat pretentious for a humble engine room Greaser aboard a nondescript emigrant ship.

Lyttelton's Anglican cemetery on upper Canterbury Street was established in 1849, with the earliest burials predating the arrival of the first of the Canterbury Association's chartered emigrant ships.


Jayne said...

Poor Thomas but a lovely article about him :)

Canterbury Heritage said...

The sad tale of a tragic death in an alien land, soon forgotten after his ship had sailed, was irresistible. It's fitting that young Thomas should now be commemorated in a place where no kin mourns his untimely demise.

Sarndra said...

Terribly sad :-(

I have a penchant for photographing gravestones mentioned death as a result of accident and trying to find out about them...normally via the paperspast website...it's all absorbing! Some splendid accidental death graves at St Peter's, Church Corner, Riccarton.
One particular one was Rose Harwood [grave photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/porkynz/2516162652/ newspaper article http://tinyurl.com/rakaia-train-crash

Canterbury Heritage said...

How very sad, I'll keep an eye out for a photo of the train crash.