Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sharp records.

People left so few footprints before the internet became popular. Their thoughts, deeds and movements were private to themselves and those in the community. People passed on and memories were extinguished and usually the only way we can think them up again is to study the general history of that place and era and use imagination to describe individual's lives, ie; the attraction to step from fact into fiction.

Sometimes we come across a sharp record such as the one following which happened to my grandfather in Somerset.

Jane, wife of Hugh Crabb, died (aged 40yrs) on the 15th of May 1878 at Illminster, Somerset of congestion of the lungs at their residence, North St, Illminster.
On the 22nd of May 1879, Mr Hugh Crabb, corn merchant of Illminster was out shooting birds with a group of gentleman friends at Jordans. After having killed his rook, he was in the act of resting his gun, a double-barrelled one, on his arm, when it accidently went off and killed a youth named Ernest Samuel Morgan, 11yrs old, the son of a harness maker.
A constable who was near-by had endeavoured to keep the crowd of young boys back from the shooters but Mr Hugh Crabb's foot slipped into a rut and in endeavouring to save himself from falling, he dropped his gun into the hollow of his left arm and the gun went off. The boy died instantly.
An inquest was held at the Catherine Wheel Inn, and a verdict of accidental death was returned. The deceased's father, who was present, endorsed the verdict. The jury gave their fees to the bereaved parents.
By November 1880, Hugh had removed himself to New Zealand leaving behind his children in the care of his younger brother.

The attraction here is to project the utter despair of Hugh into a flight to New Zealand, his escape from the events which had overtaken him. A new beginning, a geographical cure. On the other hand, his sister and family were already here and he may have been contemplating the move for some time. Who knows? The first scenario is more dramatic, the second, quite dull and practical.

We are bound to come across these sharp records which leave us shocked. Our ancestors certainly experienced more drama than most of us starting out research may think. Most of my researched families have one or two recorded, and its possibly quite normal, I've even had one or two myself. One things for sure, the internet makes these events more widely available, if you tell people about it. Here's one of mine;

1976; I was spending the weekend on a boat fixing food for divers. On the Saturday afternoon just when the divers were returning to the boat off Little Barrier in the Hauraki Gulf, the weather suddenly turned very nasty. The skipper, Mark, powered off to Great Barrier in a hurry but we didn't make it. The waves and wind increased to mountains and the only thing he could do was to turn the boat into the waves and chug up and down these roller coasters. The thirteen of us were sick as dogs, it got dark very quickly and the noise was horrendous. About 9 or 10 o'clock, a monstrous wave broke over the boat and smashed all the front windows, the sea poured in and the pump couldn't cope. There were two men in the bilges, one nursing the pump the other passing up buckets, there were two men at the forward windows holding squabs in the broken holes where the windows used to be, trying to hold out the water. We sent out a mayday but there seemed little hope of survival. The only female of board, I was folded up into a corner of the lounge, hanging on, watching Mark at the controls, occasionally he would stick his head out the window and peer into the night and reassuring us somehow that he knew where we were. "I can see the lights at Tiri Tiri Matangi", I heard him yell at one stage.  The men were taking turns at the various jobs and they were exhausted. Then the tide turned and Mark could turn the boat and we surfed all the way back to Kawau Island arriving at 4am where we slept amid the chaos until the hotel opened.

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