Tuesday, January 11, 2011

When they found Charles Dickson's headstone ...

... in 1927, it was proclaimed "An Historic Discovery" and a "Link with Early Auckland".

An historic discovery was made in the Grafton Bridge Cemetery this morning by Mr A Bond, sexton, who unearthed from a thick bush of ivy creeper a headstone which dated back to 1851, a period of 75 years.

The stone, a slab 3ft 6in by 2ft 3in, is Mount Eden blue stone, and the inscription was worked with quaint originality. It read: "Sacred to the memory of Charles Dickson, Esq., son of the late Major-General, Sir Jeremiah Dickson, KCB, died, 6th October, 1851, aged 28 years."

The cemetery is 77 years old, and the fact that the headstone has been in place for 75 years is taken to mean that it was probably the first monument erected over a grave in that cemetery.

For many years the headstone lay on its face, the inscription to the ground, and the ivy creeper in time completely covered it. It was only while cutting down the ivy to-day that Mr Bond came across the stone. He raised it and found the inscription in as good condition as if it had been completed to-day. The workmanship was crude, in the sense of spacing and punctuation, but apart from that it stands as an excellent idea of what the stone masons of early Auckland could accomplish.

A well known stone mason stated this morning that there was nothing like the stone in Auckland. It was the original Mount Eden blue stone and was, in his opinion, the first stone erected.

Auckland Star, 10 February 1927

How did poor Mr Dickson die at so young an age?

An Inquest was held on Tuesday last, at the New Leith Inn, Onehunga, before Wm. Davies, Esq., Coroner, on the body of Charles Dixon [sic], Esq. It appeared from the evidence produced that the deceased fell from his horse as he was riding towards Onehunga, between 8 and 9 o'clock on Monday evening, and was found by James Magee, the Ranger of the Hundred of Onehunga, about 10 o'clock, who had him conveyed to the New Leith Inn. The last place at which he was seen alive was at Mr. Tye's, Epsom. Dr. Warrington stated, he had made a post mortem examination of the body, and that the cause of death was Apoplexy, arising from the rupture of a large vessel at the base of the brain. The Jury returned their verdict accordingly. 
 Southern Cross, 10 October 1851

The bad news is that this important early headstone is gone. Section A of the Anglican section of the cemetery, where Dickson was buried, was carved away for the motorway, and his disinterred, cremated then reinterred remains are now part of the Anglican Memorial at the cemetery. Hopefully, somewhere, there's a photo. Instances like this remind me why we're lucky to have Sandy around.


  1. awww! Thanks so much for the mention! I love doing what i do and so hope it helps someone along the way :-)))

    A big thank you to people like yourself that keep local history alive...it is vitally important and the floods in Australia have highlighted that also. Much information and physical landscape can change in the blink of an eye and be lost...same is true of stories of our founders when 'living memory' is gone.


  2. It's a morning of mutual praise here, folks! ;-) Thanks, Sandy -- may your batteries never fail you during a great shot! :-)

  3. LMFAO! Love it :-) i always try to have a spare set there ;-)

  4. I carry six -- two in the camera, two ready to go in the camera, and two store-bought non-rechargeable ones for days when the swearing is about to begin ...

  5. Hear, hear!

    And, yes, I used to carry a bajillion spare batteries for the camera ;)

  6. Hi girls,

    There is actually an extant stone in the Anglican cemetery dated 23rd September 1844 for Dudley Sinclair, eldest son of Sir George Sinclair of Caithness, who died after fighting a duel. His stone is in excellent condition and must be one of the earliest in the cemetery.


  7. According to the Nelson Examiner, the only paper not to describe the death as just "premature", Dudley Sinclair cut his own throat and committed suicide.

    "He had been labouring under great depression of spirits for some time, from an apprehension of pecuniary embarrassments; and had applied to a chymist [sic] for poison the day previous to his death, under the pretext that he wished to kill the goats which came into his garden. The inquest which sat on the body returned a verdict of "temporary insanity." (16 November 1844)

  8. Sorry I misled you, he was challenged to a duel and was reluctant to fight ( afact I had forgotten) and this preyed on his mind so he committed suicided instead. The pupose of my email was to let you know that although this all happened in 1844, his headstone was in excellent condition and extant in the Anglican cemetery in the 1990s.

  9. I'd love to know your source for that, Shirley, because so far the contemporary sources simply say depression about his business affairs (which was fairly common), then suicide.

  10. By the way -- DNS error on your alternative email this morning, Shirley. Domain not found. Your email woes do not appear to be over.

  11. I shall have to check where I found this data but can't recall my source at this moment. As I read of the affair, there was a dispute between Sinclair and another man who apparently implied that Sinclair was a con (my choice of words) or dishonest, and he called Sinclair out but the challenge was declined. Sinclair then retired to his rooms depressed and brooding, and even though he was being encouraged to proceed or apologize, he declined and took his own life. Will try and check the source for you.

  12. I just typed in Dudley Sinclair and found the information relating to him in an article about early settlers at Cornwallis. This should tell you all you would like to know.

  13. The only online reference is to an essay in a writing competion by someone caled "JR".

    No source given for the statement as to the duel, but "JR" may have read John Lifton's Cornwallis (2002), which mentions that McLachlan challenged Sinclair to a duel, because Sinclair had called him an "adventurer", but Sinclair did not respond. McLachlan is said to have broken open Sinclair's door and horsewhipped him. "Soon after", Sinclair died suddenly, all according to Lifton.

    Trouble is -- again, no contemporary source given, except possibly something in a diary by someone called Joshua Robinson (but that's about the suicide). Nothing in the papers -- and the southern press especially, anti-FitzRoy and keen to show up his government, would have latched onto it like dogs to a bone. I'd have to say it's simply an interesting tale. Might be correct, but there's nothing to show that it is.