Cruel waters rob family of sons

MATTHEW GRAY
Last updated 08:11 24/07/2012

One family - four tragedies. And all in the space of six dark and miserable years.

The Jackman family tombstone tells a sad tale of history repeating itself.

Its tale of woe begins on February 17, 1899, when Walter Jackman - one of at least seven children born to James and Ann Jackman, drowned after a small boat he was in capsized.

Three other occupants were plucked to safety by rescuers who rushed to their aid.

But nothing could be done for Walter, 40, a married man with no offspring.

Among those mourning his death was brother Charles whose own life was cut short in a shipwreck in 1905.

Charles, 34, was a crewman aboard La Bella, the vessel that ran aground on a reef while transporting timber from Lyttelton to Warrnanmbool in Victoria.

His boat struck trouble in heavy seas and a dense mist just 100 yards from the breakwater that shielded safer passage to the nearby port of destination.

Rescue attempts were launched from the shore in the 10 hours that followed but all failed to get close in the terrible conditions as heavy breakers slowly tore the stricken vessel to pieces. Observers on the coast and in the calmer waters could only watch as members of the crew weakened over time and were swept away by the surf.

Two last efforts to retrieve survivors were made by a young fisherman in a dinghy and three men, including the La Bella captain, were saved before the remnants of their ship sank.

Seven men died and Charles was one of them.

Both Jackman brothers had a connection with the sea that dated back a generation to their father James who spent 30 years in the coastal shipping trade after emigrating from Britain in the mid 1850s.

It is possible both worked with him during their early years out of school.

James Jackman died in 1904 and was buried in the same family plot.

Also there is his son-in-law Evan Davies who died after an operation for "internal trouble" in December 1902 and granddaughter Ethel - just two when she died two months prior.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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