1890 — The Barque George Thompson: Gravestone, Inscription, and Notes
This stone was photographed in Whitby, England, in November 2013.
The Transcribed Inscription
Sacred to the memory of Adelaide Breckon Boulby of Aislary, who died October 31st 1858, aged 17 years.
In loving memory of George Frederick, fifth son of Ralph and Jane Smith, of Whitby, who was killed at sea on his passage from Puget Sound to Port Jackson, December 21st, 1890, aged 16 years.
“In the midst of life we are in death.”
Also of Thomas Edwin, fourth son of the above Ralph and Jane Smith, who was killed by the explosion of an old Crimea shell at Sebastapol, March 17th 1894, aged 22 years.
Also Jane Boulby, their youngest daughter, who died at Balmain, New South Wales, April 7th 1907, aged 33 years.
All flesh is grass and all the goodliness
Thereof is as the flower of the field.
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth.
Notes about Research & Invention
The inscription’s poetic lines are from the Bible. I did not find any mention of an explosion in Sebastopol in 1894, except on this gravestone.
Port Jackson is the inlet where Sydney, Australia, is located.
It looks like Jane was born in the same year as George, as they were apparently both 16 in 1890. She was 16 in April and he was 16 in December. That’s only 5 months difference. Either they were twins or Jane was born in January or February and George was born 10 or 11 months later, so his birthday was in November or December. He was listed being lost at sea at age 17, among the George Thompson’s crew & passengers arriving in Sydney in February 1891. That roster was among maritime documents posted on the web by the Australians. Apparently George lied about his age. And his name: he was listed as Frank Smith on the crew list, and in the contemporary newspaper articles that described what happened to him.
The story uses some information about the Barque George Thompson found in research, but George Smith’s reasons for leaving Whitby, lying about his age and name, and his possession of a parrot and affection for a young Tahitian woman are invented fictions.
The backdrop of the illustration is a photograph of a walkway along the mouth of the River Esk, by the harbor of Whitby. This is the port where the famous explorer Captain Cook was based as a nautical apprentice during his youth, and where the George Smith of this story grew up.
Susan Marie Brown, © 2014