Respect – inquest, and burial of those who died
After the Illalong‘s rescue of the men aboard the Walter Hood, on 30 April 1870 the local coroner JV Wareham quickly convened a jury of five to hear depositions about the wrecking and the fate of the five men whose bodies had been washed ashore.
The five jurors were Rev A Parsons, James Cork, Miles Berry, George Millard and George Robinson. As it was too far to go to a house to have the inquest, it was held on the beach.
Depositions came from Constable Beatty of Ulladulla, Chief Officer of the Walter Hood William Hewison, and James Smith, a passenger from the ship.
Each told their story of the wrecking and subsequent dramatic events and identified the bodies of those on the beach – Captain Andrew Latto, Joshua Haynes (passenger), James Sinclair (boatswain), Joseph Moyes (ab seaman) and John Jullien (ab seaman).
Hewison and Smith also named the crew who had died but whose bodies had not yet been recovered – Joseph Ashton, Charles Coombe, Edward Lemon, Charles Branson (whose body was still tangled up with the wreck), James Davis and Edward Harvey.
The coronial court verdict:
“Accidentally drowned in the waters of the South Pacific Ocean, from the reck of the ship Walter Hood, bound from London to Sydney”
The five bodies were then buried in the bush just beyond the beach in two shared graves – one for the captain and passenger, and the other for the crew. Apparently it was thought inappropriate at the time for the captain and passenger to be buried in the same grave as crew. It may have also been to do with racial attitudes of the time, as one of the crew was dark-skinned. Rev Parsons conducted the funeral service.
The graves were surrounded by a fence made of timber from the wrecked ship that had washed ashore. Mr Lovegrove, there as the clerk of the Coronial Court, wrote an inscription on some salvaged timber:
to the Memory of
Captain A. Latto,
Master of the Walter Hood,
Also of Mr Haynes,
James Sinclair, boatswain,
John Jullien, A.B.,
26th April, 1870
1/2 mile North east
The body of the cook, Edward Harvey was washed ashore on Monday 2 May and buried with the seamen.
The graves were later marked by two wooden slabs, paid for Messrs Montefiore, Josep and Co, the ship’s agents and inscribed by Andrew Lenehan of Pitt St, Sydney. The inscription of the slab for Latto and Haynes was described as being ornamented with a ‘funereal escutcheon appropriately enriched‘. The second tablet is inscribed to the memory of the seamen who drowned.
Some illustrations by Jessie Douglas of scenes from the Milton-Ulladulla district were published in Town and Country Journal in 1883 and include a small drawing of the two grave slabs and surrounding fence at Wreck Bay:
As the funeral is completed, there’s a lot of people starting to arrive on the Wreck Bay beach. Who are they and what do they want?