Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Sambo's Grave

A week or two ago, I saw mention of a grave on the Lancashire coast and just a few days later found myself standing next to it. According to Wikipedia, Sambo's Grave is the burial site of a dark skinned cabin boy or slave on unconsecrated ground in a field near the small hamlet of Sunderland Point, near Heysham, Lancashire.

Sunderland Point was a port that served cotton, sugar and slave ships from the West Indies and North America. It is a very small community only accessible via a narrow road which crosses a salt marsh and is cut off at high tide.

As the Lonsdale Magazine of 1822 recounts, Sambo arrived around 1736 from the West Indies as a servant to the captian of an unnamed ship:

"After she had discharged her cargo, he was placed at the inn ... with the intention of remaining there on board wages till the vessel was ready to sail; but supposing himself to be deserted by the master, without being able, probably from his ignorance of the language, to ascertain the cause, he fell into a complete state of stupefaction, even to such a degree that he secreted himself in the loft on the brewhouses and stretching himself out at full length on the bare boards refused all sustenance. He continued in this  state only a few days, when death terminated the sufferings of poor Samboo. As soon as Samboo’s exit was known to the sailors who happened to be there, they excavated him in a grave in a lonely dell in a rabbit warren behind the village, within twenty yards of the sea shore, whither they conveyed his remains without either coffin or bier, being covered only with the clothes in which he died." - Lonsdale Magazine, 1822

It has been suggested that Sambo may have died from a disease contracted from contact with Europeans, to which he had no natural immunity, although some more romanticised stories say that he died of a broken heart when his enslaver left him there. He was buried in unconsecrated ground (as he was not a Christian on the weatherbeaten shoreline of Morecambe Bay.

Sixty years after the burial, a retired schoolmaster, James Watson, heard the story and raised the money for a memorial to be placed on the unmarked grave. Watson, who was the brother of the prominent Lancaster slave trader, William Watson, also wrote the epitaph that now marks the grave:

Here lies
A faithfull NEGRO
(Attending his Maſter from the Weſt Indies)
DIED on his Arrival at SUNDERLAND

Full sixty Years the angry Winter's Wave
Has thundering daſhd this bleak & barren Shore
Since SAMBO's Head laid in this lonely GRAVE
Lies still & ne'er will hear their turmoil more.

Full many a Sandbird chirps upon the Sod
And many a Moonlight Elfin round him trips
Full many a Summer's Sunbeam warms the Clod
And many a teeming Cloud upon him drips.

But still he sleeps—till the awakening Sounds
Of the Archangel's Trump new Life impart
Then the GREAT JUDGE his Approbation founds
Not on Man's COLOR but his—WORTH of HEART.

James Watſon Scr. H.Bell del. 1796
For the full Wikipedia entry which includes more sources of information, click HERE


Pretty Zesty said...

so interesting!

Beth Niquette said...

This is a VERY interesting blog! I know of two graves at the bottom of hill at the edge of a filbert tree orchard. The graves are from the Civil War.

We found them as children. I have half a mind to drive over there and see if the grave markers are still there...

Owen said...

What a story ! Beautiful job reporting on this, amazing what one can stumble on while out wandering in the countryside...

Good to see you're out and about exploring odd nooks and crannies of tidal islands...

Laurie said...


You're welcome!

Let me know how you got on.

Owen - thanks - a sunny day as well! Hopefully less than a month before moving in day . . .


Welcome to the Graveyard Detective

An illustrated look at the World of Graveyards and Cemeteries. There are many Stories behind the Stones that Stand in them. Who knows what we might find?


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