Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Taphophile Tragics # 8 - The mail coach and the burning tree

In Memory of
George Michael Pattison
who was accidentally killed by a burning tree falling across the mail coach in which he was travelling from Taree
on 31st January 1899
Aged 39 years

Erected by the Commercial Travellers of New South Wales
Port Macquarie General Cemetery

The final Taree to Port Macquarie mail coach, 1914

The Melbourne Argus next day reported on page 7
The coach was being driven along the road at Heron's Creek by Robert Louis when a tree, which had been burning for several days, fell. Some of the branches struck the coach and two pole horses, killing the horse furthest away from the tree stump, and slightly injuring the near horse. The leading horse escaped uninjured. Louis was killed instantaneously. A passenger, Mr Geo. Pattison, a commercial traveller for Heyde, Todman & Co., tobacconists of Sydney, had both his legs broken. One of his arms was also broken and his head was bruised. The coach was smashed to splinters and was unrecognisable... Mr Pattison had lain there for hours suffering indescribable agony. His cries finally attracted the attention of two men, who were going along by the road shortly after daylight, and they at once conveyed news of the accident to Port Macquarie and Kew. Mr Pattison was taken to Kew where an operation was performed, but he died this evening.
Horses were obviously of immense value in those days.

Heyde, Todman & Co was owned by Wilhelm van der Heyde & George Todman, both pillars of the community in Strathfield in Sydney. Their tobacconist company eventually became W.D. & H.O. Wills which was incorporated into British Tobacco.

George Michael Pattison was the son of William and Elizabeth Pattison.



View Larger Map
On this run, from Taree to Port Macquarie, on today's roads, the coach would have to travel 90 kms.
This is my contribution to the Taphophile Tragics community.

23 comments:

hamilton said...

The Commercial Travellers of NSW were generous in honouring on of their own, in what must have been a much more dangerous occupation than one might originally suspect.

Gemma Wiseman said...

Interesting that a tobacconist should need to employ commercial travellers between coastal and inland places! And I wonder why the isolated tree should be burning for several days Lightning strike? Intriguing insight into our early days!

tapirgal said...

Great reporting! What are the odds of being in just that wrong place and/or wrong time? That's one for the digital history we are contributing to here.

Mark said...

A tragic story. Falling tress or limbs claimed many deaths in the old days. It reminds me of the death of Judy in 'Seven Little Australians.

NixBlog said...

What an amazing story! We learn so much from these posts, Julie!

Jim said...

Very interesting story.

VioletSky said...

I am thinking this shows how isolated this area must have been. How awful to have gone through so much pain, alone and then to die when help arrived.

Ann said...

They certainly gave him an impressive grave.

Sondra said...

what a tragic way to go!! Have to wonder if the tree was ignited by natural causes...

diane b said...

An interesting incite to our history. How awful to be in so much pain for so long and then die after help arrived.
The tobacco company story was interesting too. Nice of them to give him a decent grave.

Oakland Daily Photo said...

Mr. Pattison had what my friend Al, who hails from New Orleans, would call buzzard luck. That about says it all.

Joan Elizabeth said...

My goodness is it Tuesday again!! The comment about horses made me smile ... in my family history research I found out great-great grandad was a horse thief. I guess today he would be nicking off with Mercedes Benz. Doesn't seem quite so easy to forgive does it?

biebkriebels said...

What a bizar accident to die this way. He really had bad luck that day. Thanks for the story Julie.

Steffe said...

Talk about bad luck!

The Paw Relations said...

What an interesting story. Poor George.

Herding Cats

http://seathreepeeo.blogspot.com

Gene said...

Sad but interesting tale. What a way to go -- urgh!

Kathy said...

What an amazing story!

Rae Walter said...

Such an interesting story Julie. I also wanted to say how much I enjoy - much to my surprise - posting for Taphophile Tragics. Short on research time this week, but should be back again next week.

CaT said...

yes, i also wondered how and why a tree can be burning for several days? must have been a big tree!
sad way to die, i think.

Catherine said...

what a fascinating story.......

Julie said...

And yet, it does not surprise me that a tree could burn for many days before tumbling. Large ironbark trees in Australia are what are known as 'hardwood'. The fire spirals up through the trunk and flames take out the top of the tree (there is a word for the top of a tree but it wont come to me!). This leaves red-hot embers burning for many days through the core of the tree. What the story indicates to me, is that the driver of the mail coach was not savvy enough when proceeding past the tree. However, I take that it was night when the accident occurred, and although the embers would have been visible, the sheer size of the trunk may not have been obvious.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Is canopy the word your looking for? It took weeks for the earth to stop cooking after we had that horrible fire a few years back. Ironwood. I think we have something like that. Los Angeles shares so many species of plant life with Australia

Julie said...

Hah! Yes, indeed. Canopy. Thank you.