On the night of Thursday September 14, 1871, between eight and nine o’clock, John responded to the calls for help from someone in trouble at the small boat passage. On arriving at the scene he found a whale boat upside down, with three people clinging to it. One of them, a woman, was holding onto her child who had drowned when the boat capsized. After putting these people in his boat, they went in search of another man who had drifted away towards the entrance, clinging to an oar. They rescued him in the nick of time, but there was no sign of the other two people. While all this was happening, Martha, John’s wife, was ﬁring the signal cannon to try and attract attention at the port.
They had reached the boat passage at about seven pm and tried to enter, but grounded coming in. The tide was making and, in the attempt to get through, the boat got broadside on to the waves and capsized. Going through the boat passage saved twenty to thirty minutes over going around the end of the bank and coming in what is now the old entrance. The passage was only usable an hour or so either side of high water, which was at nine ﬁfteen pm, so they were a bit early.
After a search for the other two people, William Webber and Miss Reynolds, John took the survivors over to the Ship Hotel, where they were seen to by Dr. Vickerman and Dr. Farelle. Dr. Haynes of H.M.S. Basilisk, which was in port at the time, also offered his assistance.
The medal is now in the possession of Jack Kidson, Great Grandson of the Light Keeper. The dark blue ribbon on the medal is about half the original length, but is still in reasonable condition.
Sutherland, O. Arthur Elmslie whaler and gentleman & Anaru the farm at French Pass, 2006. Appendix 5, page 133, William and Caroline.
Nelson Evening Mail. Sept 15, 16, 18, 19, Oct 9, 1871.
Nelson Examiner. Jan 31, 1872, page 3.
Coleman, R. The Nelson lighthouse. UMS 243. Nelson Provincial Museum.