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Rupert Frederick Barnard Clark

Rupert Frederick Barnard Clark was b: 2 Aug 1877; Date of death: 27 Nov 1906; Date of burial: 30 Nov 1906; Bur: O'Neill's Point Cem; King Edward Avenue, Bayswater;  Rupert was employed by the Scraping and Painting Contractor.

James Barnard said in his tape (Waiheke Island): "Rupert was killed at the Calliope Dock and his parents didn't get to know until they got a bill his funeral expenses. Rupert was a bit of a wag, a bit of a character."

Rupert was not buried under his own name because it was said that there was no family around. They buried him under the correct surname but gave him, as a christian name, the surname of a friend - he was actually buried as Anderson Clark on 30 November 1906.

Calliope Dock opened in Devonport, Auckland in February 1888 - the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Today (May 2004), it is New Zealand's largest dry dock.

Excerpt from the Book "The White Ensign In Early New Zealand": "Ships were docked and placed in position by the harbourmaster, but the actual docking down was generally carried out by a Mr BAILEY of the prominent Auckland firm of boatbuilders, who worked under contract. Indeed, from time to time there were doubts that the Navy took adequate responsibility for the docking down of its own ships, and some emphasis was given to this point in November 1906 after the merchant vessel "Mamari" slipped off the blocks when it was being settled in the dock, an accident which resulted in the deaths of two men and injuries to 30.........."

Newspapers wrote of the confusion and chaos the disaster caused and result of the Coroner's Inquest :

Headlines state - Liner shifts when Docking - Fifty Men swept into the Water - Two Men Drowned; Thirty Injured. Killed: CLARK, R., 22, Wyndham Street, Auckland.

When the ship slipped Rupert was thought may have been hit on the head or side of the neck with a spar or other piece of timber and subsequently drowned. The bodies of the two men who were killed were not found until the dry dock had been completely emptied of water, about 5 hours after the disaster even though various attempts were made by the Harbour Board diver however the water was too murky and nothing could be seen. It must have been terrifying as when the ship slipped off its blocks, there was still about 10 feet of water in the dock.

The ship only moved about 5 feet forward but this set up such a displacement of water that it was a bit like a tidal wave and the water knocked men off punts and dock steps etc. All 50 went into the water with 2 being killed and 30 injured, some quite seriously. After the men were rescued, it was felt safer to fill the dock again as the ship was still in a dangerous position and it was feared she would move again. By this time, it was presumed that the two missing men were dead.

THE MAMARI SLIPS FORWARD IN DOCK. TWO MEX MISSING AND MANY INJURED. AUCKLAND, Nov 27. The Shaw, Savill, and Albion Company's steamer Mamari, a fine vessel of 6639 tons, when being docked in the Calliope Dock, just before 12 o'clock to-day, settled down and surged forward, causing a sort of tidal wave in the' dock. Some 50 men were at the time scraping and painting on stages alongside the steamer, and a very large number of them were swept into the water. Two men are missing, and they are believed to have been drowned, and many others were injured, come of them seriously. The Mamari had entered the dock at high- water for the purpose of being repainted as the tide receded. Nearly 50 men were busily engaged in washing the hull as a preliminary to painting, when, without the slightest warning, the huge vessel slid bodily forward about 4ft, and settled down upon the dock bottom. The water at the time (11.45 a.m.) reached to about the vessel's bilge keels, but when the Mamari settled down in such an appallingly sudden manner the extra, displacement raised a commotion similar to a tidal wave, which swept backwards and forwards in the narrow basin, overwhelming the busy workers. There was a terrible confusion of drifting pontoons and broken timber, and the men, who had been scrubbing the iron hull were in an instant engulfed in the seething water, which swept them helplessly against the cement sides of the dock, and threw them back to the iron hull with terrible force. Few escaped injury, and at least two men were either killed or drowned. it was with a crashing noise that the bulky vessel made the fatal forward move, and the wonder is that she did not rip out all the wooden shores which propped her in an upright position. A number of the shores fell, but luckily the majority held. Fortunately, the Mamari kept the perpendicular position, and the men who were struggling in the water were mercifully spared a terrible death by crushing between the ship and the dockside. When all the workmen who were floating, had reached the dockside, and the water had become calm, there was a hasty muster of the roll, and the discovery was made that two men, who had been working near the vessel's rolling-chocks, were missing. Their names were : R. Clark (painter, aged 22 years, living in Ponsonby, unmarried) and W. May (painter, aged 22, also living in Ponsonby and unmarried). Captain Moffatt (master of the Mamari) told a reporter that he had just gone round the ship, and said to the mate that when the water got a little lower they would all go under the bottom. It was a lucky thing for the ship's company, added the captain, that the accident happened when it did, for had it been a quarter of an hour later they would have all been under the bottom of the vessel, and the affair might have- been far more serious  than it was. Asked as to the circumstances of 'the accident; Captain Moffati said that when the supports collapsed then was about 10ft of water in the dock. The accident caused the boat to drop, and she then shot upwards for a short distance The water seemed to act as a cushion, and a hasty examination shortly after the occurrence revealed the fact that the vessel had apparently suffered no serious damage When the boat dropped into the dock the water squelched up on' either side, and the wash upset the punts in which the men were working, and a large number of men were injured. At first it was reported that three men were missing, but some time after the accident one of them was found lying in the grass in the dockyard. The harbourmaster Captain Duder states that as soon as the men were go out of the dock it was again filled with water, for the safety of the vessel. The Mamari will be floated out of the Dock and  go back latcr. The crew of the vessel rendered every assistance possible in rescuing the injured, and their conduct, is very favourably spoken of by their captain and others who saw the accident. Looking like a hospital ship with a row of blanket-covered and bandaged figures on deck, the p.s. Ospray brought the injured men across from the dock to the Auckland  wharf. Here they were attended to by a number of ladies, who did all possible to ease their sufferings while the work of transferring them to vehicles for conveyance to the hospital was in progress. Both local ambulances were requisitioned, and in addition a number of the injured men were conveyed to the hospital in cabs. Some  were able to sit up, but others were lying stretched at full length across the cabs. One of the less-severely injured was spoken to by a Star representative as to the accident. "I really don't know how it happened," he said. " There were 14 or 15 of us working on a punt beside the vessel, there being about seven feet of water in the dock.  Suddenly The vessel. slipped off the chocks under her keel, and came down almost on top of us. What happened then I don't know."  Mr W. Jessen, painting contractor, who was employing most of the men involved, was a spectator of the disaster from the  dock wall. He told a reporter that he had a narrow escape from being involved in the accident. "I had just left Clark and May, the missing men," he said. "They were working on a level with the rolling chocks. I got up a couple of altars, and was talking to an officer of the Mamari when there was a sort of crash, and the steamer slipped forward. I should say that she went four feet forward and fell about as much, causing a big wave, which flowed first up to the head of the dock and then back. The men were washing the hull, and they were swept away by a heavy wave. Several shores gave way, but most of them held otherwise 20 or 30 men would certainly have been killed by the boat falling upon them." The water at 11.5 a.m., when the accident happened, was on a level with the rolling chocks. Another, quarter of an hour -and everybody would have been under the flat bottom of the ship, and it would have been a worse accident. Up to 4 p.m. the bodies of the missing men had not been recovered, and no hope of their being alive is entertained.
As soon as it was realised by all on board the Mamari that a serious accident had happened, all hands, from Captain. Mooffatt downwards, set themselves to attend to the injured, and splendid work of this kind was done. On shore around the dock  were many men employed by the Harbour Board and contractors having business at the dock. These people set to work to get the injured men out of the dock. This  was a work requiring extreme nerve, because it could not be told then that the vessel would not heel over and smash the. shores and crush every living thing between her and the dock walls. Captain Duder (harbour master), who was on board the Mamari. and who had docked her, gave orders for the water to be let into the dock so as to float the ship and lift her free of any other support. In the meantime the injured men were being, got out  with all speed, and many of these who were less injured were the first to render assistance to their mates who were in worse cases than themselves. John Morrisey, an elderly man, jumped into the water and dragged out one of the badly-injured men, who was in danger of drowning. The crew of the Mamari got out a large number, of beds, upon which the badly-injured  men were laid on the dock wall. The chief-steward of the ship was promptly on hand with stimulants and restoratives, and under the circumstances the first aid rendered was extremely satisfactory. The scene at the dock after the accident resembled a battlefield. Bruised and bleeding men were lying about in twos and threes along the dock side, and others, who were more seriously injured, were carried into the dock sheds. Some of the men were standing bleeding from the head and arms, and others were sitting on the grass dazed, and apparently not quite sure as to what w had happened. Some of more sanguine temperament cheered up their more injured companions, and told them to get along home out of it. In several cases the reply came, "We can't - we can't use our legs - they're all wrong!"

Another report states: "The two dead bodies were placed in a shed at the back of the Esplanade Hotel, there being no morgue in those days at Devonport. On two occasions, rats attacked the bodies. The report goes on to say that there was a delay in the burial of Clark's body owing to some difference as to who should bury it. The contractor declined any liability. The body was buried on Friday. So far as the contractor knew Clarke had no relatives in the colony. He found a life policy in the Government Insurance Office in the deceased's clothes."

Source: Exerpt from "North Shore Times" 19/07/2011: " William and Robert were crushed and their bodies swept out to the Waitemata where searchers located them a day later.  Robert Clark was not so fortunate - his body lay unattended among crates of empty bottles in a lean-to at the back of the hotel for a number of days until someone noticed it being feasted on by swarms of rats. News of the gruesome find, complete with a vivid description of poor Robert's corpse, was leaked to newspapers.

"Auckland's hideous shame," the resulting headlines screamed. "Desecration of the dead." The warring parties, embarrassed by the subsequent public outcry, swiftly settled their differences and arranged for Robert's proper burial at O'Neil's Point Cemetery in Bayswater.

Many years passed before Robert's family learned of his fate. Modern day relatives say he changed his name from Rupert Frederick Barnard Clark after an argument with his parents and had severed connections with home. His ruse contributed to the problems authorities had in finding his next of kin." Correspondent:  Matthew Gray

Result of the Inquest: The Jury found that the deaths of the men resulted from the accident to the Mamari on 27 Nov 1906 and that the accident was due to the instability of the blocks in the dock (as water is pumped out, the ship settles onto these blocks which are supposed to hold her).

Result of the Inquest - 14 Jan 1907: The Jury found that the deaths of the men resulted from the accident to the Mamari on 27 Nov 1906 and that the accident was due to the instability of the blocks in the dock (as water is pumped out, the ship settles onto these blocks which are supposed to hold her).

Rupert's full and correct name was known at his inquest when the Coroner pronounced "The verdict of the Jury was that death was the "result of an accident whilst docking syeamship "Mamari". No parents names were entered on the death certificate. The question remains unanswered ....why were his parents not informed earlier? 

1907 Evening Post, 19 Feb 1907: BAD NEWS. [BY TELEGRAPH] DUNEDIN, This Day. The postmaster at Lawrence has just received intimation through the Public Trust Office that his son, Rupert Clark, was one of the' victims of the Calliope Dock accident, which occurred in November last. But for the fact that the department is making a claim for a few shillings balance of funeral expenses, Mr. Clark would have been left in ignorance of .the untimely death of his son. Enquiring at the Public Trust Office this afternoon a reporter was informed that last week a report was received from- the department's agent at Auckland, mentioning that Rupert Clarke had been one of the victims of the accident. Beyond discovering the man's name from some papers found on him, the police knew nothing about him or his relatives. Consequently the case was handed over to the Public Trust Department. By looking up the register of a public institution at Dunedin, it was found that Rupert Clarke had been an inmate, and that he was the son of the postmaster at Lawrence. Immediately this knowledge was gained, a letter was sent to the father.

Tuapeka Times, 16 Feb 1907: On Wednesday Mr A. Clark, Postmaster, received the distressing intimation through the Public Trust Office that his son, Mr Rupert F. B. Clark, was one of the victims of the Calliope Dock accident which occurred at Auckland in November last. But for the fact that this department was making a claim for a few sliilllngs for balance of funeral expenses Mr Clark would have been left in total ignorance of the untimely death of his son. Assuming that there was sufficient evidence of identification at the inquest the Police Department have shown reprehensible neglect in failing to communicate the fact of the young man's death to his relatives. Much sympathy is felt for Mr and Mrs Clark and family in their sad bereavment. Mr Clark leaves for Auckland immediately for the purpose of personally inquiring into the circumstances

Tuapeka Times,  27 Feb 1907: Mr A. G. Williams, of the Dunedin Telegraph Office, is at present relieving Mr A. Clark, postmaster, who is taking advantage of his usual leave to visit Auckland to investigate matters in connection with the death of his son in the Calliope Dock accident.

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