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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
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."
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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