Kindness Knows no Bounds

The Story of ‘Somebody’s Darling’….

By: Mike
In the heart of Dublin stands a large statue of Daniel O’Connell – one of Ireland’s greatest 19th century political figures. He was a truly great man of his time. Close by, straddling the River Liffey is a bridge dedicated to him and known as O’Connell Bridge. Surprisingly, half way across the world, 11,600 miles away stands another bridge dedicated to the great man. This Daniel O’Connell Bridge is situated in the Otago region of New Zealand. The origin of the name is unknown but believed to have derived from the numerous Irish immigrants who moved to the area in the 1860’s.

Whilst the Great Famine ravaged Ireland during the 1840’s, besides the great number of people who died from starvation, literally millions departed Ireland’s shores. A great many took up residence in England, in particular Liverpool and London. Others sailed further afield – to North and South America, Canada and Europe.

Those who were now resident in Liverpool without doubt received the most recent news from distant places through the crews of ships that frequented the famous port. It soon became known that many who sailed to America were more or less cajoled into joining the army there. They were not welcomed as most were illiterate and malnourished……………..

However, news of the many ‘gold rushes’ of the time arrived and with the promise or at least the expectation of great wealth, hoards of especially young men made their way to their own personal ‘El Dorado’.

When in 1860, Christopher Riley, an Irishman and Horatio Hartley, an American, discovered gold in the Otago area of New Zealand, news eventually reached Liverpool. They had in fact kept the find secret and had amassed 1,392 ounces of gold before they reported the fact to the chief gold receiver in Dunedin. Suddenly the entire area was swamped with prospectors. In fact, at the height of the gold rush, over one third of the miners were Irish.

One such prospector, William Rigney, an Irishman, whilst prospecting at the Horseshoe Bend diggings in Central Otago in 1865, discovered the dead body of a young man who had apparently drowned in the Clutha River further upstream. He was taken to the local mortuary. When the body was not claimed, Rigney arranged a funeral at his own expense. Many of the other miners attended.

To mark the grave, Rigney placed a wooden marker upon which he inscribed the words “Somebody’s darling lies buried here”. Throughout his life, he tended the grave and placed flowers upon it.

But that is not the end of the story for when Rigney himself died in 1912, he left instructions that he be buried next to the stranger. The site in the stony area is known by locals as “The Lonely Graves”.

When I first heard this story I was a little surprised but having given it a little thought, I think that I can now fully understand his reasoning. You see, Rigney would have lived through the starvation times of the Great Famine back home in Ireland. He would have seen poor emaciated people trying to make their way to the various ports to leave. Most importantly, he would have seen thousands of those same victims being buried in unmarked graves by the wayside with no one to grieve for them.

As his inscription implies, the stranger was ‘Some Mother’s Son’ and indeed a ‘Darling’ …………………

5 Comments on “Kindness Knows no Bounds”

  1. This story says so much about the quality of the human being who has been tested by the fires. It’s not just the ability to elevate above poverty and suffering that makes a person great, but the ability to retain compassion and understanding. This is a wonderful, heart touching story.

  2. Interesting story, but I see something else in this – the tendency of the human species to value the dead over the living. Think about it: had society given a damn about these poor folks dying in the Great Famine (which it obviously didn’t…) it would have stopped the suffering ASAP – not bury the victims in mass graves so that certain people can make symbolic gestures later on.

    I know it sounds cold, but the way I see it the dead are just that – dead. It makes no sense to dedicate so much time and effort to them when it can instead be used to better the quality of life for those still living.

  3. Azazel: Although this may seem offensive, I sincerely assure you that it is not so intended. I find it sad that some people cannot see the beauty of such an act as Rigney’s. I see beauty all around me whilst not ignoring the horrors and sadness of this world. As for the Great Famine, I know that I have ancestors who suffered during those hard times. I also know of the total kindness of the Lord of the Manor who opened his gardens and food stores to feed the villagers. When his son died the villagers attended his Protestant funeral against the orders of the local Priest who threatened to excommunicate anyone who disobeyed his orders. Every man and woman in the church (according to my Grandfather) walked out and did not return until the priest was transferred. At my age, Life is beautiful – the alternative is crap. Take care…………………Mike..

  4. Mike,

    I know what you are speaking of, but I’m approaching this with an altogether different value system than you are – the things that the civilized man (which right now constitues most of the Western world and then some) finds as beautiful the uncivilized/decivilized man (people like myself – who have an altogether different idea of what society is or should be than the civilized man) sees as something that’s sad or even downright pathetic: where the civilized man perceives kindness and empathy in preserving the memory of the dead in made-made disasters (such as the Potato Famine), whilst people like myself see only horror in a society *allowing* such things to happen in the first place and see the respect for the dead as being a gesture that’s simply too little, too late.

    Now, I’m not saying don’t remember the fallen (by all means tell their stories, learn from their lives and avenge their deaths as necessary) – but never forget why they died in the first place nor that the tragety could have been avoided. Never forget and never forgive the entities that are responsible…

  5. Az and Mike, both of you give a great deal to think about here.

    To me, it seems that in honoring the dead or at least remembering the stories we hope to teach and learn something. If we aren’t doing that, our remembrances are useless. Some people, unfortunately need concrete items to meditate on like bridges and statues. It means nothing to those who have passed to be so immortalized, which I think is why Rigney decided on such a modest gravesite.

    Then I come to Az’s statement of “Do not Forget, Do not Forgive.” It makes me take pause, at least the forgiving part. As long as we poison ourselves with self rightousness we do not grow, at least I feel that way. And yet, I am so very well aquainted with the inablity to forgive something. Especially when it seems clear that redemption is due.

    Anyway, still mulling this over Az, thanks.

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