A poignant walk to Sambos grave

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jewel
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A poignant walk to Sambos grave

Post by jewel » Sat Nov 06, 2010 12:40 am

The other week I went on a walk into the past.......to a windswept hamlet on the Lancashire coast named Sunderland point. We checked the tide times carefully as at high tide it is completely cut off, Sunderland literally meaning a land "asunder" , and left the car at The Globe inn at Overton. We walked the 2 miles along the coast road seeing many seabirds on the sand flats and gullies by the road, which is covered by water when the tide is in.
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Looking across to Glasson dock it is hard to imagine today the many ships that came here to the port of Sunderland from Africa and the west indies in the 1700s but it was on one such ship that a young African slave -known as "Sambo" came here with his master, but sadly contracted an illness. possibly pneumonia, and died.

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some of the cottages at Sunderland point note the tidal barriers

It was in the loft of this cottage "upsteps cottage" where poor Sambo died
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The walk continues from the cottage and down a lane
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this owl was on the gate of a house down the lane

and eventually the path comes out at the point
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It is eerie to see the ships - these days mostly ferries to Ireland and the Isle of Man they appear to be sailing on the sand. (I do wonder what happens to the cattle when the tide comes in?)
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Poor Sambo was carried down this route and buried in the corner of a farmers field ( he wasn't able to be buried in consecrated ground not being a christian)
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His grave is visited by people from all over, and schoolchildren have placed small painted stones, toys and other treasures on the grave and fresh flowers are often place there.

This is the inscription on the grave:

Full sixty years the angry winter's wave
Has thundering dashed this bleak and
barren shore
Since Sambo's head laid in this lonely grave
Lies still and ne'er will hear their turmoil more.
Full many a sandbird chirps upon the sod,
And many a moonlight elfin round him trips
Full many a summer's sunbeam warms the
clod
And many a teeming cloud upon him drips.
But still he sleeps - till the awakening sounds,
Of the Archangel's trump new life impart,
Then the Great Judge his approbation founds,
Not on man's colour but his worth of heart
James Watfon Scr. H.Bell del. 1796




A tour of Sunderland point
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Some history about "Sambo"
Sambo, or Samboo, as the gravestone indicates, is something of an enigma and little is known about his history. He was probably African, and most of the surviving folklore indicates that he was only a boy. In the 18th Century, many Ship’s Captains believed that owning a personal cabin boy was a symbol of wealth and prosperity, the sign of an English gentleman. He arrived at Sunderland Point with his owner, in 1736, where he is believed to have contracted a disease and died.
It is also entirely possible that he froze to death in the harsh Lancastrian winter, which must have been a shock to his un-acclimatised system. Whatever the reason, he was left at the point whilst the ship continued on to Lancaster, and there he died, alone and un-mourned.

An alternative version of the folklore states that he was washed up on the shore, the lone survivor of a ship-wreck, and lived for some years in the village before he died. Unfortunately, little is known about his life or the circumstances leading to his arrival in Lancashire.

Sadly, because he was black and not a Christian, he was not buried in consecrated ground. His body was interred in an unmarked grave behind the village inn, which is now an exposed promontory overlooking the sea. This same trackless sea carried him far from his home and brought him to die in a foreign land.

For over sixty years, the grave was unmarked and largely forgotten, so the story of Sambo could have ended there. Instead, a retired schoolmaster discovered the story and raised some money for a memorial. He also wrote the touching epitaph that now marks the grave. There is anecdotal evidence that the use of the term ‘Sambo’ as a racial slur arose from this grave, a sad and unwanted addition to the history.

Whilst the history books say that Sambo died of a fever, the romantic notion and local folklore states that he died of a broken heart because he had been abandoned by his master. I suspect that it may have been because he missed his home, a lifetime away from the coast of North-West England. Surveying the desolate and windswept beauty of Sunderland Point, that somehow seems to fit the inherent sorrow of the tale.

Every school in the area takes groups there, and it shows that there is always something redeemable in the human spirit. Britain carries a lot of guilt for the slave trade, quite rightly, and the grave of this lonely young man reminds us of that. It should also remind us that the fight must continue, every day. Thousands of humans are still sold into slavery on a daily basis, and there should be no let up in the struggle against the slavers.
Hopefully, this bleak and desolate storm-lashed shore can teach us all a lesson of tolerance, compassion and human dignity.


The next part of the walk takes in the cotton tree and "Snatchems"....to be continued........


I don't have a plan......so nothing can go wrong!

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Post by pinkmagic » Mon Nov 08, 2010 2:22 pm

A touching and interesting story Jewel. I had never heard of Sambo before. I love how the children have decorated his grave with the painted pebbles.

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Post by Horus » Mon Nov 08, 2010 5:11 pm

I agree :) it was an interesting piece of local history although nowadays the use of the word Sambo is considered a bit offensive if used in the wrong context, however in this case as it explains early attitudes towards coloured people then it is acceptible. My only reservations are when people (usually locals) come up with a re-discovered grave and make it into a tourist attraction. The best example is that mega con carried out in Wales of the grave of 'Gelert' the faithful hound, slain in error by his master after protecting his baby from a wolf. The whole village of Bedgelert goes along with this fable and makes money from duped visitors. :roll:
Never the less, nice pictures Jewel with a bit of history behind them and of course this one may even be true :)
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Post by Bearded Brian » Mon Nov 08, 2010 6:53 pm

Before sambo became a racist name it was used to mean a person having a mixture of black and white ancestry, more black than white eg Obama

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Post by TonyC » Mon Nov 08, 2010 7:17 pm

Yes, the name doesn't seem to have been used as an offensive term until the early part of the 20th century, so I'd like to think that poignant grave in Lancashire had nothing to do with the later use. Spellings change but the young slave seems to have been called "Samboo" then, and the name "Sambo" appears in later fiction.

His story remains a reminder of the slave trade, so thanks to Jewel for the words and pictures. Lancaster grew rich on the trade and it's interesting that the writer of the young man's epitaph was the brother of a prominent slave trader: a family at war, possibly?

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Post by JOJO » Tue Nov 09, 2010 1:01 pm

Thank you for that Jewel, loved the photo's and the story of Sambo.
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Post by sue » Tue Nov 09, 2010 9:11 pm

Found that very interesting Jewel, looking forward to part two.

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Post by Christine » Tue Nov 09, 2010 11:18 pm

Very interesting Jewel, thankyou , a little piece of our own history :)
You get out of life what you are prepared to put in x

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Post by Kiya » Wed Nov 10, 2010 10:13 am

Very interesting story of Sambo, thank you Jewel, looking forward to the next 1.
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Post by Grandad » Wed Nov 10, 2010 6:05 pm

Continuing my reliance on last years autumn photos this is one of many from Sheffield Park Gardens, National Trust, last year.

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To be honest I had to do a bit of 'dodging' of the left hand side of the trunk, and 'burning' of the sunny area because the contrast was too great.
Grandad :gg:

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Post by Grandad » Wed Nov 10, 2010 9:16 pm

Well, I have absolutely no idea how the above post appeared here.......I posted it in Horus' Autumn Leaves thread??????????
Grandad :gg:

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Post by sue » Wed Nov 10, 2010 9:36 pm

Nevermind Grandad, we can call it the interval while we wait for Jewel's continuation. Lovely old tree.

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