In rather a reversal of how things should be, one our two resident mothers, Younger Daughter, treated all of us to a lovely lunch at Caversham Mill in the Midlands.
Of course, I went snap-happy. All of these shots are taken right there:
Two young brothers, Richard Hodson (17) and his brother James (15) set sail for D’Urban (as Durban was then called) aboard the Nile on 14th June, 1850, under the care of their uncle and aunt, Dr and Mrs Gower, and in the company of the four Gower daughters. Also aboard was a Mr and Mrs Franklin, with their two sons and four daughters. During the four months of the voyage until their arrival on 15th September, James formed a deep mutual attachment with one of the Franklin daughters, Jane, who was of the same age.
Between 1852 and 1853 Richard and James, young though they were, built a mill on the Mpofana River (later to be known as Lions River). It was the first water-driven one to be erected in Natal. Richard then operated it, while James made a living from cutting timber in the forests nearby.
Tragedy had struck for James and Jane, though. In 1852 the Franklins decided to relocate to Melbourne, Australia, and the two young lovers had to bid one another sad farewells.
I wish I could fill in the details of the Franklins’ experience, and whether James and Jane kept up some correspondence, but the important thing is that the Franklins returned four years later, in 1856. One can just imagine the joy of the reunion, and of the discovery that the two were still in love with one another. James and Jane, now both 20, were married on 14th January, 1857.
That young romance had certainly stood the test of time, and it continued to do so. James built a homestead at Caversham, and during an adventurous life together they had seven sons and four daughters.
Jane died on 28th February 1928, and James on 29th August 1929 having only survived her by 18 months. Their ages are quoted on the plaque as 84 and 85 respectively, but that doesn’t tally with having been 15 in 1850. By my reckoning, their shipboard romance lasted some 78 years.
They lie together in the Caversham churchyard.
Twelfth Night has some really apt quotes for this story:
O Mistress mine, where are you roaming? …
Trip no further, pretty sweeting.
Journeys end in lovers meeting …
In delay there lies no plenty,
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty.