April 2006 – Mr Frederick Adams and the Undertaker
A story from the turn of the nineteenth century, by a descendant in the present.
While walking in the Cemetery on Easter Monday, 17 April 2006, Janette and I met Mr James Shaw, and his wife. We stopped and chatted for a while and answered some of Mr. Shaw’s questions about various graves, and the chapels; he asked which chapel had been used as a mortuary. We explained about the change of use of the St Paul’s Chapel on West Street in 1867: after the Old Parish Cemetery was extended in 1862, and the two new chapels built, the Chapel of St Paul became the town mortuary.
Mr Shaw then related a story told to him by his Grandfather, Frederick ADAMS, Builder, of Victoria Street, Ryde, who, as a young man, used to polish the decorations on the memorial of Captain George Douglas HARRIS in the Old Cemetery. One day, probably around the turn of the nineteenth century, he was approached by an undertaker, and asked if he would like a cigarette. Mr Adams declined, as he was not supposed to smoke while at work. However, the Undertaker seemed to need a smoke, and a break, so Mr Adams passed the time of day with him for about 20 minutes. It appeared that the Undertaker was working in one of the chapels or the Mortuary, preparing the body of a young girl who had committed suicide at Ashey Station, and he needed a break from this unpleasant task. He said he had never seen such injuries, and Mr Adams could well understand why the Undertaker had needed a break from his work.
Mr Shaw told us that his Great Grandfather, Samuel ADAMS, and Grandfather, Frederick ADAMS, are both buried in the Cemetery. He said that there is a plaque in The Garfield Road Methodist Church to Samuel, who paid for the repairs to the organ in that church.
We will carry out some research into the death of the young girl, and perhaps find out who the undertaker was.