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Saving Elkanah Merrell
by Philip Lister
Published: Oct. 30, 2012
Winters were bleak in Brontë's Haworth, In Victorian Madeira there were no Winters. "Last night, I dreamt that I could smell the Jaquranada again,I walked through their purple petals, sprinkled like soft frosted snow on moonlit pavements, with the warm breeze from the ocean upon my face" After breakfast, the family had all gone and the house was quiet again, but the images remained, and I found myself in one of the upstairs rooms at the back of the house, a place I had not been for years;looking through old trunks, and storage boxes. then I saw it, dusty and neglected in a corner. One of the two domed toped, pine and cast iron sailing trunks, loaned to me by uncle Hartley over fifty years ago, its once gleaming fittings now green with verdigris. With no definite purpose at first, I knelt down and clicked open the catches.
Carved on a gravestone in Haworth cemetery:
SACREDTOTHE MEMORY OFJAMES AQUILA MERRELLWHO DIED AT CLIFFE COTTAGE, LEESDEC 1858 IN THE 6TH YEAROF HIS AGE
ALSO OF ELKANAH MERRELL,
WHO DIED IN THE SHIP COMET AT SEA
LAT 48°N LON 8°W
ON A VOYAGE TO MADEIRAFOR THE BENEFIT OF HIS HEALTHFEB 12TH 1859, IN THE 26TH YEAROF HIS AGE.
ALSO OF HARTLEY MERRELL OF CLIFF COTTAGE, ABOVE SAIDWHO FELL ASLEEP IN JESUSAPRIL 5TH 1859 IN THE 28TH YEAROF HIS AGE
I suppose that it would be true to say that I've known Elkanah Merrell for twelve years now. He used to live in the same village as I do. The thing is he left around 153 years ago.
Someone once told me that life is a journey which is all about beginnings and endings. For me a new beginning was when I arrived in Haworth twelve years ago searching for a better life working as a tour guide. It was then that I first became aware of Elkanah Merrell and his story. For him leaving Haworth in search of a better life was to be the first step towards the ending of his journey.
To be honest the very gravestone informing the world of the extremely precise location of his death, I had gently mocked before hundreds of people every year for the past twelve years, as I presented my popular 'Lantern-light Graveyard Tour' around the village's most atmospheric graveyard.