• The Death of James Selwood

    The Mataura Ensign of 13 April 1899 reports the death and funeral of James Selwood:

    “Our Lumsden correspondence writes:  I regret to say death has robbed this district of a useful life.  I refer to the late Mr James Selwood, licensee of the Accommodation House at Parrawa.  For a long time past Mr Selwood had been ailing, but his illness did not assume a serious nature until about six weeks ago, when he had to take to his bed, and from then until his decease he never left it.  The unvarying kindness of the neighbours and of some of the members of the Lumsden Oddfellows’ Lodge, of which the late Mr Selwood had been many years a member, is much appreciated by the bereaved wife and family, the latter being eleven in number.  The funeral took place at Lumsden on Wednesday, and was largely attended by the public and members of the Oddfellows Lodge.  Six of the Senior Past Grands acted as pall-bearers.  The body was taken to the Anglican Church where Dr Ward conducted the service and officiated at the grave.  The Prov. Grand Master, Bro. A. Small read the service of the Order.  Mr Allan acted as organist at the Church, and as the body was leaving the building, played the Dead March.  The late Mr Selwood was untiring in his kindness in looking after the interest of his neighbors at the railway siding, and will be much missed.  The bereaved wife and family have the sympathy of the district for many miles around.”

    James Selwood was buried at the Lumsden Cemetery on Wednesday 12 April 1899.

    After deteriorating health, James died at Parawa on Saturday 8 April 1899, “aged 44”.  He was actually aged 48 at his death, having been born in Buscot, Berkshire, on 2 November 1850.  The cause of death, dear I say it, was recorded as chronic alcoholism and dropsy.  Dropsy was an old-fashioned medical term for edema, the abnormal accumulation of serious fluids in body cavity or in the cellular tissues.  It seems that in being a jovial “mine host”, the imbibing of the hotel’s fine products might have got the better of James.

    There were other interesting items revealed on the death certificate.  James was medically examined a week before he died.  The recorded informant was son Henry T. Selwood.  James’s father was recorded as Isaac, occupation gardener, and James’s mother was recorded as Mary with unknown surname (actually Mary Davis).  The certificate records “living issue” as four sons aged 23, 13, 12, and 8, and seven daughters aged 21, 20, 18, 16, 10, 7 and 4.  Putting a name to these children with their true ages at the time of James death we have in age sequence Henry 24, Edith 22, Elizabeth (Bessie) 20, Helena (Nellie) 17, Lily 14, Albert 13, Charles 11, Rosie 10, William 8, Evelyn (Eva) 6, and Hilda (Tot) 4.

    James prepared and signed his final Will on 24 March 1899.  He left all his estate and effects, including Block 3, Section 12 at Parawa, to his wife Helena.

    James Selwood was one of New Zealand’s founding pioneers.  In England he did the honorable thing and married his partner Helena after they conceived their first child.  They then took the momentous decision to move to New Zealand and start a new life.  Almost three months confined to a sailing ship would be hard to imagine for today’s generation who could travel the same England to New Zealand distance within two days.  Helena would have found it even harder.  She was five months pregnant with their second child, Edith, born within a month of arrival in New Zealand.

    The family moved to a very isolated part of northern Southland, but the situation was not totally unfamiliar.  The land on which they settled was owned by the son of the owner of Buscot Estate in Berkshire, both called Robert Campbell, where both James and his father Isaac worked as agricultural labourers.

    James and Helena raised a family of 11 children, for the first 13 years in isolated Windley (or Billy Goat Park) where nothing exists today.  A devastating fire in April 1889 forced the family to move to Lumsden then to Parawa.  The Selwoods became part of the community, with schools, Oddfellows Lodge, and the comings and goings of managing the Royal Mail and Parawa Junction Hotels.  It is obvious from the newspaper articles and anecdotes of the time that James was a very congenial and popular “mine host”.  But it did bring with it an occupational hazard which would not have helped his other health conditions.  James died a young man, not even reaching 50 years of age.  He left behind a wife and a growing family.  We will see from subsequent chapters that Helena and family did not retire from life, but embraced it.