History: Edward Mellish and the loss of the Sakata

St Matthews Anglican Cemetery Windsor. Picture: M. Nichols,

St Matthews Anglican Cemetery Windsor. Picture: M. Nichols, 2017.

In Windsor's historic St Matthew's Anglican cemetery is a monument to local resident Edward James Mellish a young man who lost his life in a shipwreck at the turn of the twentieth century.

Edward (also known as Ned) was born in Windsor in 1885 and was the youngest son of carpenter Edward Mellish and his wife Susannah, nee Upton. His father was a well-known builder in the town of Windsor and surrounds. Edward junior left Riverstone as a young man and sought work on eventually found himself 'Sakata' a trading boat.

According to the newspapers of the day, a British schooner called the 'Sakata' was on a voyage from Anapolis to Havana in ballast in December 1905. The 'Sakata' was a three masted schooner often carrying lumber between various ports. Sailing in the North Sea the Sakata sailed into strong winds, and the vessel "was struck by a terrific wave during a heavy gale" which turned the boat on "her beam ends, and before the crew had time to cut away the masts to right her she capsized." This action threw "Captain Donlon and the whole of the crew into the water."

Some of the crew were able to climb to safety on the "upturned vessel, but owing to cold and exposure they gradually lost consciousness" and eventually vanished into the ocean until only one man remained alive.

Out of the eight crew members, there was only one survivor, John F. Williams, one of the mates. He was on the brink of death when rescued by the crew of the 'Helen Thomas' and was almost unconsciousness. He had kept alive for four days, by nibbling on his oilskin jacket. Captain John Donlon was also the managing owner of the vessel, was onboard with his son, and both perished.

The Windsor and Richmond Gazette newspaper stated that after the incident, Edward's sister, Mrs Ethel Lorger of Riverstone, received a newspaper clipping about the accident written by Herbert Hearne from Nova Scotia, a close friend of Edward's.

Herbert had spent some time with his friend 'Ned' the night before he departed on the doomed trip. Ned had asked Herbert to contact his family in Australia, if he did not return from the voyage, for any reason. Edward was only twenty years old when he died and apparently had a "fine physique and splendid disposition."

Edward James was baptised in Windsor's St Matthew's Anglican Church and it was only fitting that he is remembered in the adjoining cemetery. The family carved the details of his demise on the Upton family vault, to commemorate Edward who lost his life on the other side of the world. His mother Susannah who died only a few years after Edward's birth, and his father who passed away in 1913, are buried nearby.