Whittington Landon Lane was born to Susan and George "Mizpah" Lane on the 14th of July, 1859 supposedly in the port town of Picton. A very eccentric name to come out of Marlborough, but his father's uncle was the Dean of Exeter Cathedral and named Whittington Landon.
George Lane owned a Hotel in High Street in Picton for a time, about where the Mariners Mall stands today, although not a great deal is known about it besides the fact it was humbly named "The George Hotel". Whittington was the eldest boy to George and Susan who had only been in the country about three years. His family soon grew and by 1878 he had seven siblings, an eighth passed away as an infant.
The family moved around a great deal from Marlborough to the Tasman and around to Nelson. Motupiko was the main residence and it was there, on the morning of the 25th of March, 1883, that he lost his brother Thomas. Thomas and his younger brother (likely Edward Landon-Lane) ventured out to go fowling, taking with them a "fowling gun" as referred to in the Obituary. The pair came across a log over the track and the pair went to jump over it. The butt of Tom's gun is assumed to have struck the ground and caused the trigger to fall, igniting the charge which was sent through the air, entering under Tom's right ear. The newspaper article reads as follows:
"Fatal Gun Accident. "On Sunday, March 25th, just before nine o'clock, Langdon Lane, aged thirteen years, left his father's house, which is a couple of miles from the Motupiko Hotel, along with a younger brother, and they took with them a fowling-piece to go shooting. Shortly after, Mr G- L. Lane, the father, reached the Motupiko Hotel and informed Mr Fogden that his son was shot. Mrs Fogden, her sister, and the servant woman at once hastened to Mr Lane's and rendered all the assistance they could, it is supposed that the deceased was about to leap over a log, when the butt of the gun struck the ground and it went off, and the full charge went in just below deceased's right ear, and passing through his head entered his brains, which were scattered, and finally carried away a piece of the skull about the size of half-a-crown. There is not the least doubt that death was instantaneous. Deceased is spoken of as being a sharp, active, polite boy, and he was extremely [helpful] to his father, who used to speak of him as being his right-hand man. At the inquest a verdict of Accidental death was returned."
Thomas is said to have been buried in the "Wakefield Churchyard" however, it is likely he was buried in Motupiko, although no record has been found at this time. This would have been hard on the family. At some point either the whole family moved back to Marlborough, or it may have just been Whittington who then started working. In the same year as his brother's death Whittington married Miss Hannah Henderson, daughter of Harriet and Andrew Henderson. Together they lived in Okaramio and started to raise a family. Their first and only son was born on the 29th Apr, 1884 and was named Silvanus (or Sylvannus). Sam, as he was affectionately known, was soon followed by a second child named Beatrice, born on the 7th June, 1885.
Whittington worked in Kaituna in a mill at this time and was very well known in the Wairau. Like many people back then and today, hunting was an important part of life. On the morning of the 18th of April, 1886 Whit and a few friends decided to go out duck shooting. They unfortunately, never left land.
Whit's friends were also well known in the community. Harry Dorreen was a publican in Havelock. At the time he was trying to divorce his wife Elizabeth Adams after finding her in bed with Charles Leopold Diamanti. Harry was known to leave his wife for long periods of time to go courting other women and leave her to care for the pub. The other friend was Arthur Wratt, son of the late George Wratt of Picton. Harry and Whit were standing on the Havelock waterfront with Arthur on a skiff in the water. Harry was having trouble with his double barreled gun and loaded to put charges in it. As he closed the breech it set off one of the charges, sending it into Whit's body. Some newspaper reports say it struck Lane in the groin however, one detailed account was it struck between the knee and the hip creating a terrible hole. Whit, who was standing 6 feet away would have been in great agony. He was hurried along into a trap where he was advised to be conveyed to Blenheim by Dr. Drary.
The trap raced away down the bumpy, rugged road towards Blenheim. Whit unfortunately died en route. Whit was aged only 26 years at the time of his death. His body was bought into the Dickson's accommodation house in Kaituna and underwent an inquest. Both Arthur and Harry gave evidence at the house. The jury consisted of Messrs Robert Neumann (foreman), William Kennington, James North, R. W. Pope, George North, and W. E. Miles and was held in the accommodation house. The verdict was returned. The jury disproved of Dr. Drary's judgement to convey Whit to Blenheim in the weather present and the state of Whit at the time. The cause for the charge going off was written as follows; "An examination of the cartridge case shows faulty loading, the caps being left projecting beyond the face of the cartridge . Consequently the breach when closing, struck it and caused the explosion".
On Tuesday, the 21st of April Whit's service was held at his grave side in Kaituna Cemetery. Over seventy gathered at the graveside and listened to Rev. W. A. Whyte's service. Unfortunately, no stone has ever been erected over Whit's grave and finding the location is very difficult or impossible. Hannah, his wife, was pregnant at the time of Whit's death and gave birth to a daughter in the same year. She went on to remarry a few times and died in 1944 in Wellington. Whit's children all lived long lives with all of them dying in the 1960s. Alas, a short but eventful life for young Whittington but certainly his memory lives on. In 1903 a nephew was named Whittington, possibly in memory of his uncle who passed from an unfortunate and sad accident.
2019 (updated August 2020)
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Further sources - Whittington Landon-Lane
- Fatal gun accident (1883, March 27) The Colonist
- Inquest of Whittington Landon-Lane (1886, 20 April) Nelson Evening Mail