Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lost child in a Coromandel winter, 1900

From the Weekly News, 8 June 1900.

"Last evening word was received in Coromandel that the little son of Mr. V. Y. Gatland, of Tiki, had strayed away and was lost. The child was 20 months old, and when missed had neither boots nor hat. It transpires that Mr. Gatland was in his brother's yard, about seven or eight chains from his own home, the little chap being with him. Whilst the father's attention was otherwise engaged the lad suddenly disappeared. This was about four o'clock.

"Tea-tree was growing plentifully around the house, and it was particularly dense on one side. Between the two homes lies a swamp, which is spanned by a single plank bridge, with a rail on one side only. Mr. Gatland, on finding that the child had not gone into his brother's house, became anxious, and at once made for the swamp bridge in case he should have fallen into the water. He found no trace of him, neither had he reached his own home.

"The family were now alarmed and the assistance of neighbours was invoked, and active search made. Dense tea-tree rendered a search in the dark most difficult. An adjacent creek was searched and the deep holes dragged. Darkness set, and a cold, wet and stormy night was threatening, but still no signs of the wanderer.

"In the meantime word had been sent to the various churches, and the announcement to the congregations that a little child had been lost stirred up practical sympathy. The male portion of the congregations, almost to a man, turned out with lanterns and overcoats to aid in the search. There were now about 200 searchers, including the various ministers of religion and many ladies, each armed with a lantern. The sight of these lights darting in and out of the bushes, like so many will-o'-the-wisps afforded a most unique spectacle.

"Teddy Collins, the Australian tracker, joined in the search, but he was led on a false scent down the creek. The search for the child was maintained throughout the night, and renewed with increased vigor at daylight this morning.

"At about nine o'clock the searchers' efforts were rewarded by finding the child. He was about a quarter of a mile from home in the dense tea-tree. When found he was in a clump of soft mossy ferns, near the edge of a swamp. His cry was heard by one of the searchers, Mr. J. Carina. When found his clothes were dry and his body fairly warm, but his feet and hands were chilled, and show marks of severe suffering through his 20 hours' exposure.

"In his arms was his pet, the family cat."

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