Friday, 8 April 2011

The Janisch Memorial

Philip Gosse, already an ”inveterate collector of St. Heleniana” made a six week visit to St. Helena early in 1937 and subsequently published his “permanently valuable, well documented, enthusiastic and easily read book” St. Helena 1502-1938. Trevor Hearl’s introduction to the 1990 reprint describes Gosse’s anger at the apparent indifference of the government and influential settlers towards social distress and environmental decay.....the Island’s historic buildings, its unique flora, its priceless colonial and East India Company records, each telling a tale of shameful neglect.  Following the completion of the book and “in the hope of bettering the condition of these charming, long suffering British subjects” Gosse sent a courteous 3,500 word statement to the Colonial Secretary, Ormsby-Gore, included in which was a photograph of Governor Janisch’s neglected memorial outside  the Baptist Church at Knollcombes.


Janisch Memorial 1937

Hudson Ralph Janisch was Governor from 1873 until he died in office on March 10th 1884 aged 55. He was the second, and last, St Helena-born Governor, the first being John Goodwin from July 1738 to August 1740, but the only Saint to have been Governor after the island came under the Crown in 1834.  He worked hard to counter the colony's economic decline, encouraging the development of the first flax industry in 1874, and compiling a volume of Extracts from the St. Helena Records which was published posthumously in 1885.  Despite prejudice against him as a Baptist lay preacher, he became Colonial Secretary in 1868.  With the recall of Governor Patey in 1873 he was appointed Acting Governor by the Colonial Office and ordered to lease or close Plantation House, the Governor's official residence.  Following a change of government in London, Janisch was confirmed as Governor in 1873 -'the right man in the right place', commented the St Helena Guardian - but on local salary of £900.00 p.a. without accommodation.  Thus he continued to live at Palm Villa, next to the abandoned Botanical Garden in upper Jamestown.

In his book Gosse wrote: “The Governorship of Janisch cannot be passed over without some mention of the present state of the island’s memorial to his pious memory.  It is a tall, handsome obelisk which stands, or totters, in the Baptist Cemetery at Knollcombes.  When I saw it in the spring of the year 1937 it appeared to be on the point of falling over, leaning perilously to one side at an alarming angle.  More than likely by the time these words are printed, it will have crashed to the ground and will be one more historic relic of St. Helena which has been allowed to fall into ruins.  On enquiry I learned that it would cost about thirty pounds to take down and re-erect this monument. And yet so little interest is taken by the authorities or by the St. Helenians themselves to preserve the monuments of the dead or the relics of the past, that nothing was being done, nor was likely to be done, to save this memorial to their island-born Governor, and a man greatly venerated and loved by all during his lifetime”.

I don't know when something was done but the result would, I'm sure, please Gosse.

Janisch Memorial May 2010
In Memoriam Hudson Ralph Janisch CMG FRAS Died March 19th 1884 Aged 59 years
This monument is erected by the inhabitants to commemorate the high respect and esteem in which the late Governor was universally held.


The monument also commemorates Bertram, Hudson’s eldest son who had qualified as a doctor in Edinburgh and practised on the Island who predeceased him in July 1883.


A three-tiered cenotaph each stage having moulded base, recessed panels on all faces and cavetto cornice. The top tier is pierced with a pointed arch and crowned with an urn. The relative crudeness of the detail is explained by the material employed, viz. cement rendering on local stone. 


Information from the text of Gosse St. Helena 1502-1938 and Trevor Hearle’s introduction.
Part 4 of the Land Planning Development and Control Ordinance.

1 comment:

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