James Pope (1864- 1906)

I have walked around St Cuthbert’s Cemetery in Governor’s Bay many, many times, always intrigued by the headstones of the families that are buried there. The marriages between them ignited my imagination delightfully! As a teenager, I recorded down the info on these headstones and worked out the who’s who by the clues left to me…I was in my element 😉

This head stone though, always stood out in its lonely existence and I would wonder about it as I re-read this interesting epitaph every visit. I finally know the tragic story behind it.

James Pope, his wife Jane (the ‘M’ in her name remains a mystery) and their 6 daughters made a living in a market garden they owned in Governors Bay. Next door lived James’ parents, James Sr and Emma also his brother John seemed to be a frequent face around the bay.

Sometime in 1904, James Jr met with a nasty accident when he took a fall from a cart and caused some injuries to his head. He had never quite recovered with threats of suicide quite often. Two years later he began to complain of not feeling well and visited Dr. Upham in Lyttelton, but refused to be admitted to the hospital.

On Saturday, the 21st of July 1906, James Jr shot himself in the head in front of his 14 year old daughter, Annie. If that wasn’t tragic enough, poor Annie was no stranger to this kind of drama. Six years previous, she had seen her grandmother, Emma Pope, after she had been shot in the neck and shoulder.

On the 1st March 1900, when Annie was 8 years old, her grandfather James Pope Sr was arrested for the attempted murder of Emma. The story goes that James Sr liked to amuse himself by firing at Emma quite regularly, always aiming a few feet above her head. John, their other son had told police that he himself had used the gun a few days earlier, shooting at sparrows and regrettably had left it loaded in the kitchen. He knew of his father’s habit of aiming the gun at his mother and was sorry he had left it lying around.

On the night of the 1st March, Emma had come home to find James Sr asleep on the couch. He had been gone for the past 6 weeks doing some out of town work and it was quite obvious that he had been drinking away the wages. Emma claims that there was no quarrel, he just asked if it was her and then raised the gun. After being shot in the neck and shoulder, she staggered outside and headed to the home of her son, James Jr. On the road, she came across little Annie and together, they headed to the house. Emma’s bloody appearance caused her other grandchildren to cry; to top it off, James Sr turned up, claiming he hadn’t meant to hurt her, the gun was faulty and demanded a kiss.

Emma was finally seen by a doctor and was admitted to the hospital the following day. James Sr was arrested at the couple’s home later that night.
“YES, I shot the old woman and it’s a pity the other shot didn’t go through me instead of the roof!”
Three empty cartridges were found at the scene.

James Sr faced the Christchurch court on the 24th March for attempted murder. He was found guilty and was sentenced to 3 years.

*photo taken by Annette Bulovic*

— at St Cuthbert’s Church, Governor’s Bay, Lyttelton Harbour.

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