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The short-lived love of the Captain and his lady

The writing on the striking white gravestone is barely readable. The tree that may have been planted at the time of burial has now grown so large, it causes the headstone to lean as roots push it aside.

Alice Rose Munday's grave in Busselton Pioneer Cemetery. Photo: Samantha Elley

The headstone remembers Alice Rose Munday, who died on 28th February, 1875, buried in the Busselton Pioneer Cemetery in Western Australia. Sadly her husband, Captain James William Munday, followed not far behind, dying on 11th November in the same year.

It was a love affair that was never meant to last long. The young couple married in 1872 in St Mary's Church in Hotham, Victoria where Alice's parents lived. James was originally from England but had received his certificate as a Ship's Captain and was Master of a number of brigs. The couple moved from Melbourne to Western Australia as James continued his work on the high seas.

He captained the brig Wolverine, which sailed from Melbourne to Guam in 1869. In 1871 he sailed from Batavia, and from Humboldt, California in 1872. He was the Master of the Geffrard, which was registered in Melbourne, and sailed from Hong Kong to Sydney, in 1873 with 11 crew and 20 Chinese passengers.

In 1875 he was listed as sailing on the Geffrard from Fremantle to Vasse with a cargo of 24 boxes tea, 52 bags sugar, 43 bags bran and 19 packages of sundries. Then the wreck of the Geffrard was recorded on 12 June 1875 off Quindalup, Western Australia, while on a voyage from Melbourne to Shanghai with a cargo of timber. The cause of the shipwreck was "chain parted and breached" so that she was wrecked and sunk.

A memorial card to the unfortunate couple. Courtesy ArchivesWiki

Who knows what the Captain's state of mind was when he was sailing on the unfortunate ship. His wife, Alice had only just died in childbirth in Quindalup a few months earlier. On top of that, he was not well.

When he went to spend his last days with his in-laws, Alice's parents, Henry and Fanny Cook, in Melbourne he was suffering from inflammation of the liver, the lungs, the pericardium and a disease of the heart. He died on November 11th, despite their best care.

Captain James William and Alice Rose Munday. Courtesy WikiArchives.

The pain of both sets of parents was palpable when Fanny wrote to James' mother, Catherine Munday, to express her sadness at the loss of James, so soon after her own daughter's death.

'Dear James' death brought all my trouble about Alice back and looking over her clothes and packing up the baby things...has made me feel very low-spirited...' she wrote.

His last resting place is in Melbourne General Cemetery.


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