Wednesday, May 9, 2018


Several photographs were taken of  interesting  graves  during  a visit to  O'Neill's  Cemetery,  Auckland , New Zealand , about  20  years  ago . One of  the  damaged   tombstones  attracted   attention because of  the  name Coleman , which  figures  on  the maternal  side of  this writer's  family , although not knowingly connected .
Recent  research  revealed  the  first   person  on the  tombstone , Charles William Coleman  ,   who died   in  1912 , aged  74, was a well known  Auckland  horse trainer .  His  wife , Jane  Coleman  ,  died  January 27,1917, aged 70 .   

Then  details of the   drowning of   two  sons , Charles and Alfred,  in the l920s  came to light . In the case of  the eldest son , Charles,  also  involved in  horse racing  , with stables at Ellerslie , Auckland , he  was  lost overboard  from the Rawara  on January 1, 1926, enroute  from  New  Plymouth  to  Onehunga .  

The  inscription said the other  son , Alfred  James  , had drowned at  Waga Waga  (NSW) -Wagga Wagga,  New South Wales ,  Australia,  on August  23,1928.  Well known in  Auckland   theatrical  and racing  circles ,  he was said to have been on a concert tour  at  the  time of  his  death , aged  56 .

It was reported that he had been involved in the motion picture  business  with Messrs   Cleland and  Cleare in  Auckland . A  prominent member of the Auckland Druids  Lodge, he had  gone to Australia in 1916  and had  lived  at  Double Bay ,  Sydney.

Australian newspapers reported "well known sporting man  and theatrical proprietor"  Alfred Coleman,  had   gone missing from his suite of  rooms at the Australian Hotel   in Wagga , intending to go for a walk , and had not returned.

Renowned  for "living in an overcoat ," disliking  cold , it had been  suggested he  should return to  Sydney  by  train  to escape the  weather.  Without a coat, he was last seen  leave the  hotel at 1.20pm.

There were  more than 200 people described as  "theatricals  " in Wagga  Wagga at the time, none of  them  had seen him . It was feared he  had  fallen into the Murrumbidgee River ; his snagged body was   found  on  the side of  the river days later  , all his  personal papers  in  order .

 He  was also described as a bookmaker  and  theatrical entrepreneur worth 22,000 pound ,  making 4000 pound from  the  theatre. There had been a bout of ill health and  he had suffered  a nervous breakdown . 

At the inquest, Coleman's  manager  , Raymond Karmo , said he had never seen  his friend  so despondent as he was  on the day he disappeared. An  open  finding on  the  cause   of    death   was  returned.