A Watery Grave

I first read The Star Thrower thirty years ago but Albert Mott didn’t catch my imagination back then. I would, though, have been triggered into reminiscence by Alfred Russel Wallace – but mistakenly. Almost fifty years ago I took a photo of a memorial near Point Venus and my flawed memory has long associated it with Alfred. The structure was actually honouring Samuel WALLIS. I discovered this today in a voyage round t’Internet. If there is a photograph of the memorial online, I didn’t find it. At the Captain Cook Society website, Wendy Wales offers a reason why one may not exist…

In 1990, James Dunkley reported that on his recent visit to Point Venus three wooden memorials to Cook, Wallis and Bougainville had disappeared, and, unlike his visit 15 years earlier, the site was now host to hundreds of visitors, with accompanying cars and litter.

I remember having the place to myself, but I digress. I promised an account of Albert Mott’s last day.

He had clearly thought a great deal about the astonishing human cost of populating scraps of land in a vast ocean. Were those families who set out from their homes in out-rigger canoes crazy? But did he ever imagine his departure from this life would involve the air in his lungs being replaced by water? Water from civilized shallows, not the wild, vasty deep.

Disappearance of Mr. A. J. Mott

Found Downed in Glo’ster Canal

The relatives and friends of Mr Albert Julius Mott, of Detmore, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham, on Tuesday became alarmed at the rather sudden disappearance of that gentleman. Mr Mott, who is the head of the firm of Dobell, Mott, and Co., wine and spirit merchants, of Gloucester, was in the city on business as usual on Tuesday, and left the offices in Commercial-road about 3.30, saying he was going for a walk round Hempstead. As he did not return to the office, his son (Mr Leonard Mott) took his bag up to the G.W.R. station, expecting to see his father, who, as a rule, returns to Cheltenham by the 6 p.m. train. Not finding him there, Mr Mott came to the conclusion that he had returned by an earlier train, and proceeded home by the train mentioned. On reaching Detmore, however, he was astonished to learn that his father had not arrived, and immediately returned to Gloucester to ascertain his whereabouts. In this he was unsuccessful, no one having either seen or heard of the missing gentleman since he left the offices in the afternoon. It is well known that Mr Mott is fond of botanising, and it was thought that some accident had befallen him while making researches in the village of Hempstead, a spot he was fond of visiting. Accordingly, Mr Leonard Mott, Mr Roland Mott, and Mr Frederick Trotman (managing clerk to the firm) set out late at night and made diligent search and MOTT_GloucesterCanal2_Bingenquiries in the neighbourhood of Hempstead, but were unsuccessful in their endeavours to find the missing gentleman.

Enquiries up to noon today failed to elicit the gentleman’s whereabouts, all the information received at his home at Charlton Kings being the following telegram from Mr Roland Mott:- “Went by steamer, fear accident; more news soon.”

Our Gloucester correspondent afterwards wired that Mr Mott’s hat and umbrella had been found on the bank of the canal near Stonebench. It was surmised that his body was in the water, and the river was dragged, but up to one o’clock no discovery had been made.

Wiring later, our Gloucester representative informs us that the dead body of the unfortunate gentleman was taken from the canal about 1.30 on Wednesday afternoon near the spot where his hat and umbrella were found.  Dragging operations had been carried on by two labourers named W Holland and George Drew, and by P.C.’s Whyton and Gosling under the superintendence of Inspector Elliott. About 12.30 a set of false teeth were brought to the bank, and an hour later the body also, the latter being placed in a boat and taken to Gloucester. P.C. Whyton, however, went on in advance to convey the sad intelligence to Gloucester, and took back a hand stretcher to meet the boat, which pulled up near the lock gates. The body was then got ashore and taken to the mortuary. An examination revealed no marks of violence on the body, which was fully clothed with the exception of the hat, just the same as when deceased left his office on Tuesday afternoon. Neither were there any signs of a struggle, and deceased’s watch (which was stopped at 4.10) and money were still in the pockets. Mrs Mott and her two sons, Roland and Leonard, were at the canal side when the body was recovered, having driven to the place in the morning to assist in the search.

Deceased, who was 76 years of age, was well known in Cheltenham and Gloucester. For many years he carried on a large business as a wine and spirit merchant in the latter town, where he was very highly respected by all who knew him. He was of a retiring and studious disposition, and was an author of some repute, having been a frequent contributor to trade periodicals and having written several books on fruit culture. He was also addicted to scientific pursuits, and it will be remembered that while experimenting at Detmore not long ago he sustained serious injuries to one of his hands by an explosion. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the local archaeological and other learned socities. In politics he was a Conservative, and in 1886 was elected to an aldermanic seat on the Gloucester City Council, retiring on the completion of his six years service. His widow is a sister of the late Sydney Dobell, the well-known poet, with whom deceased was in partnership. He leaves three sons and five daughters. He was a warm friend of Briton Riviere, and the walls at Detmore are covered with the works of the famous artist.

Gloucestershire Echo, 14 June 1899

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