31-08-1878: St. Matthews Church, Dunedin, New Zealand.

A rare Ferguson & Urie stained glass window exists in St Matthews [1] Church at Dunedin, New Zealand. On the afternoon of the 21st of May 1878 a young boy by the name of James Ernest Maitland died as the result of a horrific coach accident that occurred between Palmerston and Moeraki.

The memorial stained glass window to the Maitland boy was designed by Ferguson & Urie’s senior stained glass artist David Relph Drape and was selected by a Mr Thomas Austin of New Zealand in 1878. The Otago Witness newspaper in New Zealand ran an article about the window on the 31st of August 1878, with mention of Ferguson & Urie as the makers. On the 6th of January 2010 the original pencil sketch design for the window was found amongst a collection of Drape’s stained glass designs at the State Library of Victoria. The window has the memorial text at the bottom “IN MEMORIAM JAMES ERNEST MAITLAND 22 MAY ____”. At some time in the windows past the bottom right corner that contained the year “1878” was broken and was replaced with a plain coloured piece of glass.

Photo of the window by Errol Vincent, New Zealand, 5th October 2010.

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The following are historical accounts of the coach accident as reported in the tabloids of the time:

Otago Witness, New Zealand, Issue 1396, 31st August 1878, page 7.

“A stained-glass window has lately been placed in St. Matthew’s Church, in memory of James Ernest Maitland, son of Mr J. P. Maitland, who was killed in the late terrible coach accident. The window was erected by the choir of St Matthew’s, of which the deceased was a chorister for a long time, and the Carisbrook Cricket Club, in which Ernest Maitland’s name will long be remembered as one of the most promising juniors. The chaste design and colouring of the window reflect credit on the builders, Messrs Ferguson and Urie, of Melbourne, and on Mr Thomas Austin, who selected the plan when recently in Melbourne”.

Otago Witness, New Zealand, Issue 1382, 25th May 1878, page 10.


Oamaru, May 23rd.

It is difficult to ascertain fully the extent of the injuries received by the passengers on the coach which met with the accident yesterday. The medical men have been too much engaged to attend to the numerous inquiries. It is equally difficult to arrive at any definite conclusion as to the real cause of the accident. Several passengers give different versions of the matter. Some say that one of the traces broke or got loose, and dangling about the horses legs, caused them to bolt; others that the boy Maitland fell from his seat on the box and dragged the reins out of the driver’s hands in his fall. Others state that a bolt came out, and that the two portions of the coach became severed, and that the horses bolted with fore part of the vehicle, leaving the main body to run down hill as best it might. The latter seems the most probable cause, as all agree in saying that the horses bolted with the fore part of the coach, and that the coach continued to run rapidly down hill, notwithstanding that the brake was applied with all force by the driver and the boy Maitland, who was sitting on the box on the near side. It appears that there were about twenty persons in the coach, including the driver. Of these, nine were inside, six on the box, and the rest at the back and on top. Those on the box were – Maitland, Hill, and Fulton, the two latter having Mr Strode’s two sons on their knees. Mr Nichols and Mr Hunter were on the outside seat at the back, and two others were on the rack below them, and one or two on the top. Most of the passengers had walked up the hill to relieve the horses, and had not long resumed their seats when the accident occurred. When the horses bolted several of the passengers at the back of the coach jumped off, none of them being severely injured by doing so. The coach appears to have run down the hill at a rapid pace. The driver applied the brake on one side, and Maitland did so on the other side, in obedience to the bidding of the driver, but failed to check the speed of the coach. After going about a hundred yards it seems to have swerved, and run off the road, tumbling over and over down the embankment, for a distance of some forty or fifty feet, its further progress being stopped by a wire fence. Just before the coach went over, Mr Bishop, of the Sun newspaper, who was on the top, jumped off and fell with his head against a rock, inflicting a nasty scalp wound. He also sprained his ankle, rolled over the embankment, and was picked up insensible, remaining in that state two or three hours. He is, however, progressing favourably. The extent of the injuries received by Mr Nichols and young Maitland you will find recorded in the evidence of Dr Hazard. The poor lad Maitland, after lying all night at the National Bank, whither he was taken at the request of the Manager, expired shortly after 10 o’clock this morning. From the first it was evident that he was beyond hope of recovery. He never regained consciousness. His body, and that of Mr Nichols, were forwarded to Dunedin this evening by train. Mr Nichols was thrown violently on his head, and expired about a quarter of an hour afterwards. Mr Francis Fulton, in addition to being severely shaken, had one of the small bones of his lame leg broken, and is likely to be laid up for some time. The two sons of Mr A. C. Strode escaped almost miraculously. In addition to bruises and severe shaking, it is said one of them dislocated his arm. They did not come on here, but resumed to Dunedin. I believe Messrs Hill and Hunter were both severely shaken and bruised, the former receiving a cut on the knee-cap which will cause him to be confined to his room for some time, while the latter had one of his arms badly hurt. Another passenger named Connor, brother to one of the witnesses at the inquest, also received severe injuries, but the extent of them I cannot find out. He is in the hospital, and doing very well. Mr Goddard, the driver, received several very severe wounds on the head, one of which is very deep, in addition to other injuries. He ha 3at times during the day teen out of his mind, but is much better this evening. When Borne of the uninjured passengers or those only slightly wounded lifted the coach up, Mr McNicol and others were found underneath it. How they escaped being killed or severely injured is a mystery. According to the statement of one of the passengers, the coach seems to have bounded over several persons in tumbling down the hill. Of all the passengers those inside seem to have fared best. None of them appear to have received any injuries worthy of mention. The spectacle presented after the accident is described as appalling. The sufferers were strewn in all directions, and lying; in every conceivable position, some insensible and some conscious, but unable to move. Blood was freely flowing from most of them. The feelings of those who were injured, but conscious, must have been terrible, seeing that they were far away from any source of help, or any means of sending for assistance, and dependent entirely upon any chance passer-by. It was fortunate that Mr Bell happened to pass by that lonely spot, and for his prompt action in driving to Hampden and telegraphing for assistance he is deserving of praise, as is also Mr Back for speedily responding to the call by tending a special train. Long before the special train arrived in Oamaru, arrangements of a perfect nature had been made at the Hospital for the reception of the sufferers, while abundance of cabs and expresses, with mattresses and blankets, were waiting at the railway station. Goddard has been driving on the same road for seven or eight years, and has always been looked upon as a careful driver. It is remarkable that the only accident of any note he ever met with was reserved for his last trip, and that too when his final journey to Moeraki had nearly been completed.

Otago Daily Times, New Zealand, Issue 5083, 3 June 1878, page 7


An inquest on the bodies of Mr Charles Nicholas and Master J. E. Maitland was commenced on May 22, before Mr Parker, Coroner.

The first witness called was Alexander John Fergusson, duly qualified medical practitioner residing in Dunedin, who deposed that he had seen the body lying in the premises of the Northern Hotel, and identified it as that of Charles Nichols, of the firm of Dalgety, Nichols, and Co. He had also seen the body lying at the National Bank. It was that of James Ernest Maitland, a son of Mr J. P. Maitland. He thought Mr Nichols between 50 and 60 years of age, and Master Maitland about 14 years[2].

John Hazard, duly qualified medical practitioner, at present residing at Oamaru, deposed that he made an examination of the body lying at the Northern Hotel, which had been identified as that of Mr Nichols. He found a comminuted fracture of the bones entering into the formation of the left orbit. The superior maxillary bone was broken into fragments. The left eye-ball was disorganised. These injuries were sufficient to account for death. He had also examined the body of James Ernest Maitland, and found a very severe lacerated wound commencing at the right eye brow and extending to the back of the head, entirely denuding the bone of the forehead. There was also a very extensive comminuted fracture of the frontal bone and right parietal bone. Deceased had also sustained a fracture of the right pelvis, with very severe laceration of the neighbouring parts, and a lacerated transverse wound on the left knee, in addition to several minor contusions in different parts of the body. The injuries received were quite sufficient to cause death.

Thomas Hunter, commission agent, residing at Wellington, deposed that he was a passenger by the coach which left Palmerston about 2 p.m. for Moeraki on Tuesday. He could not say how many passengers were on the coach. He was sitting on the outside back seat with Mr Nichols, two more passengers sat below them on the rack, and two and two others on the roof just above witness and Mr Nichols. The inside appeared to be full. He knew the Horse range. Up to the time of reaching the hill nothing, so far as he was aware, was wrong with the coach. The driver was perfectly sober, and had driven at a steady pace the whole time. When the coach was about a quarter of a mile down the bill, witness became aware that the horses were bolting. Two men below witness dropped off almost immediately, and witness followed them, but Mr Nichols kept his seat. One of the passengers on the roof also dropped down. The coach then went down hill at full speed for about a hundred yards. When he got up he could not see the coach, but the horses with both fore wheels were some distance ahead of him. Three of the horses were standing and another lying down, the pole being partly entangles with its legs. After walking a little distance witness was the remains of the coach down an embankment about 40 or 50 feet from the road. It appeared to have been stopped in its descent by a wire fence. When witness left the scene of the accident the deceased, Charles Nichols, was not dead, but he was frightfully mangled and breathed with great difficulty. He (deceased) was lying at the bottom of the gully. The lad – Maitland was lying close by him.

To the Foreman: There were ten of twelve persons on the outside of the coach, including the driver, and with exception of two on the roof they appeared to be all comfortably seated.

To the Jury: There were only a few parcels on the roof. He did not know how many the coach was supposed to carry. The inside appeared to be full. In jumping off he (witness) sustained some slight bruises on his left side and arm. He could not say whether or not the brake was acting.

W. Connor, lately of Tokomairiro, deposed that he was a passenger by the coach from Palmerston to Moeraki yesterday. He left the latter place about two o’clock. Nothing went wrong until at the top of the Horse Range. He could not say how many were on the box seat or inside the coach. On the roof on the luggage were two passengers. The last witness, Mr Hunter, and Mr Nichols were on the back seat, and he and another sat on the luggage. There were six passengers outside, besides those on the box seat. There was not much luggage on the roof. They had just reached the crown of the hill when some one cried “Trace loose.” After he heard this the coach commenced to go very fast, and he dropped on to the ground, and held on to the vehicle, running behind it. He saw what he thought was a trace loose, flapping on the near side. He could not say whether the brake was acting or not. He heard it grating up to the time he left the coach. From the place where he jumped off to that where the coach fell over there was an embankment for a distance of six or seven chains. Before the coach went over last witness and two others jumped off. He did not see the vehicle fall. When he saw it next it was 40 or 50 feet down the embankment. The top was smashed, and the body on its side, some of the wheels were broken. He saw the fore carriage about five chains farther down the road, with what appeared to be two horses lying beside it. He went back along the road, and at the place where he heard the cry he found a piece of iron, called the tree, that holds the trace, with a link of the trace, lying on the road.

To the Jury: He did not pick them up. When he saw Mr Nichols he was lying three or four yards from the remains of the coach, bleeding profusely from the mouth, nose, eyes, and ears. He was alive then, but died about 20 minutes afterwards. Master Maitland was lying with his feet on Mr Nichol’s legs, and was fearfully cut above the abdomen and head. Witness did not know, of his own knowledge, when he died. Goddard was sober, and drove steadily and carefully. Witness could not say whether the cry came from inside the coach. The horses were, he thought, very steady. His brother, who was an inside passenger, was hurt.

To the Jury: He did not see the pole of he coach after the accident. He and another man removed the coach from the three passengers who were underneath.

The inquest was then adjourned till the 6th June to obtain the evidence of the driver and Mr Fulton.

The Funerals of the late Mr Charles Nichols and Master James Ernest Maitland, who were killed by the recent coach accident, took place on the 24th ultimo, at the Northern Cemetery. There was a large number of mourners, and the bodies were interred close to each other, and the service was read jointly by the Rev. R. L. Stanford and the Ven. Archdeacon Edwards.

Grey River Argus New Zealand, Volume 07, Issue 3061, 7 June 1878, page 2.


Wellington, June 8.

The adjourned inquiry into the cause of the recent coach accident, by which Mr Nicholls and young Maitland, were killed, took place to-day. Goddard, the driver appeared in court with his head bandaged up. He gave evidence, that when the coach had descended the Horse Range about two or three hundred yards, the trace of the offside pole horse came loose, and this caused the horses to take fright, and they broke into a gallop. In crossing a water course on the road the coach jerked violently and the king bolt came out, and the brake then had no control. After going a short distance the coach capsized. The Jury returned the following verdict: “That Chas. Nicholls and James Ernest Maitland, met their death accidentally, and that there is no blame to be attributed.”

Foot notes:

[1] The foundation stone of St Matthews was laid, with Masonic honours, on the 11th of July, 1873 and was opened on the 3rd of December, 1874, costing £4,854 4s 3d.

[2] James Ernest Maitland was age 16 at time of death. Born 1862 (NZ BDM:1862/1889), died 1878 (NZ BDM: 1878/2211)


Thanks to Errol & Ann Vincent for undertaking the massive 2,000 km round trip to follow this up and take the photos of the stained glass window.

Short link to this page: http://wp.me/p28nLD-11u

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