Archiver > NIR-ARMAGH > 2001-06 > 0992185981

From: "Gerald D. Hobson" <>
Subject: [ARMAGH] Obituary: Capt. Ralph MacGeough Bond-Shelton (1832-1916)
Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2001 09:13:01 -0600

Posted on: Ireland<br>County Armagh<br>Obituary-Cemetary & Tombstone Inscriptions Records Board
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Surname: MacGeough, McGeough, Bond, Shelton, Bond-Shelton, Louth, Blacker-Douglas,
Blacker, Douglas

>From the
Belfast Evening Telegraph
Belfast, N. Ireland
Monday, March 13, 1916




In the crypt of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh, were laid to rest to-day
the earthly remains of Captain Ralph MacGeough Bond Shelton, D. L., the
last survivor of the ill-fated Birkenhead, which was wrecked in Simon's
Bay, on February 26, 1852. Full of years and honours, he died at his residence,
The Argory, Moy, Co. Armagh, on Wednesday last, and those who have the
least knowledge of his gallant and adventurous career will re-echo the
pious hope that "after life's fitful fever, he sleeps well." As Cornet
Bond of the 12th Lancers he played a brave man's part in that great catastrophe,
when the Birkenhead, with its cargo of human souls, went down, and he was
one of the fortunate 184 who survived from the 683 on board. Not only did
he gallantly save women and children in the early hours of that February
morning, sixty-four years ago, but at the last moment, regardless of his
own life, he went down to the saloon to rescue a child, and afterwards
swam a couple of miles through the shark-infested waters to the beach.
Even when he had reached the neighbourhood of the shore, after that terible
buffeting in the tumbling seas, he became entangled in seaweed, and it
was only by superhuman determination and strength that he managed to gain
the land. In the Providence of God he was preserved to take part not only
in the Kaffir war, but the Crimean campaign, the Indian Mutiny, and other
conflicts, and everywhere he acquitted himself right gallantly. He spent
the evening of his days in the quietude of The Argory, surrounded by hosts
of friends, and his death was sincerely mourned though he had long passed
the allotted span of years.

The Argory is a fine mansion, outwardly as well as inwardly - the embodiment
of solid respectability, a true reflection of the unoffending elegance
of him whose passing the country now mourns. Punctually at the fixed hour
- 10:30 - the remains were borne from the house and placed in a four-horse
hearse. The cortege moved slowly down the avenue, where there were already
signs of the birth of foliage, from trees with which intermingled oak and
yew, emblems of majesty and courage, sorrow and immortality. The labourers
of the estate acted as bearers under the guidance of the land steward,
Mr. Isaac Allen.

The chief mourners were - Major Lord Louth, Westminster Dragoons, nephew;
Mr. M. V. Blacker Douglas, nephew-in-law; Mr. A. D. Orr, representing Judge
Walter M'Gough Bond, of Cairo; Col. Ralph M'Geough Bond, Royal Field Artillery,
and other members of the family.

Amongst those present were - Major Close, Mr. Henry Augustus Johnston,
Mr. H. B. Armstrong, Captain Richardson, Rev. Mr. Campbell, and Corporal
Rodgers, H. A. C., deceased's former attendant. On the way to Armagh, which
from Argory is a journey of seven miles, Drumsill, another old seat of
the family, adjoins the road, and this estate was passed at a walking pace.

The funeral cortege arrived at the Cathedral, Armagh, shortly after twelve
o'clock, and was received at the west door by the Lord Primate, who preceded
the coffin, borne by labourers from the estate, reciting the Burial Service
for the Dead. Down the nave of the noble Cathedral, with its ancient sculptures,
monumental tablets, brasses, with tattered banners of the many gallant
regiments, including the flag taken from the French at the attempted landing
in 1798 overhead, marched the solemn procession, the Cathedral bell tolling
out meanwhile its measured note. The coffin was deposited at the foot of
the chancel steps, and the Lord Primate took up his position on the Episcopal
throne, and the sacred edifice was filled with a devout congregation, inclusive
of representatives on many public bodies in the city and County of Armagh.


The hymn "Lead, kindly Light" having been sung, the Lord Primate read the
appointed lesson, and then said: - Ordinarily, we entirely shrank from
delivering a funeral address on such solemn occasions as that, and chiefly
because any words of man seemed to him to utterly weaken the intensity
and force of our wonderful burial service, and, above all, the glorious
words of hope that he had just read from the pen of St. Paul. Besides,
there was always the danger that in affectionate esteem for the dead friend
too much praise might be bestowed, or that, in ignorance of his finer qualities,
too little might be said. In the presence of the sad mystery of death one
might well indulge in pessimistic thoughts. It was, indeed, a strange picture
of the vanity of all human things, that the loving heart, the active brain,
the keen eye, and the strong arm should no longer be of any avail. In the
presence of such a mystery it was best to say, with the Psalmist, "I became
dumb; I opened not my mouth." To think that the noblest part of God's creation,
man, made in the image of God, should be thus cut off, and often when his
powers were at their best and his presence most needed, would indeed make
pessimists of every one of us, if death were the end of all things. But
St. Paul was no pessimist, and in the presence of the last enemy that shall
be destroyed he rose to the highest pitch of optimism, and wound up with
a peroration of matchless beauty: - "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be
ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for-as-much
as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." Surely no other
words were needed before they committed the body to the grave, earth to
earth, ashes to ashes; but to-day they might well make an exception for
a few minutes from the general rule, for they were about to lay in its
last resting-place the body of a man who has helped to lay the foundation
stones of our Empire, for Captain Bond-Shelton was the last survivor of
that most gallant band whose deeds had helped to make England great, and
whose daring lay at the basis of our national character and conduct. Did
he say national character? The present Provost of Trinity College, who
knew Germany better than most men, told him a few days ago that for many
long years the story of the wreck of the Birkenhead was read in Germany
to the cadets of the army and navy before they left college.

The suite of coffins was encased in a solid oak casket, with raised panel
lid, and sides with carved plinths and solid brass mountings, the breastplate
bearing the engraved inscription: "Captain Ralph MacGeough Bond Shelton,
born 24th November, 1832, died March 8th, 1916." The entire funeral arrangements
were carried out by Mr. R. R. Loudan, F. L. C. E., undertaker and embalmer,
Armagh, and were highly satisfactory.

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