Church grave found

A bit of history was unearthed at Elmslie Memorial Church on Tuesday as a grave from the 1800s was discovered in the belfry.

church grave

From left, Richard Arch, Margaret Ebanks-Arch, Ladner Watler, Mary Janet Mcmillan, llie Lee Watson, Mary Bodden Henderson, (not pictured) are said to be the great grand children of Captain Henderson. Photo: Stuart Wilson

People believed to be members of the deceased’s family gathered in the room at the church to see if there was truly a burial site there.

Billie Lee Watson, thought to be the great granddaughter of the man who lies beneath the church whispered, ‘Mamma always used to tell us it was here.’

Elder at Elmslie, John Mcmillan said, ‘Richard Arch and I have spoken about this for 15 years and when the church decided to change the carpet, we thought it would be a good time to make sure.’

The inscription on the tomb reads: ‘Sacred to the memory of William Henry Solly of Sandwich Kent. Mate of the HMS Edinburgh who died at sea on May 1, 1839 at age 26. He was universally beloved and respected and in testimony for their regard of his memory and their admiration of the many excellent qualities which he exhibited during his life, Captain Henderson and the gun room officers of the Edinburgh have caused this memorial to be erected.’

This caused a little confusion, as those on hand were related to a Henderson by name and not to anyone named Solly.

However, though there was no absolutely clear evidence of lineage between the man in the grave and family members of Captain Henderson, it was equally clear that the captain had both admonished and sailed with him.

The grave is also mentioned in Hirst’s Notes on the History of the Cayman Islands 1909 and according to UK records, the HMS Edinburgh was part of a squadron looking after British interests on the coast of Mexico from 1838-1839.

Records show that the ship left Jamaica on 2 May, 1839, and sailed for Bermuda. At some point however, it is thought it must have stopped in Cayman to bury the body.

Elmslie Memorial Church was built on a cemetery but this is said to be the only grave not covered by the structure.