An anonymous grave at Horseshoe Bend, probably of an 1860s miner, was provided with a headboard by local man William Rigney, who added the words, ‘Somebody’s darling lies buried here.’ A new headstone, reproducing the words, was put in place in 1903. Rigney died in 1912 and was buried next to the earlier grave, his headstone marked with the words ‘The man who buried “Somebody’s Darling”’. On 19 January 1901 he had written the following letter to the Tuapeka Times:
THE NAMELESS GRAVE AT HORSESHOE BEND.
[To the Editor.]
Sir, —As there are one or two slight mistakes in Saturday’s issue respecting the lonely grave at Horseshoe Bend, I thought I would send you a few lines stating the real facts of the case. The body which is buried there was found on the beach on the west side of the river opposite the upper end of Horseshoe Bend in the early days. I don’t know the time, but it was before I came to the locality in 1865. There was nothing done to enclose the grave until a maned [man named] John Ord who, I think, died long since on the Coast, and myself put a fence of rough manuka poles round it. Just then I had to go to Tapanui for mining timber and I got a board of black pine. This I shaped something like a headstone, painted it white, and with a tomahawk and a four-inch nail I cut, or rather sunk into the timber the words: “Somebody’s darling lies buried here.” This, you will see, is slightly different from the way it is given in the paragraph. There was never a cross on the grave unless it was put up within the last two years. I saw the grave about that time. There was no sign of the fence, but the board was then very much decayed of course.
I left the immediate neighbourhood many years since, otherwise I would certainly keep the fence in order. I have for a long time intended—when opportunity offered—(you know what that means) to put a substantial fence around the grave and also cover it with concrete, and I am well pleased to find that it is about to be done in a much more complete manner than I would be likely to do it. I would like very much to be present when the slab is being erected, and if any person would kindly let me know I would endeavor to be there. I don’t think there is any person now living that knows who put the board at the grave except Mr Thomas Lundy, of Horseshoe Bend, and Mr Thomas Pilling, of Lawrence. The latter mentioned it to me some few years ago, but I don’t recollect how he got his information. I have always felt a special interest in that grave, as I have a foreboding that in the end my lot will be the same—viz., a lonely grave on a bleak hillside. Apologising for thus troubling you. —I am, etc..
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Photograph by Jock Phillips
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