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The children of slavery: Sambo's grave - Near Heysham

Updated Tuesday, 17th October 2006

Sambo seems to have been "owned" by a ship's captain. Left ashore when he was ill, he died in an inn near Heysham.

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Sambo's Grave Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: BBC North

Sambo probably arrived in the country as an enslaved servant to a ship's captain returning from the West Indies. It would seem that on arrival he was fatally ill and was left by his master at a local inn at Sunderland Point. On his death local sailors were unsure what to do with his body as it was not known whether he was baptised or not. Ultimately he was buried at Sunderland Point where a local vicar, the Rev. Watson, erected a memorial to Sambo and penned the elegy on the grave.

The elegy:

Here lies
A faithfull NEGRO
(Attending his Maſter from the Weſt Indies)
DIED on his Arrival at SUNDERLAND

Full sixty Years the angry Winter's Wave
Has thundering daſhd this bleak & barren Shore
Since SAMBO's Head laid in this lonely GRAVE
Lies still & ne'er will hear their turmoil more.

Full many a Sandbird chirps upon the Sod
And many a Moonlight Elfin round him trips
Full many a Summer's Sunbeam warms the Clod
And many a teeming Cloud upon him drips.

But still he sleeps—till the awakening Sounds
Of the Archangel's Trump new Life impart
Then the GREAT JUDGE his Approbation founds
Not on Man's COLOR but his—WORTH of HEART.

Map of Northern England Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: The Open University

In the programme Philippa Gregory went to the local library to find a copy of the local newspaper to discover more about Rev. Watson.

Historical sources can take various forms. The most common are written documents, but although historians rely heavily on books, articles, letters and paper records, anything that offers a perspective on the past can be a historical source. Historians divide their sources into two sorts. Primary sources are documents, objects or images that were produced in the past. Secondary sources are historical sources that were produced after the era that the historian is studying.

Historians work from a mixture of primary and secondary sources. Using primary sources is perhaps a more "pure" way to experience the past, but to get the most out of a primary source, a historian needs background information. Secondary sources provide such information and can offer a critical perspective. Primary sources are all around us, whether they be our grandparents who can tell us about the last century, or artefacts in our local church that can tell us of earlier times.

Local libraries provide an excellent resource for finding out information out about people and places. You can also find newspaper collections online at:

British Library newspapers

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