SOUTHAMPTON Old Cemetery is a lovely place to walk during the current restrictions and, of course, will continue to be when this is all over.

It has lots of wildlife, is a popular place for ‘twitchers’ and will soon be brightened by the emergence of spring flowers.

It was opened in 1846 and is one of the oldest municipal burial grounds in the country.

It is always interesting to read the gravestones as you walk around and imagine the stories behind them but there are some graves of particular interest.

The gravestone of Charles Rawden Mclean stands in isolation because he was originally buried in a pauper’s grave which, like those in the vicinity, was unmarked.

Daily Echo:

In 2009, his grave was rededicated and a headstone erected which gives a flavour of his extraordinary life.

Maclean was born in Scotland in 1815.

While still a boy, he went to sea on the The Mary which foundered on entry to the Port of Natal, now Durban.

A handful of men survived the shipwreck and the attentions of local Zulu tribesmen who may have been well disposed towards the group because of Mclean’s red hair which they considered lucky.

King Shaka, the local Zulu leader took a shine to the young boy who went to live in the kraal for about three years. He picked up the Zulu language and acted as a translator for other settlers in Natal. He was even accompanied by Zulu warriors when he undertook a 600 km journey across uncharted wetlands, including crocodile infested rivers, to Delagoa Bay to buy medicines for the settlers.

Daily Echo:

When King Shaka was murdered by his half-brother and civil war broke out, Mclean went back to sea for his own safety.

By 1840 Maclean was master of the Susan King.

In 1846 he was involved in an incident in North Carolina when he refused to surrender his black crew members to the harbour authorities.

He later settled in St Lucia, held many civic posts and wrote some articles about his experiences in Africa. Somewhere along the line he acquired the nickname John Ross - perhaps due to his red hair - and it is by this name that he is remembered in Durban.

Daily Echo:

In 1879 his health failed and the following year he travelled to England on the RMS Larne "in search of health".

He died on board ship in the Solent and was therefore buried in Southampton.

There are many Commonwealth War Graves (CWG) in the Old Cemetery dating from the First and Second World Wars.

Most are instantly recognisable because they are small, white, rectangles with slightly curved tops and well cared for by the CWG gardeners assisted by the Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery.

Occasionally, those who had served in some form, were given private family burials only to be later recognised by the CWG and given an additional small headstone.

This was the case with Kate Trodd in 2019.

Daily Echo:

Kate, or Kit, as she was known by her family, was a nurse in the Voluntary Aided Detachment (VAD).

The VADs were a voluntary unit of civilians who provided nursing care for military personnel.

We don’t know for certain where Kate nursed but it is quite likely that she was at the Royal Victoria Hospital Netley where many soldiers continued to need recuperative care long after the end of the First World War.

She was born in Southampton in 1899 to Oliver and Emily Trodd.

At the time of the 1911 census, the family, including siblings Ethel, Arthur and Ivy, were living at 46, Rockstone Lane in Bevois Mount.

Daily Echo:

The Armistice of 1918 must have been a time of celebration; little were they to know that something even more deadly than war was coming their way.

A unique feature of the flu of 1918-19 was the high mortality rates experienced by healthy people aged 20-40.

Kate had barely passed her twentieth birthday when she succumbed to the flu and then died of pneumonia.

Ally Hayes is a tour guide with .