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The Kennaway Trail looks at

What Happened
to the Ship's Bell?

Keith Tankard, Denis Collins & Fr Murray Coombes
Updated: 14 October 2009
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The Lady Kennaway was wrecked at East London in November 1857 after being caught up in a violent gale. She came ashore in the Buffalo River mouth where she broke up.

The ship was presumably stripped of anything valuable. Her timber would have been used in the construction of houses. Indeed, many houses on East London's West Bank were constructed of timber from shipwrecks.

The ship's bell, on the other hand, was used by Reverend William Greenstock as the chapel bell for his mission church on the West Bank. This was a portable building, constructed on wheels so it could be moved whenever necessary.

Greenstock had been assigned to the mission at East London in 1858 but would remain there for only a few months before his conduct fell foul of the British authorities in British Kaffraria because he baptised three Black men who had been convicted of the murder of Reverend Joseph Willson.

The priest, in proselytising them, had also heard their confessions and therefore presumably knew which of the three had actually committed the murder.

He refused to divulge his knowledge, however, and in anger Bishop Cotterill of Grahamstown moved him to Keiskamma Hoek where it was believed he could do less mischief.

Greenstock took the ship's bell with him and so it became the chapel bell of the new mission station of St Matthews.

Fr Christopher Cook, 25 years at St Matthews, and a former archdeacon of Alice, reports that the bell was raised on a "pole" which stood before Cullen Hostel, the main boys residence at the college at St Matthews.

It was rung for more than a hundred years, announcing every lesson on every school day for that period.

During the student unrest in the early 1980s, however, some buildings were destroyed and the bell disappeared. Its whereabouts is now unknown.

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