HOCKING, JAMES HENRY

1852 - c1929 from Falkland Islands


lighthouse keeper, was born in the Falkland Islands on 8 June 1852, the son of James Henry Hocking senior, a military pensioner who had arrived in the Islands in 1849 with his wife Ann Elizabeth, née Treveton, and was appointed government schoolmaster and later gaoler. James Hocking junior first worked for the Falkland Islands Company for three years of rigorous sheep farming, during which he would tend a flock of 4,500 to 5,000 sheep, often riding all day without seeing another soul or even a house and pitching a tent at night. This changed dramatically when in 1874 he became lighthouse keeper at Cape Pembroke, where he served for 27 years working shifts of six hours on and six hours off, tending the lights which guided mariners to the entrance to Stanley harbour. This was a vital service, particularly for vessels struggling to reach safety after suffering damage while rounding Cape Horn. However in spite of the lighthouse, ships still came to grief on the dangerous rocks near the entrance to Port William and Hocking witnessed many dramas such as the tragic wreck of the City of Philadelphia in 1896.

It was to the Islands in 1876 that the small vessel Sea Witch arrived after a journey of three months from London, marked in its final stage from Montevideo by a violent storm in which the passengers were battened down for three days. One of the passengers was Eliza Ann, daughter of Horatio Rees, who had worked at Bristol on the building of the SS Great Britain (which ended her sea-faring days in 1886 at Stanley). Eliza married James Hocking in Christ Church Cathedral on 14 August 1877, beginning an idyllic union which was celebrated in retirement with a golden wedding.

Hocking's sister Elizabeth Ann married another distinguished Islander, William James COULSON in 1873, and following her death ten years later the Hockings looked after their children at the lighthouse. One of these, the teenage Charles Coulson, rode to Stanley to raise the alarm when the American ship John R Kelly foundered in 1899. The Hockings retired to Somerset: Eliza Hocking died in December 1928 and her husband followed in 1929.

Authors

Frank Mitchell