William Stitt Jenkins

This is a once well-known identity of the 1870s, William Stitt Jenkins, ‘The Poet of Geelong.’

Born at Whitehaven, England, in 1812, William won his reputation as a poet after writing a series of poems on the way here, while still on board the ship, in the early 1850s. One of these poems, called AN INCIDENT AT SEA, won him some acclaim, so he was sought after to write poems for special occasions. He even prepared his own epitaph two years before his death, and the lines convey his own idea of mortality.

When I am gone, when I am gone,
Let no vain sculptures mock the dead.
But one umbrageous tree arise,
And wave its branches o’er my head

Let none approach in garb of woe,
Who cared not for the living man,
What care they for the dead below.

Too late will tears bedew the sod,
Give me to earth, and go your way,
And leave me to myself and God.

In fulfilment of his last will and testimony – also written in rhyme – an untrimmed column of limestone marks his burial place, while a tree casts its shade over the head of the grave for those who wish to sit and contemplate.

William Stitt Jenkins wasn’t only known for his poetry, he was throughout life a supporter of the poor and underprivileged, and also of dumb animals. He was the founder of a local movement to provide animal drinking fountains and horse troughs at strategic locations throughout Geelong.

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