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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Righteous perisheth-The Thornhills of Liston

On February 6th 1858, the Bury Free Press reprinted from 'The Times' the following report

Died at Lucknow on the 12th of October 1857 from wounds received on the 29th of September when nobly heading a party to bring in some wounded men that had been left behind when General Outram and Havelock forced their way into the Residency on the previous evening.
J.Bensly Thornhill Esq of the Bengali Civil Service aged 25 years and six months, he had got in all the wounded except 12 men and was taking the eldest son of Sir Henry Havelock to a place of safety, as he entered a gate a Sepoy from a house opposite sent a ball through his right arm, he tied it with his handkerchief and went on with his noble duty, when returning the same Sepoy fired again and the ball wounded him in the temple leaving him insensible, he was taken to hospital and his right arm was amputated, he lingered for 16 days then died.
He left a young widow of 18 years (who is the niece of General Havelock) to mourn the loss of both him and the infant child, her husband got his death with doing a brave humane Christian act and had he lived the highest honour of the Victoria Cross would have been his, this is some consolation to his widowed mother.

Lady Inglis kept a diary that records the event

A sortie was made by our garrison to-day, and four guns taken. Mr. Thornhill, Civil Service, volunteered to go out with a force to bring in the wounded; amongst them was General Havelock’s son and his cousin. Poor fellow! he reached them all right by a safe road, but for some unknown reason returned by a different one through the most frequented streets, which had been Ioopholed by the enemy. The dhoolie-bearers could not stand the fire which was opened upon them, and dropped the dhoolies with the wounded inside them. The escort was overwhelmed and Mr. Thornhill himself badly wounded, but he managed to get into the Residency. The enemy, we were told, collected the dhoolies in the Khass Bazaar square and set fire to them. General Havelock and his aide-­de-camp breakfasted with us.

Monday 12th
Mr. Thornhill died to-day from his wounds; he had not been married a year.

The Pension List to 30 April 1858 mentions his widow
Mrs Mary Thornhill, widow of Mr J Bensley Thornhill, of the Bengal Civil Service, who met his death in rescuing Lt Sir Henry Havelock , who during the advance to the relief of lucknow was lying wounded in a Duli in dange rof falling into the hands of the mutineers.

Also from The Times (Feb 10, 1858) comes the following sad extract...

Killed, at the massacre at Cawnpore, supposed about the 15th July last, Robert Benaley Thornhill, Esq., Civil Service, third son of the late John Thornhill, Esq., E.I. Director; and his wife, Mary White, youngest daughter of the late George Siddons, Esq.,of the Bengal Civil Service, with their two younger children, Charles and Mary.

Mark Bensley Thornhill, the third brother was at one point Deputy Collector in Cawnpore, but in 1857 he was a magistrate in Muttra. Mark, unlike his two brothers, survived the slaughter -- by posing as a Muslim woman during his escape.
In 1884 he published his memoir The personal adventures and experiences of a magistrate during the rise, progress and suppression of the Indian mutiny

The Thornhill family lived at Liston Hall, Essex, near Long Melford. J.B. Thornhill was Assistant Commissioner of Lucknow when he was killed. There is a memorial tablet in the church which according to the Rev Brian Sampson is a Piscina which is unusual in a church.
The memorial reads

"In memory of Robert Bensly Thornhill and Mary White his wife who after 66 days and nights of extreme sufferings were with their children, Charles Cuthbert and Mary Catherine and their faithful nurse Mary Long, cruelly massacred on the 15th of July 1857 at Cawnpore
The righteous perisheth and no man layeth it to hearts and merciful men are taken away none considering that the righteous is taken away from evil to come.

Also on the same Piscina is the following...

"Henry Bensly Thornhill and Emily Heathfield his wife and infant child Catherine who with their faithful nurse Eliza Jennings were ruthlessly murdered at Seetapore on the the 3rd of June 1857.
"They were lovely and pleasant in their lives and in their death they were not divided"

Some of the dates in the Times extract do not correspond with the Liston Piscina, perhaps understandable.



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