If you drive along the road from Overton to Heysham, Lancashire you will come to the Village of Sunderland Point, a small village which consists of a row of Georgian houses looking out over an estuary; a sanctuary for many seabirds. The road leading into the village is flooded twice a day at high tide so beware. Sunderland Point was also a prominent port for ships trading in sugar and tobacco particularly those ships that were too big to traverse the narrow waterway leading to the larger Port of Lancaster
If you take a short walk out of the village along a lane overgrown with blackberry bushes and trees, you reach a green field where you will find the grave of a young black slave who was named “Sambo”. It is said that he came to Sunderland Point from the West Indies in 1736 on board his Master’s ship where he served as a cabin boy. “Sambo” was left there when his Master sailed off on a smaller boat to Lancaster on business.
While his Master was away, “Sambo” died. One theory is that he was so stricken by his Master’s abandonment of him that he died of a broken heart. Another is that he wasted away and died from an illness against which he had no immunity. It is said that he died in Upsteps Cottage, No1 The Lane. It is not known whether or not his Master eventually came back for him. I suppose that the whole truth is now lost in the mists of time
“Sambo” or “Samboo” [As stated on his grave stone] was buried in open windswept land looking out towards the Irish Sea. Soon word spread about this little grave in unconsecrated ground and people started to visit the village looking for it.
One such visitor was the Reverend James Watson, a retired headmaster from Lancaster who visited the site in 1795. He was so taken by the stories about “Sambo” that he proceeded to collect money for a plaque upon which he had a poem that he had written engraved.
James’ brother, William Watson, was actually a prominent Lancaster slave trader making the epitaph written by James on Sambo’s headstone all the more compelling :
Full sixty years the angry winter’s wave,
Has thundering dashed this bleak and barren shore,
Since Sambo’s head laid in this lonely grave,
Lies still and ne’er will hear their turmoil more.
Full many a Sand-bird chirps upon the Sod
And many a moonlight Elfin round him trips
Full many a Summer’s Sunbeam warms the Clod
And many a teeming cloud upon him drips.
But still he sleeps — till the awakening Sounds
Of the Archangel’s Trump new life impart
Then the GREAT JUDGE his approbation founds
Not on man’s COLOR but his worth of heart
The Reverend James Watson’s verse on the grave was written in 1796, and can still be seen. The content is a forerunner of Martin Luther King’s famous oration in 1963:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”