THE LATE CAPTAIN FENTON.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE MERCURY.
SIR,—The death (on the 6th instant) of so old a soldier and colonist as was Captain Michael Fenton, which took place at his residence, ''Fenton Forest," naturally demands more than the mere ordinary obituary notice of the event, and, with your permission, I propose to place before you a brief summary of the services of the late veteran and gallant soldier, entrusted to me by his widow. As an old soldier myself, this duty, so imposed upon me, will, I think, be deemed fitting, and, I trust, acceptable to the many who knew him.
The late Captain Michael Fenton was the third son of Michael Fenton, of Castle Town, (then High Sheriff of Sligo), where one branch of the family, originally French, "Fontaine," had established themselves at a very remote period.
The services of the deceased's father, as High Sheriff, during the Irish rebellion, were of so impor- tant a nature, that an offer was made of a Commis- sion for one of his sons, then at school, and resulted in the immediate gazetting of the son Michael to a Commission as Ensign, then 16 years of age. The deceased then joined the 13th Regiment of Foot, under Colonel Colville, subsequently General Sir Charles Colville, and soon after was in the West Indies under Generals Buckworth and Brisbane, and carried the King's Colours at the taking of Martin- ique, when only 17 years of age. Afterwards, in 1813 and 1814, he was in Canada at the storming of Platsburgh, but the fleets being taken, the seige
In 1824-23 and 1826, we find the subject of this record with the 13th Regiment, in the East, and engaged in the Burmese campaign,—and at the taking of Rangoon, under Sir Archibald Campbell
and Sir W. Cotton. The services in the Burmese country, arising from climate, were of a trying nature, and the deceased did not escape its effects.
After the peace with Ava, we find the 13th Foot was moved to Fort William (Calcutta), where, for a time, he acted as a Brigade-Major, and also commanded at the Depot established at Chinsunh, a little above Calcutta ; with this terminated his eventful and distinguished military career.
Captain Fenton sold out of the army, and tempted by the liberal offers then made to officers to emigrate, he arrived in Tasmania during Colonel Arthur's government, and obtained a maximum grant at Westbury, and subsequently purchased the present Fenton Forest estate, where he resided to the day of his death. He was appointed by Sir John Franklin a member of the Legislative Council, in which he held his seat for twenty years, ten years of which he was Speaker. It was at this period that the great struggle, took place which culminated, so to say, in the now historical "Patriotic Six,"—of these, Captain Fenton and the late Thomas Gregson, Esquire, of Risdon, seem to have been the most conspicuous. I had only arrived in Tasmania (from India) about that period, and did not take that interest in the case as did others. I had not then any leaning to public matters of any kind, nor have I at the present time. Nevertheless, I have always been under the impression that Captain Fenton did hold that prominence in that celebrated civil conflict as to entitle him to be considered the Lead or leader thereof.
I am giving to understand that the deceased, on having heard that the leadership on that occasion was ascribed to the other gentlemen, had felt a little hurt. For myself, I hardly believe such was intended ; it was, I behove, a mere oversight of the reporter. It goes, however, to my mind, as another instance of what is characteristic of the old soldier, as Shakspeare so admirably describes the "jealousy" as in the Seven Ages of Man.
The late gallant veteran carried two medals on his breast—one for services in Canada, I believe, and one for "Ava." He was married in Calcutta, in 1828, to Mrs. E. S. Campbell, daughter of Rev. John Russell Knox, and the young widow of a brother officer in the 13th Regiment. Of this union, his surviving children are—three daughters
and one son.
The aged soldier (I believe in his 84th year) has gone the way of all flesh—we are but dust, and may not be "gathered up again !" The "roll of drum," the measured tread of armed men, the charge, shoulder to shoulder, the oft times heard fire from serried infantry, or the closing rush to breach, or with scaling ladders, are all over for him ! Peace to him, and we hope he has found it ; and there is this assurance, which was communicated to me by Miss Fenton, at her father's request—he acknow- ledged God's mercy and goodness in sparing him so long, and desired to write to me to say to any whom I thought there may have been angry words, that with all such feelings had passed away from him. In closing my poor efforts to carry out that which my old friend's family wished me to undertake, I must not omit to advert in brief terms, as space and time admits, that my old friend was an indulgent land- lord and a most liberal one, it may be to his own
inconvenience and loss of necessary means suitable to his position. He inherited the proverbial hospi- tality, to the verge of recklessness, so well-known of Irish gentlemen in the period when his father was High Sheriff, and of which so many writers have given to the world such humourous pictures of gallantry and reckless extravagance. I know of no better way to describe the old Captain as a landlord, than to quote an observation my son heard imme- diately the Captain's death was known ; he was out and met a person in our neighbourhood, who had once, I believe, been on the Captain's land, but since had bought some Crown land at the back of mine, a steady and respectable couple ; the conversation was, of course, on the death of the Captain, and he made this observation,—"Ah! the people at Fenton Forest and Styx never knew they had lost their father until the old Captain died."
To my thinking, that was a sermon on large- hearted benevolence, and as much to the purpose as was ever preached. If, as I believe, there are "sermons in stones," ''books in running streams," and "good in every thing," as preached that queer
Enough from me. It is time for me to stop, and do the last honour to my old friend (in the absence of troops), to place my sword on the coffin of the
H. J. LLOYD, Major.
8th April, 1874.