Kalli’s last letter

Within the Franklin collection is a box of objects: precious mementos Lady Jane Franklin displayed in her house, reminders of the adventurous lives she and her husband, Sir John Franklin, had led.  Included are two letters and small drawings, bundled together in a wrapper which says: Remains of Kalierua.

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This refers to Erasmus Augustine Kallihirua, also known as Kalli, an Inuit from north-western Greenland who helped in the search for Sir John Franklin. In 1850 he joined the ship of Captain Erasmus Ommanney when it was in Cape York, Greenland, and worked as his guide and translator during his expedition to find Franklin’s ships. Kalli stayed with the ship as it traveled back to England, where he was sent to St Augustine’s College in Canterbury to train as a missionary.  During his time in England Kalli must have met Sir John’s daughter Eleanor, who was by then Mrs Eleanor Gell, as he sent her at least two letters and three small drawings. We don’t know how many other letters Kalli sent to Eleanor, but someone has written on the one dated October 3rd 1855 ‘Kali’s last letter from St John’s Newfoundland’.

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Kalli died on 14 June 1856 in St John’s, Newfoundland, having caught a chill while swimming. He was only twenty-four years old. A more detailed account of Kalli’s life is on the website of the Nunatsiaq News.

3 thoughts on “Kalli’s last letter

  1. Pingback: Royal Wedding lace | Derbyshire Record Office

  2. We have a number of letters and related documents on the death of Eleanor Gell, who died aged only 36 in 1860 at Tredunnoc in Monmouthshire . She went there for “recreation and repose”, but tragically caught scarlet fever. Her husband Reverend John Philip Gell erected what must have been a large memorial tablet for her and had printed off a copy of what was written on it for circulation among her family, friends and acquaintances. I imagine your funeral notice is different. We will put up another post about it shortly.

  3. I have a copy of Eleanor Gell’s Funeral Notice. It was kept by Sir F L McClintock and passed down through my family.

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