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Name: O'HARA, John William Lawrence

Birth Date: 6 Oct 1863 Vepery, Tamil Nadu, India

Death Date: 11 Mar 1899 Voi, killed by a lion

Nationality: British

First Date: 1897

Last Date: 1899

Profession: One of the first Customs officials at Mombasa (Eurasian). Road engineer

Area: Mombasa

Married: 1. In Madras 19 June 1886 Margaret Stokes-Hill b. 27 Oct 1865 India, d. 9 Sep 1889 Burma 2. In India 1889 Cecilia Mary Monk b. 25 Mar 1868 Bangalore, d. 1910 (later m. Francis Henry Paulie)

Children: William Lawrence Anthony Patrick (13 June 1895 Madavarum, Madras-1937); Margaret Mary (3 Jan 1897 Madras)

Book Reference: Genesis, Permanent Way, North, Kingsley-Heath, Caputo, Chandler

General Information:

Wife was with him at Voi when he was killed - wife and children returned to India April 1899
Genesis - 'It was 12 miles beyond Voi that tragedy overtook my friend O'Harra. Mr O'Harra was one of the first Custom's Officials at Mombasa, and had been transferred to Voi-Tsavo District to construct a road to Taveta. With his wife and two children he camped at Ndii. One night a lion dragged O'Harra from his wife's side, and though she instantly raised the alarm and rescue was prompt, O'Harra was lifted to his camp cot stone-dead. The widow kept guard by her dead husband's side till day-break. The lion, baulked of his prey, prowled round the tent the whole night long, and was only kept at bay by frequent shots from the askari's rifles. When day broke the lion made off through the bush and then started the sad procession for Voi.
Can you picture it, that 12 mile walk? The porters carrying the dead husband on a stretcher, followed by the widow with an infant in her arms and a tiny toddler at her side. That evening, at dusk, O'Harra was laid to rest in a lonely grave a short distance from Voi Station.'
Permanent Way - 'In March of 1899 Mr O'Hara, an engineer in charge of the building of the road from Taveta to Voi, was in camp with his wife and two children, about 12 miles from Voi. During the night a lion entered their tent. It seized O'Hara by his head, killing him instantly, and dragged him from the bed without immediately waking his wife. When she woke up she found her dead husband lying outside the tent and the lion standing within 2 feet of her. Fortunately the lion was frightened away by shots from the rifles of African guards on duty at the camp.'
North - Eurasian Road Engineer; Mombasa Jan 1898 with wife and family; Building road between Voi & Taveta arch 1899; d. 11/3/1899, killed by lion when building road between Voi & Taveta. Pulled from tent.
Caputo - Voi cemetery - Headstone - "To the Sacred Memory of John William O'Hara, of Madras, India. Killed by a lion on the road to Taveta, East Africa. 11 March 1899, aged 35 Years. Erected by His Loving Wife." O'Hara was an engineer in charge of building a road between Voi and the mission station at Taveta. With his wife and 2 small children he was encamped in the Taita Hills, some 12 miles west of Voi. On the night of March 11 the family were sleeping in their tent, O'Hara and his wife in one bed, the children in the other. The younger, a baby daughter, was feverish and restless, and Mrs O'Hara got up to get her something to drink. As she was doing so, she thought she heard a lion prowling around the tent and woke her husband, who got up immediately and went outside with his rifle. He saw nothing and spoke to an askari who'd been standing watch by a campfire a short distance away. The askari reported that all he'd seen was a donkey. O'Hara returned to the tent and told his wife not to worry; she'd only heard a donkey. Colonel Patterson, who was in Voi at the time and helped bury the engineer, interviewed his widow and records her description of what happened next in 'The Man-Eaters of Tsavo'.  "The night being very hot, my husband threw back the tent door and lay down again beside me," Mrs O'Hara (he doesn't give her first name) told Patterson. "After a while I dozed off, but was suddenly roused by a feeling as if the pillow were being pulled away from under my head. On looking round I found that my husband was gone. I jumped up and called him loudly but got no answer. Just then I heard a noise among the boxes outside the door so I rushed out and saw my poor husband lying between the boxes. I ran up to him and tried to lift him, but I could not do so. I then called to the askari to come and help me but he refused saying that there was a lion standing beside me. I looked up and saw the huge beast glowering at me, not more than 2 yards away. At this moment the askari fired his rifle and this fortunately frightened the lion for it at once jumped off into the bush."
"All 4 askaris then came forward and lifted my husband back onto the bed. He was quite dead. We had hardly got back into the tent before the lion returned and prowled about in front of the door showing every intention of springing in to recover his prey. The askaris fired at him but did no damage beyond frightening him away again for a moment or two. He soon came back and continued to walk round the tent until daylight growling and purring and it was only by firing through the tent every now and then that we kept him out. At daybreak he disappeared and I had my husband's body carried here while I followed with the children until I met you." A physician named Dr. Rose was in Voi at the time and gave a sedative to Mrs O'Hara. While she rested he conducted an autopsy and was able to tell the widow the next day that her husband died instantly and painlessly. Dr. Rose concluded that O'Hara had been lying on his back and that the lion seized his head in its mouth and drove its fangs through his temples into his brain. The lion was killed a few weeks later by a poisoned arrow shot from a tree by a Taita hunter.
Barnes Voi cem  thy will be done sacred / to the memory of / John William Lawrence O'Hara / of Madras India / killed by a lion on the road / to Taveta East Africa / on the 11th March 1899 / aged 35 years farewell then for a while / farewell pride of my heart / it cannot be that long / we dwell thus torn apart / times shadows like the shuttle flee / and however dark life's night may be / beyond the grave I'll meet with thee erected by his loving wife

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