Alexander & Louis Patterson

PUBLISHED : December 7, 2022

WORDS : Don John

Alexander Patterson was born in December 1865 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an island in the Caribbean. Alexander was a sea mariner and sailed on ships between the Caribbean and the UK, he later worked for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, a large shipping firm, and was promoted to a Quartermaster on his last voyage, where he was in charge of navigating the ship.

A portrait of of Alexander Patterson taken in Southampton. © Louise Helps.

In 1888 he married Emma Chipperfield who was from Greenwich, London. They married at St Margaret’s Church, in London, which is known as the ‘parish church to the Houses of Commons’ as it is next to Westminster Abbey. His mother in-law-worked for the Royal Household as a head nurse to the Duchess of Cambridge. Alexander and Emma settled in Southampton in 1889 and went on to have 6 children in the city.

Alexander stood at 6ft 2inch tall, and would have towered over the local people as the average height for the UK man was 5ft 5inchs.

Alexander went on to run a pub in Southampton, became an entrepreneur, and built a business trading between the Caribbean, UK, and South America. In 1900 Alexander became bankrupt and as a result, was no longer running the pub. In 1901 he became unwell and was hospitalised and died in Knowle Hospital in 1905.

Louis Patterson was born in 1901 he is the youngest child of Alexander and Emma Patterson. In 1948 he heroically jumped in front of an out-of-control, powerful Clydesdale horse with a cart attached on Shirley High Street.  A report given to the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust stated that the horse was galloping uncontrollably along the road with a significant amount of traffic, including school-children. Louis ran into the middle of the road waving his arms in front of the horse when the horse was almost on top of him, he grabbed the head harness and was dragged along the road until he successfully stopped the horse.

Reported in the Daily Echo at the time, an eyewitness spoke of the courageous act “It was an act of great heroism, so dangerous that most of us would have shrunk from it.”

Louis enlisted for World War I in 1914 at just 13 years old as a fireman. One of the ships he was on was torpedoed and he spent hours in the sea. He later recalled that whilst he was drowning he saw his mother before his eyes. He was rescued from the water by a Frenchman and spent 6 months in hospital in Gibraltar where he recovered from his injuries.

Louis Patterson. © Louise Helps.

Louis went on to work as a lorry driver for British Railways and later as a caretaker at the Daily Echo office. He lived with his wife Kathleen and their five children.

Louis died in 1975 and is laid to rest with his wife in Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton.

Patterson Family reunion, 2018. © Louise Helps.

The Patterson family grew, and Louis alone has nearly 30 Great-Grandchildren! The family mainly stayed in Southampton, and despite their heritage being of black descent, they are on the surface white.

Words: Louise Helps

Co-authored: Don John.