Robert Wilson's Grave: The Watchman

Was he ill-prepared or just brave?

The stone marker says:

Here was found dead the

Body of Robert Wilson, one

of the beacon Guards, who

Died Jan 29th, 1805, aged

69 years

Britain was preparing for a French invasion headed by the brilliant general and emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. Beacons were established on major hills; being an island, a cunning invader could arrive at any point. A beacon guard would keep observing the other beacons’ locations and light his own when he saw them lit. Other guards, many miles away, would do the same, so news of a landing could be speedily shared. In these pre-electronic days, beacons were an effective method of communication, but they did require teams of people to live out on the hills, keeping constant vigil. The winter of 1804-5 was hard. Mr Wilson perished not far from his hut in a bid to obtain supplies from Moor Side Farm. Alas, the sentinel never made it, he being found in the snow, frozen to death. Should those beacon guards have been better organised, or more frugal in their portions? Or had they simply been caught out by poor weather?

Napoleon never did invade; Mr Wilson is arguably listed among his few casualties. He was performing a great service for his nation- keeping watch and ensuring its safety from a foreign tyranny. In the summer, I climbed Pinhaw, the large hill straddling Earby on which Wilson’s stone may still be seen. In Isaiah 21, God says

For thus has the Lord said to me:

“Go, set a watchman,

Let him declare what he sees.”

Isaiah’s watchman beholds a number of strange sights, but concludes his reports with

Then he answered and said,

“Babylon is fallen, is fallen!

And all the carved images of her gods

He has broken to the ground.”

We the Church are watching and waiting for our Lord’s return. Few down below wish to hear our warnings and some of us perish in the telling, but keep watch we shall. Just as Isaiah’s watchman beheld the conquest of Babylon by the Persians, so we await the fall of this world’s Babylonian spirit. Immediately before a parallel reference to Babylon in Revelation 14, we read:

Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

As Christians keep watch over our cities, towns and villages, we proclaim to all who will hear that angel’s gospel message.