A fitting memorial to Thomas Cowley High School’s most famous student has been unveiled in Donington by one of his relatives.
A limited edition statue of Captain Matthew Flinders and his cat Trim went on display at the school on Tuesday after an unveiling ceremony carried out by the navigator’s distant relative John Flinders (68).
The statue is a smaller-scale or maquette version of a full-sized sculpture unveiled by Prince William in London last summer to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Captain Flinders.
Headteacher Ian Dawson said: “It was very important that the school had a commemorative maquette of Matthew Flinders as we educated him, but even more so knowing that the funds to purchase it went towards financing the statue in London.
“We have so much of the life of Matthew Flinders here at the school that we need to look at from a local history perspective and we’re getting our students involved in a heritage project ahead of the school’s 300th anniversary in 2019.”
Captain Flinders was born in Donington on March 16, 1774, and went to Thomas Cowley High School, when it was known as Donington Free School, until he was 12.
It was very important that the school had a commemorative maquette of Matthew Flinders as we educated him and we have so much of his life hereIan Dawson, headteacher of Thomas Cowley High School, Donington
In January 1801, Captain Flinders was appointed as lieutenant in command of HMS Investigator on which he sailed around Australia and later gave the island its name.
John Flinders said: “Matthew was an illustrious former pupil of Thomas Cowley High School and his achievements are well-documented.
“Yet outside Australia and his native county of Lincolnshire, little is known of him.
“In 2002, I attended a Matthew Flinders celebration in Adelaide, South Australia, where I discussed doing something to raise public awareness and enhance Matthew’s reputation in the UK.
“About three and a half years ago, the Matthew Flinders Memorial Committee was formed and we commissioned renowned sculptor Mark Richards to design and create a superb statue for us.”
The bronze statue of Captain Flinders and Trim stands on the main concourse at London’s Euston Station where the Donington-born explorer is thought to have been buried after his death on July 19 1814.
Trim was born in 1799 and accompanied Captain Flinders around Australia and to Mauritius, with the explorer having described the cat as “the best and most illustrious of his race, the most affectionate of friends, faithful of servants, and best of creatures”.
Chairman of governors Simon Lilley said: “We are very honoured to have a maquette on show in school and to have had a relative of Captain Matthew Flinders here to unveil it officially on Tuesday.
“It recognises a person and a time in history which I think is important for the community, as well as the school.”