On 13 March 1922, this funeral notice for Steven Polkinghorne appeared in the Charters Towers press.
A month later, this respected member of the Towers Concert Band was remembered by his fellow players.
One of these framed photographs is now housed in the Zara Clark Museum in Charters Towers. It is accompanied by this story.
“At a picnic at the weir, Steve was boating with friends when a lady’s hat was blown into the water. Steve tried to rescue the hat but when he swam back his friends, as a prank, rowed away. It is believed that Steve tired, or had a cramp, and drowned.”
Often when you come across old photographs, it’s difficult to find any detail to add to an understanding of the subject matter. In this out-of-copyright photograph (a glass negative) via The State Library of Victoria (ca 1888-1894), the gravestone inscription provides some clues. The young man, Mark Marston, was almost 19 years old when he died from the effects of a snake bite.
It didn’t take much sleuthing in Trove’s Digital Newspaper collection to find a number of reports echoing the news of this sad event in the Sunbury district in Victoria. Here’s one of those as noted by The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser of 18 March 1880.
The photographic record describes “a middle-aged woman standing beside headstone and grave, iron fence surrounding headstone and fairly well-established garden”. One might surmise that this woman is his mother. A search of Ancestry.com provided the following information.
Mark’s parents (Thomas and Elizabeth Marston (nee Beeson) emigrated from Lincolnshire shortly after their marriage. They had six children, the eldest of whom was a daughter who died in the first year of her life. At the time this photograph was taken, Elizabeth would have been in her mid-late fifties.
Mark was not the only son who pre-deceased Elizabeth and Thomas. Another son Frederick (a railway worker) died at the age of 31. The Argus of 30 September 1893 reported this inquiry into his accidental death.
Trove Australia provides access to thousands of articles, pictures, photographs, book references, maps, diaries and more. The digitised newspaper collection was the inspiration for establishing this blog.
If you ever doubted the value of libraries (and I sincerely hope that none of this blog’s readers fall into this category), take a stroll through the internet for the wealth of material that gets shared via the blogs of libraries, museums and galleries across Australia.
A quick browse this morning unearthed these treasure troves.
Who were the first retailers in Fortitude Valley in Brisbane? The John Oxley Library blog.
What was the first state funeral ever held in Australia? State Library of Victoria – Such Was Life blog.
Why a duck, Michael Leunig? State Library of Victoria – Arts blog.
What was the meaning of embroidered floral postcards sent back from the front in World War I? Australian War Memorial blog.
What sort of toys did children play with in the 1940s in country Australia? – Powerhouse Museum, Sydney – Inside the Collection blog.
The practice of cremating the dead rather than burying them was slow to become popular. The first cremation in Australia took place in Adelaide on 4 May 1903. The Argus – 5 May 1903.
Five years later, only 18 additional cremations had taken place in Adelaide.
By the early 1930s, architect designed crematoriums were being built across Australia. F A Bloomfield’s design for the Gore Hill cemetery in Sydney can be found in the Sydney Morning Herald – 17 February 1931. Richard Gailey’s design of the Brisbane Crematorium was featured in the Brisbane Courier on 2 March 1932.
This link to The Cemeteries and Crematoria Association of New South Wales has a short history of cremation in Australia.
The death notice spoke highly of the patient, enduring wife of Judge Advocate, Richard Atkins. As was the custom in the 19th century, her name went unmentioned. I looked up the State BDM register. Her name was Elizabeth and she was 45 years old at the time of her death.
Obsequies: funeral rites or ceremony.