In December last year my husband and I visited the Banana Cemetery. It’s located on the outskirts of Banana, in Archer Street. The cemetery is no longer used for burials. Established in 1862, the Banana Cemetery holds the mortal remains (along with a few secrets) of many of the district’s early non-indigenous residents.

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2018. A section of the Banana Cemetery. Photo source: Private collection.

The town of Banana

Banana is a tiny town in the Banana Shire of Central Queensland, about 150 km (93 miles) south-west of Rockhampton. At the 2016 Australian census its population was 356. [1] It’s the oldest town in the Banana Shire.

The first Governor of Queensland, The Honourable Sir George Ferguson Bowen, approved the establishment of the town of Banana on 5 June 1861. [2] The main street, Bowen Street, was named in his honour. The town itself was allegedly named after an old dun (yellow) coloured bullock called Banana, which (according to folklore) local stockmen employed to help them herd wilder cattle into the yards. Banana the bullock is buried nearby.

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2018. Banana the bullock, after whom the town is allegedly named. Photo source: Private collection.

In 1880 the town of Banana became the headquarters of a newly established Queensland local government area called the Banana Division, which was later renamed the Banana Shire.

In 1930 the Banana Shire headquarters and shire office building moved to Rannes, about 46 km (29 miles) north of Banana. The shire headquarters moved again in 1944, to rented premises at Wowan. Finally, in 1946, the shire headquarters moved to Biloela, where it remains today.

About the Banana Shire

The Banana Shire is huge, covering 28,577 square kilometres, but its population is small (just over 15,700 people live there). It extends from Dululu in the north to Taroom in the south. The largest town and administrative centre is Biloela, with a population of 5727. The second largest urban centre is Moura, population 1786. [3]

The shire is rich in natural resources. Its main industries are coal mining, beef production, power generation, dryland cropping and irrigation cropping of crops such as lucerne and cotton. It’s called “The Shire of Opportunity”, with many possibilities for industry, business and tourism.

To find out more about the Banana Shire, click here.

Our visit to Banana

In December 2018 when my husband Tony and I took a trip through Central Queensland, we visited the small towns and communities where my maternal ancestors, among the district’s early European settlers, lived, worked and socialized. Our trip covered the Central Highlands Region, Banana Shire, Rockhampton and North Burnett regions. As a child I lived in Rockhampton, but spent most school holidays in some of these rural communities, which (consequently) hold a special place in my heart. Our itinerary included the town of Banana.

This was not our first visit to Banana. I had been there as a child in the late 1950s and 1960s (my grandparents, uncles and aunts lived in or near Rannes). I remember the names of a number of Banana townsfolk from that period. Tony visited Banana several times during the 1980s when he worked as an itinerant Christian minister. On one occasion Tony joined worshippers at the Banana Uniting Church, in Bowen Street. Incidentally, the Banana Uniting Church, the only church building ever erected in Banana, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year (2019).

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2018. Banana Uniting Church, Bowen Street. Photo source: Private collection.

During our visit to Banana, Tony and I sought out the old cemetery.

“Why go to a cemetery?” you may ask. My answer: We look out for cemeteries, war memorials and similar revered sites in each city, town or community we visit. These sites are rich in history, windows to the past, bastions of secrets. Each grave, statue or name on a monument represents a person who lived and breathed and was someone’s father or mother, son or daughter, spouse, grandparent, uncle, aunt or cousin, relative or friend.

NOTE: A full list of the references I used in preparing this story is found at the end of the post. References are numbered and displayed throughout the text in brackets [X].

The Banana Cemetery

The cemetery at Banana was used for burials between 1862 and 1947. However, it appears that a number of families interred the ashes of their loved ones in the cemetery as late as the 1960s. Today the cemetery is closed to all new interments. [4] Many of the district’s early non-indigenous residents are buried there. Most of the marked graves are clustered towards one end of the graveyard. There, beyond the fence, lies a hoard of old cars, an unusual backdrop for a cemetery, although arguably apt.

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2018. A car graveyard makes an unusual backdrop to the cemetery. Photo source: Private collection.

The site is a sparse, slightly sloped rectangular area fenced on all four sides. One enters through a wrought iron gate at the Archer Street end. Just inside the gate, in the corner to one’s left, there’s a small tank on a stand. On the tank are the words “20c COIN OPERATED BBQ”. A little shocking? Comical? Yes. But one shouldn’t be surprised by what one discovers at a cemetery.

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2018. A rather curious tank and stand just inside the gate of the Banana Cemetery. Photo source: Private collection.

On a more serious note, near the gate there’s a sign displaying the plan of the Banana Cemetery. According to the plan, the site contains 62 graves, 36 marked, 26 unmarked. Many of the marked graves are fenced and most of the monuments or headstones on these graves are still standing and in good order.

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2018. Plan of the Banana Cemetery, just inside the entrance gate. Photo source: Private collection.

The marked graves

Of the marked graves, the oldest legible headstone marks the grave of Robert Fitzpatrick (1833-1870). The headstone is lying on the ground, but is intact. Its inscription reads: “Gloria in excelsis Deo. To the memory of Robert Fitzpatrick who departed this life October 28th 1870. Aged 37 years. Leaving a wife and one child to mourn their loss.”

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2018. Memorial headstone marking the grave of Robert Fitzpatrick. Photo source: Private collection.

Ironically, Robert Fitzpatrick was one of the first trustees of the Banana Cemetery. [5] His death, at 37, so untimely and tragic, came as a great shock to the people of Banana and district. Robert Fitzpatrick had been married just 4 years. At the time of his death his young wife was six months pregnant with their first child.

In stark contrast to the grave of Robert Fitzpatrick, closer to the cemetery entrance, stands a prominent memorial to Richard William Glode Douglas (1798-1862). Unlike any other monument in the Banana Cemetery, it comprises a plaque on top of a huge lump of granite on a concrete plinth. It’s a recent addition to the cemetery. The brass plaque bears the following inscription: “Richard William Glode Douglas (1798-1862). The first Douglas of this line in Australia. This memorial was erected in 2005 by his descendants from around the world. Australia was good for him.”

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2018. Memorial to Richard William Glode Douglas, Banana Cemetery. Photo source: Private collection.

In 1862 Richard William Douglas was appointed Banana’s first Clerk of the Court of Petty Sessions. [6] Unfortunately, he held the position for less than two months. He died on 10 June 1862. He was 64. His body was interred in the Banana Cemetery, one of the earliest burials in the cemetery.

One of the oldest marked graves in the cemetery is that of John Cramp (1809-1873). One of his daughters, who died in 1923, is buried next to him. The headstone is a memorial to them both. It reads: “In Loving Memory of Marianne Bennett, Who Died 12th July 1923, Aged 89 Years. And of her father John Cramp, who died 12th April 1873, Aged 63 years.”

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Close-up of headstone marking the graves of Marianne Bennett and John Cramp. Photo taken by Mrs Jynette Brumpton, of Banana.

John Cramp came to Banana at the end of 1864 as the town’s first Telegraph Stationmaster. [7] He held this position, and that of Postmaster, until 1869. Mr Cramp invested heavily in the town, purchasing numerous town allotments. One of his early establishments was a butcher’s shop (more about this later).

These three men, Robert Fitzpatrick, Richard William Glode Douglas and John Cramp, are the subjects of this brief account.

Why these three? The answer: Each one played a key role in the establishment of the town of Banana and each man’s life story is intriguing and instructive, although surprisingly tragic.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Extract from “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray (1716–1771).

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1976. Banana Cemetery, view towards the town. Photo kindly provided by Mrs Jynette Brumpton, of Banana.

Banana 1861-62: Robert Fitzpatrick and Richard William Glode Douglas

Robert Fitzpatrick opens Banana’s first store

Robert Fitzpatrick was an Irishman. He migrated to Australia from Loughfalcon, Ballyrolly, County Down, Ireland, and found his way to country Queensland. [8] Clearly an entrepreneur, Fitzpatrick was just a young man, in his late twenties, when he purchased an allotment in the newly gazetted town of Banana. On 16 July 1861, when 30 town allotments were put up for sale at the Rockhampton Police Office [9], Fitzpatrick was the first buyer. He purchased Allotment 1, for ₤8. Among the 15 or so others who bought allotments at the sale were John McKeon and partner, and Patrick Bolger. [10]

On his lot at the corner of Bowen and Herbert streets, Fitzpatrick opened Banana’s first general store. [11] When the Banana Post Office was gazetted on 1 September 1861, it was housed in Fitzpatrick’s store. John Connolly of Gayndah constructed a timber building for Fitzpatrick’s store. Around the same time John McKeon built the Banana Hotel and a second store while Patrick Bolger opened the Commercial Hotel. [12]

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c. 1930. The 1862 building that housed Robert Fitzpatrick’s store. Photo source: National Library of Australia (Trove). Public domain.

Richard William (Glode) Douglas

Richard William Glode Douglas was an Englishman. He was 55 when he and his wife Julia and six of their ten children migrated to Australia in July 1853. [13] For several years, the family resided in Sydney where Richard obtained work as a customs officer. [14]

In 1859 and 1860, two of Douglas’ daughters married. Both wed gentlemen from prominent, well-to-do colonial families. In 1859 Ada Victoria Paget married Francis Henry Stephen, solicitor, son of Francis Pasmore Stephen and grandson of Judge John Stephen, of Sydney. [15] The following year, Rosa married Henry Boyle, solicitor and Commissioner of Crown Lands for the district of Maranoa (Queensland), Justice of the Peace and Registrar at Surat. [16]

Douglas and his wife moved to Queensland in 1860. In November 1860 Mr Douglas was appointed clerk of the Court of Petty Sessions, Taroom, and in December, the town’s Registrar of Births, Marriages, and Deaths. [17]

Not long after coming to Taroom, Mr Douglas was seriously injured in an accident involving a horse. [18] While riding to Toowoomba, near Gatton, Mr Douglas’ horse fell with him. Douglas landed with his neck on a log and the horse rolled over him. Douglas’ injuries included a splintered rib. He underwent medical treatment in Toowoomba and (it was reported) his recovery “progressed favourably”. [19] It is not clear when Mr Douglas was well enough to return to his duties at Taroom.

Richard Douglas comes to Banana

In April 1862, Richard Douglas was transferred from Taroom to Banana as Banana’s first Clerk of the Court of Petty Sessions. Surat and Banana were chosen as locations of new Courts of Petty Sessions in Queensland. [20]

When Mr Douglas arrived at Banana, there was no accommodation for him and his wife and no courthouse. He had a 6-room slab cottage built and arranged for the government to rent half of it as a temporary courthouse and lock-up. Unfortunately, he didn’t live to see the project through to completion. [21]

Richard William Glode Douglas died unexpectedly on 10 June 1862, “after an illness of twelve hours”. He was 64. [22]

I can’t help but wonder if Douglas’ death was connected to the injuries he sustained in the horse accident near Gatton some 20 months previously.

Given that Mr Douglas died after such a short time in Banana, it is unlikely many of the townsfolk had time to get to know him and he them. However, even if he had lived there longer, I doubt that Mr Douglas would have revealed anything of his earlier life in England. Perhaps he was a reformed man.

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2018. Entrance to the Banana Cemetery. Photo source: Private collection.

The “secret” life of Richard William Glode Douglas

The main source of the following information is: Parfitt, Robert T. & South Stoke History Committee. The Johnstone Family of South Stoke. A Remarkable Parsonage Family. In The Journal of the Survey of Old Bath and Its Associates No.30, October 2015. [23]

Richard William Glode Douglas was born in Godmanchester, Suffolk, England, in May 1798. He was the youngest of seven children. His father was Rev James Douglas, a noted archaeologist (a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries) and chaplain to the Prince of Wales Regiment. Richard’s mother was Margaret Oldershaw. The family was not wealthy and continually struggled to make ends meet despite Rev Douglas’ royal and noble connections.

On 29 May 1814, Richard (at 16 years of age) married 23-year-old Mary Johnson. Mary, the oldest daughter of the Reverend and Mrs Charles Johnson of South Stoke, Oxfordshire, had all the attributes of a ‘good catch’. Mary’s paternal grandfather was a wealthy London architect with many influential contacts, but it was her mother’s family that was both wealthy and at the centre of ‘respectable society’. Given that their 1814 marriage may not have been legal (Richard was underage and didn’t meet Parish residential requirements at the time), Richard and Mary married again on 13 March 1817. Their union produced seven children, although only three (sons) survived infancy. Sadly the marriage didn’t last. Richard, who reportedly engaged in all manner of fraud and deception from an early age, lived beyond his means, was constantly in debt and, in 1825, was declared bankrupt.

Richard left Mary in January 1828 and began an affair with Julia Elizabeth Nugent Bree, 19-year-old daughter of the Reverend Dr Robert Francis Bree of Chichester. The couple posed as “Mr and Mrs Smith”. In December 1828, Richard was again arrested for debt and sent to a debtor’s prison. His “wife” Julia joined him there.

Mary Douglas sued her husband for divorce in May 1829, on the grounds of adultery. Richard and Julia married on 12 December 1829, Julia having already given birth to two children. The couple subsequently had eight more children.

Richard Douglas continued to have money problems. In March 1848, he appeared in London’s “Court for Relief of Insolvent Debtors”, where he was described as a person “of no business or profession”. [24]

On 7 April 1851 Richard and two of his sons (Charles and Arthur) appeared in London’s Old Bailey on charges of fraud and deception. [25] The charge read: “Unlawfully conspiring to obtain brushes and other goods of Matthew Gooch, with intent to defraud him of the same”. All three were found guilty. The sentence: Imprisonment.

I do not know how long Richard Douglas spent in prison, but it was no longer than two years. In 1853, he and Julia and family left England and came to Australia. [26]

Banana 1864-1869: John Cramp and Robert Fitzpatrick

In December 1864, Banana was chosen as the site of one of Queensland’s telegraph stations. John Cramp, at the time Telegraph Stationmaster at Drayton (today a suburb of Toowoomba), was appointed Banana’s first Telegraph Stationmaster. From the send-off John Cramp received at Drayton, it’s evident he was a highly esteemed member of that community. [27]

John Cramp and his wife Sophia moved to Banana. Mr Cramp’s role there included that of Postmaster. The post office, until then located at Robert Fitzpatrick’s store, moved to Mr and Mrs Cramp’s small private residence. The relocation of the Banana Post Office appears to have caused ill-feeling between Fitzpatrick and Cramp and remained a matter of contention for certain “Banana-ites” for years to come (see later).

1866 was a significant year in the lives of Robert Fitzpatrick and John Cramp, but for very different reasons.

In 1866 Robert Fitzpatrick was in his early 30s and still single. John Cramp was 56, married, father of six adult children and a grandfather. For one, the year brought much joy; for the other, profound sorrow. 

A wedding: On 3 May 1866, Robert Fitzpatrick married Ellen Foley, a young woman about half his age. [28] It was Fitzpatrick’s first marriage.

Two deaths: On 12 July 1866, John Cramp’s wife Sophia (53) and grandson Walter John Bennett (5 years 5 months) drowned at sea when the “Cawarra”, a paddle-steamer en route from Sydney to Brisbane and Rockhampton sank in Newcastle Harbour. [29] Sixty lives were lost. Little Walter was the only child of John and Sophia Cramp’s oldest daughter, Marianne, and her husband Walter.

Discontent over the Banana Post Office

In May 1868, one or more so-called “Banana-ites” wrote to the Postmaster-General complaining about the Banana Post Office. [30] They asked: “Why … was it ever removed from the commodious building in which it was then conducted into the miserable hovel now in use, designated by courtesy a Post Office?” They criticized the size and condition of the building (which was also Mr Cramp’s home) and the service provided by the Postmaster and Postmistress. (I wonder who wrote the letter.)

There seems to have been ongoing discord between Robert Fitzpatrick and John Cramp.

Things came to a head on the evening of 9 December 1868. [31] Fitzpatrick entered Cramp’s home and tried to take some books. Cramp called the police and charged Fitzpatrick with stealing the books. The police officer (Constable Swords) arrested Fitzpatrick and took him to the police lock-up. However, Swords didn’t imprison Fitzpatrick, but slept beside him through the night. The next day Fitzpatrick appeared before the magistrate and was released.

Robert Fitzpatrick didn’t leave it there. He filed a suit against John Cramp on the basis of “false imprisonment”, seeking ₤200 in damages. [32] The matter was heard in the District Court, Rockhampton, on 12 March 1869. The Judge ruled in favour of Cramp. Fitzpatrick had to pay costs, including the cost of calling the witness (Constable Swords).

John Cramp was an educated man and well-respected not only in Banana but further afield. On 16 March 1869, just 4 days after the court case in Rockhampton, John Cramp delivered a public lecture on the topic “Labour, its mission and rewards” at the Rockhampton School of Arts. [33] He was introduced as the “station master at Banana”. However, that was soon to change.

Sometime after March 1869 and before August 1869, John Cramp was dismissed as Banana’s Telegraph Stationmaster.

On 24 August, in the Queensland Legislative Assembly, a petition from John Cramp, “late telegraph station master at Banana”, was read and received. [34] In his petition, Mr Cramp complained about his dismissal from his office and requested an inquiry into his case.

Evidently, Robert Fitzpatrick played a part in Cramp’s removal from office. In a report of a court case, John CRAMP vs. Matthew LAWRENCE, which was heard in the District Court, Rockhampton, on 13 December 1869, Fitzpatrick is named. [35] The court heard that “He [John Cramp] was reported to the Government by one Fitzpatrick, and his office was abolished, compensation being made to Cramp for loss of office.” Cramp was seeking the recovery of money paid to Lawrence for goods ordered by Cramp at Lawrence’s request. John Cramp owned a butcher’s shop in Banana and Matthew Lawrence ran the shop for him. The outcome of the case? District Judge Hirst had no difficulty whatsoever in giving a verdict for the plaintiff (Cramp) for the full amount claimed (₤200).

Another 30 years passed before Banana got its new post office. The building was completed by February 1900. Unfortunately, following Banana’s decline in the 1930s, the post office at Banana closed and the building (pictured) was relocated to Camboon. [36]

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1912. Mail coach outside the Banana Post Office. Photo source: State Library of Queensland. Public domain.

Banana, 1870-1873: Robert Fitzpatrick and John Cramp

The death of Robert Fitzpatrick

By 1870 the future was looking good for Robert and Ellen Fitzpatrick. Their business was doing well and, by mid-year, Ellen had fallen pregnant with their first child. However, on 28 October 1870, when Fitzpatrick was returning to Banana from Rockhampton, he was killed almost instantaneously in an accident involving a horse and buggy. He was just 37 years old.

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Undated. Young man with a horse and buggy. Photo source: State Library of Queensland. Public domain.

Here are extracts from a report “The Death of Mr Robert Fitzpatrick” published in a Rockhampton newspaper on 8 November 1870. [37]

Mr Robert Fitzpatrick was well known and esteemed by many of the inhabitants of the northern districts, and his sudden and violent death has cast a universal gloom over all those who have been intimately associated with him.

On Tuesday, the 11th instant, Mr Fitzpatrick started from Banana in a light buggy drawn by one horse for Rockhampton. As his own horses could not be found, he borrowed one.

Last Friday he started on his return, and came by train to Westwood, which place he left at once by himself in the buggy for the Dee. At Sebastopol he was joined by Mr John Flanagan (a publican at Banana) on horseback, and it was soon apparent to both of them that the horse Mr Fitzpatrick was driving was anything but a safe one, as it made frequent attempts to bolt.

All went well past the Dee Scrub, when the buggy got out of sight of Mr Flanagan, who then rode rapidly on again. When within about six miles of the Dee, he saw Mr Fitzpatrick lying on the road close to a tree, against which the buggy had literally been smashed to pieces. On his attempting to raise him, he saw at once his neck was broken. Mr Fitzpatrick gave one moan, and ceased to breath. From the tracks about one hundred yards back, it was evident the horse had been going at a furious pace, and from the violence of the shock of the buggy coming into contact with the tree, Mr Fitzpatrick must have been thrown against it, and his neck broken. His arms and other parts of his body were much bruised.

Mr Flanagan rode on to the Dee at once for assistance. That night he rode on to Banana (a distance of fifty miles) to give his sad information to the widow and the townspeople. Early on Saturday morning Mrs Fitzpatrick and some of her friends started for the Dee, and Mr Flanagan kindly drove down his coach, and returned with the corpse on Saturday afternoon, when it was followed to its last resting-place, the Banana Cemetery, by all the townspeople and many who had come in from the bush.

The funeral service was read by the Rev Father Murlay.

Fitzpatrick’s death: The aftermath

In November 1870, at the Rockhampton Police Court, the Police Magistrate conducted an inquiry into the cause of death of Robert Fitzpatrick. [38] A number of witnesses, including John Flanagan, gave evidence. The inquiry found that Mr Fitzpatrick’s death was accidental and the cause of death was “concussion against a tree”.

On 20 January 1871, Ellen Fitzpatrick gave birth to a son, whom she named Robert James Fitzpatrick, after her late husband, the child’s father. [39]

Ellen Fitzpatrick was no slouch. Following her husband’s death, she took over the running of his store. By 1871 she was granted a wholesale wine, spirit, beer and liqueur licence. There were many pubs, squatters, storekeepers and stations to supply in and around Banana and she did a roaring trade. [40]

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1871. Newspaper advertisement. Source: National Library of Australia (Trove). Public domain.

John Cramp, Storekeeper

In 1870, John Cramp was no longer in charge of the telegraph station and post office at Banana. Instead, he ran a store. By 1870, John Cramp’s oldest daughter, Marianne Bennett, had joined him in Banana. She came from Drayton (where her father had been Telegraph Stationmaster) with two sons, Charles Sydney and Fredrick, who were born there. [41] At Banana, Marianne gave birth to two more sons: John Cramp Bennett (1870) and Walter Cramp Bennett (1874). [42] It must have been comforting for John Cramp to have his daughter Marianne and family with him at this stage of his life. He was in his early 60s.

More about John Cramp

John Cramp was born in Birchington, Kent, England, on 14 November 1809. He married Sophia Matilda Balls on 22 September 1833. The couple had six children, 5 daughters and 1 son. John worked for John Broadwood & Sons as a pianoforte maker until leaving England for Australia in 1857, because of ill health. The Cramp family came as assisted immigrants. John and Sophia Cramp and family settled at Ipswich (Queensland). [43]

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c. 1860. View of timber buildings lining East Street Ipswich. Photo source: State Library of Queensland. Public domain.

John Cramp, Teacher

In 1858 and 1859, John Cramp was the Assistant to the Principal [44] and English and Science Resident Master of the so-called “Ipswich Grammar School” (the current Ipswich Grammar School, the first true grammar school in Queensland, was established in 1863). [45] It was a boarding school located on the corner of East and South Streets, Ipswich, and John Cramp and his wife supervised the boarders.

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1858. Newspaper advertisement. Source: National Library of Australia (Trove). Public domain.

In 1860, following the premature death of the Principal of the “Ipswich Grammar School”, John Cramp opened his own school, in the “Billiard Room”, East Street, Ipswich. [46]

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1860. Newspaper advertisement. Source: National Library of Australia (Trove). Public domain.

Cramp was active in the Ipswich community and promoted the importance of education. He gave public lectures on this and other topics. At Ipswich, and later at Drayton, he was secretary of the School of Arts Committee. [47]

John Cramp, Telegraph Stationmaster

In 1863, John Cramp was appointed a Line Inspector for the Telegraph Office, then Telegraph Stationmaster at Drayton and, at the end of 1864, Telegraph Stationmaster at Banana.

The following testimonial to John Cramp, delivered during his farewell function at Drayton on 9 December 1864, and Cramp’s response, reveals much about the man. [48]

John Cramp, Esq., Drayton.

Dear Sir — We cannot permit your departure without expressing our regret at your removal from amongst us. As a private citizen we have ever found you anxious to promote the welfare of the community, among whom you have now spent the last two years of your life. We will only name one instance among others —the new National School House erection; the successful consummation of which movement we attribute in a great measure to your indefatigable exertions.

As a servant to the Government and the public in the Telegraph department, we can safely affirm we have ever found you most attentive and efficient in your duties, and obliging in deportment.

Your removal to the charge of another station of higher emolument, we presume, we must look upon as an advantage accruing to you, a circumstance which alone can reconcile us to it.

We sincerely wish you the enjoyment of health and every comfort in the locality to which your duties now call yon. Believe us your sincere well-wishers — (37 signatures followed).

John Cramp’s response:

To those who signed the testimonial:

I thank you sincerely for the kindly feeling expressed in the testimonial which has been forwarded to me. It is particularly gratifying to me, for that it is not flattering adulation of one in high position or possessed of wealth, but the appreciation by his townsmen of the earnest though humble effort of a poor man to do his duty in that sphere of life to which it has pleased God to call him.

Could my own desire and your wishes have been as powerful as I know they are disinterested, I should have remained among you, and it would have been more to my advantage. … Every better chord of my nature vibrates to your kind allusion to my efforts on behalf of the National Secular Unsectarian School. Trusting that it and every other good institution in Drayton may bring forth good and abundant fruit.

I am, Gentlemen, Yours affectionately, JOHN CRAMP.

John Cramp (“Storekeeper”) died in Banana nine years later, on 12 April 1873. His simple epitaph belies the highly esteemed but humble man who influenced the lives of so many and achieved so much in his 63 years.

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Headstone and epitaths marking the graves of Marianne Bennett and John Cramp. Photo taken by Mrs Jynette Brumpton, of Banana.

Cramp died less than three years after Robert Fitzpatrick. I can’t help but wonder if these two gentlemen made peace with each other before Robert’s untimely death. This is one secret I think both of them took to their graves.

The families of Fitzpatrick, Douglas and Cramp in the ensuing years

In 1877, Ellen Fitzpatrick married Frederick Bracker, of Banana and the couple went on to have six children. [49] Ellen Bracker died on 21 August 1908. [50] She was 58. Her body is interred in the South Rockhampton Cemetery. [51]

Robert James Fitzpatrick, son of Robert and Ellen Fitzpatrick, died on 13 August 1929. He was 58. [52]

Ellen Fitzpatrick’s store was purchased by David Martin (1837-1910), another one of Banana’s notable early European residents. His grave is also in the Banana Cemetery. In 1886, Mr Martin made extensive improvements to the 1860s building, which (it was reported) added greatly to the appearance of the main street. [53]

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2019. Bowen Street, Banana. The house pictured was next door to Martin’s Store. Photo taken by Mrs Jynette Brumpton, of Banana.

“Martin’s Store” (as it was known) had over 300 customers from all parts of the shire. It had everything – fabrics and lace, hats and hosiery, shoes and work boots, books and musical instruments, tents, groceries, medicines, tobacco, hardware, harnesses and station gear! [54]

Unfortunately, in 1931, long after Mr Martin’s demise and his store had closed, the old building fell down. That was truly the end of an era.

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Fitzpatrick’s store, built in 1862, collapsed in 1931. Source: National Library of Australia (Trove). Public domain.

Julia Douglas, widow of Richard William Douglas, outlived her husband by 17 years. She died in Sydney on 18 November 1879. [55] Their daughter Rosa Douglas, who married Henry Boyle in 1860, died in November 1867 when giving birth to the couple’s fifth child. [56] She was 28.

The 1859 marriage of the Douglas’ youngest daughter Ada Victoria Paget Douglas to Francis Henry Stephen, which yielded five children, ended in 1870 in an acrimonious divorce and sensational public legal battle. [57] Tragically, six years later, Francis Stephen, Registrar of the District Court at Maitland (New South Wales), took his own life. [58] He was just 44.

For many years, until the 1930s, Marianne Bennett, then her son Sydney (“Syd”), ran “Bennett’s Store”. The Bennett Brothers (John Cramp’s grandsons) were building contractors. In 1879, they built a second hall for the town. [59] It was used for dances, church services and other public functions. Their mother, Marianne Bennett, died on 12 July 1923 and was buried in the Banana Cemetery, next to her father. She was 89.

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Undated. The former “Bennett’s Store”, Banana. Photo kindly provided by Mrs Jynette Brumpton, of Banana.

Cemeteries: Are they worth visiting?

Who would have thought that a visit to an old cemetery would yield so much history? And I’ve hardly touched on the richness of stories buried there (excuse the pun). These stories – for good or for bad – are from the deceased.

How much more would our lives be enriched if we spent more time getting to know our contemporaries, listening to their stories and recording them for future generations?

I’m so glad Tony and I explored the Banana Cemetery. It inspired me to find out more about the people represented by the graves and monuments we found there. I’d love to investigate them all but I know I can’t (time does not permit this luxury). I chose to research just three: Robert Fitzpatrick, Richard William Glode Douglas and John Cramp. In so doing, I’ve learnt such a lot about their lives and (unexpectedly) dug up a few secrets.

Are cemeteries worth visiting? Definitely! Will Tony and I visit other cemeteries in the future? Yes, for sure. What about you? Has this story inspired you to visit a cemetery or two? I hope so.


Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.

(Job 1:21)

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
(1 Timothy 6:7)

A good name is better than fine perfume,
and the day of death better than the day of birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.

(Ecclesiastes 7:1-2)

These passages are taken from the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible.


I want to thank Mrs Jynette Brumpton, of Banana, who patiently answered many of my questions about Banana and who sent me numerous photographs of Banana, old and new, some of which I have included in this post. I’m also grateful that Mrs Margaret Cooke, formerly of Banana, shared with me some of her research findings about the Banana Cemetery relevant to this story.


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2016 Census Quick Stats: Banana (State Suburbs). Online:
  2. Perry, Betty & Banana (Qld.) Council (2005). Two valleys – one destiny: A history of Banana, shire of opportunity’, p. 45. Banana Shire Council, Biloela, Qld.
  3. ‘Banana Shire Information’. Banana Shire Council (website). Online:
  4. ‘Cemeteries’. Banana Shire Council (website). Online:
  5. Perry, Betty & Banana (Qld.) Council (2005). Two valleys – one destiny: A history of Banana, shire of opportunity’, p. 47. Banana Shire Council, Biloela, Qld.
  6. ‘Local Intelligence. New Courts of Petty Sessions’. In Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1861 – 1864), Monday 21 April 1862, page 2. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  7. ‘Telegraph Extension’. In Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser (Toowoomba, Qld. : 1858 – 1880), Saturday 17 December 1864, page 3. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  8. General Notices. Estate of William Fitzpatrick, of Loughfalcon, Ballyrolly, County Down, Ireland, deceased.’ In Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), Monday 7 September 1903, page 1. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  9. ‘Sale at the Police Office, Rockhampton. On Tuesday, the 16th day of July, 1861. Town Lots.’ In Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1846 – 1861), Saturday 11 May 1861, page 4. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  10. Perry, Betty & Banana (Qld.) Council (2005). Two valleys – one destiny: A history of Banana, shire of opportunity’, p. 45. Banana Shire Council, Biloela, Qld.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.
  13. ‘Richard William Glode Douglas’. The Douglas Archives. A collection of historical and genealogical records. Website. Online:
  14. Ibid.
  15. ‘Marriages’. In Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Monday 18 July 1859, page 1. Online:
  16. ‘Marriages’. In Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Saturday 12 May 1860, page 9. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  17. ‘Official Notifications. (From the Government Gazette December 22.)’ In North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser (Ipswich, Qld. : 1856 – 1862), Tuesday 25 December 1860, page 3. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  18. ‘The Downs. Accident’. In Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1846 – 1861), Saturday 24 November 1860, page 3. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  19. Ibid.
  20. ‘Local Intelligence. New Courts of Petty Sessions’. In Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1861 – 1864), Monday 21 April 1862, page 2. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  21. Perry, Betty & Banana (Qld.) Council (2005). Two valleys – one destiny: A history of Banana, shire of opportunity’, p. 46. Banana Shire Council, Biloela, Qld.
  22. ‘Deaths’. In Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1861 – 1864), Monday 7 July 1862, page 2. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  23. ‘The Johnstone Family of South Stoke.. A Remarkable Parsonage Family.’ By Robert T. Parfitt; South Stoke History Committee. In The Journal of the Survey of Old Bath and Its Associates No.30, October 2015. Online:
  24. ‘The Court for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors’. In The Gazette (London), 13 March, 1848. Online:
  25. ‘Richard William Glode Douglas (and two others).’ In The Proceedings of The Old Bailey’. 7th April 1851. Website. Online:
  26. Unassisted Passenger Lists.’ Passenger Records and Immigration (Melbourne), 1853. Public Record Office of Victoria. Online:
  27. ‘Testimonial to Mr John Cramp’. In Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser (Toowoomba, Qld. : 1858 – 1880), Wednesday 12 April 1865, page 3. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  28. Queensland Government. Family History Research Service: Historic births, deaths and marriages (website). Online:
  29. ‘Family Notices. Deaths.’ In The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842-1954), July 19 1866, page 1. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  30. ‘The Post Office at Banana’. In Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), Saturday 23 May 1868, page 4. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  31. ‘Rockhampton District Court. Civil Sittings. Friday 12th March.’ In Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1871), Saturday 13 March 1869, page 2. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  32. ‘Ibid.
  33. ‘Lecture on Labour’. In Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1871), Thursday 18 March 1869, page 2. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  34. ‘Legislative Assembly. Petitions’. In Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), Saturday 28 August 1869, page 7. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  35. ‘District Court. Civil Sittings.’ In Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1871), Tuesday 14 December 1869, page 2. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  36. Perry, Betty & Banana (Qld.) Council (2005). Two valleys – one destiny: A history of Banana, shire of opportunity’, p. 48. Banana Shire Council, Biloela, Qld.
  37. ‘The Death Of Mr Robert Fitzpatrick’. In Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1871), Tuesday 8 November 1870, page 2. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  38. Untitled. In Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1871), Thursday 24 November 1870, page 2. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  39. ‘Birth’. In Northern Argus (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1865 – 1874), Wednesday 15 February 1871, page 3. Online:
  40. Perry, Betty & Banana (Qld.) Council (2005). Two valleys – one destiny: A history of Banana, shire of opportunity’, p. 47. Banana Shire Council, Biloela, Qld.
  41. Queensland Government. Family History Research Service: Historic births, deaths and marriages (website). Online:
  42. Ibid.
  43. City of Ipswich. Ipswich History: Ipswich Founding Families. Early Settlers A-E (PDF). Online:
  44. ‘Ipswich Grammar School’. In: North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser (Ipswich, Qld. : 1856 – 1862), Tuesday 30 March 1858, page 1. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  45. ‘Ipswich Grammar School‘. In Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1846 – 1861), Wednesday 17 March 1858, page 4. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  46. ‘Education’. North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser (Ipswich, Qld. : 1856 – 1862), Friday 20 April 1860, page 1. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  47. ‘School of Arts Discussion Class.’ In North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser (Ipswich, Qld. : 1856 – 1862), Tuesday 3 January 1860, page 2. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  48. ‘Testimonial to Mr John Cramp’. In Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser (Toowoomba, Qld. : 1858 – 1880), Wednesday 12 April 1865, page 3. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  49. Queensland Government. Family History Research Service: Historic births, deaths and marriages (website). Online:
  50. Ibid.
  51. Ibid.
  52. ‘Stray Shots’. In Queensland Figaro and Punch (Brisbane, Qld. : 1885 – 1889), Saturday 23 January 1886, page 27. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  53. Perry, Betty & Banana (Qld.) Council (2005). Two valleys – one destiny: A history of Banana, shire of opportunity’, p. 48. Banana Shire Council, Biloela, Qld.
  54.  ‘Richard William Glode Douglas’. The Douglas Archives: A Collection of Historical and Genealogical Records (website). Online:
  55. ‘Died’. In Toowoomba Chronicle and Queensland Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1875), Wednesday 4 December 1867, page 2. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  56. ‘The Great Maintenance Case of Stephen v. Stephen’. In Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle (NSW : 1860 – 1870), Saturday 10 December 1870, page 3. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  57. ‘The Death of Mr Frank Stephen. Coroner’s Inquest.’ In Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), Tuesday 29 February 1876, page7. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
  58. ‘Banana’. In Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 – 1929), Saturday 8 January 1898, page 38. National Library of Australia. Trove (website). Online:
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Judith Salecich

Writer, researcher, former secondary and tertiary teacher and public servant, wife, mother, grandmother, child of God, photography enthusiast, lover of life, history, food and all things creative.

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28 thoughts on “Secrets from the Banana Cemetery”

  1. A very detailed and interesting account of the Banana cemetery and history of the region. I love reading about other people’s forays into genealogy in Queensland, being a native of the state as well. You have a great blog, and the use of the expanding sections keeps everything tidy. I look forward to reading more of your posts soon!

    • Dear Sarah. Thank you so much for your encouraging and helpful feedback. It sounds like you might be dabbling in genealogy yourself. I really appreciate your comments about the blog. I hope you continue to enjoy and follow up my posts. Best wishes, Judy.

  2. Congratulations Judy another well written and researched story. Really enjoy your blogs especially having grown up in country Qld. I have always loved walking through cemeteries and reading the inscriptions on the graves. So much history can be gleaned from them. Your story certainly brings life back to those old pioneers.

    Thank you for each story. I find much enjoyment in reading them.

    Happy writing to you and Tony.

    • Betty, how wonderful to hear from you and read your comments. I’m so pleased you appreciated the story and related to it. Cemeteries are such amazing places, aren’t they? Thanks for your encouragement to keep writing. Lots of love to you and Ian

  3. You are at it again Judy. What a history of Banana you have uncovered. You must
    have the patience of a saint collecting all this information. I went through Banana on
    our way to play gateball in Toowoomba. We stopped to have refreshments and it was
    nice to sit in the park. We intend to forget these folk who really established these small
    towns. It must have been hard for the women folk in those days. Thanks Judy for your
    work and giving us these stories.

    • Dear Margaret. I’m so encouraged to read your comments on “Secrets from the Banana Cemetery”. Yes, it is so easy to forget about the amazing contribution made by the early settlers of our towns and cities. I think they were incredibly courageous and tough. I have great admiration for them. Researching this story, and writing it, took quite some time, but it was really worth it. I’m so glad I did so. Lots of love to you and Nev, Judy. xx

  4. How interesting to find such a wonderful well researched and written story on Facebook. I grew up in the Baralaba area, until this read I had no idea Banana had a cemetery. My family used to travel to Banana for dances and drive home early hours of the morning. However, still up for a days work at the usual time. Enjoyed your work, thanks so much.

    • Dear Aileen. I’m so glad you found the link to my story “Secrets from the Banana Cemetery” on Facebook and took the time to read it. Clearly, you relate to it given that you grew up in the Baralaba area and your family went to Banana for the dances. The Banana Cemetery was well worth a visit and I’m so pleased I took the time to do some follow-up research. It was well worth the time and effort. I hope you will continue to follow and enjoy my historical stories (such as this one), which I post on this website and blog. My best wishes, Judy.

  5. What a fascinating history of Banana you have uncovered. My family had a property at Banana in the 1960’s and at that time the Sutherlands had the post office and the local telephone exchange. It was so interesting to read the history of a place where I grew up. Wonderfully researched, thank you. Elaine

    • Dear Elaine. Thank you so much for responding to my story and telling me about your connection to Banana. Yes, the town’s history is very interesting. It was most rewarding for me to research these three early residents and unearth so much of Banana’s early history. Thanks for your encouraging feedback. Kind regards, Judy.

  6. I love visiting cemeteries as well .Have you been to the Rannes Cemetary? There is a World War 1 digger buried there bur there are no head stone or markers to say where he was buried. He was a war hero in France and received a medal for bravery..The Goovigen Historical Society has asked the Council to do a monument for him and fir others that are buried there.
    although as thete ars no records l can only find two more that are buried there.

  7. Hello Judith, thank you for detailing the Banana cemetery. It was good to place some history to the names on some of the graves in Banana. It is a cemetery utilised by my family in the day.
    Regards, David Sutherland.

    • Dear David. Thanks for taking the time to read my story and to provide feedback. I photographed a number of Sutherland family graves when I visited the Banana cemetery last year. Would you like to tell me a little about your family members who are buried there? Kind regards, Judy.

    • Hello David,
      My name is Peter McCarthy, my mother is Anna Sutherland, Ernie and Eva’s only daughter. I would like to know more of my past and my ancestors. Having read your comment, perhaps we could get in touch with each other.

  8. Congratulations Judy on another wonderfully researched and engaging account of the early history of the wider CQ region.

    I had to smile at the quote, “Why … was it ever removed from the commodious building in which it was then conducted into the miserable hovel now in use, designated by courtesy a Post Office?”

    I recall almost exactly the same thing being said by many in Rockhampton after the closure of the post office at the corner of East and Denham Streets.

    • Steve, thank you for taking the time to provide feedback. I’m glad you appreciated this local history account. It was most intriguing to research! Yes, I was taken with that quote as well. So pertinent, and (I totally agree) relevant to the Rockhampton situation. Best wishes, Judy.

  9. I have just visited the Banana Cemetery I would have ancestors buried there in the name of Mary and Charlie Cue and maybe some Scullys . I enjoy reading your stories especially the Rannes one.

  10. Banana has been my home for so many years so naturally I think it’s a special place and Judith, have excelled in your research and the story of those 3 men. I am very passionate about Banana’s history and would just dearly love to have the opportunity to speak to David Sutherland and Donna Scully to see if they have any more I can add to what I already know. I supplied a couple of the photos in this article so my name is there. The school will be 150 in 2024 so no doubt there will be a celebration with the opening of the time capsule buried there 50 years ago. Would love to hear from anyone with news or photos of old Banana !

    • Hi Mrs B, I will be there, because for the life of me I can’t remember what I put into the time capsule.

  11. Loved reading this I am led to beleive that the Slater family also lived in Banana in the early days would love to know if my family name came up at all

  12. Hello Judith,
    Thank you for your article. I am in the process of trying to find more information about my husband’s ancestors. We know his two great great grandmothers, Laura Tanwan (Levy) and Elizabeth King (nee McCain or Kane) are buried there and have pictures of their gravestones, interestingly back to back. However we have drawn a blank in finding out about their husbands, Edwin Walter Tanwan and Thomas J King respectively. I have a barely legible funeral notice for Thomas which reads:
    Funeral Notices
    The Friends of ELIZA KING are respectfully invited to attend the Funeral of her beloved Husband (THOMAS) to leave from his late residence, corner of Bowen and Kent streets, THIS AFTERNOON at 3 o’clock.
    Undertakers, Adelaide Street
    but there is no date. As Eliza died in 1883 aged 45 years, it would seem if the Thomas King in the funeral notice is one and the same,he must have died prior to that, Eliza and Thomas’ son John ‘Jack’ King and his wife Laura Elizabeth (neeTanwan) did live in Bowen Street. They are both buried in the Rockhampton South Cemetery.
    Are you able to shed any more light on Thomas King who came from Ireland via Geelong I believe and Edwin Tanwan who we believe came from Amoy, China and is connected to the Cue family.
    I also have one report that suggests that after Thomas died or deserted his family (the funeral notice seems ti dispel that latter), that Eliza entered a de facto relationship with Charlie Ah Hongie and they had four more children together.
    Any information would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you

    • Hi Roslyn, I am a descendant of the King family. I still have Laura’s last will and testament, and an invitation written to her for a B and S Ball. I also have some photographs. I remember as a child a man by the name of Mac Allison would visit my grandparents house. I would like to get more involved in my heritage also.
      Peter McCarthy

  13. Hello Peter,
    My husband is John Allison. Malcolm Allison (“Mac”) was my husband’s uncle. My husband’s father, Hugh, was the elder son of Rhena Maud Margaret King and Andrew Amrit Allison and they lived in Gladstone. So your great grandmother, May and John’s grandmother, Rhena were sisters.
    I was interested to hear your connections and would love to see your photographs and documents. We currently live in Rockhampton and have visited both the South and North Rockhampton cemeteries where many of the Kings are buried but have not visited the Gladstone cemetery. I have been trying to draw up a family tree – a bit of an organised mess I’m afraid but it is growing as I find out more. We also have been sharing details with the daughter of Mavis Allison (Hugh and Mac’s sister), Lesley and Werner Tolsdorf.
    You can email me at
    Thanks to Judith and her blog for facilitating this link up.
    Kind regards
    Roslyn Allison

  14. Peter John McCarthy. Hi, I am Karen Land. I am the great grand daughter of Laura Elizabeth Tan Wan and John King, and granddaughter of Victor John (Mickey) King. Of course, I had no idea of this until I saw my DNA August 2021. I have the photo of your mother Anna, your grandmother and great grandmother. I have been speaking to my Clarke cousins who know your immediate family and Mickey King. I can see where your Dad passed 10/1/2020 and that is where my hunt stops. Would love to make contact with your mum Anna who I am guessing is my age and also, you and your sister Louise.
    Hoping to meet soon, Regards Karen.

  15. Thank you for the research you did on this article.

    I was researching my mothers family history around Rockhampton but found out that Richard Douglas is my great+++ grandfather.

    To find out this information about him is so interesting. Bless you.

    Yours sincerely
    Mark Steven Douglas


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