The engraving is fading on the life of Mr Herbert Duncan, at his grave in Alstonville cemetery.
The engraving is fading on the life of Mr Herbert Duncan, at his grave in Alstonville cemetery. Samantha Elley

Mystery death takes father of two at young age

THE words on the gravestone are getting harder to read as it is now over 107 years since Herbert Duncan died.

He was only a young man of 26 years of age, married with two young children, and seemingly his whole life ahead of him.

The Jiggi resident, however,after working in his garden during the day and having had his evening meal, complained of feeling unwell.

The Byron Bay Record reported Mr Duncan had taken a pillow out onto the verandah.

"To his wife, who came out almost immediately, he complained of difficulty in getting his breath,” the paper reported.

"His wife raised him to a sitting position, when he suddenly expired.”

The death was so sudden and unexpected that an inquest was held by coroner Mr C. F. Butler.

Mr Butler found that Mr Duncan had died from natural causes due to heart disease.

Mr Duncan was born in 1884 to one of Alstonville's earliest settlers, Mr James Duncan.

In 1889, when Herbert would have been five-years-old, during a fierce storm in their new home on the plateau, the Duncan family had a close call when lightning struck their kitchen.

"It appears that Mr (James) Duncan was in the kitchen, and the rest of the family were in the house close by when the lightning struck the kitchen,” The Northern Star reported.

"Mr Duncan took refuge in the fireplace when he felt the building toppling over, and although he was partially stunned by being struck on the head by some of the debris, he escaped further injury.”

The family moved to Nimbin in the new century and Herbert married Anne Edith Garrard in 1906.

She remarried two years after the death of her first husband.


  • 'Death of Mr Herbert Duncan', The Byron Bay Record, Saturday, October 29, 1910, Page 8.
  • 'Coroner's Inquiry', Northern Star, Tuesday, October 25, 1910, Page 2.
  • New South Wales, Australia, Registers of Coroners' Inquests, 1821-1937,, Accessed December 12, 2017.
  • 'Alstonville', The Northern Star, Saturday, December 7, 1889, Page 4.