The ‘hidden’ people

RIGHT: Keith Cole cares for the grave of Benjamin Sellers, of Myrtle Creek.
RIGHT: Keith Cole cares for the grave of Benjamin Sellers, of Myrtle Creek. Samantha Elley

FINAL resting places and memorials vary and, sadly, are sometimes lost in time and geography.

Families move on or die out, leaving behind memorials of loved ones that can become forgotten, and the stories of the people they represent fade.

I went on a fact-finding tour around the readership area to see what we could find out about some of these "hidden" people.

First stop was a lonely, single memorial cross in the dunes just north of Airforce Beach at Evans Head.

It is marked simply Edward "Ted" Probert 28-7-1942 - 2-10-2002.

His daughter, Eileen Stewart, still lives in the area and explained that Mr Probert died just over 12 years ago after a sudden heart attack on the beach.

"The cross has been there ever since," she said. "He was a huge fisherman and had loads of local mates.

"The cross is pretty accurate to where he died."

Ms Stewart said her dad's best mate, a policeman, and a first aid teacher who was jogging by, came to his assistance, as did the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter.

 

'Old Ben Sellers ... will be much missed'

ON THE property of Brenda Pitman, near Myrtle Creek, is a small grave hidden across two paddocks, through a barbed-wire fence and in some undergrowth near the creek.

It belongs to Benjamin Sellers, the 64-year-old previous owner of the property where the grave stands. "He owned a boarding house," local Keith Cole said. Mr Cole has been helping to maintain the isolated grave.

"And then he built a hotel on the opposite side of the street."

Mr Sellers was a well-known character on the Lawrence and Casino Rd for travellers, according to his obituary in The Northern Star, January 12, 1878.

"Old Ben Sellars (sic) ... will be much missed," it reads. "He was a very old resident at Myrtle Creek."

 

The sad end of the life of war veteran Walter Derrett

ONE of the saddest stories we discovered was just off the Summerland Way, also at Myrtle Creek, where the last resting place of Walter Derrett was situated in a travelling stock reserve near the river.

Mr Derrett was an ex-serviceman who had served in South Africa and the Great War, but then committed suicide in 1928, his final actions being reported in a number of newspapers on the day.

"A determined suicide was committed on Good Friday night by an old man named Walter Derrett, by drowning in Myrtle Creek above the bridge at the rear of Mr J. Gulliver's home," the Richmond River Express and Casino Kyogle Advertiser reported on April 11, 1928.

The paper said Mr Derrett had written a letter to Constable Davey, of Rappville, which was timed to reach the officer after the troubled man had taken his life.

Const Davey hurried to the site to find, as stated in the letter, a neatly packed camp in a buggy with a tent fly over it. By Easter Monday Mr Gulliver discovered Mr Derrett floating face down a couple of hundred metres from the campsite.

 

Broken tombstone is the only remaining memorial

MANY cemeteries have since closed or fallen into disuse in the area, including those at Woodburn, Wyan and the Old Tabulam cemetery at the Tabulam Golf Course. Within well-known cemeteries there are the forgotten graves that no longer are maintained by volunteers or family members.

At Casino General Cemetery on West St, a broken tombstone covered in dead foliage and surrounded by an iron fence is the only physical memorial left of a young lad named David Skinner.

The 19-year-old man from Yorklea had been found dead in a paddock a short distance from his parents' farm on the morning of Tuesday, July 30, 1912.

From what the police were able to ascertain at the time, David had gone riding on horseback to do some shooting with his double-barrelled, muzzle-loading gun. A coronial inquest found David Skinner had accidentally shot himself in the chest, while possibly cleaning his gun. If you know of other unknown or forgotten graves you'd like to tell us about, call our office on 6662 2666.