Shadows of the Past 2016
Not sure what the neighbours who live near the McLeod Street Pioneer Cemetery think, when suddenly one night there are eerie lights wandering through there, band music sounding from within and the Curlews objecting loudly to the intrusion on their space.
Two people were walking by when one was heard to say, ‘are there ghosts in there?’ with the other replying ‘there’s no such thing as ghosts, just keep walking!!’
But luckily it was just our Shadows of the Past dramatised walks. A fully-booked season again this year with all of our 8 walks sold out before we commenced the first one.
Our two young MCs – “Myrtle Barty” and “Gregory Huddy“ – greeted the audience outside the gates and gave a short story of their lives and then invited the audience to ‘come, follow us‘.
As the gates creaked open the audience was led around the cemetery to meet just a few of the pioneers buried there. Cairns Brass accompanied the audience with music that was selected to complement the stories told.
So please, come follow me and hear about how we put these walks together and meet some of the pioneers.
There are 2501 people buried in McLeod Street with such stories to tell about their lives, some of course we will never be able to find a lot of information on. Cynthia Edwards and I select between 10 and 12 pioneers from the research that CDFHS holds on them. We then try to add more information, such as where they were living and their family etc. and then we select the pathway to take through the cemetery.
We have a wonderful Director, Avril Duck, who does a tremendous job each year in gathering community actors together. They select the Pioneer from our list that they are happy to represent and so rehearsals begin. This usually commences about 10 weeks prior and they visit many Op Shops to find their costumes.
Once we have that together, then Cairns Brass find the music that suits the story being told.
Cairns Brass ready for rehearsals
Condensing the information we have on some of the pioneers down to a 3 to 5 minute story is quite a task, but our director and actors somehow achieve this with amazing success.
The first pioneer for the evening was Ebenezer Cowley 1849-1899, a very distinguished gentleman. A man with a colourful history, a man well-travelled and with his keen observation and love of his work, he possessed a thorough knowledge of horticulture. He was at one time manager of the Kamerunga Nursery.
Mr Henry Emmons 1865 – 1912, was a hairdresser, advertised as a ‘fashionable hairdresser of Abbott Street and lately from Paris” a well-loved successful, if slightly eccentric, businessman in Cairns who loved to write poetry. Not in the same class as perhaps Kipling or Yeats, but more along the lines of…
“O, Barbara,” ‘ the barber sighed,
“This scissor time to speak ;
If you won’t be my hone true bride
I’ll dye without a squeak.”
At the grave of Michael Hickey 1853-1901 and Mary Nelson 1870-1903, we met Mary, a brave pioneer woman from far away who made her life in Far North Queensland. After her husband Michael died, she married George Nelson. Michael and Mary owned the Bellenden Ker Hotel at Harvey Creek.
A tall stone marked the grave of two young souls who barely skimmed the near edge of adulthood, Nelly Walsh 1880-1904 and her brother Callaghan. Though they didn’t see a long life, this young woman Nelly would not want you to lament for her.
The next grave marked the final resting place of the two husbands of Mary Parker – John Parker and Alexander Rennie Craig. Mary told the story of her first husband John, his life, his tragic death and her terrible ordeal.
Young people often have the saddest of stories but not this one, little Louisa (Lotte) Long 1889-1899. She rests beneath the stones as lively as she was in life to tell the story of her parents Henry and Marianne.
Here Anna Jorgensen tells of the accident and passing of Alfred Arnold, 1869-1914, a marine officer who met a tragic death while hunting for orchids.
A cheeky ghost, Charlotte Real, who says she is his sister, although we can’t be sure of that, certainly sang the praises of William Real, 1858-1912, a newspaper man of note.
A horseman, a trooper, someone who didn’t make history, but someone who saw it happen. Charles Wyatt 1871-1902, saw the seeds of our modern political landscape sewn as class conflict moved through the outback.
Two were buried in this grave, mother and daughter. Harriet Roebuck 1837-1917 and Dora Gladwell 1870-1909. Harriet told the story of her beautiful and successful daughter, Dora and said they are happy there for eternity together.
The Tall Man, The One Spirit told of the plight of Polly and that he had come to take her home.
The Tall Man, The One Spirit
Cairns and District Family History Society were proudly supported by Cairns Cultural Services this year, for which we give a huge thank you. Another huge thank you to the Cairns Brass, an integral part of our walks who managed to be there for us with all of their other commitments at the opening of Munro Martin Parkland and the start of Cairns Festival, and also to White Lady Funerals who printed our programs.
Thank you to the actors, and our members who helped during the performances and thank you the audience.
There are many more stories to tell.
Photography by Michael Watt.