Exhumations by lamp light

Posted: December 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

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When you start off researching a book like this, you never know which paths you’ll end up heading down. Below is one of the stranger threads of the story — it’s from Chapter Nine…

****

grave“The Royal Commission concluded at 3.30pm. The lawyers packed their cases and left the courthouse for the last time. The commissioners still had much work ahead of them.
On the same day, a new tale of gothic horror found its way into the Tasmanian press.
A week earlier a Hobart woman named Ada Valentine had received a letter in the mail from a man she did not know; a gravedigger named George Young. Young explained that he had, until the start of January, been employed as a gravedigger at the Queenborough cemetery at Sandy Bay. He had urgent and important business to discuss with her — could she please meet him at the cemetery between 5pm and 6pm?
The woman had relatives buried at the cemetery, and decided to go. Her 10-year-old sister, Sarah Florence Valentine, had been buried in the cemetery only five months ago; perhaps there was an issue with the family plot. She met Young at the cemetery gates, and he told her that two coffins had been exhumed from her family plot to make room for her sister’s coffin.
Young had done this himself, he was sorry to say, but only under the direct instructions of his superior, the caretaker George Luckman. Removing older coffins to make room for new burials was done in other parts of the cemetery; he had been ordered to do it more than once.
The woman was shocked.
“What happened to the two coffins?” she asked.
“They were burnt,” Young answered. “I will show you.”
He led her about 20 paces away from the grave to the remains of a bonfire. Among the ashes and rubbish were pieces of wood, clearly broken from several different coffins.
“These all belonged to various people,” Young said, looking down at the shattered coffins.
He led her a little further to another pile of ash and rubbish, and said, “Under here lie many more.”
(Continue reading)…

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