In September 2009, I spent two days walking the ruins of Port Arthur and reading every sign and listening to every audio. I was mesmerised. I am not usually one for being glued to headphones and traipsing meekly behind a tour guide, but just this once I relented, and took the ferry out to The Isle of the Dead. I have book-ended this 'In Memoriam' with two shots of 'the penitentiary', the public face of the penal settlement. This opening image is from within the penitentiary, looking across to the wharf from which the ferry departed. The final image is the scene from the ferry as we returned from our sojourn on the island.
William Mansfield, died 28th February 1858, aged 32 years.
Port Arthur is at the end of the earth. It must have felt like that in 1830, as it still feels like that today. See this rugged coastline. It winds down and down and down ... past the furthest point you can see. Past your own imagining. This is where you were sent as further punishment if you stole a loaf of bread, were sentenced to transportation, and became recalcitrant. They would teach you your place!
The Revd George Eastman, for 26 years the faithful chaplin of Tasman's Peninsula and at other institutions, died 25th April 1870, aged 51 years.
Benjamin Horne, Esq., Headmaster, School Point Puer, died 27 December 1843, aged 33 years. Sincerely regretted by all who knew him.
It is a small island, just a couple of hundred metres off the settlement, but surrounded by the Southern Ocean and its roaring gales, or the impenetrable bush of southern Van Diemen's Land, as Tasmania was known for many years. It was used as a burial ground, and retains that sole purpose to this day. Between 1833 and 1877 approximately one thousand souls were laid to rest here. As you can imagine, a reverential hush descends upon even garrulous tourists, the instant they step onto the island, a reverence for human endurance under the most trying of hells-on-earth.
Social distinctions were observed, and the free were interred in the north-western corner. Several memorials are still evident in this section, but most of the island is bare of headstones as it was forbidden for markers to be placed on convict graves. With one thousand sites on such a small island, no matter where you tread is sacred ground.
In memory of Ann, wife of Michael Gibbons of 21st Royal North British Fusiliers, died 20th June 1838, aged 27 years. Leaving an affectionate husband and two children to lament her loss.
Private Robert Young, 51st King's Own Light Infantry, who was accidently drowned at Port Arthur in the performance of his military duties, 9th March 1840, aged 20 years. This stone was erected by his comrades as a memorial of their respect and esteem.
And so we return, leaving this isle of sorrowing dead to their bleak eternity.
|This is my contribution to the Taphophile Tragics community.|