Thursday, 23 January 2014

SUFFER THE LITTLE BUSH CHILDREN

GEORGINA, CONSTANCE, MY GRANDMOTHER.

When I thought about writing this blog I knew it was going to be distressing. The death of children is heart rending for everyone. But just imagine what it was like in the Australian outback one hundred years ago when a child got injured or took ill.

No doctor for a hundred miles; a trip that involved a ride in a buggy over a barely formed road. If you could get to a doctor in time he couldn’t have done anything for infectious diseases that were still around like diphtheria.
 Certainly he could give pain relief (usually opium), set broken bones or do a basic operation. At the turn of the century, one third of the deaths in the vast region of North Queensland (where the family had settled), were children under ten.  Most deaths were from dysentery, scarlet fever and diphtheria.  
John Clark as you can remember had already lost his first wife and their baby girl. Enough was enough you’d think. Unfortunately, tragedy would strike again and it struck twice. Esther and John Clark had had four girls over the years, Jane Florence (my grandmother), Minnie Maud, Georgina and Constance Isabel.
In 1889 Georgina aged five died from a ruptured appendix and in 1892, Constance died from diphtheria. They both died at the Lornesleigh homestead and were buried near the stockyards. Their headstones are still there despite flood waters having passed over them several times. To see your children die is suffering beyond belief and then having to bury them on top of that. How do you keep functioning? I guess, in those days you had to keep going or you gave up and died. For Esther and John, they kept going.
I remember as a kid at Lornesleigh looking at the ornate headstones of the two girls side by side, the graves covered in old seashells. I thought about the two girls and wondered how life would have turned out for them if they had lived. I still think about them occasionally. Probably always will.   
GRAVES OF THE TWO GIRLS.