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Letter: Australians Would Be Surprised By Our Off-Hand Attitude to Historic Remains

Published on: 23 Feb, 2019
Updated on: 23 Feb, 2019

Admiral Sir James Stirling, the first governor of Western Australia

From Sue Haackman

In response to: Can You Help Solve Mystery of Admiral’s Lost Bones?

Australians may well be surprised by our off-hand attitude to old bones. Australians keep track of their past and cherish remembrance.

I discovered this when I chased my Victorian convict ancestor across the planet to Hobart in Tasmania. Within 24 hours, I knew where his ship had docked (right outside my hotel window) where he spent his first five nights, who acquired his convict services for the next 13 years, the day he was released, who he married and where, and what children he had.

I even visited the farm, still there, where he first broke the soil (he was a ploughman) and followed him where he escaped after 13 years to the gold rush in Australia. He sprung a friend from a prison cell and stole a gold weighing machine and somehow escaped re-conviction, ran a market garden in his old age and died of cirrhosis of the liver in Castlemaine hospital.

At Castlemaine, I was led by a sexton clutching his original Victorian burial book, up a hill in a disused cemetery to find my ancestor buried in a pauper’s grave under a sweetheart tree. That was William Whyers Tasker, my ancestor.

Researching convict past in Australia is a joy because the whole country is busy conserving its past even as it is eroding. It is, in fact, a shallow past of under 200 years and it is going to be one of the best-conserved cultures on earth.

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Responses to Letter: Australians Would Be Surprised By Our Off-Hand Attitude to Historic Remains

  1. Wes Herold Reply

    March 1, 2021 at 10:40 am

    In response to Sue Haackman.

    I found this article by accident. It seems that your William Whyers Tasker is also the grandfather of my grandmother Olive Lorna Tasker. She was killed in a car crash outside Ballarat in 1955, visiting her sister after the death of her husband that year.

    Now I know why there is a connection to this part of Victoria. Olive was the granddaughter of William and Mary Ann Kennedy. I have found gold not far from this cemetery on trips to Victoria from Canberra and when I return I would like to visit William’s grave.

    Do you have a contact for that Sexton who can show me where the grave is also, or can you direct me by email?

    Kindest regards

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