Posted by on June 8, 2012 in Australia, Grave Tales

One of the great things about researching your family tree is the stories you come across. But there are stories to be found all over the place, if you know where to look. Ancestry’s Brad has been digging around local graveyards (pardon the pun), uncovering some wonderful stories that start with a headstone in a cemetery…

William Hird came to Sydney in July of 1882 on board the Samuel Plimsoll.  With him were his wife, Isabella and their six children (three boys and three girls).  Originally from Scotland, the Hirds spent some time in Yorkshire before making their way to Australia.

A sergeant with the East Riding police before immigrating, upon arrival William enlisted in the local constabulary and was stationed at Canterbury, about 12 kilometres south west of Sydney.

He was on duty until about 1am on the morning of August 13, 1885.  He became involved in scuffle with two men – Joseph Thompson and Ellis Birch – and one axe.  It didn’t end well for William.  His body was found later that morning just off the bridge that spans the Cook’s River in Canterbury.

William was a much loved member of the, then small, community.  On the following Saturday afternoon William Hird, 32, was laid to rest in the Cemetery attached to St. Paul’s Anglican Church.  There were over 400 mourners in attendance.

But the grave stone in the picture tells an even sadder story.  William’s wife Isabella had already endured the loss of their youngest child, John, shortly after their arrival in Sydney in 1882.  Three months after William’s death her eldest son, George, also passed away.

Isabella too ‘shuffled off this mortal coil’ though she was to live for another 37 years.

When I come across headstones like this I pause to think, not only about the tragedy of lives cut short, but of the enduring burden of grief for those left to remember.

This article first appeared on The Inside History Magazine blog. You can read more of Brad’s Grave Tales here.