First Bimble in Alice Springs
We pulled into Alice Springs at twenty past one, the doors opened and the heat snuck in. Air-conditioning gave way to thirty eight degrees Centigrade, with only fifteen per cent humidity. We left the Ghan, thanking the lovely team who had taken care of us, bade our farewells to our fellow passengers and off we went with Sarah, who was heading the same way as us. Bear reassured me our motel was not too far..... Mmm, heard that before but as he was pulling our case, off we went at a gentle bimble.
Three camels graced the end of the station.
I couldn’t get Bear and Sarah to pose with the camels, so as they chatted, bimbled and got a little ahead of me, I crept across the road for a quick look at Stuart Memorial Cemetery. Sadly, the Owned and cared for by the local Council has been poor to say the very least, but in I went.
“The burial place lay half a mile to the west of the settlement, and is marked by two old iron-bark trees, through the leaves of which the wind utters a mournful sighing”. Sister Jean Finlayson, Life and Journeyings in Central Australia, 1925.
Sister Jean Finlayson arrived in 1915, and as the town’s first official Nursing Sister, she saw for herself the pain and suffering of those who became ill or injured. Accidents and illnesses were often life-threatening and fatal. The nearest medical facilities were in Oodnadatta or Marree, ten days journey by horse and buggy. The tasks and demands on her must have been overwhelming at times.
Services did not exist until the opening of Adelaide House in 1926. The town’s first Resident Medical Officer was not appointed until 1934. Commercial flights began in the late 1930’s, the train pulled in in 1939. The hospital also opened in 1939 and in the same year the Royal Flying Doctor Base was established in the town.
The cemetery as it was in 1960 prior to the establishment of the Industrial Area.
Alice Springs was initially known as ‘Stuart’, in honour of the explorer John McDouall Stuart, to distinguish it from the Alice Springs Telegraph Station. (The Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve marks the original site of the first European settlement in Alice Springs. Established in 1872 to relay messages between Darwin and Adelaide, it is the best preserved of the 12 stations along the Overland Telegraph Line. Construction of this Telegraph Station began in 1871. The township of Alice Springs takes its name from the waterhole a short distance to the east of the Station buildings. The Telegraph Station operated for sixty years, and then served as a school for Aboriginal children, known as The Bungalow). However, the town was widely referred to as ‘Alice Springs’ which resulted in much confusion for many years, Eventually, the town’s name was changed to Alice Springs in 1933.
When the Town of Stuart was first surveyed in 1888, no provision was made for a cemetery. The death of Fred Spicer in a riding accident in November 1889, (whilst he was inspecting cattle for Elders on Undoolya Station), prompted authorities in Adelaide to act and the Cemetery Reserve was formally proclaimed in August 1890. Burials continued in the cemetery until the opening of the Alice Springs General Cemetery in 1933.
George Henry Medworth, (behind Fred – centre of the picture) was a cook in Alice Springs. To his right is Anne Beatrice Raggatt, she was the wife of storekeeper, teamster and pastoralist Fred Raggatt. She died of typhoid which broke out in Stuart, and on the Artlunga and Winnecke Goldfields in 1903.
Tribute to Frank: “The men who move away from the beaten tracks of civilisation in Australia to look for gold carry their lives insecurely in their hands. Like sailors, they never know when they’ll return. The hideous, inhospitable desert stretches for hundreds of arid miles, the sun glares pitilessly through the long day, sucking up the scanty, precious water, upon which so much depends......
After piloting his little band through vicissitudes and dangers, and weakened by anxiety and hardship, he died almost at the time his friends and relatives were rejoicing in his safety”.
The dangers of early life in remote Australia was eloquently captured by this tribute to Frank Rees George, which appeared in the August 1906 edition of the Public Service Review.
James (Jim) Cummings – pastoralist and horse racing enthusiast. He is actually buried along Ellery Creek west of Alice Springs. He is the great uncle of legendary horse trainer Bart Cummings.
Frank Rees George – geologist, explorer and mining engineer. George Crescent was named in his honour.
The Stuart Town Cemetery is a declared heritage place, on the NT Heritage Register.......... It is important as the last resting place for many of the town’s early settlers. The ages and causes of death highlight the unforgiving nature of the Central Australian environment. Although there are only thirteen graves here, it is thought that there may be up to seventy one people buried in the cemetery.
Around the corner the information boards were in a poorly condition.
We bade farewell to Sarah at the next corner and walked past Coles – what a great wall mural.
We walked along Railway Terrace to the Desert Rose Inn, Beds was soon settled in and we took a cool drink to the little pool. An early night after showers, as our pick-up on the morrow is 05:41.
ALL IN ALL WONDERFUL TO BE HERE
A WARM AND DRY TOWN