Since retiring from teaching I have written 4 books to encourage children to love and accept themselves and develop emotional resilience. They are available as e-books from www.TheNewChildrenSeries.com
Published August 30th 2016
For Those Who Love History
Maybe I'm odd but I love exploring old cemeteries, preferably when they are set in beautiful rural areas.
As I read the inscriptions on gravestones I get a sense of the way life used to be for our pioneers and early settlers; I share the sadness and the struggles of those who succumbed to epidemics, sometimes with their whole families, or to accidents and thankfully, a few to old age.
The rainforest setting of the Historic Tumbulgum Cemetery.
The Tumbulgum Historic Cemetery is a little different to others I've visited. Firstly, it's accessed by climbing quite steep steps, set in a secluded patch of beautiful subtropical rainforest, across the road from a stretch of the Rous River.
Secondly, the nature of the natural environment has caused the materials to deteriorate and it's really difficult to read the inscriptions on most tombstones. There are also a number of unmarked graves giving no information about the person whose last resting place is in the rainforest.
Some of the unmarked graves.
The North Tumbulgum Cemetery is recognised as the oldest cemetery in the Tweed Valley (1883-1947). The six and a half acres of land were donated by Alexander Logan, a sea captain who also established the 'Junction Inn'. The area was called The Junction until 1880, when residents successfully petitioned the government to have it changed to Tumbulgum, the aboriginal word for 'Meeting of the Waters'.
The original inhabitants, the Moorung-Moobar Clan had flourished in the area for tens of thousands of years in an environment that was abundant with edible plants, aquatic life and all the raw materials they needed to thrive. That changed drastically in 1842 when cedar-getters arrived from Moreton Bay. You can read the raised information signs about the early history of the area as you make your way leisurely up the steps to the cemetery.
An information sign about the original inhabitants.
It's possible the Aborigines of the area staged the first environmental protest.
The following is written on one of the information signs headed Explorers and Cedar Getters; "The pioneer cedar cutters of the Tweed were Burgess and party from Moreton Bay, with Paddy Smith, Jack Wright and Richard Kay from Sydney. The party from Sydney arrived in 1844 and found Burgess and party surrounded by 400 blacks. On the appearance of armed reinforcements from Sydney the blacks vanished and the demolition of the cedar began." First Settlers Centenary Supplement 1823-1923
There were many documented burials prior to the consecration of the Tumbulgum Cemetery in1883 and it appears many were on the land Alexander Logan later donated for a cemetery. The wheels of government turned slowly and locals were forced to bury their loved ones on land that was made available even though it wasn't an official cemetery at the time.
The first documented burial was in 1873 for Christina McLeod, an infant who died of drowning. By the time the cemetery closed in 1947, 150 burials were recorded. Between 1873 and 1890 there are 47 recorded burials but only two headstones remain from that time; those of Alexander Logan (15th September 1888 aged 58) and his infant daughter Christina Sarah Logan (12th April 1877).
The headstone of Captain Alexander Logan.
The official cemetery plans divided the site into seven separate areas for the various religious faiths as well as allocating a General and Independents section. However, because of the rugged terrain and the earlier use of the site, it appears most burials took place on the most accessible and convenient sites.
The internet Cemetery Records site www.interment.net lists 111 burials at the Tumbulgum Cemetery up until 1911. There were numerous recorded deaths of babies and infants and of the adults buried there, only a handful were born in Australia.
It's a poignant reminder that many of our early settlers and pioneers had ventured here for a better life or been transported at Her Majesty's pleasure; whatever the reason they are now part of the history of the Tweed Valley.
Sculpture of a Cedar Getter by Ian Shaw, in Knox Park Murwillumbah.
The early development of Tumbulgum was built on the cutting and transport of cedar but by mid-1900, the best timber had been depleted and the railway had come to Murwillumbah. The focus for settlers moved south too and it was decided there was no longer a need for the Tumbulgum Cemetery.
The site of the Tumbulgum Cemetery is rugged and not suitable for anyone unsteady on their feet. However, it is a lot easier to access now than it was prior to 1993, when the Landcare Environment Action Program, administered by the Murwillumbah Youth Enterprise Scheme began restoration work.
The Project Team designed and built the car park wall, seats, rest areas and conducted research for the information signs.
Some of the facilities provided by the restoration team in 1993.
In 1993 the team found the natural vegetation, such as brush-box and rainforest species had gradually reclaimed the land and the headstones and the entire burial site was in a state of disrepair. Many headstones and grave surrounds required extensive rebuilding and restoration and this was completed to the best of their ability, to preserve this historical site for future generations.
Original rainforest species were replanted, including the Bird Wing vine, necessary for the breeding of the endangered Richmond River Bird Wing Butterfly.
The Historic Tumbulgum Cemetery is in Dulguigan Rd. North Tumbulgum NSW about 13km north of Murwillumbah and 16km south of Tweed Heads. At Tumbulgum cross the Tweed River via the Terranora Bridge and the road will loop back under the bridge. It's a bit tricky so I suggest you use 'Maps' on your phone, as I did.