Stones Tell Tales

Dr Bernadette Drabsch has spent the week touring Central Darling Shire as part of her flagship project, “Stories behind the Stones.”

The project, costing $45,455, is funded by a Heritage NSW Community Heritage Grant in partnership with Central Darling Shire Council.

“The project aims to unravel stories from the region’s pioneer cemeteries and include these in the Central Darling Heritage Trail app, which was launched in March this year with great success,” read a press release from Central Darling Shire Council.

“The piecing together of family histories is a growing interest for many Australians. The study of family ancestry is increasingly popular as people want to know about their ancestors,” the statement added.

Initially, the Central Darling Heritage Trail App received funding for Wilcannia, White Cliffs, and Menindee. However, the new funding allows the project to feature Ivanhoe’s pioneer cemetery as well.

The app was designed and developed by Dr Drabsch and Mr Churcher, along with students and staff from the University of Newcastle.

Dr Drabsch told the Truth that, with the Menindee, Ivanhoe and Wilcannia workshops being conducted this week, and White Cliffs’ workshop being conducted today, “the project is in its early days, but I’ve had some phone calls and emails from community members, and I’m very happy that they’ve got in contact before I’ve been out there.”

The completed project will allow residents and visitors to access historical information about specific individuals buried in those communities, and will allow users to tour those cemeteries at their own pace.

Dr Drabsch has said some interesting stories have already come to light, just in the week she has been in the Far West.

“In Menindee, Edward Ford was buried in about 1866, and he was a surveyor and draftsman of the Darling River Survey Team,” an intrigued Dr Drabsch said.

She went on to say that he was married to Helena Scott, who is quite famous for her impressive natural history artworks. Edward was also a talented artist, Dr Drabsch noted.

The pair married in 1864 and came to Menindee for a surveyor trip the following year, however, they both caught Typhoid.

“Helena recovered, but Edward died, and it’s tragic because they were beautiful artists together and they were only married for a year,” Dr Drabsch mentioned.

The app, which will be free for users on Apple and Android phones, will hold the completed project in April 2025.

In the meantime, Dr Drabsch urges anyone who has information or photos about anyone who had an interesting life story within the featured cemeteries to contact her via email at [email protected].

She concluded by noting that “we’re mainly focusing on people who died before 1970 because we don’t want to offend grieving families, but if those families would like to include more recent stories, we would definitely consider it.”

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