Tuesday, 24 May 2016

A Little Bush Grave…

August 1911 – 24 May 1912

One spring day last year, during a weekend at my family home in Sandy Point, I went on one of my customary walks around the area.  Sandy Point is a quiet little settlement on Victoria’s southern coastline, tucked in the shadow of Wilson’s Promontory.  Come summer, it is a bustling holiday centre, but in early spring the few permanent residents share their home with just the local birds and wildlife, and the pristine beach is almost deserted.  This is how I love it.
Walking along Ryan’s Rise, I stopped to pick a bunch of the fragrant white freesias which grew thickly along the roadside and into the grounds of the neighbouring empty holiday homes.  A lady coming towards me walking her dog paused to exchange a greeting and a comment on my task.
“They’re lovely, aren’t they,” she said. “ You know they are supposed to have come from a baby’s grave?” 
“Yes” I replied, “I do know that…”

Ryan's Rise, Sandy Point
© Katrina Vincent 2015

104 years ago today, little Eric Hastings Pilkington, not quite 9 months old, succumbed to pneumonia and passed away.  In due course, he was laid to rest in a little bush grave lovingly prepared by his father, my grandfather.  A wooden frame surrounded by a strong wire fence was built to mark the spot, and buffalo grass planted in the newly-turned soil.  When my grandmother recovered from the same illness, she planted freesia bulbs from her own garden at the gravesite. 

The site was chosen on Crown bushland adjoining my grandparents home, easily reached by a meandering track from the house.  Over the ensuing years, the freesias and buffalo grass naturalised and spread so that 50 years later, when the Crown land was sold to developers and subdivided for holiday sites, no trace remained of the exact location of the little grave.   My father estimated that the road was constructed over the actual gravesite.

Some months after baby Eric’s death, my grandmother recorded the following in her diary.  Her writing indicates her desire to keep little Eric’s memory alive, and I hope that my tribute will help to preserve this little piece of history.

© Katrina Vincent 2015
September 6th 1912:  In writing this diary I am not pledging myself to write daily or even weekly –     perhaps not monthly. Sometimes life goes on uneventfully for months at a time – at other times events crowd thick and fast, and some of them one wants to remember and if some record is not kept, time dims them and in trying to think back, one is amazed & often sorry to find that much that would have been better remembered has grown faint in ones memory. It might be so with the little life that came into existence in Aug of 1911 & passed away to God again on May 24th 1912, & left such a blank in our lives, we miss him so sadly.  Sometimes I think the pain grows greater as time goes on.  He is never out of my thoughts & some days I have many sad hours & I yearn for him though I know everything that we could give him on earth would be as nothing compared with the full life of Eternity into which he entered almost before his life here was really begun.  He was such a joy such a bonny sturdy brown-eyed smiling little son.  Even through his illness he did not waste at all as our darling Haughton did.  So much that I did not see - the others have told me of spasms of pain & suffering & how for three hours before he died his eyes were fixed above. My little lamb – I was ill when he was dying & strange hands did everything for him.  My last recollection is of the day after Nurse came, 22nd Wednesday, lying in the cot beside my bed with his beautiful brown eyes wide open & his wee hands playing with the fringe of his shawl. The pneumonia had left him then & we all thought he was getting better but God had other plans & that night he changed & sank gradually.  I did not miss him fully until after Belle went home & then oh shall I ever forget the empty rooms & the silences. Haughton was such a mouse in those days, the eruptions on his hands & feet keeping him chained to the couch & I was weak & Carl anything but well, but thank God, we are all in good health once more & Haughton the greatest comfort to us & as merry & chattery as we could wish him. He is so interested in thinking & speaking of Eric in heaven & I want always to keep him in his mind. Eric was within a week of nine months when he went away & was such a big boy. His eyes always had a smile in them & his hair was a sunny brown & was just beginning to curl & he had four little pearly teeth. Some people think that children develop in Heaven but I like to think of him always as my darling brown-eyed baby. I have a great deal of comfort in my deepest grief in knowing that he is safe with Jesus who loves the children & when He was on earth used them to illustrate some of His most beautiful sermons.

"Family Notices" The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954) 25 May 1912: 5. Web. 24 May 2016 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article197359089>.


  1. A lovely but terribly sad story Katrina. You have a treasure in that diary. Most often we can only imagine the feelings of our family members in times of tragedy so it is a gift to hear their own words about these things. I hope the locals continue telling the story of why the freesias are there.

    1. Thanks, Jenny. My Grandmother died a few months before I was born. Reading her diaries has made me feel like I really did know her.

  2. How beautiful and so sad at the same time...you have ensured that baby Eric's life is not forgotten. His mother's love shines on and this 'darling brown eyed baby' has his own place in your family history.

    1. Thank you! I can't imagine the agony of losing a baby like that.

    2. I have included your blog in Interesting blogs at Friday Fossicking…
      Thanks, Chris