To say this final piece of the circle is being stubbornly elusive would be an understatement!
Newspaper reports of his funeral state that; "The remains of the late Alexander Thomas McLean were interred in the Presbyterian Cemetery at 11 o'clock on Friday morning in the presence of a large number of friends and relatives.."
His death certificate under the 'where and when buried', says he was buried in the Presbyterian cemetery, Macksville. However there's no listing for Alexander Mclean in the cemetery records, and it is presumed that his grave is now unmarked.
Further complications arise due to cemetery records being removed from cemetery trustees in the 1960's and given to local councils to take over. This becomes a problem because when they took over and mapped out the cemetery the layout of various religious sections sometimes separated graves, placing grave sites in different religious sections, which only adds to the confusion when you're trying to search for a grave site that may or may not be in the area you think it's in.. in other words this unmarked grave could be anywhere!
Going back to the newspaper report of the funerals we know that ; The remains of the late Alexander McLean will be interred in the Church of England cemetery.
However, when we read the article printed the next day about the funerals we find this;
"The Rev. J.H. Beynon, who read the burial service, said that he had been some thirty miles from Macksville the previous afternoon and evening and quite out of reach of the telephone. It had become necessary to dig another grave, and this had been done in the Presbyterian Cemetery without his authority. He had learnt this on arrival at Macksville half an hour since, and did not feel prepared to interfere now."
So, now we discover that the grave for Alick had been dug in the Presbyterian section of the cemetery apparently by mistake...who knows why. On Alick's army records it states his religion as Church of England, so why he was given a Presbyterian funeral? who knows...maybe it had to do with the fact he had murdered poor Gertie and then committed suicide and his usual church reverent didn't want to conduct his funeral? Maybe it was just an oversight and he was believed to have been Presbyterian? Whatever the reason, the only evidence we do have of him being buried, is from the newspaper report of the day, which says he was buried in the Presbyterian section of the cemetery. Due to his grave stone more than likely being a simple wooden cross, which over time would have most defiantly rotted away, his resting place is now lost.
To add even more variables to the situation, It was also rumored that due to the community being upset that Alick had been buried in consecrated ground, a group of his Army mates 'claimed his body and interned him' in an undisclosed place at the Eungai cemetery. Another rumored was that he was taken to be buried on the original Sutton property, who were his family in the area, although current family members strongly dispute this is the case and that as far as they are aware, Alexander Mclean is buried in the Macksville cemetery....which brings us back to the problem of having no idea where that actually is!
I'm so relieved that the local sub branch of the RSL is now actively involved in locating Alick's grave, in order to place a commemorative plaque to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the great war on his grave site.Through my research I've learned that Alick was a very strong supporter of the RSL or the RSSILA as it was first known as, The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. I've written about this in my December release. (In case you're wondering why I keep refering to it as my December release, it's because as I type I'm still unsure what the title of this book will be. I'm hoping it's not what was originally planned and desperately clinging to hope that there's a title change before publishing, however my publisher seems determinded to stick with a more marketable, chick lit type title that Marketing assures us will appeal to book buyers, more so than an actual title that reflects the heart wrenching story of a returned World War one digger and the description of life in small town rural Australia that surrounds this story line...)
Anyway back to Alick.....
Unfortunately the RSL don't seem to be getting any further in their search than I have.
I'm clinging to some kind of miracle that we will find some record, somewhere of the original burial site of this man who has come to mean so much to me over the last few years since I first heard this sad tale and knew I had to write a story about it. I would so dearly love to find this last, missing piece of the puzzle and finally give Alick and everyone associated with his story some kind of closure.
While we were out exploring, I visited Gertie's grave and said hello. Poor Gertie, my heart really does go out to her and her family. It must have been truly horrific to deal with such an unexpected act of violence at the time. I hadn't done a great deal of research into the real Gertie, behind my character of Maggie in the book quite purposely. I wanted a fictional character, someone very different to Gertie as I felt a little callous if I portrayed Gertie as herself in what is essentially a fictional book, based on actual events. My story is very much fictional and my characters have a very different relationship to anything that we know through inquest reports and newspaper stories of the real Gertie and Alick. It just didn't feel right to create a fictional character based on Gertie. After I finished writing however, I did make it my mission to find out what Gertie had been like and discovered through talking with her family, the lovely Trisley's, who are still in the same house she grew up in, just what she had been like. By all accounts she was a beautiful young woman and it is absolutely gut wrenching to think of the circumstances in which she was taken away from her family.
I also went to visit both sets of my Grandparents while I was out there . There's a sad yet almost comforting feeling as you walk around out there, that you're surrounded by family and that's one of the reasons I love being back in my home town--I have roots here, a family history on both sides of my family that goes back to almost the original settlement in the area. It was so exciting to find so many fascinating things out about my family while researching this book, some of which I've included in the story as a little tribute to my ancestors. I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed going back in time to research this book.
Another interesting thing I found today, while telling my son about my memories of my grandparents, I mentioned a particular grave site that has always stuck with me. As a child, we'd visit the cemetery with my mother to say hello to her parents, and I would pass by a small set of grave stones that even when I was young, always managed to bring tears to my eyes.
I found them again today.
Three tiny graves for three tiny babies who were born and died on the same day.
These little triplets must have been a big deal at the time and sadly didn't survive. How different are things now? I'm not sure if these babies went to full term (more than likely not) but chances are they would have survived had they been born today instead of in 1919. We really do take so much in our lives for granted now days, don't we? It sometimes takes a walk around a cemetery to bring it home how lucky we are that modern medicine has allowed us to become almost blasé about child birth and childhood diseases that once killed on a regular basis not all that long ago.
Well, the search will go on for Alick and who knows maybe somewhere, we'll get lucky and find some clue...if not, then we'll have to be satisfied that he's out there somewhere, and I guess, deal with it! Although it bugs me to leave a mystery unsolved!