NORTHPIC - Hubert Hofer

Albany Island (Pabaju)

Some years ago Jim McJannett found this old photo & he kindly provided it for display on this site. Following is the account of finding the photo in Jim's own words..

Hello Hubert,
In response to your request regarding information pertaining to the two images of the grave marker of Wall and Niblet below are a few lines. I trust they go some way towards covering your queries, mate.

At some point early in my several years residence on Thursday Island when at the local refuse dump disposing of garden waste, just prior to the point of departure I noticed what seemed to be a very old book lying on the ground partially obscured by a ragged tapestry of green banana leaf and palm frond litter. Upon securing the book I saw, to my utter surprise, that it was a copy of Alfred Searcy's BY FLOOD AND FIELD. When opening Searcy's historical work [a descriptive recalling a plethora of his interesting adventures in the Northern Territory] I wondered who on earth would dispose of this an early, valued and most readable book in such a barbaric way, two small photos fell from the browning pages to flutter down, landing at my feet face up on the green trash.

Upon picking up the old black and white images, I saw that they were of the front and rear of a wooden, fire damaged, grave marker. Although the names on the tablet were each in part obliterated, with the aid of the bright noon sunlight, sufficient could be read to immediately identify the wooden memorial for what it was. It was the tablet that had once stood above the the grave of Thomas Wall and Charles Niblet on Albany Island erected there in 1868 by John Jardine the then resident Police Magistrate at Somerset. Had I needed further conformation of this then all I had to do was turn over the two images, for there in handwriting the said history of the tablet was recorded.

Wall and Niblet, as you know Hubert, were two of the members of the ill-fated Edmund Kennedy-led expedition of 1848 whose bones had been collected at Weymouth Bay by Captain T. Beckworth Simpson of the brig FREAK before being taken to Albany Island and there buried on island's the highest point on Sunday the 13th 1849 in the presence of a fair congregation including Jacky Jacky, and Mr Aplin who conducted the service. Aplin was later interred there and the most prominent memorial on the hill at Albany Island is that of his.

In the same year the burial took place Captain Owen Stanley R.N. of H.M.S. RATTLESNAKE placed such a wooden tablet as seen in the images above the unfortunate's place of internment but it was razed by fire. The grave's identification remained in a sad condition until the said John Jardine replaced it with the tablet seen on the two images found by myself on the Thursday Island refuse dump.

It was a case of history repeating itself. The tablet placed by Mr Jardine also became the subject of a bush-fire. To save further desecration the wooden tablet was taken to Thursday Island where it was displayed for many years on the veranda of the Court House together with other items of historical significance. The images located by me are dated at Thursday Island, October 1901. Upon questioning very old residents of Thursday Island I was told that at the time of World War 2 many things disappeared including the Town Hall Collection. They were seemingly disposed of to make room for military personnel. Today the whereabouts of the wooden tablet is not known.
The grave of Charles Wall and Thomas Niblet remains unmarked. It was only by incredible good fortune that the two images, together with Searcy's book, came to light in such a place as they did. In next to no time at all the bulldozer would have seen to it that they would have become yet further fragments of history lost, never to be again seen.

Many of today’s readers of Cape York Peninsula History are not aware that the original "headstones" placed above the grave by both Owen Stanley and John Jardine were in fact not stone at all, but made of wood. The initial one by the RATTLESNAKE's carpenter. Readers can be excused of thinking this way due to the use of the term headstone being used in various articles. To the best of my knowledge no photographic image exists, or was ever produced of Captain Stanley's tablet. What can be found are artists' impressions which indicate the monument was one of granite or marble.

Well Hubert, that's the gist of it, mate.


Jim McJannett.

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