The winged cherub is an ancient symbol seen in Christian art and also found in popular culture, of a childlike face with wings representing the second order of angels, the Cherubim and can occasionally be seen on old gravestones in Tasmania. It was during a search for this stone art and other forms of the winged effigy that I came upon a fallen angel in St Matthew’s Church yard in the historic township of Rokeby, Tasmania, or Van Diemen’s land as the island was known until 1853. The main slab of the grave had fallen many decades past and the cherub, carved on a separate piece of stone, was sitting on the ground looking most glum with its lot. Often winged cherubs can be found on the gravestones for babies and I wondered if this could be a child’s grave.
After too many decades on its back, the lettering on the face of the slab had weathered, with moss growing in the gaps. About a third of the inscription could be read, revealing a tragedy that happened on the 8th of April 1855, when fifteen year-old Susannah Musk of South Arm drowned in a boating accident returning from a funeral. Those few words sketched an intriguing tale and spoke of a tragedy that must have had a deep impact on the rural community that once throve in these parts east of Hobart across the River Derwent.
Those few words carved in stone were too tempting to ignore. Curiosity had caught the historic cat by the tale and I wanted to know more about this story. I also wondered if the grave should be restored, as it is a unique example of colonial carving and should not be left sitting on the ground to the ravages of the elements and potentially, a tomb raider with a view to a distant antique shop. By preserving the grave, a little of Tasmania’s story would also be kept alive.
Rokeby was struck by another tragedy in 1967, when hot winds blew south from central Australia and drove fast-moving firestorms across the island. Clarence Plains, the rural valley in which Rokeby is located, with its hedgerows and old homesteads, was one of the places hit particularly hard, taking some lives and resulting in the loss of ninety per cent of the heritage. Of the two churches in Rokeby, one wooden chapel was destroyed, but St Matthew’s survived. Being build of sandstone may have helped, preserving the burial records that tell of all six who drowned on that fateful day. Of those who perished, Susannah’s is the only memorial stone that can be found at St Matthew’s yard.
The tragedy occurred just off-shore from Rokeby in Ralphs Bay, where regular gale-force winds blow from the west, driven by the Roaring Forty trade winds that make their way eternally around the southern oceans. In this part of Ralphs Bay the air pressure is funnelled between the hills on either side, racing through the gap and across Lauderdale to the east, once called Muddy Plains, where the local garage attendant will tell you, “it can blow the milk out of your coffee.”
The northern headland was clearly a good location for a windmill to grind locally produced grain and is still called Mill Point, where the Tasmanian Police Academy is now located. There are no longer working farms in this district, though some retired farmers stay on the remnants of their old properties, now hemmed in by five-acre lots with horses and the mushrooming suburbs of greater Hobart pressing in. Sailboarders take advantage of the powerful winds that blow past Mill Point, racing across the gap so fast it is quite amazing to watch the speed of them.
My family once lived in this area, further south by Clifton Beach, working on one of the Calvert farms, until moving to South Port in 1942 and stories from that time still echo through the years. A little to the west a lookout offers a view toward Betsy Island, where many came to watch the plight of Bob Clifford’s 40 million dollar ocean-going catamaran, Condor 11, grounded on Blackjack Rock for a few days in 1994, attracting a flood of speculation as to how it had happened and an even larger tide of suggestion for getting it off.
Many now come this way to swim and surf, for boating and fishing, or just to enjoy the county-side and beaches. The area still has a rural feel, though the forested hills now include many houses scattered among the trees. A little further on is the township of South Arm, with a quaint country store, a war memorial and a new jetty hoping that a ferry service will return. In the early days the sea was the highway for passengers and cargo to travel around the coasts of Tasmania, but better roads and horseless carriages drew transport from the rivers and coastal bays.
Just north of South Arm is a small country church and graveyard, but this was built some decades after the time of our story. Near the church a private residence can be found that once served as the local school, located on the corner of the road to the lands that the Musk’s once farmed on the western shore of Ralphs Bay. Here I met one of Susannah’s descendants, Ted Bezzant, who still lives on part of the original Musk property, which he keeps going as a hobby farm and kindly shared some insights into the family history and the tragedy that still lives on in local memory. Ted recalls the original homestead, now gone, like the family name, which fell from the tree when no males were born to carry on the Musk name.
This definitely has the feel of sheep country, with a lamb among Ted’s small flock, though orchards once abounded in the district. The road to the landing place by Ralphs Bay is still open for the inquisitive, where the produce and livestock would have been shipped out to the markets in Hobart. A fence-line cuts across the beach, showing how it would have been in that earlier time, when life was hard but simpler.
In the afternoon sun, by the quiet water of the bay, the local refuse dump could be seen, with the discarded objects of life from an earlier century weathering away, until the sea takes them. An archaeologist may one day sift through the buried trash to reveal the stories that lie in the ground. I wonder if these broken objects of porcelain and cast iron may have once been part of Susannah’s life.
THE QUIET BEFORE THE STORM
There had probably been Sunday school in the local schoolhouse for the children of the area on the morning of April 1st 1855, where William and Mary Sneade had recently taken on the role of the local teachers. It would have been walking distance for the Musk children and also young Jane Brown, whose parents farmed the property just north of the Musk land. There may even have been a family picnic down on the beach by the landing when the children returned and being April 1st, Susan’s father, Edward, might have played an April Fool’s trick, telling them all that an elephant was down by the shore; but there wasn’t and later promising to take them all to see the elephant on show at the Phoenix Hotel in Hobart, being advertised in the papers at the time.
As Ed Musk surveyed his patch of paradise, with the children playing, the sheep in the field, the sun dancing on the waters of the bay, life may not have seemed better for one who had lost so much. A wife and five children left behind in England, sentenced to seven years in Van Diemen’s Land for stealing wheat, the endless sea sickness, the chains and putrid stench of a convict ship’s hull, like cattle, like slaves, like animals. Here it was good, with the old name of Van Diemen’s Land now passed in favour of Tasmania as the name of the colony and southern outpost of the British Empire. There was a sense of being part of something great and some were even serving in the Crimean War. Ed Musk may have been among the many Tasmanians who had rallied to the call to contribute to the Patriotic Fund for the widows and children of those fallen in that distant field of war, a conflict that inspired the epic poem, ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ by Lord Tennyson.
His lot the previous year could easily have been a close shave, when with a party from the district trying their luck in the Victorian gold fields. He had the funds now from the diggings and would be purchasing the farm from old Gellibrand next year, providing security for Mary and the children. Edward could have been near the events of the Eureka rebellion and their party may have made a hasty decision to flee. How different that day could have been if the horsemen from California had not gone to the wrong location to ambush the British troops. Treason was in the air and there had been trials.
Florence Nightingale had arrived in the Crimea the previous November and if stories had reached the island, she may have been an inspiration for the young girls, as they played by the water. The events to come would indicate that Susannah may have been fond of Jane, five years her junior, who may have been in her care at times while Edward and Eliza Brown were in the fields working. Jane may have been a mischievous child and the girls might have wondered about a hand-held stone axe fallen from the Aboriginal midden by the landing. The Blacks had long gone, but the colonists were keeping the midden going with their own household and farmyard discards. Any child might imagine what it would have been like when the natives were living there.
It was the full moon that night and Jane may have wanted Susan to bring her down to the water to watch the great yellow orb rising above the hills across the bay and dancing in the waters like something magic. It was also only a week to Easter Sunday, when it would be time again to hunt for those chocolate eggs in their coloured wrappers that would be scattered around the farmhouses.
Susannah was at an age when many girls would marry and she may have looked up to see George Kain, ten years her senior and a labourer about the farms, speaking with her father. Edward Musk had been a farm labourer once and if George had been with the “Party” that went to Victoria, he may have had funds to offer marriage and start a family.
The girls could have gone down to the shore to laugh at the Moon that night, where Jane may have slipped by the bay and fallen into the freezing water of a frosty night, walking home in wet clothes and catching a cold, which would help to explain why she was not at school the next day. For whatever reason, young Jane was left alone in the house while her parents were out in the field working. She may have had chores, such as keeping wood on the fire and while playing with the log, sparks showered her dress and the unthinkable happened, with her clothes catching fire and in a panic, Jane ran outside screaming. The parents would have quickly responded and run to put out the flaming clothes, but the burns were terrible.
Susan may have been with Jane during that long night, helping her parents nurse the child, but nothing could be done and Jane Brown’s spirit left her body on the Tuesday morning of April 3rd.
The sadness and grief that would have filled the hearts of the community was made the worse when the coroner did not come for three days, when Jane’s body was in such a state that her remains had to be taken into the open air for the inquest on Friday afternoon, now Good Friday. The previous days had been fine for sailing, but even though the winds had begun, Edward Brown did not want to take his child’s body along the 16-mile goat-track of a road to Rokeby. That would attract flies and rattle the poor little child’s remains to pieces. The trip by sea would be swift and smooth, with the wind in their favour.
ON THE SEA WAYS
In South Port my family became friends with a fisherman, Tom Martin, who would stay at our home in Howrah, where we moved in 1952 when I was but a babe in arms. The memory of voyages on his boat, the Athena, which spluttered along on its diesel motor or could be sailed, live vividly on in my heart with the strange mix of the smell of salt air and the wood-fired oven below deck. I remember sailing South down the River Derwent, past the entrance to Ralphs Bay, along the coast, past the Stack of Bricks and into South Port. It was a comfortable vessel to live and work on and Tom was very attuned to his boat, waking instantly at the slightest change, such as pulling the anchor, or touching sand. I remember Tom’s squeeze-box, an accordion and the songs he would play and sing and how the family would join in, before television changed the world of old-style kitchen culture.
I was only five when told the news, too young to grieve, that Tom had gone missing. He had left our home in Howrah to sail the Athena down the River Derwent from Bellerive and that is the last anyone ever saw of Tom. The Athena pulled in at a maintenance dock across the River at Battery Point, unmanned. He could have had a stroke, or slipped and fallen. He wore leather-soled shoes, a common thing in the 1950s. His body was never found, but he lives on in the memory, repairing his string fishing nets in our back yard, when Howrah was still rural with working farmlands that extended through the hills and around the bays to South Arm.
Jane’s last journey may have begun around noon, waiting for a good sea breeze to take them over the bay on Easter Saturday. Her parents, Edward and Eliza Brown, would have followed the coffin from their home to the landing and gently placed the child’s remains on the boat, a pine vessel with loose stones for ballast in the bottom. Many may have been there to farewell a young member of their community and for the children, their friend. Also in the boat was Edward Musk and his daughter, Susannah, the teachers William and Mary Sneade, Constable Wilson and his wife, George Kain, George Sandwell, Christopher Calvert, Thomas Hall, John Cole, Patrick Guillian and the boat’s owner and skipper, James Williams.
Once away from the shore the gathering breeze filled the sails and Williams set a sure course for Rokeby in the fresh salt air. With the wooded hills and farms passing by, George Kain may have passed a glance toward Susannah and wondered if they might find their dreams and life together. As Droughty Point passed on their port side, the village of Rokeby, with its church tower, could be seen ahead and the windmill on the point, their destination. The boat would be pulled up on the beach, which must have often happened when grain was brought in across the bay to make flower for use and sale. The Rev. Mr Wilson may have been there to welcome the mourners on the shore and walk with Jane’s coffin, the family and their friends to the church, where the ceremony proceeded and young Jane Brown was buried with due dignity.
The afternoon was drawing on when the party returned to the boat and the wind that filled the sails of the mill spelled a bad return across the bay for the travellers, as the waters were rough and a gale from the west had set in that would make the trip slow and perhaps, unsafe. Arrangements were made around the village to spend the night and attempt the return journey on Easter Sunday morning.
The night took an unexpected turn and understandably, some in the party were drowning their sorrows of recent days in a Rokeby tavern. Perhaps singing ensued of well-known tunes. Perhaps a song of the Eureka rebellion was sung, which may have caught the ear of a passing constable, who may have been keeping an eye on those recently returned from the goldfields, with talk of treason in the air and trials and the war effort in the Crimea on-going. The charge of the Light Brigade had burned its way into history and popular culture the previous October and an argument could have ensued concerning loyalty to Queen Victoria and Empire, even a fight that attracted the attention of the law, as some of the party spent the night in the Rokeby watchhouse for drunkenness.
On Easter Sunday morning the 8th of April at about eleven o’clock the party were keen to depart the embarrassment of their night in Rokeby and may not have wished to face any of the locals. The men’s judgement may also have been affected by hangovers. The westerly gale had not eased and conditions were no better than on the previous day. Williams could have refused to sail, as an argument ensued and he attempted to convince the party to walk along the beach to Luckman’s, where there was a jetty and the bay was calmer beneath the hills of Droughty Point. He offered to bring the boat along safely to them. Judgements were frayed and Williams plan and better judgement were cast aside, with the party setting out into the bay in an open boat in the most treacherous section, where the winds begin to funnel into the gap.
Having set out, Williams headed south toward Dixon’s Point, with George Sandwell holding the rope to the jib sheet. Williams then successfully put about to make for Luckman’s, intending to drop the anchor in the calmer waters under the hills until the wind eased and the passage south was a little safer. Less than half a mile from the shore a sudden gust caught them and Williams yelled at Sandwell to let go of the jib sheet as he let loose the mainsail and foresail. It could have been a hangover or some other distraction, but not being a sailer, Sandwell froze in the moment of action and the jib carried the boat over, which immediately filled on the starboard side and sank in thirteen feet of water, leaving part of the mast protruding.
Swimming was not a standard practice among the English colonists of 1855 and even sailors could not always cope in the water. The Danish adventurer Jorgen Jorgenson, who had sailed the oceans of the World, saved a ship from hitting a rock off the coast of Iceland with his expert skills in 1809 and later helped to save the entire company of a ship that had caught fire. When exploring in the highlands of Tasmania as a convict in the employ of the Van Diemen’s Land Company in 1827, he nearly drowned in a river, his life being saved by his Tasmanian Aboriginal guide, who could swim. On a later expedition for the VDL Company in the northwest, one of the party drowned when crossing the Duck River on their way back to Stanley. This was not the first incident in Ralphs Bay, with another boat overturning in the same location a few years before, with the loss of several lives.
Terror gripped the unfortunate passengers and panic ensued, as they found themselves floundering in the wind-driven waters. Williams kept his head and stayed with the mast and some others remained at this desperate refuge. Some however drifted away, blown by the wind of the gale. They could have tried to make the mast, but lack of swimming, the clothing styles of the day, especially for women and the cold water began to take its toll. The teachers, William and Mary Sneade, were seen to go down in each other’s arms, determined to remain together to the end. The moment then became electric when Susannah was seen to be drifting away to be lost. George Kain may have glanced toward her father to see if he would attempt to save his daughter, but having lost one family in England and concern for his present family in South Arm may have held him back. Whether out of love, heroism, or purely passion, George broke away in a desperate attempt to save Susan, but in vain and both were lost beneath the chill autumn waves.
Daniel Stanfield the miller, his wife and daughter, had heard all that ensued in the argument on the beach and watched with concern as Williams’ boat set out with his party of fourteen and saw him successfully put about to head for Luckman’s, when they saw the accident. Stanfield immediately set out alone in his boat, but when a row-hook broke he was unable to reach the site of the tragedy and was forced to limp back to shore, where he and others would have run along Rokeby Beach to be near the site of the accident and stand helpless to watch the tragedy unfold.
A fisherman who lived near-by, Stephen Knight, may have wondered why a sailing boat would risk that gale, saw the over-turning and immediately set out to help. It was later believed that all lives could have been saved, if the party had not been frightened. Knight instinctively made for the women first, one of whom was holding up her hands and crying most piteously for help, but when Knight was only a few yards away, she went down. Mrs Wilson, the constable’s wife, went under a third time, but her luck held when Knight was able to reach down into the icy waters and pull her out, saving her life.
Within three quarters of an hour the nine survivors had been ferried to shore and given comfort by those gathered on the beach. The fisherman, Stephen Knight, immediately set out again to recover the bodies of the drowned floating on top of the water, before they were washed away and lost, now assisted by William Free and William Joseph, a grim task that went on into the night. Edward Brown must have suffered the greatest loss, so soon after the loss of Jane, with his wife Eliza being one of those who drowned. When Knight brought her body to shore he gave the fisherman a gold watch that was still attached to her clothes.
THE EERIE NIGHT
In the eerie lantern light and hushed gathering only five bodies lay on the beach. Edward Musk may have sat on the sand in the shadows by the body of Susannah, hunched in shock and despair, in a daze. The Stanfield’s could have brewed a large kettle of tea and brought it along the beach to give some comfort to the survivors. The body of Samuel Sandwell, who had been holding the rope to the jib sail, could not be found that night. He was discovered the next day by Knight and Williams, entangled in a warp belonging to the boat, with his clothes gone and his flesh eaten away by the creatures of the deep.
The inquests were held in Rokeby by the coroner A. B. Jones, Esq., followed by the funerals at St Matthew’s Church of all those who perished. The services for Eliza Brown and Susan Musk were held on Tuesday 10th, followed by the services for the others on Wednesday 11th. Those who drowned in Ralphs Bay on that fateful Easter Sunday are listed in the burials in the Parish of Clarence in the County of Buckingham, including Eliza Brown, age 31, Susan Musk, age 15, William Buckley Sneade, age 34, Mary Ann Sneade, age 27, George Kain, age 25 and Samuel Sandwell, age 26. Hauntingly, at the top of the list is the name of Jane Brown, age 10, buried only three days before.
Steven Knight’s selfless efforts in rescuing as many as he could were widely praised by the inhabitants of the district, who raised a small subscription to show their appreciation for his gallantry.
A careful reading of an anonymous report by a local in the district in The Hobarton Mercury of 16th April reveals the skipping of a day, including the events of Easter Saturday night, when some of the party ended up in the Rokeby watchhouse. The writer could have been seeking to save reputations in the wake of a tragedy that would have hit the small community of South Arm quite hard and ends on a fateful quote from Leviticus, “this thing that is, is that which shall be, and that which is done, is that which shall be done, and there is no new thing under the sun.”
Susannah’s angel took wing again when restored in 2008 by stonemason Les Kulinski.
Photo by Robin Barker
THE INSCRIPTION ON THE GRAVESTONE
the memory of
the beloved daughter of
Edward and Mary Musk
of South Arm
Who was unfortunately drowned
in the sixteenth year of her age
with five others on their return from
a funeral by the upsetting of
a boat April 8th 1855.
The Lord gave, and the Lord hath
taken away; blessed be the name of
Jesus, lover of my soul,
let me to thy bosom fly,
while the nearer waters roll,
while the tempest still is high;
hide me, O my Saviour, hide,
till the storm of life is past;
safe into the haven guide,
O receive my soul at last.
NOTE ON THE INSCRIPTION
The last eight lines on the memorial stone are from a hymn composed in 1740 by Charles Wesley (1707-1778) called ‘Jesus, Lover of My Soul.’
In the current Australian Hymn Book “Jesus” is shown as “Jesu”, but on the stone “Jesus” has clearly been used.
The words above the last eight lines are from the Book of Job in the Old Testament and can be read in chapter 1, verse 21.
SUSANNAH’S ANGEL RESTORED
Rather than just wondering if Susannah’s memorial could be restored, enquiries were made and the church was happy if this could happen. Heritage Tasmania approved a plan for the work, funds were raised and the stonemason Les Kulinski, who restored Daniel Herbert’s memorial in Ross with the carving of a missing stone urn, was engaged to reset Susannah’s angel. Now the little winged cherub flies again atop its slab above her final resting place.
Visitors seeking to find Susannah’s angel, can do so on the northern side of St Matthew’s Church. Locate the large memorial for the Rev. Robert Knopwood, the first chaplain of Van Diemen’s Land, then walk a few paces to the east and there you will find Susannah’s memorial, with her angel, a little happier to be off the ground and flying in the air once more.
HISTORIC NOTES TO SUSANNAH’S ANGEL
A lengthy and at times tedious search through the papers of the day, now preserved on microfiche in the Tasmanian State Reference Library, revealed a number of articles concerning the event and with the help of another history buff, Robin Barker, the story began to emerge of this tragedy. At times the microfiche was quite hard to read, as some of the original text had not copied well. The way local news was reported then was most often in a longer column, without headings and with one report merging straight onto the next without warning, so careful scrutiny was required to find each story.
Folk at the Tasmanian Family History Society and St Matthew’s Bible study group helped to reveal the full inscription on the stone as a verse from The Book of Job and the first verse of a hymn by Charles Wesley. The hymn must have been a most fitting choice at the time, with its mention of waters rolling, the tempest and a storm, which was probably sung at the service with great depth of feeling by all attending to give Susannah a moving fare-well on her journey beyond.
A search of calendars for 1855 reveals that there was a full moon on April 1st that year and Good Friday falls after that. The tradition of an April Fools joke is very old and though the practice of giving chocolate Easter Eggs is younger, the tradition was in place among English speaking people by 1855.
It is possible that Susannah was the youngest in the boat, but only the ages of those who perished are given, so this remains unknown. The number of people in the boat differs, but the article in The Hobarton Mercury of April 16th is probably the most reliable account, apart from the clear attempt to lose Easter Saturday. The burial list is no longer located at St Matthew’s Church and can be seen on microfiche at the Tasmanian Archives in Hobart.
An examination of the Police records at the Tasmanian Archives failed to reveal any evidence of who was held in the Rokeby Watchhouse and it is always possible that no entry was made. It is quite clear that something went on that Easter Saturday night, which some people preferred hushed up, for whatever reason.
Many Tasmanians made their way to the Victorian gold fields and some may have been caught up in events surrounding the Eureka Stockade rebellion, where Australia’s first Southern Cross flag was raised and flew for three days. Like Edward Musk, some of my ancestors, James Young and his sons, returned from Ballarat with gold to buy land and purchased the Rokeby Hills, where the property extended from Rokeby Road across from the Pass Road, the location of Howrah Gardens, to the boundary of Camelot Park on the shore of Tranmere.
The location of the tragedy would appear to be half a mile off Rokeby Beach to the west of the Tasmanian Police Academy, but exactly how far along is impossible to say.
Should anyone own a very old gold watch, or come across one in an antique shop, it is always possible that it was once the property of Eliza Brown, given by her husband to the fisherman, Steven Knight, on the beach at Rokeby during the dramatic events on Easter Sunday 1855.
REPORT ON DROWNING
New Scientist magazine of 13 October 2007 included an article by Anna Gosline on the experience of drowning, where she wrote:
“Death by drowning has a certain dark romance to it: countless literary heroines have met their end slipping beneath the waves with billowy layers of petticoats floating around their heads. In reality, suffocating to death in water is neither pretty nor painless, though it can be surprisingly swift.”
The article goes on to describe the experience of the drowned from the accounts of survivors and medical knowledge.
IN QUEST OF WINGED EFFIGIES
For some months during 2007 I was like a tomb raider, haunting old graveyards in quest of the elusive stone angel. It was during this search that I discovered the fallen memorial of Susannah Musk and its grumpy little winged effigy sitting on the ground.
Winged cherubs are often found on gravestones for babies from the early colonial period in Tasmania. This tradition may have drifted over the years, as in 1855 the symbol is found on the gravestone of a teenage girl in Rokeby, the subject of our story. By 1870 the symbol was used on the memorial for 75 year old Harriet Jones in Oatlands. An inspection of the graveyards in the old settled areas from the Tasman Peninsula, the Hobart region and through the midlands to the lands south of Launceston, often revealed only one example in all the cemeteries of any town, as was the case in Rokeby, Richmond and Oatlands. Many of the carved symbols found on old gravestones would be similar to each other through the years, but for some peculiar reason, all the examples of winged effigies found were different.
One haunting example of this tradition of difference was seen at the Salt Water River graveyard on the Tasman Peninsula, with the graves of two babies who died in 1842, with John Gallagher dying at 7 months and Rob Purdy passing on at 11 days. John’s effigy shows carved breasts, which may have symbolised a suckling infant and wishing the babe some comfort in the afterlife. The winged effigy on little Rob’s memorial also shows carved breasts, but in this case there is one on top of the other in quite an unnatural positioning. The carving styles are similar and being from the same year, may indicate the same carver, so why should the second winged effigy have the breasts positioned unnaturally, if there was not some underlying cultural motivation to keep each winged effigy distinct.
A similar situation could be seen in the township of Ross, where the famous 1836 Ross Bridge is located, covered in the carvings of the convict stonemason Daniel Herbert. On two gravestones there is a similar winged effigy, one for Emily, aged 3 and the other for Alice Siggin, also aged 3, who both died in 1861. Emily’s winged effigy is a simple line carving, like a drawing etched in stone and has breasts, similar to the gravestone of Rob Purdy. Alice’s winged effigy, also a line carving, indicates the bosom, but as if a dress is being worn. The carvings are similar in style and both being from the same year, would again suggest the same carver. That the two winged effigies are again different, would indicate an underlying cultural tradition, or perhaps superstition.
There are many stories that may be found carved into memorial stones in old Tasmania and from its former era as Van Diemen’s Land. I had wondered whether ‘Susannah’s Angel’ might be included in a collection of stories inspired from the gravestones of the Vandemonians (an old term for a denizen of or from Van Diemen’s Land). One story included in such a collection could be an explanation of why the winged effigies are all different and the cultural context that motivated their use, particularly the examples found at the Salt Water River graveyard near the convict coal mine, where the worst of the worst were sent to work in a hell beneath the Earth, where their underground cells were as dark as the mine, as if they had been buried alive for a time.
An earlier version of this story, was first published in the Tasmanian Times of 20 July 2009, where some rather moving comments by readers can also be found: HERE: