The case of the glowing cross.

Molesworth Street, Lismore. IMAGE CREDIT: Trove
by Tim the Yowie Man
A lonely country cemetery in northern NSW is the site of one of Australia’s most unusual unsolved mysteries.
IN 1907, FOLLOWING a fatal attempt to stop a runaway train at Mullumbimby, a young rail worker, William Steenson was laid to rest in the North Lismore Pioneer Cemetery. The epitaph on his tomb paid tribute to his courage and valour. Soon after his death the cemetery ceased taking new burials and became overgrown.
Fast-forward to a clear night in 1978 when, following a clean-up of the graves, a local man noticed Steenson’s cross, carved from Balmoral red granite, glowing brightly.
After national newspapers splashed his astonishing account across their front pages, word of the strange phenomenon spread fast and within days the luminescent cross was attracting crowds of curious onlookers from all over Australia.
Soon teams of expert stonemasons, geologists and physicists descended on Lismore, trying to explain the phenomenon. Some claimed the glow was due to rare properties of the red granite. But the most popular explanation was that the well-polished cross was simply reflecting a nearby source of light, such as the Moon.
This theory was, however, promptly dismissed when the cross was observed glowing on moonless nights. Meanwhile, some men of faith claimed the glowing cross was a miracle and pilgrims flocked from far and wide to rub it for good luck.
Although the cross continued to inexplicably glow, interest eventually waned and Steenson’s gravesite returned to relative anonymity, until 1986 when, in the dead of night, the glowing cross vanished.
For the past 20 years ex-Lismore men Steven Fawcett and Jeremy Fenton, who both admit to being “transfixed by the cross” during their childhood, have run an unsuccessful national campaign to locate it.
“It’d be great to see the cross back on its pedestal where it belongs, not hidden in the back of someone’s garage, or covered in silt at the bottom of the river,” says Steven, who believes the cross was probably pilfered during a local treasure hunt.
“We’d also like to see it back so that further scientific studies can be undertaken,” Jeremy adds. “With today’s technology we may be able to explain its mysterious luminescent properties.”
One theory still bandied about by Lismore locals is that the glow may have been the result of ossified remnants of glow-worms embedded in the cross. But Dr David Yates, director of CSIRO’s Australian National Insect Collection, pours cold water on this.
“Granite is igneous rock, so doesn’t contain fossils or petrified remains,” he explains. “The site of the cemetery is also entirely the wrong microhabitat for living glow-worms.”
Could the cross have been a piece of red granite with rare glowing properties? Not according to Ian Williams, Professor Emeritus at the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University.
“While there are some minerals that fluoresce under UV light, they aren’t in red granite,” he says. “As a natural phenomenon, I think this is case unsolved.”
Source: The case of the glowing cross

The tragic Burke and Wills Expedition of 1860.


The Disastrous Burke and Wills Expedition of 1860.
Robert O’Hara Burke was born in Ireland in 1821. Because of the Victorian gold rush, there was a shortage of police and so he joined the Victorian police force.
William John Wills was born in England in 1834 and had come to Australia when he was eighteen. He was a surveyor, meteorologist and astronomer. 
Wills would have made a much better leader than Burke, although he too, had no experience as an explorer.
Although the colony had grown, much of Australia was still undiscovered.
Also, a route for an overland telegraph line was needed and the Victorian government offered a prize for the first expedition to cross Australia from south to north.
Although Burke had no experience as an explorer or a bushman, he was chosen to lead the expedition together with a man called George Landells.
However, it was not long before Burke had an argument with Landells and replaced him with Wills. Their well-equipped expedition set off 1860.
Burke was afraid that he would be beaten by John Stuart to be the first to explore inland Australia, and so he set off on camel with his expedition. Meanwhile, unknown to Burke, John Stuart had turned back and so there was no need now for Burke to hurry or take risks.
Burke was very impatient and would not let the expedition slow down for any reason. In addition, he set off without his medical officer and 2 other important members of the expedition.
Unfortunately, there was no one in the group who was a good bushman. Burke was so impatient to reach the Gulf, that he left some of his party behind with supplies at Menindee and set off with a party of nine men.
Burke then decided to push on towards the Gulf, even though it meant travelling in the heat of a northern summer. He took with him, Wills, King and Grey. He left the rest of the party at the Cooper’s creek camp with orders that the party was to return to Menindee in three months if the explorers hadn’t returned by then.
After nearly two months the party reached the Gulf of Carpentaria, but were unable to see the waters of the Gulf because of the mangrove swamps.
Burke would not wait to rest, and after only one day set off on the return journey which was made worse by fierce storms which turned the ground to mud. There was also a lack of food.
Grey became ill and probably half mad when he stole food from their supplies. Burke was in a rage and gave him a severe thrashing from which he never recovered. Grey became ill and died of scurvy a week later.
In addition the party who were supposed to be waiting at Cooper’s Creek for Burke to return, had left that morning and the depot was deserted. Brahe had waited 4 months and only left then because his men were getting sick from scurvy.
Wills wanted to stay at Cooper’s Creek, feeling sure that help would arrive. Burke ignored his advice and decided to set off for a police station at Mt. Hopeless. As leader of the expedition, he ordered that they all go on.
Unfortunately, he did not leave a message at Cooper’s Creek, and when Brahe returned, he did not know that the party had been there. The camels were dying, there was no food and the water was all gone.
Both Burke and Wills were too weak by then to travel.
First Wills, and then Burke died.
For three months, friendly aboriginals cared for John King, who was the only survivor, until help arrived. He was rescued by a search party from Melbourne.
Although Burke and Wills died, they had proved that there was no inland sea and were the first to cross Australia from south to north, providing more valuable information on inland Australia.
via Burke & Wills 

The Huskar Pit Disaster, 1838.


The 4th of July 1838 was a dreadful day in Silkstone’s history. It was when 26 children between the ages of 7 and 17, working as ‘hurriers’ and ‘trappers’, were drowned after the dayhole through which they were attempting to escape from the Husker (or Huskar) Pit at Moorend was flooded.
This happened during a summer thunderstorm when a clap of thunder was mistaken for an explosion. Forty-four children were working below ground and, ignoring instructions to stay where they were, they decided that, if there had been an explosion, the dayhole was a quick and safe way out.
A dayhole is an old mine seam which has been dug out and the hole left. No one had thought to shut down this potentially dangerous old working. Rather, as it zigzagged its way down three-quarters of a mile to the coalface, it was used as an alternative route.
However, as the children neared the surface, a nearby ditch flooded and the water poured into the dayhole. Twenty-six children died, their mangled bodies thrown together. Later, the bodies were brought back into the village in carts.
Silkstone was devastated, and the accident shocked the country. A report was published in The Times, and the wider British public learned for the first time that women and children worked in the mines.
There was a public outcry, led by politician and reformer Anthony Ashley Cooper, later Lord Shaftesbury. He called for a Royal Commission inquiry into the working conditions of children and women in Britain’s mines.
Eventually, after the report had become a bestseller, the law was changed.

children in mine

On Saturday 27 November 2004, as part of the Woodland Trust’s children’s tree-planting campaign, Tree For All, a tree was planted in Nabs Wood for each of the 26 children who died. The trees were planted by local children whose ages and genders matched those of the victims.
In time, the trees will form an avenue near the memorial by the entrance to Nabs Wood.
Further reading
Alan Gallop, Children of the Dark: Life and Death Underground in Victoria’s England (Sutton Publishing, 2003)
via BBC – Making History – Husker Pit disaster.

A Wet Wedding saved by Poo Bags.

The happy couple planned the Perfect Wedding, at beautiful Sellicks Beach located South of Adelaide.

The weather  forecaster said, ‘No bloody worries, it’s going to be a belter.’

So with hope in their heart and their wonderful relatives and friends in tow hey made their way down to the beach.

Everyone was  just so excited for the beautiful couple and then they looked up and saw this on the horizon.

Oh! My goodness, A storm was gathering. It would be bringing buckets and buckets of rain

There was no alternative venue planned. Bugger that weather forecaster. So what to do?

Were these good people going to let a bit of water spoil the wedding?

No way, and then with classic cleverness those stupid enough to stay out in the rain made themselves some quite stylish and practical water hats using the council’s dog poo collection bags sold to them by Alex Riley at $10 each.

Three Cheers for Alex and Capitalism.

The Toff

The German Sinking of the ‘Lusitania’ 1915.

On May 1, 1915, the ship departed New York City bound for Liverpool. Unknown to her passengers but probably no secret to the Germans, almost all her hidden cargo consisted of munitions and contraband destined for the British war effort.
As the fastest ship afloat, the luxurious liner felt secure in the belief she could easily outdistance any submarine. Nonetheless, the menace of submarine attack reduced her passenger list to only half her capacity.
On May 7, the ship neared the coast of Ireland. At 2:10 in the afternoon a torpedo fired by the German submarine U 20 slammed into her side. A mysterious second explosion ripped the liner apart. Chaos reigned.
The ship listed so badly and quickly that lifeboats crashed into passengers crowded on deck, or dumped their loads into the water. Most passengers never had a chance.
Within 18 minutes the giant ship slipped beneath the sea. One thousand one hundred nineteen of the 1,924 aboard died. The dead included 114 Americans.
Walter Schwieger was captain of the U-Boat that sank the Lusitania. He watched through his periscope as the torpedo exploded and noted the result in his log, “The ship stops immediately and heals over to starboard quickly, immersing simultaneously at the bow.
It appears as if the ship were going to capsize very shortly. Great confusion is rife on board; the boats are made ready and some of them lowered into the water. In connection therewith great panic must have reigned; some boats, full to capacity are rushed from above, touch the water with either stem or stern first and founder immediately.”
In the ship’s nursery Alfred Vanderbilt, one of the world’s richest men, and playwright Carl Frohman tied life jackets to wicker “Moses baskets” holding infants in an attempt to save them from going down with the ship.
The rising water carried the baskets off the ship but none survived the turbulence created as the ship sank to the bottom. The sea also claimed Vanderbilt and Frohman.
The sinking enraged American public opinion. The political fallout was immediate. President Wilson protested strongly to the Germans. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, a pacifist, resigned.
In September, the Germans announced that passenger ships would be sunk only with prior warning and appropriate safeguards for passengers.
However, the seeds of American animosity towards Germany were sown.
Within two years America declared war.
via The Sinking of the Lusitania, 1915.