HOME OF THE LADY DENMAN - Local history isn't always about the big story - the everyday story of life in the early development of the region can be a fascinating, entertaining and educational journey.

18 July 2017

The tragic death of Harriet Parker. - 1887

Cape St George Lighthouse is a place of mystery, intrigue and tragedy
, not only for the Mariners plying the coast but also for the families that occupied the light.  During its operation, there were 7 deaths associated with the lighthouse,  the children seemed to suffer the most. 

In 1887 Isabella Jane Lee, daughter of one of the lighthouse keepers died of typhus fever, then in 1882 13-year-old George Gibson died of pleurisy, in 1885 11-year-old Florence Baily also died of typhoid,  9-year-old Francis Henry Hammer died after falling off the cliff while pushing stones over the edge.

The lighthouse children were isolated on a wind blown cliff face overlooking the ocean  far from the company of other children,  they had to make their own fun. The bush and the beaches of the bay were their play ground. Being so isolated meant they were familiar with their distant neighbours, finding friends wherever they could.


Harriet Parker.

One of the most tragic deaths would surely haunt the families involved for the rest of their lives was the tragic death of 19-year-old Harriet Parker. Harriet was a beautiful young girl who in company with her life long friend 16 year old Kate Gibson set out to fetch in some horses.  Leaving the lighthouse about ten o'clock they went down to the beach at New Bristol, (present day Bristol Point, Green Patch area)  they came to the local fisherman Mr McPhail's hut.  They found the key and went inside, Kate lit the fire and put on a kettle, sending Harriet to fetch some wood, while Harriet was away Kate put on McPhails hat which covered her whole face,  she took up a gun which was lying in the corner of the kitchen, Harriet was about to come inside when she met Kate at the door carrying the gun with the hat still over her face.  Harriet tripped at the door which made her laugh, Kate then heard what she thought was a cap going off, Kate pulled the hat off and saw Harriet fall,  Kate went to Harriet, she called her name and lifted her up thinking she had fainted, it was then she saw blood run from her head. Kate let her down and went home and told her father who in company with Mr McPhail immediately set off for the hut, they found Harriet was dead, she had a large lacerated wound to the back of the head, a portion of the skull was missing, and the remainder fractured and comminuted. The two men carried the body home.


Kate Gibson

At the enquiry Kate stated;
"I took up the gun I do not know whether it was cocked or not; Harriet and I were always on best of terms:

Mr McPhail's hut was the nearest neighbour with no other neighbour within nine or ten miles. Mr McPhail left the gun in his hut loaded with small shot, capped and with the hammer down.

The Jury of which Mr Alexander Bryes was foreman, stated:
" That Harriet Parker, aged 19 years, died at Cape St George, New Bristol, on the 14th day of July 1887, from a gunshot wound, accidentally received: and that her companion,  Kate Gibson, was not to blame, as they were skylarking."

Harriot was buried at Greenpatch,  her sad grave can still be seen there today in the middle of the camping area..


The grave as it appears today July 2017


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