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1850s “Underbelly” for Canberra’s Grave yard nuts.

By fgzk 21 September 2011 23

cover and fingers

Samuel Shumack’s autobiography written in the late twenties and first published in 1967, gives us an account of rural living in the Canberra district before federation. It offers detailed accounts of his recollections and conversations with other locals. There are a lot of tales about crimes, how people died and where they are buried. I liked how he comments on peoples honesty, their work and sobriety. He was naming and shaming way before the internet. He did have the good manners to wait decades before he “posted”.

Its a great coffee table book you can pick up and randomly read interesting local legends. Some ring true today. Visiting Qeanbeyan was often fatal, strange going-ons in Charnwood, property owners with money. “Media” bribes, its got the lot.

If you are interested in Canberra’s history this is a book to track down. I found my copy at the Curtin Second hand Bookshop for $28. It is published by Australian National Press Canberra.

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23 Responses to
1850s “Underbelly” for Canberra’s Grave yard nuts.
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Spykler 6:53 pm 24 Sep 11

Thumper said :

Definately an old family plot at the Pines in Latham (cnr Kingsford Smith and Southern Cross drive), was well known as a local legend when I was a young takka..Playground eventually built over/near it.Some of the original cottage’s footings remain in the centre of the Pines area (but are well covered by blackberry bushes).

Sorry to burst your bubble but it is a legend. The area was previously called Cranleigh and was first settled and developed in the 1920s by Lieutenant-General James Gordon Legge who, after his retirement from the Army, built a homestead and planted numerous fruit and pine trees on the newly acquired 400 hectare property and lived there until 1947.

The homestead, built in 1923, was sadly demolished in 1953 to make way for the development of the new suburb. Of the homestead, only the concrete foundations remain in places, made from sand and gravel from the nearby Ginninderra Creek.

No graves I’m afraid. But you can still make out the original site of the homestead so interesting in its own right.

Bubble duly burst, but now have a at least some knowledge concerning the old place..

jay24 8:59 am 22 Sep 11

There are many such street names and the excellent publication (available at ACT Govt. Shopfronts) called Canberra’s Suburb and Street Names has further info.
Yes, Shumack Street in Weetangera is named after the Shumack family, as is Gribble Street in Gungahlin named after the Gribble family.
The Gribble homestead (The Glebe) was situated in what is now the suburb of Evatt and was demolished in 1971, despite much protest at the time. I am a direct descendant of William and Mary Ann Gribble (nee Southwell) who lived on the property until their deaths.
The Shumack book is entertaining, but often described as a set of fanciful tales. Not all 100% accurate – a fair amount of artistic licence was used.
Other good books about pioneer Canberra region include Memories of Hall by Leon R. Smith and Ginninderra – Forerunner to Canberra by Lyall L. Gillespie. They are hard to find but worth looking for in second hand bookshops. Memories of Hall has a detailed list of who was buried at The Glebe Church according to the St John’s Parish Register.
I agree that a detailed account of who is buried at all the old grave sites would be welcome but unfortunately many of the records no longer exist.

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