Friday, 19 June 2015

The gabion monument for Harriet Baker

A wall of trees hides a ridge punctuated by two arches, the tunnels in the Pacific Motorway at Duranbah. The tunnels are buttressed by gabions. 

This ridge edges the property where Harriet Eliza Baker died on 6 September 1901, long before her mother Letitia Halligan (in 1934) and father Nicholas John Jones (in 1918). She was 35 years old.

Pacific Motorway, Duranbah 15 May 15

Harriet Jones was a 19th Century baby - the eldest of 15 children. Born at South Arm, Grafton on 30 June 1866, she was visiting her grandmother Mary Hines (nee Halligan) at Duranbah where she met Thomas Baker. Thomas was almost 23, Harriet only 18. They eloped to Brisbane and married at All Saints Church on 2 April 1884 but returned to the Tweed River to settle at the Cudgen-Duranbah crossroads, where her father-in-law James Baker held property.

Tweed Regional Museum,
Thomas, also a Grafton native, was a timber-getter and farmer. 

In the early 20th Century, he also managed the Duranbah Post Office from his home with the assistance of his daughters. [Source: State Records, NSW.]

Thomas and Harriet welcomed five daughters: Mary (Skeels), Ada (O'Loughlin), Florence (Philp), Irene (Cameron) and Ida (Campbell).

Harriet's youngest daughter, Ida Alice Maud (1894-1983), recalled herself and her sisters sitting in front of their mother on a horse. The dairy was in a steep gully and the children had to keep the crows out of 
the corn. Ida was only seven when her mother died after a three-week fight against influenza.

Duranbah has never had a cemetery. Harriet was buried near the Baker family property, surrounded by a low white picket fence. In the 1950s, the land was subsumed into a quarry. Although a search was carried out on behalf of the Tweed Shire Council, there was no substantial presence to exhume and reinter. 

Lone Graves Register, Tweed Heads Historical Society

In an interesting twist of fate, Harriet's father-in-law had been subjected to the same spiritual relocation. His second resting place was subsequently washed away in a Murwillumbah flood.                          
H.E.B. 5 September 1901

Her last-minute will and testament shows where her priorities lay, but no photographs or possessions of Harriet are known to exist. How difficult then to illustrate a life. 

While the monolithic Wollumbin provides the backdrop to this truncated life on the land, Harriet's gravestone will always be the gabion monument.

Wollumbin from Tomewin Mountain Road, 21 May 2015