A Disinterred Child
|Port Pirie Cemetery – photo Allen Tiller © 2019
Isaac Grey and William Wilson was charged in the Port Pirie courts by John Martin, for unlawfully exhuming the dead body of a child. On 30 November 1893, the two were summoned to court to hear their fate.
It was charged that Mr Wilson, the acting curator of the cemetery and the town clerk, instructed the cemetery sexton, Isaac Grey, to exhume the child’s body, which had been buried by mistake in a leased ground.
1-year-old Esther Violet Eva Martin had died on 3 November 1893 and buried the next day. Her mother and father, John and Sarah Martin, and another relative George Heaver were all in attendance at the funeral. They placed wreaths on the child’s grave.
On November 19, John and Sarah returned to the cemetery to visit his child’s grave, only to find all the wreaths removed. The Martin’s immediately went to the sexton’s office to find out what had happened.
Martin asked Grey if his child had been moved, which Grey replied, “yes she had.”
He asked who had approved the moving of the body, and Grey told him that Mr Wilson had done so and that Wilson had said not to make a fuss over it, unless, by chance, he met them in the cemetery.
The Martin’s visited the Mayor, Mr Geddes, and expressed their distaste at the goings-on at the cemetery. The Mayor was outraged and went with Mr Martin to Wilson’s office to make enquiries. They asked Wilson if it was true that the child had been moved. Wilson replied indignantly, “yes, what about it?”
Wilson asked Martin, “Have you come to make a fuss or row about it?”
Martin asked, “Can I have the grave opened again to satisfy myself that my child is buried there?”
Wilson replied, “Most certainly not!”
Martin asked for proof his child was buried where Wilson said she was, to which Wilson replied, “you’ve got to take my word for it.”
Martin asked Wilson if it was not his duty to first ask the Mayor before moving a body, to which Wilson replied, “I will please myself.” Wilson then pulled out a map of the cemetery and explained to Mr Martin and Mayor Geddes how the mistake was made.
Mayor Geddes was put on the stand during the trial. He confirmed Martin’s report of what happened in Wilson’s office but also stated he gave no authority to Wilson to exhume the child’s body.
Wilson was called to give evidence. He stated it was his job to enter cemetery details into the register. He had discovered that Martin’s child had been buried in a plot already leased to Mr Davis. He discovered the error two days after the burial, so he asked Mr Grey to move the child to the nearest vacant site. Wilson blamed the error on Grey, who had not checked with him where to bury the child.
The presiding judge ruled that the usual 10 pound fine for the crime was reduced to 1 pound and costs.
Mr William Wilson would go on to be Port Pirie Town Clerk for 31 Years (without a break, nor a holiday!). Wilson was originally from Dungannon, Ireland, arriving in Australia onboard Carisbrook Castle in 1875. He was 67 in the year of his retirement. Wilson died 25 Nov 1918 at Prospect, South Australia.
Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2020
 \’DISINTERRING A CHILD.\’, South Australian Chronicle, (2 December 1893), p. 21., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92801792.
 Ancestry.com. Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.