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Mystery Memorial in Kosciuszko

Ashes to Ashes - A Fisherman's Find

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Mystery Memorial in Kosciuszko National Park

A mystery memorial in Kosciuszko National Park has risen from the ashes of the 2020 summer bush fires in Denison, an area of dense bush land, close to Adaminaby and favoured by fishing enthusiasts.  The bush fire raged through the Park destroying anything and everything in its path leaving a wilderness of charred remains. Denison was in its catastrophic path.

But in the process of destroying the undergrowth some historical features unseen for many years rose up when the fires had receded.  The old Kiandra ski runs and Kiandra gold diggings became visible and not far away in Denison, a mystery memorial surfaced from the burnt undergrowth.

The memorial, found by a fisherman, is located on a rise above the Eucumbene River in bush land near the junction of Alpine Creek and close to the Bicentennial National Trail. It is not far from the Denison Camping Ground.

 

Location of Mystery Memorial in Kosciusko National Park

Before the devastating bush fires raced through the area in January 2020 the memorial probably lay hidden in the scrub for many years.  The plaque positioned above the cross appears to have melted in the fierce heat of the fire rendering the name/epitaph unreadable.  A sad consequence for whoever the memorial commemorates or for whoever’s ashes may lay beneath or were scattered in the area.

Part of the bush fire ravaged area of Denison in the Kosciuszko National Park near the Eucumbene River and Alpine Creek

Heritage Detective Work

Information provided by Canberra and Region Heritage Researcher (CRHR), Tony Maple, adds some interesting diversions as well as practical investigative leads in the process of solving the mystery memorial in Kosciuszko National Park.

History of the Area

  • The memorial is located on the very southern most boundary of the Parish of Nungar.
  • It lies in bush land to the west of the gold-mining township of Denison West at the junction of Alpine Creek and the Eucumbene River.
  • There was once a saw mill to the south of Alpine Creek, and gold mining/dredging along that stretch of river, and a soldier settlement farm after WW1 just to the south.
  • E.H. QUODLING held the lease or nearby leases in 1907.
A relic of bygone days in the Denison area.  ‘The Man From Snowy River’ perhaps?

Make up of the Memorial and its Plaque

  • A variety of materials were used to make the base, cross and plaque.
  • The base measuring around 300mm x 200mm seems to be made of crushed sharp quartz, perhaps the product of a gold mining operation at Kiandra. It is solid but beginning to crumble at the edges.
  • The cross is roughly fixed in place with a putty or cement that is now turning grey.
  • The cross seems to be of heavy stainless steel, probably dating from the 1950’s or 1960’s when such steel became affordable for non-Defence purposes.
  • Signs that it might have been hammered in places may indicate that it is a hand-made piece.
  • Probably made in a well-equipped workshop, but not a dedicated funeral memorial shop where we might expect engraving on the cross.
  • The rounded wood screws at the corners of the plaque show it was carefully fixed in place with new screws.
  • The plaque seems to have been made with pre-cast mounts for the screws – so a complex job.
  • Maybe the plaque was a standard commercial funeral plaque made of an alloy that was not designed to withstand bush fires and the freezing conditions of these parts. But it could have been made by someone skilled in metal casting using a sand mould and added above the cross at a later time.
Mystery memorial rises from ashes in Denison close to the Eucumbene River a favourite spot for fishing enthusiasts

How old is it?

  • The memorial most likely dates from the 1960’s at the earliest.

Who is it for?

  • Most likely the plaque had lettering identifying who the memorial was for, but in its now melted, disfigured or possibly eroded state it’s unreadable.
  • Most likely the memorial is for a person of Christian faith, not an animal.

Some hypotheses

  1. It was made by someone employed on the Snowy Mountains Scheme, perhaps memorialising an immigrant worker who was a strong Christian, but not a member of a local congregation.
  2. It memorialises a trout fisherman who loved that location, or who died there and requested his ashes be buried or scattered there.
  3. It may be a memorial placed over the ashes of a local person from Kiandra or Adaminaby but if they were strongly Christian as the cross indicates, you would expect them to be interred in a cemetery with family members.
View of the Eucumbene River from a rocky outcrop near the mystery memorial in Kosciusko National Park

If anyone has additional hypotheses and/or information in relation to this bush memorial please leave a comment.

If you plan visiting the area always check updates issued by National Parks NSW

 

 

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