Camping at Bramfield Cemetery

Ev had asked a surfer on the cliff what was worth seeing.

"You should go to Bramfield."

"What's at Bramfield?"

"Interesting people building interesting houses and growing fruit and things like that."

"Do you live at Bramfield?"

"Yes, I've got about a hundred fruit trees."

"Sounds like our kind of place."


We arrived at Bramfield, 12km west of Elliston, at dusk, and could see that the small village was something of an oasis.

Shy of camping near homes, we followed the sign out of town to the cemetery.... finding a lovely corner of the carpark to pitch a tent. This photo next morning:

Kim Gillette went by with a trailer load of some of his 7000 sheep and on his way back stopped to chat and commend us on our choice of a lovely camping spot.

By the time we had discussed matters of history and agronomy and water quality and ghosts, it we dark and by the light of the moon, while enough for Ev, putting things in the tent, Dennis decided he needed a head torch to open oysters bought in the morning in Coffin Bay.

It had been the first really hot day, about 33 degrees and the light of the head torch, in a place with a view over rolling country in all directions, brought to the table, shirt, trousers, appurtenances and aspects of the oyster shucker approximately 14,768 flying baby termites, newly hatched in the heat. We shifted to a lantern on car roof some distance away, but the brighter light of course brought the milling throng to us in greater number. It was with relief that the shucking was done and we could eat by the light of the moon — with the car and lantern moved way away.

Of course we had had the car interior lights set to automatically light with the doors open, and of course the boot light always goes on when you open the boot, so, another day later, we still find little corpses and many detached wings in the corner of every bag and car bit. Fortunately not biters; also fortunately the little Draculas die if not underground by dawn.

At some point in the moonlight Ev took a big square food bin from the boot, which has a gutter around its lid. Hundreds of now wingless ants were marching, all the same clockwise way, around this gutter.

I wondered, I said to Ron and Val and Frank and Marlene, as we had morning tea at Val's invitation in Bramfield next day, whether these ants hatched already knowing if they would be queen or colonel or corporal or worker in the army, as a parachute regiment knew when it went to war. Or did they work it out on the ground on landing. "Who would do the field work with the head torch?"

"Well, you've got the experience. I'll nominate you!" said Frank.

We were 12km from the sea. By 9pm the land for a thousand miles to the north was now cooler than the sea and the land wind rose and blew all night, stronger and stronger. All insects not in lodgings blown far away. The sun rose early directly in front of our door. By 7.30am the land was just as warm as the sea and all became still and blow flies buzzed. By 8am the land was warmer and the sea breeze arrived and blew those away. Such an interesting weather pattern, quite away inland, protected from but still moderated by the great Southern Ocean on one side and the deserts of the interior on the other.


The cemetery was a remarkable place, combining history and current care and respect.

and mosaics

Everyone we met (Frank with greatest authority, as a 67 year old descendant of settler family) told us of Bill Tree, who had his headstone carved quite early in life. He sent to the Adelaide stone masons with fresh news of his shearing tally (6762 in the year 1911), to be added, until they ran out of patience and space and sent the headstone away on the ship to Elliston, where, said Frank, it lay in the store for many years for all to inspect. You can discern in the shift in typeface that the date of death was added much later.

Like many families of those times, Frank and his wives (many spouses lost, remarriage expected, we were told) buried many children before them, many in a row here...

Life was not easy. The memorial remarks on graves attest to this. This grave, of Frank's mother (his father also a William Charles Tree), is inscribed:

Through all pain at the times she's smile
A smile of heavenly birth
And when the angels called her home
She said farewell to earth.

A son(?) of Bill Tree the shearer shares with a number of others the inscription:



Definitely the most moving memorial in the cemetery is one of the youngest... this is not just an old country cemetery but a continuing important place for the community.

This is the grave of a fifteen month old boy who drowned in 2002 in his grandparents fish pond.

The monument is inscribed:

We are drawn quietly to his grave to check on him.

We place flowers in his vase and dream of placing kisses on his cheek awainting the touch of a little hand and the smile of a little face.

We dream of holding him in our arms once more and hold the memory dear to our hearts.

Sleep, my little one, sleep.

This was churningly moving to read in the cemetery, remains very difficult to write now.

If it is possible as a stranger to be so moved, how deep an insight it provides into a family's grief?

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