Mary Ellen Ryan died on the 20th February 1889 and she was my Great, Great Aunty. My Dad was doing some tentative research into his family history and showed me this grave that is situated in the Port Douglas Cemetery. After that day and casual conversation I took a steep learning curve into researching my family history and spent any spare chance I could at the Cairns Library. My days of researching my family history have ground to a halt and I miss the intrigue of finding out some clue and digging up missing family members.
Mary Ellen Ryan was only 2 months old when she died and the size of her grave was unusual for someone so young. The Port Douglas historical society was happy to hear from me because they had no clues on the highly decorate grave that contained my Great, Great Aunt. The person I spoke with told me that the grave showed a family of great wealth, that greatly mourned the loss of their daughter. In the exchange of information, I learnt that my Great, Great Ganddad attended the school at Port Douglas and his father was one of the local publicans.
It has been over 120 years since Mary Ellen Ryan died and her immediate family has long since passed, yet I still think about her regularly. What would her life have been like had she lived? Did her brothers carry her memory with them into their adult lives? How did my Great, Great Grandmother cope when they moved from Port Douglas?
The lives and times of those pioneer families where hard, tough, hot and wet and in comparison we, as a society have become soft. The ethos of life was work hard, raise a family, attend church and socialize often. Everyone knew there neighbours and helped out where there was a need. Sadly so many of our yester year values have gone and replaced by the internet, TV and a need to feel safe in your own home.
Maybe this is one of my late night ramblings and I don’t have a very good articulate argument, it is just a strong feeling that we as a society have lost something that was good. Mary Ellen Ryan died a long time ago and yet if she lived a long life, I would gladly swap just one month of my life for hers, to see if my theory is true.