Monday, May 7, 2012

Getting closer to Elizabeth Flynn

I have previously written two blog posts about Elizabeth Flynn which can be read here and here. Elizabeth was a young girl who went missing in 1861 near Cooma. I have just received an email with more of the puzzle revealed. This answer has been sitting on my bookshelf for more than 10 years.

The email gave reference to "in those days..." Numeralla-Countegany-Peak View and surrounding areas which was compiled by the Numeralla and District Community History Group. I have had this book for many years but have only read some sections - obviously not the significant one which pertains to Elizabeth Flynn. Like all research, it answers some of my questions but it raises further issues to be investigated.

The following extract is from p. 66 of the publication and was written by a J.W. Evans.

George Scott an Englishman came to the Kydra area around 1911.
One evening at the home of Mr and Mrs P O'Neill, George was invited in for afternoon tea and while having his 'cuppa' casually remarked that he had found a human skeleton in the hills that day. When questioned if he was sure it was human skeleton, said he had picked the skill up and had examined it and was quite sure. Asked how he had come to find it in such a place, said he had wounded a fox and it had got into its lair under this big rock. He walked up to the rock and saw the bones. Asked if he had informed the police, he replied, "no, I thought people could died where they liked in Australia."
Being the smallest there I was called on by the Police to crawl into this crevice where adults could not get and gather all bones, and there seemed to be millions of them.
I was frightened of the policeman and frightened of the rock , and I knew one little boy that wasn't going to be killed by either. When I got out of that crevice I was like the lad in the outback Christening. I felt like heading for the scrub where pursuit would be risky.
Having collected all bones in a heap, the Medical Officer drafted them, throwing out the animal and bird bones. It must be remembered that foxes and perhaps dingoes had reared their cubs and pups under this rock for years, so many of the bones were from animals brought in for food. The bones were packed in tea tins and taken back to Cooma where a coroner's inquiry was held a few day later. Although the remains were identified as that of a Flynn girl missing from Countaguinea for fifty-one years (the only lost person not accounted for), the relatives would not claim the remains for burial, so the police had the remains buried in the Cooma cemetery.
Here is an interesting part to this story. My father had the property, where the skeleton was found, leased for years. My mother who helped muster the stock and did some shooting on the side, knew bush lore better than most men, told me this story after the bones were found.
"Whilst shooting in the locality about 1905 or 1906 she picked up a bone and after giving it a thorough examination, could not identify it with any animal. She put the bone on top of a stump, and when she went back to get it, it was gone. It was thought that hawks, crows or foxes had taken it. It proved to be the pelvis bone of a human body, the only bone by which the sex of the remains could be identified.

This is a great example of a story which was probably retold many times over many years after the event. With stories like this we need to look at the facts.  What further questions need answering? How much of the story has been altered over the years?

What facts can be elicited from the article?

1. George Scott found the skeleton around 1911.
2. J.W. Evans crawled under the rock to collect the bones.
3. The Medical Officer sorted the human and animal bones.
4. A coroner's inquiry was held in Cooma a few days later.
5. Remains identified as those of the Flynn girl.
6. Remains not collected by the family.
7. Remains buried in Cooma.
8. Evans had property leased where skeleton was located
9. Mrs Evans had found a bone in 1905 or 1906 which may have been part of the skeleton

I now have the following questions which need answering.

1. What was the exact year was the skeleton found?
2. What was the name of the property on which the skeleton was found?
3. Where in the Cooma cemetery was the skeleton buried?
4. What information can be located in both local and possibly state newspapers?
5. What information can be discovered from the coroner's inquiry?
6. The final statement about the pelvis bone is confusing. If it went missing from the stump, how did they know it was a pelvis bone?
7. What is the probability that this skeleton was that of Elizabeth Flynn?
8. And of course, the main question will always remain - What happened to Elizabeth Flynn?

What have I missed? Does anyone have any further suggestions or lines of inquiry for me to follow?

1 comment:

  1. An intriguing puzzle Sharon. Were the papers from the coroner's enquiry helpful? Was the coroner's enquiry written up in the paper? I wonder if she died in the bush and was taken by a dingo. I imagine that describing the pelvic bone helped to identify it...fairly distinctive. I wonder if the medical people knew how to identify the person's age from the bones in that era. Are there burial records for Cooma cemetery or the local undertaker? Probably a pauper's burial unless the landowner took pity on her.

    Why on earth did her family not think it was her if she was the only one missing? What did they know that others didn't? Agreed, too many questions.