Is Australia's third oldest settlement haunted?
Allman Hill Cemetery - Port Macquarie
Port Macquarie (like Port Arthur) was founded as a Penal Settlement for secondary offending Convicts who committed further crimes once in the colony of New South Wales. It was first settled in 1821 under the command of Captain Francis Allman, with a small contingent of Soldiers, an Engineer, A surgeon, and 60 convicts. Port Macquarie is Australia’s third oldest settlement.
As a secondary place of Punishment life in Port in the first few years was harsh with a high death rate. Convicts worked long days in the sun in leg irons, with small rations. Floggings were commonplace for attempted escapees. In contrast later on Governor Darling described Port Macquarie as being “hardly a place of punishment”.
Sugarcane, Maize, Cedar and Livestock were the main produce, pilfering of goods was common among officers and commandants. Produce and supplies were transported by sea. And many, many shipwrecks occurred on Port Macquarie’s notorious bar entrance causing high loss of life over the years. Most ships could only cross in high tide as the water was never deeper than 10ft over the bar.
Nearly all of the original buildings have been demolished with only St Thomas’ Church and the Historical Society building still standing from the convict era. Some of the original buildings were; Government house, Gaol, Military barracks, Prisoners barracks, Hospital, Church, Boat shed, Lumberyard, Women’s factory.
Two early burying grounds from the colonial era still exist. The first being Allman Hill where the first burials took place. Those of note are James McMahon on 22 July, 1821 the first person to die in the new settlement - killed by a protracted illness. And James Vaughan member of the 48th Regiment killed by a gunshot wound whilst preventing convicts from escaping. 28 burials occurred on Allman Hill from 1821-1824. Under the Floor of St Thomas’ church is the grave of Captain Rolland who died of exposure on the 16th of November 1824. The second burying ground contains over 1500 soldiers, convicts.
The town's second cemetery was used from 1824-1886. Although the cemetery officially closed in 1886, further burials were reported after this date. The first burial was of Elizabeth Murphy, daughter of Corporal Murphy 3rd regiment of the Buffs aged four months. Infant mortality rate was high as shown in burial records. Today, over 110 graves can still be seen.
Reported Paranormal Activity
Stories of activity in the second burying grounds have been reported - sounds of chains clinking and lights appearing at the back of the cemetery are commonplace. On my last visit to the second burying ground the wetlands and boardwalk behind the cemetery had a more eerie feeling to it than the cemetery itself.
The “Ghost of the Quarry” is a well documented paranormal occurrence in Port Macquarie. The story has appeared in local newspapers and has been witnessed by locals for over a century. A tall figure is supposed to appear at the top of a hill smoky gray in color and wearing a robe. As the name suggests a Quarry once existed in the area where the apparition has been seen, perhaps the ghost of a worker killed in the quarry? This Ghost is supposed to appear every 50 years or so and is due again this year. (2007) There are other reports of a “contained fog” that has been seen crossing the road in this same area, see account below;
“My Grandmother and Great Aunt both witnessed the ghost on an occasion, and they still have the news paper article relating to it. Both of them, their taxi driver and 2 other persons in another car witnessed a 'contained fog' move from the bush across the highway, stop in between the cars and 'look' into the window, forming a face. It then floated through the bonnet of the taxi and disappeared into the bush on the other side of the road.”
I recently had a personal experience when I was last visited Port Macquarie;
“My family and I decided to go to an Italian restaurant for dinner while we were on holidays in Port Macquarie recently. When I entered the restaurant we sat in the outdoor area. I was suddenly overcome with feelings of intense joy and silliness. My wife thought I had gone quite mad. I then started to get mental images of Port Macquarie as it would have looked approximately a century ago. Along with these images I had a strong feeling of “coming home” so to speak. These feelings lasted the whole time I was at the Restaurant; we even asked if a building had been demolished on the site the present Restaurant now sits. The staff did not know. When we left the Restaurant the feelings slowly faded away. When I got back home I had a look at an old map of Port Macquarie from pioneering times and in the approximate area the Restaurant is situated once stood the old Police Station.”
Hardly a paranormal experience I know but worth a mention nonetheless.
I have been a regular visitor to Port Macquarie for many years. I have read much about the history of Port and would love to add to this article any stories local people or anyone has in relation to ghosts or paranormal of the Hastings area.