Respect renewed – locals honour the Walter Hood victims

By the 1920s, the original Walter Hood graves had gone through several bushfires, severely damaging the inscribed slabs, and the high tide mark was gradually encroaching on the site. A group of men led by James Murray of Conjola decided it was time to move the burials to a safer site with a new memorial cairn covering the graves.

Original grave site and remains of the timber monument for lives lost from the Walter Hood, burnt in bushfire, c1920

Many locals, especially those living at Redhead (now Bendalong) joined in the effort to raise money for the memorial. They organised entertainments, and many donated money. The NSW Government gave land for a new memorial site. Publicity about the graves found survivor Robert Williams and also John Harrison who had swum out to the wreck to try and rescue survivors. Both sent donations.

In 1927, the Department of Lands allocated 195 acres to a reserve to surround a new memorial cairn, built about 35 metres NNW from the original graves. The Department of Public Health agreed to exhume and relocate the bodies.

Memorial Cairn to those lost on the Walter Hood, unveiled 1927

The new stone memorial was built by local stonemason William Poole. Both Williams and Harrison attended the dedication on 9 March 1927. Local historian and senior public servant RH Cambage CBE spoke, as did Charles Murray of Clyde Shire and John Harrison.

Robert Williams, survivor of Walter Hood shipwreck (centre), Charles Murray on left (President of Clyde Shire) in 1927 at Wreck Bay

Then Walter Hood survivor Robert Williams, now 79 years old, began to speak. And dropped a BOMBSHELL.