Sarah Claydon – midwife, nurse and friend to all
Sickness was the true scourge of the pioneers, with diphtheria, convulsions, scarlet fever and measles often causing the deaths of young children. Many women also died from complications of childbirth as there were no doctors. When Sarah Claydon arrived in Milton-Ulladulla in 1851, she began to care for those in her community who needed her most.
Sarah Maria Faulks arrived in Sydney from Ireland in 1830 as a two year old with her family aboard the Hercules. The family moved to Coolangatta in the Shoalhaven area in 1836 where her father was a policeman. At just 18 years old Sarah married a former convict, Henry Claydon, at Shoalhaven and came to live in the Ulladulla district when he paid £100 for 100 acres near Milton 1851.
Although Sarah Claydon had no children herself, she became the district midwife, as well as nursing the sick and laying out the dead for both wealthy and poor families. She refused all payment for her help and earned the love and gratitude of the community.
She also became foster mother to two aboriginal girls, (one of whom was probably fathered by Henry Claydon).
After her death in 1876, from a ‘uterine affection’ (probably cancer), funds collected were used to build a magnificent gravestone in the grounds of the Milton Wesleyan Church on Croobyar Road, fashioned in the Victorian manner of tiered sandstone blocks surmounted by a draped urn with the inscription:
Sacred to the memory of Sarah Maria, wife of Henry Claydon who died December 23, 1876, aged 48 years. This monument was erected by the inhabitants of Ulladulla in grateful recognition of her many benevolent services to the sick and distressed.
‘I was sick and ye visited me’
The Sarah Claydon Retirement Village in Milton, which commemorates Sarah’s service to her community, was opened in 1984.