Headstone "Alfred Speed"; 1841; QS2007.33


Sydney Quarantine Station Moveable Heritage Collection


Headstone "Alfred Speed"

About this object

This is the headstone from the grave of Alfred Speed, who arrived in Port Jackson on the immigrant ship Ayrshire on 25 October 1841. He died of unknown causes at the age of 19 years; his date of death is also unknown. Although the “First Burial Ground” was still in use in 1841, Alfred Speed was not buried there; rather he was buried several metres off the path leading from Store Beach to the Healthy Ground.
The Ayrshire departed Liverpool, England, on 10 July 1841, with a total of 304 immigrants (188 adults, 116 children) and 30 crew on board. There were a total of 22 deaths during the voyage (5 adults, 17 children), and 2 deaths in quarantine (Alfred Speed and 30-year-old Elizabeth Ritson). The ship spent a total of 19 days in quarantine. The primary reason for the quarantine was typhus fever , although both deaths at the Station have been listed as due to unknown causes.
The headstone of Alfred Speed is historically significant to the Quarantine Station due to the unusual nature of his burial for the period in which he died – that is, the fact that, for reasons now unknown, he was not buried in the assigned cemetery area.
It is also historically significant as it is around the time of the quarantine of the Ayrshire that there begins to appear a noticeable reduction in the number of migrant deaths occurring both on the ships and at the Quarantine Station. This also makes the headstone rare, as there were only two passengers from the Ayrshire who died at the Quarantine Station, whereas for earlier quarantines, the number of deaths was higher.
It holds social, or spiritual, significance not only for people at the time it was erected, but also today. For the people who erected the stone, it was socially/spiritually significant as a personal memorial to a loved one. However, headstones, or grave markers, continue to be socially significant to later generations who never knew the person, as demonstrated by the fact that this headstone (along with several others) was removed from the ground and placed under shelter to protect it from weather damage. Additionally, descendants of persons who died at the Quarantine Station remain in contact with the Station to this day, enquiring after the condition of their ancestors’ grave and headstone, and seeking to arrange a visit.

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