BEFORE: A photo of Walter Derrett's grave taken in 1934 and printed in the Northern Star.
BEFORE: A photo of Walter Derrett's grave taken in 1934 and printed in the Northern Star. Contributed

He served his country but died a lonely death

ONE of the saddest stories Tales from the Grave has uncovered is that of Walter Derrett.

Just off the Summerland Way at Myrtle Creek, there is a travelling stock reserve near a river.

Beside the river is the last resting place of Derrett, an ex-serviceman who had served in South Africa and the Great War.

 

AFTER: The burial place of Walter Derrett who drowned himself in the creek.
AFTER: The burial place of Walter Derrett who drowned himself in the creek. Samantha Elley

Long time Rappville resident Keith Cole first alerted me to this desolate grave two years ago.

Derrett came to be buried by the travelling stock route river when he committed suicide in 1928.

His final actions were reported in the local paper.

"A determined suicide was committed on Good Friday night by an old man named Walter Derrett, by drowning in Myrtle Creek above the bridge at the rear of Mr J. Gulliver's home," The Richmond River

Express and Casino Kyogle Advertiser reported on April 11, 1928.

The paper went on to say that Mr Derrett had written a letter to Constable Davey, of Rappville, which was timed to reach the officer after the troubled man had taken his life.

Const Davey hurried to the site to find, as stated in the letter, a neatly packed camp in a buggy with a tent fly over it.

Mr Derrett's dog was faithfully guarding the area, savagely barking at anyone who came near.

An initial search didn't uncover the body, but by Easter Monday morning Mr Gulliver discovered Mr Derrett floating face down a couple of hundred metres from the campsite.

The news of such a well-planned and methodical end to his own life, saw Derrett's name printed in all major newspapers of the day.

A photo printed in the Northern Star in 1934 showed a well built fence around Derrett's grave six years later.

Unfortunately time had worn the fencing away and only two poles with the inscription, thanks to the upkeep of Mr Cole, remained.

References

* First printed in The Richmond River Express Examiner, January 14, 2015.

* 'In Lonely Grave', Northern Star, Saturday, July 7, 1934.


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