QSwharfth.jpg (4017 bytes)Manly Quarantine Station

Stories from the Quarantine Station

Aboriginal
Heritage
History
Immigration
Buildings
in 1999
Carvings
on site
Residents
in the past
Natural
Environment
Conservation
Plan
Index

Here are the stories you will find on this page :

* Bubonic Plague - first death from this disease in Australia.
* Chubby Chinese gentleman
* Fumigating the mail
* Smallpox in 1913
* Payment in rum

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Post Office
Photo by J.C.Bennett
Bubonic Plague - first death in Australia

Thomas Dudley is buried in the Quarantine Station because he died of Bubonic Plague in Sydney - the first death from this cause in Australasia. He was well known because he had at one time been a ship's captain and been shipwrecked with some of his crew floating on a raft with no supplies. One of the crew was very sick so they bumped him on the head and ate him.
After the crew were rescued, they were tried for murder and jailed but later released because of public outcry. But Thomas Dudley decided to move to Australia - away from the notoriety. Later, he died from the Bubonic Plague.

Chubby Chinese gentleman

One Chinese gentlemen brought in to quarantine was decidedly "chubby" but when forced to undress to go through the showers, it was found that he had yards of silk wound around him - probably he was smuggling it in.

Fumigating the mail

Passengers were stressed by being delayed in quarantine and particularly so if any of their family were sick so they were pleased to see a Post Office (from 1920 - 1939). However, imagine their dismay when they learned that all mail had to be fumigated. At first the method used was to dip the letter in a bucket of vinegar. The ink would run and the letter became unreadable!
Then the authorities discovered how they could cut off the corners of the letters, put in a whole lot of pin pricks then drop it into a wire basket. The wire basket was placed in the red barrel and fumigated with sulfur dioxide and steam.

Smallpox in 1913

In June 1913, a mild form of smallpox arrived in Sydney. A sailor, working on a steamer called "Zealandia" from Vancouver, had a mild case of smallpox but did not feel sick enough to take time off work. He was also very attracted to one of the young women travelling on the ship. This young lady carried the infection into Sydney.
By July, a quarantine area was declared in Sydney that radiated out in a 15 mile radius from the central Post Office. Over 1000 smallpox patients were taken during that year to the Manly Quarantine Station but it was a mild form of the disease and only 4 deaths occurred.

Payment in rum

Before 1953, bodies were carried to the burial site by a horse-drawn hearse. Gravedigging was an unpleasant task and was rewarded with a ration of rum. The hearse was often driven quite erratically.

When the Quarantine Station was quiet, there was no need for a gravedigger. There were some unemployed people living in Manly who used to watch for the yellow flag. If this flag was flying, they would know the Quarantine Station was in use. They would move in to the gravedigger's cottage and wait for work, knowing they would be payed in rum.

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Gravedigger's cottage
Photo : J.Simpson
Aboriginal
Heritage
History
Immigration
Buildings
in 1999
Carvings
on site
Residents
in the past
Natural
Environment
Conservation
Plan
This page was created 30th October, 1999, by Judith Bennett,  Friends of Quarantine Station,
and was last modified 20th January, 2007.