Stories from the Sandstone: Quarantine Inscriptions from Australia's Immigrant Past

Peter Hobbins, Ursula Frederick, Anne Clarke

    Research output: Book/ReportBook


    Sailing to Australia in 1835, 16-year-old John Dawson watched in alarm as three of his sisters developed smallpox. Although all survived this dreaded disease, their faces bore tell-tale scars for the rest of their lives. Yet John left an even more enduring memento of his family's perilous voyage in the soft sandstone of North Head, at the entrance to Sydney Harbour. Carving a lengthy message proclaiming that the Dawsons had landed here to perform quarantine, John began a tradition that continued until Sydney's Quarantine Station finally closed in 1984. During its 150 years of operation, nearly 16,000 people were held in isolation on this headland. Interned for days, weeks or even months, many followed John's example, leaving an extraordinary gallery of more than 1600 carved and painted sandstone inscriptions. Combining intensive archaeological investigation and historical research, this book illuminates Australia's past through the portal of these intriguing and often evocative inscriptions, as well as North Head's numerous headstones. Drawing upon historical records, diaries and other writings, the book highlights the dramatic personal and social effects of diseases that once terrified the community. This book conveys the compelling personal stories of lives lived not just in despair, but also in hope for the future. The result is a captivating and intensely felt picture of the making of our society.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationCrows Nest, NSW
    PublisherArbon Publishing
    Number of pages304
    ISBN (Print)9780994310767
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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