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Community & Business

14 June, 2023

Bush grave mystery laid to rest after chance meeting

Have you heard the one about the two blokes that walked into an optometrist's?

This one is no joke, in actual fact, but a tale of coincidence and serendipity, that unfolded in a Toowoomba waiting room last week. 

Pittsworth’s Billy Hughes had taken his wife into Toowoomba for eye surgery and sat next to a fellow “who looked like a bushy, like me.”

It turned out both wives were having the same procedure and so the men began chatting while they waited. 

When Billy asked if the other gentleman had travelled much, the reply came back that the couple had recently returned from the Bollon area, between
St. George and Cunnamulla, where they had been searching, unsuccessfully,  for his great-grandfather’s grave. 

He couldn’t have guessed in a million years that the person he was divulging this information to was probably the one man on the planet who could assist. 

For Billy Hughes has spent the past 24 years searching for, documenting and restoring, lost bush graves around Queensland. 

He’s even writing a book on the subject. 

And he could indeed inform his new friend exactly where his great-grandfather was buried.  

“When I asked for his last name and he told me, Train, that’s when I knew,” Billy said. 

Some time ago he had heard of a lost grave in the Boolba area, half way between St. George and Bollon, and had spent some time looking for it - all he knew was that it was near a tennis court. 

“It was just one piece of cement, about a metre by a metre, flat on the ground and the grass had grown over it.” 

Billy discovered there were two people buried at the site, George Train, who died in 1910, and a young girl, his grand daughter who had died due to injuries sustained in a fire some time later.

Billy said he couldn’t quite believe the coincidence of sitting down next to George Train’s great grandson last week. 

Both wives were required back at the clinic the next day and so Billy was able to take along the photos he had of the old grave.

“I have a few nice stories but none as good as this one,” he said. “I was so glad to help their family.”

Billy’s fascination for the history and the stories around of Queensland’s lost bush graves, particularly around the Maranoa region, has inspired a book that he hopes will be published before Christmas. 

He and his wife, Mary, left Mitchell 20 years ago and travelled around Australia for 15 years, always stopping in Pittsworth over the hottest part of the year.  They  have called Pittsworth home now for five years. 

Billy said he has been able to locate around 300 bush graves over the years, each harking back to a different time in Queensland’s history, a time when life was tough, and towns with hospitals and  church cemeteries were fewer and further between.

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