I write to you from the year 2016. We’ve never met but I hope you know that I think about you all the time. Your sister, Kitty, is my Great Grandmother which makes you my 2nd Great Uncle.
As I write this letter, the anniversary of your disappearance steadily approaches. On the 16 September 2016, it will be 122 years since you disappeared without a trace in the bush near Collie. I’m currently sharing the details of your story each day, I guess in the hope it sparks something somewhere.
It’s now been six years since I first learned your story. Six years of research, transcribing, family history trips, exploring and help from the most wonderful people. Six years of painstakingly putting the puzzle back together, a puzzle which remained hidden from the world for so long. From a vague beginning, I’ve edged ever closer to finding the bigger picture of what happened. But I still haven’t found you. I’m still looking for you.
I have so many questions I want to ask you.
I often wonder what happened that day. I know that you were off playing with your older sister, Daisy, but when she wanted to go home, why didn’t you go with her? Were you simply having too much fun?
What happened afterwards? Did you try to make your way home but became lost?
I hope you know that your father, Thomas, never gave up trying to find you. He searched for hours. He searched for days. Other settlers eventually gave up but he never did. He marched straight into Bunbury and convinced them all to have another go. They all searched for miles around Ironstone Gully. The Police were also there searching and an Aboriginal tracker tried to find your tracks. How is it you left no trace? They would’ve been calling your name. Why did you not respond? Were you frightened that you’d get in trouble? Were you hiding in a hollow log and too scared to make yourself known?
Eventually they had to stop searching. Too much time had passed. There was no hope that you’d be found alive. You’d disappeared without a trace, like ‘the earth swallowed you whole’ as Archie Fowler described it.
I hope you also know that even though they stopped looking, no one ever forgot about you. The aforementioned quote from Archie Fowler came from when he was interviewed in 1940 – 46 years later. Of all the topics he spoke about, you were one of them.
I also haven’t forgotten about you. I’ve got no idea if your remains were ever found since 1894 but it seems likely that they weren’t. It pains me to think that you’re still somewhere out there in the bush, and all my research and work stems from a desire to find you. To find your remains and have you buried in Bunbury Cemetery with the father who searched high and low for you.
There are some stories in this world which go deeper than others; they pierce your soul and consume your thoughts. Your story is one of them, little Thomas. I will think of you for the rest of my life. I will continue to dig around and to search for more pieces of the puzzle. As long as I live, I will tell your story.
Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Victoria: http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/work/5976/
Read more of Thomas’s story here: The Mysterious Disappearance of Thomas Lisle Crampton