Location: Douglas St
The original Narrandera Cemetery is found within the grounds of the Narrandera Forestry Centre. The small graveyard contains the remains of Narrandera’s first “doctor” Dr Trollope and was part of the original Narrandera Run, owned by the ruthless Edward Flood. Learn more about both these characters at the Narrandera Visitor Information Centre. Pick up the ‘mud map’ and take a self-guided tour of Narrandera Cemetery. Read of wartime tragedy, conquering landowners and murder victims.
THE “JESSICA” STORY
The Jessica that inspired Bryce Courtenay’s novel did exist, but the circumstances surrounding her life and the details of the incident that provided the basis for Courtenay’s story vary considerably from those in the novel.
The two women murdered on 28 January 1911 were sixty-two year old Mrs Sarah Warby and her daughter Amy, who was 23. The women were shot with a rifle – Mrs Warby twice and Amy at point blank range – by William Millar aged 16 and Reginald Clare aged 17 (possibly innocent, but certainly involved in the planning.
According to their testimony in court, the boys had planned to rob and then shoot the women. They had been reading about bushranging the night before which apparently inspired their actions. They planned to escape, leaving another uninvolved worker by the name of Dunn to take the blame.
After the shooting, both boys panicked and ran. Clare, however, ran directly to the neighbouring property Bareena where Jessica Bornholdt and her family lived. He found Jessica alone and told her his story. Jessica then drove Clare seventeen kilometres by sulky via the Whitton Punt to Whitton, where the constable formally arrested Clare and charged him with murder.
Jessica gave evidence in court that indicated that Clare had been involved in the planning of, and certainly witnessed, the crime. Millar was also arrested and gave evidence blaming Clare. They were both sentenced to death. The judge was reported to be ‘extremely overcome’ due to the boy’s age. The death sentences were commuted to “Penal servitude for life”, but the boys were both released in October 1926 after serving sixteen years. Millar, the likely murderer, re-offended and spent most of his mature life in gaol paying for petty crime. Clare never re-offended.
The Real Jessica: Jessica was one of nine children. Her parents were selectors under the land settlement act and farmed in the Euroley district. The children were educated by private tutors due to the lack of available public education. Jessica gave birth to a child two years after the trial, but never disclosed the father’s name. Jessica reared her child alone in seclusion on her sister and brother-in- law’s property at Sandigo, a small rural locality on Sturt Highway towards Wagga Wagga. Jessica later lived in Narrandera in Arthur Street, before her death in 1974 aged 84 years. Both Jessica and the Warby women are buried in the Old Church of England sections A and B of the Narrandera Cemetery.
The Chinese headstones are a great place to contemplate Narrandera’s diverse heritage. Narrandera’s rich history includes a cast of Chinese workers, squatters, settlers, riverboat captains, railway workers and bushrangers. In the 1880’s, Narrandera had the largest population concentration of Chinese in NSW. The community made up half the town’s population and featured joss houses, a hospital, stores, restaurants, banks, gambling and opium dens.
The Chinese graves are situated behind the War Graves at the Narrandera Cemetary, Douglas St.