The faded headstone of William and Mary Alexander at Alphadale cemetery
The faded headstone of William and Mary Alexander at Alphadale cemetery Samantha Elley

TALES: No public transport or decent roads

IN THE small cemetery at Alphadale is a faded headstone that remembers William Alexander and his wife Mary.

William was a Scot born in Aberdeensire about 1828 and married his beloved wife in the Chapel of Garioch in Aberdeen before they came out to Australia.

The couple, with three of their children, arrived in Melbourne in 1857 where William was noted as being a labourer.

Living for some time on the south coast of NSW at Port Kembla the family eventually made their way to the Northern Rivers where they selected land at Eltham to farm.

In the early pioneering days of white settlement the land wasn't easy to farm, so while it was being cleared the family lived at Tuncester.

The obituary of William's son James recalled early memories of father and son walking between Tuncester and Eltham to clear the land so the family could move there.

The distance, according to Google Maps, between Tuncester and Eltham is around 20-24kms and by car would take nearly half an hour.

If walking, the quickest time would be four hours and 13 minutes.

Considering the roads in those early days would have been rough and uncleared, the time taken for William and James to travel between properties and back would have been no mean feat.

It gets better though.

When the family moved to Eltham it wasn't uncommon for them to walk to Lismore for provisions.

Again, taking into account the crude roads and the load of provisions they would have brought back with them, the trip would be much longer than Google Maps' prediction of three and half hours one way.

In our modern era of cars and reasonably well-paved roads, it may be worth giving a thought to our early pioneers who did it tough with no transport at all.


  • Greenwood family tree,, Accessed February 15, 2018
  • 'Eltham Pioneer Dies: Mr J. W. Alexander', Northern Star, Friday August 6, 1948. P.4

Bluesman Lloyd Spiegel takes the backroads to our stages

Bluesman Lloyd Spiegel takes the backroads to our stages

Musician will bring his latest album next month

Misconceptions about aboriginality on stage

premium_icon Misconceptions about aboriginality on stage

[Mis]Conceive goes on stage next week

This weekend's markets list

premium_icon This weekend's markets list

Where to get fresh produce and great coffee from.

Local Partners