St Helena Penal Establishment
Warders Children's Cemetery

St Helena Island

 

 

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Lord what is life! It's like a flower

Which blossoms and is gone.

We see it flourish for an hour

With all its beauty on.

 

Holloway children's headstone

   

A small community of warders' families lived on this island from the 1870s. Many children were born and educated here.

A few succumbed to the common childhood diseases of the time, and are buried in this cemetery. Warders who died on the island were buried on the mainland.

Warders' children's headstones can be found in a small, fenced cemetery on the northern side of the prisoner's cemetery. The difference between the two cemeteries is quite apparent, mainly through the use of carefully shaped stone-and-marble children's headstones, as opposed to the stark cement crosses on the prisoners' graves. The children's headstones are engraved with name, age, and date of death, some even having poetry inscribed on them, in contrast to the solitary prisoner number etched on the prisoners' headstones.

An examination of the known graves reveals that most of the children were buried after succumbing to diseases that are curable today with modern medicine. With no doctor in permanent attendance, the island's isolation made medical aid more difficult to obtain in a timely fashion. It is interesting to note that many of the children buried on St Helena Island were ill for less than a week.

Drugs that are today classed as illegal were used extensively at the time, including heroin, opium and arsenic. Herbs and potions may have relieved some symptoms but did little to stop the spread of disease. Lime was used as a disinfectant, but the death rate was still quite high.

 

 

 

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