Click to enlargeSusan Island was the ancient home place of a gigantic colony of fruit bats, whose daily excursions (from where to where, I never knew, nor for what reasons?) filled the twilight sky over Waterview with a dark moving cloud. The zoologist Richard Dawkins would have been enchanted—as was I—by this mass movement in the sky.
The Big River flowed just a few hundred yards behind our house in Waterview. Here’s a photo of a family fishing excursion in 1951:
Of the 13 victims, 9 were buried side by side in the South Grafton cemetery.
Today, jolted into a state of reminiscences and meditation by the French image of fruit bats, I simply wish to list, once again, in alphabetical order—in the admirable Israeli style that consists of naming out loud their hallowed victims—the drowned Cubs of December 1943. [A precise name is enough, as it were. In Jewish mysticism, a name is often considered to be no less significant than the entity it designates. Many Jews refer to God, for example, as ha Shem : "the name".] In fact, half-a-dozen surnames are those of young siblings or cousins of the victims who went to school with me in South Grafton.
• Graeme John Corbett (8), son of John Corbett of 32 Bent Street, South Grafton.
• William Robert Dillon (8), son of Frederick R. Dillon of 104 Ryan Street, South Grafton. William was the only son.
• Cecil George Lambert (8), son of George Lambert of 90 Hoof Street, Grafton. Cecil’s father was on active service.
• Raymond Arthur Morris (8), son of Keith Morris of 127 Ryan Street, South Grafton.
• Brian Leonard Munns (9), son of Leonard Munns of 43 Bright Street, Street, South Grafton. Brian’s father was the Deputy Mayor of South Grafton.
• Keith James Rennie (8), son of William Rennie of 130 Hoof Street, Grafton. Keith’s father was a munitions worker.
• Robert Alexander Rennie (10), brother of the above-mentioned victim.
• Edmund James Retchford (8), son of George Retchford of 16 Mary Street, Grafton. Edmund was their only child.
• Alvin Adrian Leo Spicer (10), son of Bert Spicer of 193 Ryan Street, South Grafton. When the tragedy occurred, Alvin’s father was apparently on his way home from the AWC in the Northern Territory.
• Richard John Steinhour (8), son of George Henry Steinhour and Lillian Margaret of 29 Abbott Street, South Grafton. Richard’s father was a returned digger of World War II.
• Dale William Thorsborne (10), son of William August Thorsborne and Iris Sylvia Doris of 106 Ryan Street, South Grafton. Dale was the only child.
• Allan Crawford Tobin (9), son of Raymond Tobin of 27 Abbott Street, South Grafton. His father was on active service in New Guinea. Allan had joined the cubs on 8 October 1943.
• Robert Walter Wilkes (10), son of Reginald Wilkes of Kelly Street, South Grafton.
There’s no point in mentioning the names of the older fellows who were supposed to be taking care of the Cubs. Meanwhile, the paradise of Susan Island continues to raise its ominous head above the mighty waters of the Clarence. And the squeals of the fruit bats are the music of Eden.