Little Alice went out to play

A weathered moss-adorned wooden grave marker tilts slightly towards the horizon at the Strahan cemetery, high on a hill overlooking the water.

Only a few hundred metres below lies the West Coast Wilderness Railway station at Regatta Point, which takes tourists on fun day trips.

And there one finds the Strahan-Zeehan railway turntable, which was moved from elsewhere and is most likely the device on which 11-year-old  Alice Leatherbarrow lost her life.

“Affectionate remembrance of Alice Leatherbarrow, died illegible 1892, aged 11 years,” reads the proud marker.

News reports of her macabre death didn’t indicate where the turntable originally was, apart from at Strahan. It was part of the rail network which brought rich copper from Queenstown to Strahan.

And the group of children she was playing with could not provide much information, apart from that fact that they were pushing the turntable around and she must have fallen.

The turtable, which was used to change the engine’s direction, rotates, just like a playground roundabout. The playground version has been banned in many parts of the work due to their danger of spinning off, but a playgroud version would have been much safer for Alice.

The Mercury described it thus: “There are several recesses, the sides of which are made of concrete with sharp edges, and it is supposed that the child went against one of these edges and could not get out of the way in time to allow the table to pass.

 “It must have been going at a great speed, to inflict the ghastly wound that appeared on the child, who was partially disembowelled.’’

The mercury

If you stand at her grave and listen, you can imagine the sounds of the children laughing as they play drifting up from the turntable below.

Strahan, Tasmania

SOUrCES: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) Thursday 11 February 1892 p 4

Strahan Village Blog, viewed at

Published by Sharyn Moodie

Travelling around Australia for work, I've found so many amazing headstones. But what is more amazing is the stories behind some of these deaths, and the way newspapers of the day reported them.

7 thoughts on “Little Alice went out to play

  1. Hi Sharyn, such a tragic story. You might like to correct your typo though, 1892, not 1982, and Queenstown, not Queensland ( that would be an impressive rail journey!).


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