Eileen didn’t get to father for Christmas

1921 – Seventeen-year-old Eileen Flynn’s “splendid physique’ (as described by the newspapers)  wasn’t enough to save her life when she went horse riding.

She and her mother had been living apart from their father/husband for two years, while he was at their home in Broken Hill.

This arrangement was a result of industrial unrest at that mining town, which, after decades of strikes and violent protests at inhumane working conditions, was in the midst of its final major unrest.

Dubbed the Big Strike, it ran from May 1919 to November 1920.

The fight led by the Amalgamated Miners Association (AMA), was for reduced hours, workers’ compensation schemes and safer conditions.

The conflict saw families surviving on limited rations of potatoes and onions for months on end. With malnutrition rife, many families send children and women away.

But the strike did manage to achieve the first 35-hour week in Australian history, full compensation for work-related injuries, and ventilation in underground mine shafts.

Was Mr Flynn one of those hard-done-by workers or one of those on strike? Either way, his wife and daughter had been living in Adelaide, and were heading to Broken Hill to see him for Christmas.

The couple stopped at Booborowie, where Mrs Flynn left Eileen with relatives while continuing north to Petersborough to see her sister.

Young Eileen was a keen horse rider, and on that sad Saturday morning a week before Christmas, mounted up to bring in the cattle. But the horse returned home riderless within an hour.

The property owner’s son, meanwhile, had already come across Eileen’s body lying on a rough back track.

An inquiry proved inconclusively that the horse had bolted, put its feet in a hole, thrown the rider and fractured her skull. She had also been dragged for a short while.

“The deceased, who was only 17 years of age. was of splendid physique.”

newspaper reports
Eileen’s headstone in the Peterborough cemetery, South Australia.
Peterborough, SA

SOURCES: Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 – 1954) Friday 23 December 1921 p 1 Article

Burra Record (SA : 1878 – 1954) Wednesday 21 December 1921 p 3 Article

The Australian Mining Review

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.

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