Samos immigrant Christopher Nickles’ grandchild solves 80-year gravesite mystery

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Samos-born immigrant Christopher Nickles’ cemetery plot has been discovered and restored at the Martyn St Cemetery in Cairns almost a century after his burial. 

Mr. Nickles’ granddaughter Bev Starrenburg recovered Christopher’s grave earlier this year with her husband Nick and says she was adamant on solving the mystery. 

“We knew he was buried in Martyn St Cemetery but we could never find it,” Mr. Starrenburg tells Courier Mail.

“All we could do was guess.” 

“Then at Easter (this year), we were wandering around looking at the grave markers. As we were doing it a tractor drove past driven by a cemetery worker named Ben and he invited us down to the office and we looked at these really old documents.”

A Cairns Post funeral notice for Christopher Nickles published in August 1941 (Source: Courier Mail)

Mrs. Starrenburg determined that there was a major mix-up six months after her grandfather was buried in August, 1941. 

Mr Nickles was buried without a plaque or headstone, leaving his family confined to the restraints of newspaper articles and fruitless assumptions about his resting place. 

On Sunday, Mr Nickles’ descendants across Queensland installed a plaque at the head of the tailor’s grave. 

“We really wanted to honour him, he was a good father and soldier. There was so much tragedy in his life and for 80 years he laid there in an unmarked grave,” Nick Starrenburg says.

Mr. Nickles emigrated from war-torn Greece to Innisfail in 1917. 

He worked as a master tailor in the School of Arts building on Lake Street in Cairns before marrying an Australian woman named Elizabeth in 1924. They raised four children – Edna, George, Elizabeth, and Terrance – through the Depression and the early war years. 

“It was a real struggle, they fought for their freedom and all he wanted was to be an Australian. And then he dies like that and I think it was really sad how his wife struggled to raise the four children.

“He is not forgotten, to me that is the most important thing, 80 years later.”

Source: Courier Mail

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