Drunk dunk in Fitzroy 100 years on

EVIDENCE drunk people have been jumping into the Fitzroy River for over 100 years has recently come to light.

A Brisbane-based chiropractor came to Rockhampton on the 100th anniversary of his great uncle's death, who died when he was 27 years old.

Dr Adam East said it was only recently the circumstances surrounding his great uncle's death had come to light, with the family believing for years that their relative, Ambrose Lancelot Macdona, had been eaten by crocodiles in South Africa.

Mr Macdona  was born in Stockport, England in 1885, arrived in Brisbane by boat in 1907 and the records show he was in Rockhampton in 1911.

Mr East said apparently his great uncle, his grandmother's brother, was staying at the Queensland Hotel (Now the Coffee House on the corner of Bolsover and William streets).

"A public hotel of some infamy, I believe there was at least one murder there," Mr East said.

"He (Ambrose) had been drinking and on a five shilling bet, with a man called Love, decided to swim the Fitzroy River."

Unfortunately, Mr Macdona didn't win his bet, drowning after swimming out about 30 metres while he was fully clothed.

"We were told he had been eaten by crocodiles in South Africa. Probably a case of 'Chinese Whispers'," Mr East said.

"Four years ago I was given information that he may have died in Queensland.

"On searching the state archives I found the report of his death, newspaper articles and the location of his grave (Rockhampton South Cemetery).

"I arrived in Australia in 1985 and have lived in Queensland ever since. I had no idea that I had kin buried in this state."

Mr East, after having found records to show how his great uncle died, when and where he was buried, arrived in Rockhampton on the 100th anniversary of Mr Macdona's death, on December 3.

"It was an amazing experience to trace his steps on the exact 100 year anniversary of his fateful end," he said.

"Luckily his grave was in the part of the cemetery which had not been washed away by previous floods.

"Everyone was so helpful and friendly in Rockhampton.

"They were also very interested when they heard of the reason for my visit.

"When they told me that people still try to swim across the Fitzroy River and still drown, it seems that the lesson was not learned from my relative's experience.

"Therefore I thought that it might be expedient to tell this story, through you, so that others would learn and history NOT be repeated. Especially at this time of the year!

"In creating something positive from a disaster; perhaps if one life is saved, one family is spared the grief, then this story has a point."

The tombstone hints at the manner of Mr Macdona's death, but doesn't mention the bet.



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