Randolph Bob Burr
16 October 1949
How times and the approach of the medical profession have changed – for the better.
Our brother Randolph was stillborn to our mother in 1949. Rod, was 2 1/2 years old at the time, Kathy and Nancy not being born until 1950 and 1952 respectively. Thus the immediate impact of this tragic event and its effect upon our parents was not known to us for many, many years. We were too young to know, too young to understand, too young to share the pain of our parents. Oh, and there was pain, pain which was exacerbated by the manner in which the medical profession dealt with stillbirth and the grieving parents at that time.
Only as we three siblings of Randolph grew older did we learn the detail and get to truly understand and comprehend the tragedy of the events in 1949 but also the serious permanent scarring it inflicted upon our parents’ hearts and souls.
Randolph was a perfectly healthy active embryo with no sign that he was ever going to be in trouble. There were, of course, in 1949, no ultrasounds and, by today’s standards, unsophisticated heart monitors. As we understood it from our mother, the first sign of trouble, and serious trouble, was that her placenta was passed first and yet nothing was done to induce her. She was immediately transferred by ambulance from the hospital she was in to Queen Victoria Hospital but it was all too late. By the time
Randolph was delivered he had died due to a lack of blood supply.
Apparently our father was frantic. Our mother was wheeled into theatre whilst he was obliged to complete the admission paperwork. He did not know if he would ever see her again due to her own very serious blood loss. It was 2 days before he got to see her again, 2 days before they got to hold each other, 2 days before they could comfort and console each other.
It seems incomprehensible now but our parents then had to endure pain and heartbreak piled upon pain and heartbreak. You see, our parents never got to see Randolph, never got to hold him, never got to hug him, never got to kiss him. They never knew what he looked like, whether he had hair, a pug nose or pianist’s hands. After delivery our mother believed that his little body was simply taken “away” somewhere and disposed of. For many years our mother believed that he had been “thrown out in the rubbish” ! The pain of that belief must have been excruciating at times.
Our parents died a few years back after living long, fruitful and contributive lives. Fortunately, prior to their passing, we were able to establish that Randolph was in fact buried some 3 months after his birth (26 January 1950) at West Terrace Cemetery. Apparently the practice in those days was to bury a number of these children at the one time. Someone would go into the city and find a Minister of religion who would then conduct a burial service.
Finally determining that critical piece of information was a matter of pure chance. Kathy spotted an article in the Sunday Mail which made reference to the fact that a number of babies were buried in the West Terrace Cemetery without any of their parents knowing. After a very emotional discussion with Kathy our parents agreed that they had not dealt with Randolph’s death, rather just buried their pain. Now was the time to finally face it and deal with it. Kathy telephoned the West Terrace Cemetery who responded within five minutes. Their records were impeccable as was the caring and humane advice they offered at the time. They put our parents in touch with SIDS and send out quite a deal of reading material and a Naming Certificate.
They offered some critical advice. They said that it would be a lot easier to grieve if they gave the baby a name as they would be then grieving a person.
Mum and Dad died knowing that their precious number 2 child had been treated with a small modicum of dignity and was interred in Area B, Path 7, Plot 10W, not the sort of memorial and headstone they wished but their prayers in that one small regard had been answered.
We guess that they have now been reunited with Randolph. He had a big head start but they are with him now. We will catch up with them for the first ever complete family get together in a few years time !
Story compiled by his siblings, Rod, Kathy and Nancy.