Buried treasure part III – The ghost

A remarkable story continues of railway history, sporting heroes, ballet dancing superstars, and now with a gruesome death and supernatural apparition. I told a version of this tale live on West Bremer Radio.

Over two hundred artefacts that I described in Part II of this story have been recovered from the rediscovered homesite of Steve Welch Snr at Laidley in the Lockyer Valley. He was Queensland’s first train fireman in 1865, and the driver in the then-colony’s first fatal train accident in 1876.

Richard, the current owner of the farm, told me that for the last twenty years he’s been keeping a ghostly experience to himself. Years ago on the old Welch farm, Richard saw – just for an instant – a grey figure dressed in old fashioned clothes standing behind his house. Richard was talking to someone at that time, and so didn’t say anything, but when he turned back, the figure was gone and no one else was about. He told no one for two decades but the story stayed with him.

Down from Richard’s current house, out in what is now a ploughed field, is where the Welch house once was. It was there possibly from the 1860s but was removed in around 1912. There were two deaths known to have occurred there during that time.

The first was Steve Welch’s ninety-one year old mother Martha who died in the home in 1890. An old English penny that I found on the site was lost there at around this time. Today, Martha is buried in an unmarked grave at Laidley cemetery.

The second death came in 1906. That’s when Steve Welch’s wife Elizabeth died there from heart failure.  Elizabeth is buried in an unmarked grave at Toowong in Brisbane.

Steve Welch’s sister Martha shared their mother’s name

But neither Martha nor Elizabeth could be the ghost.

That’s because Richard said that the pale figure was that of a male. The apparition was dressed in a long-sleeved shirt, long trousers and an old broad brimmed hat. Everything was grey and of the style worn over a century ago. Importantly, he also said that the figure was looking south.

A clue as to who the ghost could be may come from a disaster that happened on the farm in 1904.

South of the current house was Steve Welch’s enormous hayshed – it was one hundred feet long and just as wide. In 1904 a fire resulted in the total destruction of the shed and all its contents. This included farm implements, machinery, and one hundred and sixty tons of lucerne, all of which were valued at £1,000. In today’s money that’s over $1.1 million. Steve Welch had no insurance, and so the loss was utterly devastating.

Two years later in 1906 is when Steve Welch’s wife died. Four months after that he got remarried to Ada who was a girl forty-two years younger than him. She was twenty-seven and he was sixty-nine. He leased out his farm, and the new couple moved to Oxley on the western side of Brisbane.

But the following year 1907 is when Steve Welch came to one of the most gruesome and grisly ends that you could imagine.

He was driving his buggy and a spirited horse down Annerley Road in South Brisbane. As he approached the intersection with Clarence Street, his horse veered as if it had seen a ghost, and into the path of a horse and cart coming the other way.

Buggies and carts on Annerley Road, South Brisbane

That’s when the shaft of the cart drove hard into Steve Welch’s groin. He was doubled over in pain and was taken to the Brisbane general hospital where he suffered for two days before passing away.

His young bride was left to raise their unborn daughter alone. Little Miriam was born five months after her father Steve Welch’s painful death. (They may actually have had another daughter together, Althea, who was born the year before Steve’s first wife died. No father was recorded but the child bore the Welch name her whole life.)

So perhaps that grey ghost that was looking south in the direction of the million-dollar fire on the Welch farm, was in fact the ghost of Steve Welch himself, who was lamenting the awful end to his amazing life.



Buried treasure part I – The place
Buried treasure part II – The heroes
Buried treasure part III – The ghost

Photo credits:
Prairie Farm wagon, Laidley 2022 – Harold Peacock
Martha Welch Junior, 1906 – Elaine Boyd via Ancestry 2012
Stanley Coach Works and Shoeing Forge, 12 Annerley Road, South Brisbane 1900 – Brisbane City Council


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