Frederick Stanley – the Skeleton Found in a Limestone Cave

Track seven on the new Doomed Bird album is called A Skeleton Found in a Limestone Cave. It tells the story of:

A skeleton found in a limestone cave in the Mungana district is believed to the remains of a prospector Frederick Stanley who disappeared on September 20, 1924.

Having looked a little further into this it appears Frederick Stanley was an Englishman who had lived around Mungana (in northern Queensland) for two decades. He went missing six years earlier and there are reports from then to that effect.

Daily Standard Fri 30 Jan 1925

There are limestone caves in the area and in fact where Frederick Stanley was found wasn’t that far out of Mungana, a mining town. The area he was found in was called the Lime Bluffs, only about a mile out. So for whatever reason Stanley found himself there, took a rest and was found as a skeleton six years later. According to another article he was found by a young Indigenous Australian named Algy who reported it to the Mungana police.

Judging from its position, it had not been interfered with by animals. A pair of boots were near the body and a leather pouch with a watch was on the remains.

(Cairns Post Thu 13 Nov 1930)

Interior of a limestone cave at the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park, Queensland (taken circa 1904)

Mungana itself is a ghost town nowadays. Some great ‘then and now’ photos can be found here.

Stanley was buried by police close to the site where he was found. He had no relatives in Australia.

The reason why he took the journey aren’t known. At the time though, Mungana was on the decline. In 1911 there was a population of almost 600 and by 1933 it was just under 100 (source). There was also the matter of a scandal where some of the mines were being sold to the government at highly inflated prices. It was known as the Mungana Affair and …

The first spark of a series that rekindled Mungana to flare into a major political issue occurred in late July 1926 when it was made known that the Lady Jane and Girofla mines had been abandoned after failure to discover new, payable ore reserves. (source)

We can only assume that Stanley maintained a living through prospecting but that the mining industry in that area appeared to be in some decline. So perhaps there was a reason for him to head to Chillagoe, at least as a starting point. Unfortunately he didn’t get much further than a cave just beyond his departure point.

Mungana Hotel, Mungana, Queensland, ca. 1929