Kalgoorlie resident and keen cricket historian Clint Easton found Cottam’s lonely grave in the cemetery of once-prosperous mining town of Coolgardie. Clint was planning to self-fund the placement of a headstone to commemorate the cricketer and his achievements. Cricket NSW and Cricket Australia have since heard about Clint’s efforts and have now paid for a bronze plaque to be put on the grave. It will be unveiled on John Cottam’s birthdate, September 5.
Cricket NSW is now keen to find any living relatives of John Cottam.
Who was John Thomas Cottam?
Cricket NSW Honorary Librarian and Official Historian, Dr Colin Clowes said Cottam was 19 when he made his first-class debut for New South Wales against the touring English team in 1887.
“He did well enough – 29, second highest score, and 14 not out – to be chosen for the following test match after several players withdrew over a pay dispute,” said Dr Clowes.
“John toured New Zealand with the NSW team in 1890. He scored three half-centuries, a number equal to those scored by all the other players combined.
“John played no further first-class cricket and it is difficult to construct his career after that New Zealand tour. However after one Club match later that year The Referee wrote:
‘Cottam and Clarke showed splendid form and after recovering from his recent severe prostration, it would appear that the former has regained all his wonted brilliance as a batsman.
‘When in his best form we have not a better batsman in the colony than Cottam, whose style is well nigh faultless’.”
Liked a drink
Dr Clowes said John Cottam appeared for Redfern in the initial season of Electoral Cricket in 1893-94 “with little success”.
“The reason for his loss of form is unclear but a drinking problem is a probable cause as a John Cottam is mentioned in newspapers in several alcohol-related incidents. One of these placed him in Fremantle in February 1896 where he was robbed of a gold watch while drunk.
“Sometime after this he went to the Goldfields,” said Dr Clowes.
Cricket NSW applauds Clint’s “amazing” efforts
In a letter to Clint Easton, Cricket NSW CEO Andrew Jones thanked him for his “amazing” research.
“A very sincere thank you for your efforts. You have shown exceptional diligence and love for the game and we appreciate it greatly,” wrote Mr Jones.
Mr Easton has been delving into John Cottam’s family tree. Speaking on ABC radio, he said there’s not much to go on.
“I found he was the eldest son of Thomas Cottam. There are two young chaps called Cottam in cricket history so hopefully they are related to him.”
If you can help locate any relatives of John Cottam you can get in touch with NSW Cricket via firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 9029 2305.
Coolgardie, the original site of WA’s goldrush
While the current population is under 1,000, during the goldrush Coolgardie was WA’s third largest town, with a bustling street filled with grand hotels and even a stock exchange with 25 stock brokers! Coolgardie has a fascinating and large cemetery, telling the stories and struggles of the region’s mining pioneers and their families. There’s even an assassination tale of an Afhani cameleer who was shot in the back as he prayed.
All Black in Coolgardie Cemetery
John Cottam is not the only national sportsman buried in the cemetery there. One of the first All Blacks lies in a grave only marked by a number. Kalgoorlie historian Moya Sharp is working to have a headstone or plaque erected on his grave. George Maber died of Typhoid aged 25 in 1894, three months after making his debut for New Zealand. There’s more information about George Maber via Moya’s fantastic Outback Family History blog. On ABC radio, Clint Easton said he was hoping to work with Moya to have George Maber’s achievements and Coolgardie resting place recognised too.
Mining accidents, typhoid, suicide, exhaustion, burns, starvation, childbirth, diarrhea, and dysentery are just some of the causes of death of those who moved to the Goldfields of Western Australia for a new, wealthier life.
A TYPHOID HOTSPOT
Menzies is a small town 130km north of Kalgoorlie and 730km north east of Perth. Poor sanitation led to a deadly outbreak of Typhoid in 1895. Twenty-eight of the 42 known burials at the Menzies cemetery in 1896 were typhoid victims.
Between 1895 and 1905, at least 105 people buried at Menzies are thought to have died from typhoid. Most victims were men aged 20-40 years old.
RARE TIN and IRON HEADSTONES
In all my cemetery travels I’ve never seen so many tin and iron headstones as I have at the Menzies cemetery. Trinkets, photos and crosses would be been housed behind glass in the headstones which were a much cheaper option than the traditional headstones. Many were home-made from the only materials available nearby, including kerosene tins.
UNMARKED GRAVES APLENTY
According to the information sign at the cemetery, the mortality rate from typhoid fever in the Goldfields was many times higher than any other place in Australia, while alcohol abuse, poor diet, and dust from mining operations contributed to lots of other illnesses. Looking for gold in one of the country’s harshest and driest regions was incredibly tough. Sadly there was also a high suicide rate.
Rich in history and well-researched, the red dirt cemeteries of the Goldfields are nestled in woodlands and are part of a fantastic tourist trail in the region called the Golden Quest Discovery Trail. The once bustling mining towns are long gone, but their cemeteries remain, giving travellers like myself an insight into what it was like to live and die in the search for gold.
ABOUT THE BLOGGER: Lisa Herbert is a cemetery wanderer, journalist and author of The Bottom Drawer Book: an after death action plan, an informative and amusing workbook and funeral planning guide for those who want to prepare for the inevitable. The second edition is available in Australia for $18.95, including postage. You can buy here.
The hospital at Wacol has had several name changes over the years including the Goodna Asylum for the Insane, the Brisbane Special Hospital and Wolston Park Hospital.
Its first incarnation was as the Woogaroo Lunatic Asylum. The Asylum’s first inmates (as they were called back then) were taken by boat to the 450-hectare bushland site, west of Brisbane, in 1865.
The Asylum’s first cemetery was in the very flood-prone south west corner of the site (now the Wolston Park Golf Club). Its location on the banks of the Brisbane River was ridiculed by an anonymous contributor to the Queensland Times (25 Feb 1869) who could foresee problems ahead:
“The graveyard is on the bank of the river, and the first flood will take all the dead lunatics down to Brisbane.”
The writer wasn’t too far wrong and a second cemetery for patients was soon built on much higher ground. But making room for more hospital building development, according to Vicki Mynott of the Richlands, Inala and Suburbs History Group, less than a decade later in 1910, another cemetery was established. This third and final cemetery sat on the northern outskirts of the hospital site, at the end of what’s now known as Wilga St in Wacol.¹
It’s thought thousands of bodies buried in this third cemetery were exhumed between 1945 and 1948. Newspaper reports say 2,800 bodies were removed, though cemetery records have only accounted for around 200 of those which were moved to the nearby Goodna General Cemetery.
The remains were moved because the hospital cemetery was considered too close to the proposed Repatriation Pavilion which included three new wards for “mentally unbalanced” and “war-affected” soldiers returning from the Second World War.
How many people died at the Asylum?
LOTS. About 50,000 people were patients at the hospital in the 120 years between 1865 and the 1980s². The hospital was always overcrowded and there are regular mentions of an “acute shortage of female nurses” in the annual reports.
In 1941/42, for example, 2,466 people were patients. Of those, 214 died during the year. 23 of those deaths were within one month of arrival.
The table below shows that in the ten-year period between 1937/38 and 1946/47 there were 1,828 patient deaths.
% OF DEATHS PER AVERAGE NO OF RESIDENTS
SOURCE: Queensland State Archives Series ID 201, Mental Hygiene Annual Reports.
With the hospital files locked up tight thanks to the Queensland Government’s Right to Information Laws, there’s no way of finding out more information about these deaths or how many of these patients were buried on hospital grounds. Patients with family who had the financial means were likely buried closer to Brisbane in Toowong Cemetery. Those without family were likely given ‘pauper funerals’ and buried on site until 1945 when the cemetery was closed. Burials were subsequently carried out in the nearby township cemetery, now known as Goodna General Cemetery. And it’s at the Goodna Cemetery where this tale unfolds and it becomes apparent the dead were lost and forgotten in death as they were in life.
There are no available government records that indicate how many patients were exhumed from the hospital’s cemetery to improve the site of a new facility for returned servicemen. However, a newspaper article suggests 2,800 bodies were moved.
Exhumations took place over four years: 1945 to 1948 to “improve the immediate surroundings of the new Repatriation Pavilion”. (Hon. T A Foley: Hansard, 11 Dec 1946)
While licences costing £1 were required to exhume a body from public cemeteries, there was no such licence requirements to move a body from elsewhere. As such there are no official records. (Queensland State Archives Series ID 20957 – Exhumation Permit receipt Books – Correspondence )
In the 1944/45 annual report it was reported the “cemetery has been abolished and burials are now done in the township cemetery”.
In Parliament on 25 Oct 1945, Secretary for Health and Home Affairs T A Foley reported that two additional grave diggers were hired in the 45/46 financial year.
On 11 Dec 1946, the Minister for Health, Mr T Foley, told Parliament the “work of exhumation is being performed by an employee of the hospital , assisted by four border-line patients who volunteered to assist to do the work”. When asked if he considered it a “suitable activity for the mentally sick”, he responded, “The Director of Mental Hygiene has satisfied himself that the work has no detrimental effect on these patients”.
In the 19 June 1947 edition of The Courier Mail, an article disputes claims the patients volunteered. The newspaper says one patient “had to dis-inter and rebury 4,000 bodies from a cemetery “as part of “hard manual labour in the name of occupational therapy”.
A front-page article in The Queensland Times (29 Nov 1946) reports, “the mass exhumation of 2,800 bodies from the Goodna Mental Hospital Cemetery to the Goodna Public Cemetery is half completed”. A similar story in The Courier Mail had added, “After removal, a hearse is used to convey the bodies to the Goodna Cemetery, where they are reburied and allotted public grave numbers.”
BUT the Goodna Cemetery Trust says the remains of only two-hundred or so patients were re-interred at Goodna and that no records were kept in relation to the positioning of these graves on any of the maps held by the Trust.
The Goodna Memorial
“It doesn’t ring true”: Goodna Cemetery disputes reported grave figures.
The Goodna Cemetery Trust does not believe there are thousands of asylum patients buried in unmarked graves within its boundary.
Cemetery treasurer and trustee Helen Gilmour questions the 1946 newspaper article which claims the exhumation of 2,800 patients and their re-interment at Goodna was half completed.
“Maybe the journo made a mistake. Maybe they accidentally added an extra zero and it’s just 280 graves?” she said.
“Given the records we hold, it’s just not feasible.
“The 200-or-so burials are documented in the Cemetery’s register. Why would they not document them all if there were more?”, she asks.
Having trawled through the Parliamentary records of the time, I’ve found no official mention of the number of exhumations.
Ms Gilmour also queried whether it was physically possible for 2,800 exhumations and re-interments to be carried out in four years. Grave digging by hand is hard work and time consuming. It would have required opening 2 or 3 graves per day.
Another question to be asked is simply “why?”.
It is common for cemeteries and graves in Australia to simply be abandoned, with markers or headstones removed, leaving no hint of what lies beneath. I’ve lost count of the cemeteries I have visited where councils in previous decades have had a misguided “clean up” and removed grave markers.
Why were the bodies supposedly exhumed from the Brisbane Mental Hospital Cemetery instead of being left there and the grave markers simply removed? (I’m assuming that’s exactly what happened to the hospital’s first two cemeteries.)
Does it matter?
Does it matter that patients of a mental institution had their graves disturbed and that their final resting place is unknown? After all, these people died between 75 and about 120 years ago. I’ll let you answer that one for yourself.
The Goodna Cemetery trust’s Helen Gilmour said she is often contacted by people who are trying to find where their descendants are laid to rest.
“I get about two calls a week from people looking for family members who were at the hospital. It’s become more prevalent over recent years with the increasing popularity of family trees,” she said.
“Unfortunately, I have to tell them that I don’t know.”
If you have any information that may be able to shed light on the hospital’s cemeteries and the location of the remains of patients you’re welcome to contact me via Lisa@thebottomdrawerbook.com.au or leave a comment on this blog.
UPDATE: See a subsequent later blog which includes additional information about the whereabouts of hundreds of remains. A former worker claims they were buried in trenches in the Goodna Cemetery. CLICK HERE.
ABOUT THE BLOGGER: Lisa Herbert is a cemetery wanderer, journalist and author of The Bottom Drawer Book: an after death action plan, an informative and amusing workbook and funeral planning guide for those who want to prepare for the inevitable. The second edition is available in Australia for $18.95, including postage. You can buy here. She enjoys telling the stories of the dead, giving them a voice beyond the grave.
Meet Maree Bolding. She’s a funeral celebrant and a passionate volunteer at the Central Victoria crematorium. Yes, while many of her friends may volunteer at the local hospital, Maree spends her free time at the crematorium in Bendigo, doing her bit to give the deceased a respectful and loved farewell.
I use the term ‘loved’ because, as Maree gave me a tour of the cremation facilities, it was obvious she loves what she does and is committed to treating the deceased like they would be treated if they were still alive.
“I call them by name. I talk to them.
“I’ve been given a big responsibility to care for these people on behalf of their families,” she said.
And care for them she does. Upon leaving the crematorium there was little doubt that I wanted someone like Maree to attend to someone I cared about. She offered great care to people who could no longer speak for themselves.
Unfortunately it seems not all in the funeral industry share the same ethics.
There’s a damning allegation that has thrust Queensland’s funeral industry and lack of regulation into the spotlight and has reaffirmed the general population’s scepticism about an industry often thought of, rightly or wrongly, as deceitful and manipulative.
The story of this alleged dodgy behaviour by a small funeral business has received widespread coverage and has seen thousands of people taking to social media to voice their disgust. I’ve been following those online conversations and this is where is gets interesting.
1.People are appalled
Overwhelmingly, people are saying how atrocious allegations of coffin-swapping are. No surprise here.
Many are saying they had always suspected such a practice was common-place. I’m not convinced of that. However, my chats with funeral directors have made it obvious that some of them believe it does happen. Interestingly on ABC Radio today, Darren Eddy from the Australian Funeral Directors Association said he’d never heard of “coffin swapping”.
2.Distrust of the industry
Without a doubt, Facebook comments reveal a widespread and deep distrust of the funeral industry. No real surprise there either. It’s unfortunate because the industry as a whole is trying harder than ever before to be more transparent. But it only takes the odd rogue operator to render those efforts null and void.
3.People have NO idea about the price of coffins.
Much of the online discussion revolved around the price of the coffin and why anyone would want to burn such an expensive, $1,700 coffin. Well, $1,700 is actually not an expensive coffin. To be honest, it’s on the cheaper side. Many people said they don’t want to be wasteful and they’re happy to be buried in a cheap pine box. Great! Let’s just hope they tell their families their wishes for a cheaper and more environmentally conscious option. (I’ve written The Bottom Drawer Book: an after death action plan for that very reason.)
Hardwood coffins can easily reach the $10,000 mark. Sure, they’re beautiful but is it practical to burn or bury such expensive bits of wood that took decades to grow? Many people think it is and that’s why funeral directors offer these high-end coffins as options.
4. People are open to the idea of rental coffins.
Not many funeral directors offer this option but rental coffins are actually a thing. Tobin Brothers, for example, offer a “chipboard inner capsule encased in a solid timber outer shell, which is removed prior to cremation”. You might think a rental coffin might be an inexpensive option. Wrong. Tobin Brothers offer the option for $1,700.
5.Would Government regulation stop “coffin swapping”?
Cemetery and crematoria infrastructure in Qld is either run by Local Government or private enterprise. There’s no consistent or over-arching regulation that keeps an eye on these. In Victoria however, crematoria are run by Trusts, with the trustees appointed by the State Government. This means there’s no real incentive or opportunity to operative unscrupulously to make a quick buck.
Does the Qld community want more State Government regulation when it comes to cremations? In this case, the online response seems to indicate that the answer is YES.
6. The discussion: people are talking!!
If nothing else, this claim of coffin swapping certainly has people talking, and that’s a good thing. Thousands of people have taken to social media and given the issue measured thought and are openly taking about what they want for their funeral and sharing their own experiences of the funeral industry. It’s revealing that the discussion about the inevitable isn’t necessarily seen as morbid these days. Times are changing and people want to be better informed.
Where to now?
With dark stories like coffin swapping around, how can you ensure your beloved family member gets the farewell you want for them?
Start by doing your homework. Meet your funeral directors. Ask for a tour of their facilities. Do this with some mates now, instead of at a time when you’ve lost a loved one, are grieving and not making clear decisions.
Just like you’d research a bathroom renovation and get quotes, do the same with several funeral directors. I’ve not met a funeral director yet who wouldn’t welcome a potential client’s questions.
In Queensland there’s a voluntary Code of Conduct that aims to ensure funeral directors are transparent and ethical. Ask if they’re signatories to that Code. Also, are they members of the Australian or their state Funeral Directors Association?
While this alleged “coffin swapping” incident is horrifying, don’t let it dictate your entire view of the funeral industry. There are passionate people like Maree Bolding who consider it a privilege to care for your loved one on their final journey. I’m positive she’s not the only one.
Spending days working hard and alone in a cemetery may not be everyone’s idea of fun but, for Eddie Mason, it’s a passion and a favourite past-time.
As I wandered through one of Scone’s many cemeteries I noticed Eddie tending a grave. He was wearing a tool belt and moved backwards and forwards around the broken headstone.
Eddie Mason spends much of his spare time fixing headstones in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, particularly at Scone’s old Anglican cemetery. And a lot need fixing there.
Developed on black soil farming land in the mid-1800s, the cemetery regularly gets inundated with water and the earth moves considerably. That’s not ideal for a graveyard and the evidence lies in cracked headstones, crooked graves and toppled monuments. Visitors also have to be careful not to trip in one of the many dips on the cemetery grounds.
A Scone local and with ancestors arriving on the First Fleet, Eddie has found lots of his own family members in the cemetery. But he hasn’t been able to locate the grave of his great grandmother who, at age 92, was the ‘oldest lady in the town’.
“She used to live at the other end of Kelly St. It’s the Coles carpark now. She used to watch everyone. She knew everything about the town, they tell me. ”
Like so many of Australia’s older cemeteries, there are many unidentified or unmarked graves. I’ve visited several cemeteries that have been subject to ‘clean ups’ over the years and have had historic markers and headstones or footstones removed, usually to make mowing and cemetery maintenance easier.
Eddie’s search for Rebecca Eveleigh’s grave is not over though, even turning to satellite images of the cemetery to identify burial plots.
“I found seven Eveleighs I didn’t even know where buried here,” he said.
Eddie’s current project is that of the grave of little Elsie Maud Ball. Next week it will have been 129 years since she died. She was one year and nine months when she died in 1888. Her headstone has broken off its base and has cracked in half.
Eddie said it’s often the graves of children that are most neglected.
“There’s a lot of children’s graves everywhere I go and they’re the ones that get ignored the most, probably because it’s painful for the families at the time.”
His own family experienced that grief. Eddie’s great aunt buried her young son in the cemetery.
“When he died they left Scone all together and never came back. They went to Tamworth.”
Hard work but rewarding
Eddie said he gets a lot of enjoyment from piecing damaged headstones back together, but admits it can be hard work.
“I dig up the headstone’s sunken bases and if I can level it I can put the headstone back on then and it’ll hold it.”
He points to a big headstone about 10 metres away. He’d dug the base out in the rain which softened the ground.
“That took all day to get that out of the ground. I had a crowbar and everything. It was raining then. But Elsie’s, which I did last week, it’s (the ground) so hard.”
Like much of New South Wales, Scone hasn’t had good rain this year and it’s causing the black soil to dry out and crack. Having visited the cemetery many times over the years, Eddie’s able to gauge the season by looking at the cracks in the ground.
“Usually my great grandfather George Eveleigh gets cracks right out the front and they even opened up his grave last time. But once it rains the soils shuts up again.”
“So I say ‘how are you going, George?’” Eddie chuckles.
ABOUT THE BLOGGER: Lisa Herbert is a cemetery wanderer, journalist and author of The Bottom Drawer Book: an after death action plan, an informative and amusing workbook for those who want to prepare for the inevitable. The second edition is available in Australia for $18.95, including postage. You can buy here.
Two chickens that have begun roosting in the local cemetery have residents in the small South Island town of Tuatapere wondering why the chickens crossed the Clifden Highway.
Greeting visitors at the gate of cemetery, the friendly pair then happily wander over graves and around the well-manicured grounds, staying close to their guests.
Local police officer Senior Constable Damon Templeton said the town’s newest feathered tourist attractions arrived “about three weeks ago”.
He said he didn’t know where they came from but it’s not the first time chickens have made themselves at home in the community-run cemetery.
“A few years ago there used to be a couple of hens and a rooster. The hens disappeared but the rooster stayed for a while, but he started getting a bit aggressive and then he disappeared.”
Fowl play is suspected.
Like most others in the region, the Tuatapere Cemetery is several kilometres from the nearby town and sits in a pretty, rural setting. It has a paddock with cows on one side, and native vegetation on the other.
Member of the Tuatapere Cemetery Trust, part-time caretaker and “deputy grave-digger”, Maurice Green suspects the same person who released the hens and rooster at the cemetery several years ago may be responsible for the latest feathered residents.
“I’ve got an idea who put them there, but I’ll have to see him and ask him quietly,” he chuckled.
Mr Green remembers the cemetery’s rooster fondly, despite the handsome bird’s fowl deeds.
“He was there for a few years. He was a real character and a cheeky bugger.
“He’d look at us as if to say ‘what do you think you’re doing?’
“But he got a bit aggressive towards some people, especially children.”
He said the rooster enjoyed the vegetable tributes that were occasionally left on graves.
“The odd grave has veges instead of flower tributes and the rooster loved that,” he laughed.
Mr Green is excited to see poultry back among the graves.
“I had a wee grin to myself when I saw them.”
Tuatapere Cemetery is one of the country’s few cemeteries owned and administered by a community trust.
The Trust, comprising of a dedicated team of local volunteers, owns the land and leases some adjoining land to the farmer next door.
“So we’ve got room to expand,” explains Mr Green.
It’s hoped the graveyard’s newest (and only) living residents make Tuatapere Cemetery their final nesting place.
“I was so pleased the other day when I saw two more back there. And they’re nice chickens – beautiful colours”.
They wanted to be buried near their families, yet 500 Chinese miners never made it home after years of hardship in New Zealand.
Now a busy, pretty tourist centre and known for its appearance in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, the gorgeous little South Island town of Arrowtown became a bustling gold mining town in the late-1800s. Chinese miners joined European miners at the invitation of the New Zealand Government, but they found it tough-going when the Europeans opposed their presence because of their success. The Chinese work ethic and mining knowledge meant they found gold in areas others didn’t. That was seen as a threat to the other miners.
An information sign in the tourist precinct reads, “Ageing Chinese depended primarily on each other for support. Officially, they remained unwelcome immigrants and were specifically excluded from New Zealand’s Old Age Pension Act in 1898.”
Alienated they stuck together, forming their own little community. The remnants of the Chinese village along the Arrow River remain in Arrowtown. Now restored, they’re a popular tourist attraction.
Yet surprisingly, a walk through the Arrowtown cemetery reveals a lack of Chinese graves. Gold rush towns in Australia contain many Chinese graves, but not in New Zealand’s Arrowtown. Many Chinese were buried in the local cemetery but they were later exhumed.
“Old miners longed to be buried in ancestral cemeteries, where their spirits would find rest.
“Fund-raising among wealthier Chinese enabled hundreds of elderly men to make the final journey home and provided for the dead to be exhumed.
“The last ship carrying nearly 500 bodies back to China sank off Hokianga in 1902.”
Lisa Herbert regularly wanders through cemeteries. She’s the author of The Bottom Drawer Book: an after death action plan, an amusing and informative workbook for those who want to have a say in their funeral. “Your ideas, funeral plans, and your life’s reflections will sit quietly in its pages until they’re needed.” The second edition is currently available in Australia for $18.95 delivered. Purchase here
There are few cemeteries that don’t have a typhoid story to tell.
Typhoid fever is a contagious bacterial infection that can be controlled by vaccination, but it was a different story in years gone by. (Tens of millions of people have died from this disease and thousands continue to do so, particularly in developing countries).
Still holidaying, I came across this grave in the South Island town of Cromwell on my usual cemetery wanderings. Four Scally children died within one month from typhoid in 1874. They were 7, 6, 5 and 3. One year later, their mother Ellen and sibling Margaret (almost a year old) died from the same disease. Ellen was 29.
There are other historic graves telling a similar story of pioneering hardship in the cemetery. Below is a photo of the Goodger family grave.
George drowned, aged 53. His son Henry (14) and daughter Mary Anne (12) died from typhoid on the same day three years earlier. (There are no records of the cause of death for the other family members but because his wife and infant daughter died within a month of one another one can assume the deaths could be attributed to disease or childbirth complications.)
Cromwell’s first cemetery was founded in 1865 and, like many cemeteries, contains unmarked pauper graves.
Many Australian cemeteries in rural and regional areas have at least one of these graves pictured below, referring to a horse accident. It seems New Zealand is the same.
However one cause of death I have never seen before on my cemetery wanderings lies on the gravestone of 26 year old Joel Chapman. He was killed by a landslip in 1875. The cemetery records show there are several men buried in this cemetery that were killed by “fall of earth”. Landslips and rock falls remain a daily event in New Zealand. These days though authorities are better at monitoring and predicting them.
And so the Litany Street cemetery in the small South Island town of Cromwell, like all other historic cemeteries, provides an insight into the difficulties of pioneering life.
Other causes of death of people in this cemetery, as listed by some great work by the Dunedin Group of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists and members of the Cromwell Family History Society, include: appendicitis, teething, whooping cough, childbirth (there are many of these), dropsy, pleurisy, cancer (just one), pneumonia, congestion of the lungs, dysentery, exposure, bronchitis, diarrhoea, tuberculosis (just one) and “cardiac”.
And then there’s poor ol’ George Hayes who died on 24 Dec 1874. His cause of death is listed as: “Accident (barrel of beer fell on him)”.
Lisa Herbert regularly wanders through cemeteries. She’s the author of The Bottom Drawer Book: an after death action plan, an amusing and informative workbook for those who want to have a say in their funeral. Your ideas, funeral plans, and your life’s reflections will sit quietly in its pages until they’re needed.
While bubbling away for centuries, dissenters began to emerge more prominently in the 17th and 18th centuries. They questioned the role of their religion in light of new findings, that is scientific findings by people such as Isaac Newton.
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church states: “In a religious context, those who separate themselves from the communion of the Established Church.” People began separating themselves from churches including the Roman Catholics and the Church of England.
“Many of the dissenters in English religious history survive in present-day Christian denominations. Many of these are now known as “Free Churches.” Some of these are Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Methodists. ”
The Akaroa Dissenters Cemetery
It was opened in 1873. A row of trees and a dilapidated post and wire fence separate the dissenters from the Roman Catholics. They, and the nearby Anglican cemetery, are in a great little spot with great views and dense forest. There’s a network of walking tracks that connects the cemeteries to the Garden of Tane, a stunning scenic reserve.
Graves are laid across the steep slope in an east west orientation and, as usual, reveal tough times for pioneering families.
Thankfully I realised I was at the wrong funeral before entering the chapel on the outskirts of Brisbane. I quickly checked my diary and saw Alan’s funeral was at 2pm. It was midday. I jumped in my car and made my getaway, thanking my lucky stars that A. I didn’t have to sit through the wrong funeral (I would have felt like a funeral fraud!), and B. I hadn’t missed Alan’s funeral.
It seems I’m not alone in attending the wrong funeral. Sharing my embarrassment on social media, friends and Twitter followers shared their experiences too.
A friend wrote: “When my brother died, following the official service, he was taken to the cemetery to be buried with our dad. One of our cousins was running late to the graveside and bolted in and took his place, just as they were carrying the coffin from the car to the grave. Except it was the wrong funeral!!! He’d stop at the first one as there were two that day and he was in haste. Our brother used to do funny things like that so it was actually extremely hilarious to us. The other family were quite confused!”
On Twitter, Damon says he was backpacking in rural Ireland when he found it odd that the town he was in was very quiet and pubs empty, except for one. “Pub was buzzing, free food too.” It was an hour before he realised he’d crashed a wake.
“😧 Locals very understanding,” he writes.
Raelene from WA tells me one of her relatives went to the wrong funeral: “My aunt did same re my father. Funerals 300kms apart. She said she ‘didn’t know anyone’! Wonder why!”
Rachel responded from Geelong: “I drove 2.5 hours a day early for one once.”
And my friend’s dad said (*warning – Dad joke): “I once went to my funeral and, in shock, I woke up. Realising I was still here, I decided to go back to sleep.”
BTW – While Alan’s funeral was very sad (they always are when people die relatively young and unexpectedly), I found myself chuckling a couple of times. The Priest was from Brisbane Boys College (BBC) so he was obviously used to engaging with youth using a bit of wit. Alan liked a party and the Priest reminded the gathering there were no hangovers in heaven. There was a downside though. He said there was no drunkeness either – you can drink as much as you like, enjoying the great taste, but not feel the alcoholic effects. Hmmm. I enjoy the tipsy feeling from a couple of champagnes in the sun as much as anybody so I figure I’m not ready for heaven just yet, but just in case, I have a copy of The Bottom Drawer Book: the after death action plan”.