Category Archives: Cemetery Exploring

Offering Endless Variety of Nothing

It was Grand Final Day and crowds were packing the MCG. This is the day everything seems to stop in Melbourne and the city takes on the feeling of being a ghost town as people gather in venues to watch the match. It is the day of bar-b-ques and general partying.

Not being vaguely interested in football,  the big match or for that matter being in a crowd, I was feeling a little restless.

Sensing my need for broad open spaces on land where there is a whole lot of nothing, Akari (my beloved Mazda 3) rattled her wheels and said she was up for one of our mystery tours. So, without stopping to gather any supplies, the Lappies (my two Finnish Laphaunds) and I set off on one of our expeditions.

We headed west from Castlemaine, through Maldon, stopping briefly for a sniff run at Eddington and then on beyond Dunolly to Bealiba.

The area around Bealiba was originally known as Cochrane’s, after John and James Cochrane, who took up a pastoral run in 1853. When gold was discovered in 1855-56 the area was known as Cochrane’s Diggings, but the surveyor who laid out the township in 1862 adopted the name of the pastoral run, ‘Bealaba’, later Bealiba. It is thought that the name is derived from Aboriginal words meaning red gum creek.

Once a hub for those seeking gold today Bealiba is a quiet little town. With nothing open to visit, I was content to go to the historic cemetery where one is inevitably confronted with the grief that people who lived in this harsh place endured. As the headstone I photographed testifies, the mortality rate amongst infants was very high. The loss endured by John and Mary Jones is hard to imagine.

Glancing at the petrol gauge Akari and I agreed that it was best to head towards St Arnaud. The drive from Bealiba to this gracious old town seemed to take forever and Akari and I muttered to one another about the folly of deciding to wander about in a part of the world where there is hardly a car to be seen. But we pressed on, relieved to finally reach our destination and stop to refuel, for me to savour coffee and a packet of mixed sandwiches. As I looked at the beautifully manicured park across the road I did think that next time we spontaneously decided to head bush I might pack my picnic basket.

Logan, with its endless variety of absolutely nothing, represents outstanding paucity of value for the tourist dollar. Situated in an area that boasts some superb scenic, high speed, touring roads with extremely low traffic density this is a shabby scrap of dying history

So journey to Logan and relive the shocking hardship of those wretched souls who opened up this land for reasons that no historian has ever been able to fathom.

All roads lead to the Logan Pub.

Sourced from Logan Pub Website – a delightful must read.

As we left St Arnaud I contemplated how far it was to get back to Castlemaine. It was a pleasant surprise to stumble upon the Logan Pub in The Scrub a hotel which promotes itself as offering old fashioned hospitality. The hotel’s quirky website informs us that Logan, a rustic and historically significant hamlet in North Central Victoria, offers the genuine tourist a wealth of valuable experiences.

The perfect place to wait and meet Godot I wondered?

Over a lemon-lime and bitters and a bag of potato crisps, I stopped to chat with the bartender (look carefully you will find him in the photo I took) and took in my surroundings. I mentally noted the assorted items that were hanging from the roof and adorning the shelves. Nearby the huge screen revealed that the big match had started and an array of country folk began to materialize to watch it. I was happy to slip quietly away and head home via Tarnagulla.

A day spent in a land where there is supposedly nothing revealed that there is always something. There never was nothing in the beginning and it turns out that there is something very special in a part of the world that proclaims to be a place where there is a whole lot of nothing.

Footnote: This post is taken from a journal entry. I am offering an intensive journal writing course at the Castlemaine Community House beginning on October 16th. An online version is available at Trains of Thought but only subscribers can view this. Feel free to contact me for more details.

Places for Quiet Meditation – Prague

 

Throughout most recorded history, human societies have used various types of cemeteries for burial purposes; this theme points to humanity’s need to construct a meaning behind death and reflect life into the places where the dead are interred. Whether the bodies of the deceased are placed in the ground, within elaborate tombs, or simply in the presence of ancient or contemporary monuments, their location holds symbolic meaning as well as practical historical meaning for the surrounding living community. 

At the beginning of November, Mexicans celebrate Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. People wash and sweep their family’s grave-houses, decorate them with flowers, bring their loved ones’ favourite dishes, and eat the meal by the graves.

Up until the early 20th century, cemeteries in America were a popular place to relax, picnic and get together near a loved one’s grave.

In Prague, the old Jewish Cemetery is a popular place of pilgrimage, particularly by Jewish people who come to pray and leave small coins on tombstones. While I was in Prague I visited this famed cemetery but I managed to find my way to the Old Jewish Cemetery in Zizkov and the sprawling, beautiful Olsany Cemetery which is also in Zizkov.

The challenge, this November, is to think of a ritualistic way that I can honour my ancestors.

A Touch of the Macabre in Kutna Hora

If I should die,
And you should live,
And time should gurgle on,
And morn should beam,
And noon should burn,
As it has usual done;

‘Tis sweet to know….
That commerce will continue,
And trades as briskly fly.
It make the parting tranquil
And keeps the soul serene,
That gentlemen so sprightly
Conduct the pleasing scene!

Emily Dickinson

Once I learned about the Sedlec Ossuary I knew that I would be making a visit to Kutna Hora during my time in the Czech Republic. It was by sheer chance that I stumbled upon Prague Bus Tours as I scurried away, fled from the milling masses in the Old Town Square in the centre of Prague. There was little to hold me there!  Overpriced cafes, endless shops selling piles of tacky souvenirs, horse and cart rides and the usual get on, get off bus tours. There may well have been better deals available but this company, true to their word, picked me up at my Airbnb and even went out of their way to drop me at another address on the return journey.

The only downside was that our charming guide never had volume button so we could not lower the sound as we drove through the Bohemian countryside. When two American women and I tumbled off the bus all I could mutter was that “I only came to see the bones!”. As we distanced ourselves from the very loud commentary I teased others and asked why they were not taking notes. Much to fellow travellers amusement, I remarked that there would be a test at the end and if we failed we would have to do it all again, with him, tomorrow.

That aside, nothing prepares you for the awe-inspiring Sedlec Ossuary. For once I was speechless! It is magnificent and I was taken by what I perceived to be ‘reverence’ for those fallen whose bones lie here.

Idyllic Bush Resting Place

Bush songs devised by ordinary, everyday people are a record of the people’s experiences of living, surviving and dying in the bush, as well as the colourful slang of bush life.

 

Today, on my way back from meeting a friend at Malmsbury for lunch, I saw a sign, that I had never noticed before, pointing to the Elphinstone Cemetery. It was quite a trek, along an unsealed road, to find this well maintained old cemetery. At the time when it was established in Elphinstone, there would have been more bush to be seen. Today you pass by properties on acreage!

What is it about ‘the bush’ that is so special to Australians? The bush has an iconic status in Australian life and features strongly in any debate about national identity, especially as expressed in Australian literature, painting, popular music, films and foods.

The bush was something that was uniquely Australian and very different to the European landscapes familiar to many new immigrants. The bush was revered as a source of national ideals by the likes of Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson. Romanticising the bush in this way was a big step forward for Australians in their steps towards self-identity. The legacy is a folklore rich in the spirit of the bush.

Many Australian myths and legends have emanated from the bush. Early bushranging – ranging or living off the land – was sometimes seen as a preferred option to the harsh conditions experienced by convicts in chains. Later bushrangers such as Jack Donohue, Ben Hall and Ned Kelly were seen as rebellious figures associated with bush life. Their bushmanship was legendary as well as necessary. Source: The Australian Bush

Penang’s First Lady – Martina Rozells

A Eurasian of Siamese and Portuguese descent, Martina Rozells, is said to be have been born in Thaland, Phuket and later became an adopted child of the Sultan of Kedah in what is today Malaysia – just south of Satun province in Thailand. She has variously been depicted as the a Siamese Princess, the Princess of Kedah

Much has been written about Francis Light, the founder of Penang, but little has been written about his beautiful Thai-Eurasian, common in law wife, Martina Rozells.

“Martina Rozells co-habited with Francis Light, the founder of Penang, for at least 22 years before his death from malaria in 1794. She bore him five (or possibly six) children, one of whom later became the founder of Adelaide in Australia. Founding a city must have been written into the genetic code of both father and son.

Over the years many romantic legends have been constructed about Martina, and the truth may never be fully known. One of the most exotic stories is that she was a princess of the royal house of Kedah and that the island of Penang was presented to her (and her husband) by the Sultan as her dowry. However, as the Sultan demanded tribute from Penang as recompense for revenue lost, this cannot be true. Along with this story is the notion that Light and Martina were actually married according to Malay customs; but they were not recognised by the East India Company.

Other versions of the Martina story dress her as a Catholic Eurasian of mixed Thai and Portuguese descent. One of the reasons for Light not marrying her might have been the fact that she was a Roman Catholic and he was a Protestant. The other is that she was almost certainly a Eurasian. It is hard for us to realise how much race counted for in the past. Being of mixed race was especially tricky because you belonged to neither side. Despite these prejudices, the Eurasian community has made a rich contribution in the field of Penang’s musical history, with artists like Jimmy Boyle, Joe Rozells, Larry Rodrigues, the Baum brothers, the Jeremiahs, Colleen Read and Leo Aeria. An equally important Eurasian heritage piece is in the field of food with such delights as Beef Semur, Chicken Devil Curry and Salted fish pickles – all Malaysian favourites even today. It is thought that Francis Light himself invited the first wave of Eurasian migrants to come to Penang in 1786, the year of the Colony’s founding and that subsequent migrants came from Phuket as well as Kedah.

Light died fairly young, but he had made exceptionally detailed provision for Martina in his will, which perhaps gives us an indication of the value placed upon common household objects in those days: “I give and bequeath unto the said Martina Rozells my bungalow in George Town with one set of mahogany tables, two card cables, two couches, two bedstead large and two small with bedding…. a dressing table and 18 chairs, two silver candle sticks, one silver teapot, two sugar dishes, twelve table spoons, twelve tea spoons, one soup spoon and all the utensils not under the stewards charge to be disposed of as she thinks proper without any limitation. I also give Martina Rozells four of my best cows and one bull….” (Quoted in Streets of George Town).

It is rather shameful that after Light’s death, his business partners tried to cheat Martina out of her inheritance by transferring his properties into their names. She struggled in the courts for many years perhaps hampered by being illiterate, as so many women were in those days. She did finally win justice in 1812 but by then, she had married John Timmins. Even the street which once bore her name, Martina’s Lane, has been renamed Leith Street Ghaut”.

taken from Expat Go

Wall and doorway between the Protestant and Roman Catholic Cemeteries. Photo from http://malaysianmeanders.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/penangs-colonial-past-at-old-protestant.html

It is not clear where Martina Rozells was buried but, given that she died in 1822 in Penang, it is quite possible that, as a Catholic, she was buried in the Catholic Cemetery, divided from the Protestant Cemetery by a wall.

Georgetown Headstone History

For years it was known as the Pearl of the Orient. Then Penang lost its lustre, at least to the outside world as its importance on the globe’s trade routes lessened. But now, thanks to its unique architecture, fabulous cuisine and heady mix of tourist attractions, the famed city is bouncing back big time.

The Protestant Cemetery in Georgetown is the oldest Christian cemetery in Penang. Not far from the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, it is also called Northam Road Cemetery and was set up in the 18th-century for British colonial administrators, traders and missionaries that arrived after Penang’s establishment in 1786.

The Protestant church’s earliest grave is that of Captain Francis Light (one of the fathers of British colonialism in Southeast Asia). Other graves include those of James Richardson Logan (editor of the Penang Gazette) and Reverend Hutchings (early leader of St. George’s Church and founder of the Penang Free School). Movie buffs will be interested to know that Thomas Leonowens is buried here: he was 31 years-old when he passed away in 1859, leaving his widow stranded in the East. He was the husband of Anna, the self-same Anna of The King & I or Anna & the King fame.

While my daughter and I were holidaying in Georgetown this year we had a great rickshaw driver who made sure that we gained full benefit of the charm of this multi-cultural city. Before the heat engulfed us we arrived at this hauntingly beautiful cemetery. Our driver informed us that this is one of the oldest Christian cemetery of its kind, not only in Penang, but in the whole world, pre-dating even Paris’s Père Lachaise Cemetery, England’s Highgate Cemetery where Karl Marx is interred and even Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof, the largest cemetery on Earth. This is no Zentralfriedhof! Penang’s Old Protestant Cemetery is quite small—less than a block across. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in character. A grove of gnarly frangipani trees covers the burial ground, graceful stone tombs in varying state of decay strewn across its grassy bed.

Sir Francis Light is arguably the most famous resident of the Old Protestent Cemetery, but his tomb does not stand out among others that are taller or grander than his. In 1786, he leased the island of Penang from the Sultan of Kedah on behalf of the British East India Company and thus ushered in centuries of British colonization in Southeast Asia. Light lived here for eight years before succumbing to malaria.

He left behind his common-law wife, Martina Rozells, and four children. Martina was Catholic, and marrying a Catholic was cause for dismissal from the British East India Company. So, he never officially declared themselves as married. Rozells ended up losing her entire inheritance to Light’s business partner since their union was not recognized by the church. Their son, Sir William Light, was the first Surveyor General of South Australia and is responsible for choosing the sight for and designing the layout of its capital, Adelaide.

Cemetery exploring is a wonderful way of learning more about a city. This slide show provides some more history of what we found to be a fabulous holiday destination.

Cemetery Exploring With Akari

Workers and players have earned their repose.
Soon on their names all in vain we shall call,
For even the grandest old landmarks must fall.
Just a warm hand-clasp ere one disappears—
These are the last of the old pioneers.
John Sandes

Turn off the Castlemaine to Maldon road onto the gravel Sandy Creek road and follow the old Cobb & Co route, past the old hotel, where they stopped for a break and drive on  towards Welshman’s Reef through Box-ironbark country.

Welshmans Reef is a former gold mining town 15 km west of Castlemaine and 110 km north-west of Melbourne. The name presumably came about from a Welshman discovering the gold-bearing reef: there were numerous Welsh and Methodist settlers at neighbouring townships such as Fryerstown and Vaughan.

West of Welshmans Reef there were the Loddon flats, which enabled miners to diversify into farming. A school was opened in 1877. The place was seldom more than a hamlet and its peak pre-twenty-first-century census population of 215 persons was in 1915. In 1956 the Cairn Curran Reservoir was completed, inundating much of the river flats.

As you approach the hamlet a sign points to the old Sandy Creek Cemetery, a cemetery that was closed in 1956. Many pioneers who came seeking gold lie here. Noting our arrival a large mob of kangaroos took off, bounding across the creek.

The sight of so many small white, numbered markers, combined with the fact that there were only a few headstones, took my breath away. Memorials placed by descendants revealed that this  is a place to honour the pioneers who came here.

The Stones and Ground Here Tells Stories

Recently I have taken to exploring cemeteries.  A taphophile, otherwise known as Tombstone tourist, cemetery enthusiast, detective or graver is an individual who has a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries, epitaphs, gravestone rubbing, photography, art, and history of (famous) deaths.

I am not sure I will become a taphophile but I can see how visiting cemeteries can become quite addictive. Cemeteries tell the histories of our towns, states, and our country as well as the stories of all the people who lived in the community. Apart from being able to contemplate the meaning of life, there are lots of interesting things to find. The stones in these places certainly have stories to tell.

No doubt because of its isolation and the shortage of water the Eddington cemetery is decidedly derelict. Although there are recent graves no one is obviously taking care of this place and it has been affected by the contrasting heat and cold experienced in this harsh part of the world.

This tiny green area, a family grave sheltered by a very old peppercorn tree is an exception. Just as old people are all too often abandoned in sterile care units, it feels as if the dead who lie here have been abandoned to bake in the summer heat and freeze on extremely frosty mornings.

Perhaps most disturbing was the sign pointing to the Paupers section; a barren field with no markers.

Sadly paupers funerals still exist. They are now known as destitute funerals. In general they are given to people with no known family or assets. They are arranged by the police, if the person dies at home or in a nursing home or by the Social Worker if they die in hospital.

In the situation where someone dies and the family have no ability to pay for funeral expenses it is possible to have the state pay for the funeral. However there is no formal service because a chapel would need to be hired and the priest/minister paid. The grave is not marked so it is difficult to visit in the future.

The paupers section is devoid of statuary with one exception. A stone marking the life of a man who loved fishing lies here.

 

Unknown Goldfields Miners Grave

‘Since Saturday morning, the scene (on the goldfields) has greatly changed – then a tent would be seen here and there, but now they are becoming inconveniently crowded … On Saturday, dozens were arriving at a time; on Sunday, hundreds; Monday and Tuesday, one continuous line of new arrivals.’
Argus, 8 November 1851

KALIMNA PARK is a bushland reserve on the north eastern outskirts of Castlemaine comprising 175 ha. During the gold rush the area was almost totally denuded and the ground turned over. In time, coppice regrowth has produced a box-ironbark woodland with a characteristic ecosystem of plants, birds and less visible wildlife.

Gold miners often led an itinerant life, following rushes from lead to lead, so tracking their movements can be difficult. In a remote part of this reserve lies the grave of the unknown miner dating back to the gold rush (circa 1850s). I certainly needed my local guide to find this grave, tucked in a remote corner of the park. It is hard to imagine what life was like for this miner seeking gold in what was a remote part at this time. If this hapless miner made his fortune it didn’t bring him any glory! More sadly the gold rush proved to be a second wave of dispossession for the Dja Dja Warrung people. Already marginalised by the first white settlement, the discovery of gold destroyed vast tracts of land and much of their traditional way of life.

The destruction of their environment and subsequently their traditional lifestyle was a major cause of grief for the Aboriginal people. Traditional food sources such as berries and plants, as well as the native animals they depended upon for meat were all destroyed as the Europeans cleared land and stripped huge areas of timber for their own needs.

Gold Fever Grief

I like the diggings very well I have washed myself about a pennyweight [2 grams] of gold besides a match box full of specimens [gold in quartz]. The other day I went with Mamma and Papa over to the quarry reef. There we saw a gentleman of the name of B Farrell he has one of the richest claimes in the reef He has made thousands of pounds […] You will laugh when I tell you what I have been doing today, making a kennel for a puppy I have not yet got it is a very nice one made of latice. Mr Sundy is going to give me the puppy this week We began school today.

– Lucy Birchall

In 1852, on a barren piece of land that was of no use to gold miners or fossickers, a cemetery for the deceased children of the Castlemaine goldfields was set aside. Located within the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park is Pennyweight Flat Children’s Cemetery. A pennyweight is a very small measure of gold.

Surrounded by grey box gums in a tranquil setting, the Children’s Cemetery tells a silent story about some realities of the goldfields during the 1850s. Many families travelled to the Castlemaine diggings in the early 1850s as word spread about alluvial (surface) gold to be found. Babies and young children were particularly vulnerable to disease and harsh conditions such as a serious lack of clean drinking water, and many died.

 

The children stir from their slumber! We come here often! I am confident that those children who lie here are happy to have some dogs come to visit them!

“During 1852, as the Victorian gold rushes began, children started dying from typhoid and dysentery after drinking tainted creek water during their first goldfields summer. So a cemetery was established on a rocky hill overlooking the area. They were buried on what must have been a sad and exposed hilltop below which locust swarms of new arrivals jostled, blinded to the truth on the hill above them.

In that gold hunting clamour parents would have sat beside those tiny graves mourning a child and wondering whether their decision to come out to this dusty outpost was wise. They, being poor, had placed their children in shallow graves, then piled rocks up to mark the place. Now, one hundred and fifty years later the scene is different and very quiet. The gravestones are scattered and most of the graves are hard to discern, mere mounds, barely visible under the leaf litter. Just a few weathered headstones, fallen or falling suggest the place is a cemetery.

In the eighteenth century Thomas Grey, the English poet, wrote his famous Elegy. Written in a Country Church-yard, a meditation on the life and death of poor people whose graves are forgotten over time. It is also a reminder that death gets everyone and that although the rich may have grander tombs we’re all equal in the end. ‘The paths of glory lead but to the grave,’ he says.

The Pennyweight Flat Children’s cemetery, in a corner of Castlemaine, is plain, very Australian, hard to discern, at risk of vanishing, and valuable. Like most things that ask for quiet and patience, it rewards. (Source: Inside a Dog).”

More about Pennyweight Cemetery

Pennyweight Cemetery

Pennyweight Flat

The Lost Children of Pennyweight

 

Remembering Margaret Scott

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.
Emily Dickinson

Archie and Neeky do love to add new places to their sniffing GPS! Cemeteries like this give rare, personal glimpses into other ages.

In memory of John Scott the beloved husband of Margaret Scott who died 1879 aged 57. Margaret died 25 years later in 1904

I stopped to talk to Margaret Scott who survived her husband. I explained that my husband had died at 58 and that I wanted to know how her life changed after John’s death at 57! Had she forged a completely different life for herself? Had it been as tough living in this region at this time as I imagined it might be? What did she do while she waited for Godot?

Margaret’s silence suggested that I should talk to the living about such matters.