SPECIAL FEATURE: PART 1. Between the gravestones – 20 years of original thinking

A CROSS TO BEAR: THE WROUGHT IRON CROSS AT OCTAVIUS BEAL’S GRAVE AT ST THOMAS’ ANGLICAN CEMETERY, ENFIELD

Cemeteries offer huge scope for learning more about our ancestors. Dr Lisa Murray, author of a new book which will help you discover more about the work of a taphophile.

SARAH TREVOR

What initially drew you to colonial cemeteries?

I have been fascinated by cemeteries for more than 20 years. Originally, I was curious about early headstone designs and the history of monumental masonry and sepulchral art in Australia. But my interest quickly expanded to the history of cemeteries and their landscape designs.

Your book, Sydney Cemeteries: A Field Guide, contains a wealth of information for those of us obsessed with cemeteries. Could you tell us a bit about the process involved in researching and writing the guide?

I had to be extremely organised. I visited every cemetery – all 101 of them – that are included in the book; and a few more besides! I had a spreadsheet to keep track of everything. Every weekend my partner and I visited a different district, so each week prior to a district tour -- I researched the cemeteries, taking notes from headstone transcriptions and histories, and plotted a route. Then on site at every cemetery I recorded audio notes of my impressions of the cemetery; and my partner took photographs. When I returned home, these would all be downloaded and further notes made for things to follow up, particularly related to eye-catching memorials and prominent individuals. I wrote the book entries morning and night, before and after my office job. So, basically, I lived and breathed cemeteries for about 12 months.

What were some of the challenges that you encountered when putting together the book?

Three things come to mind: distance (Sydney is a big, sprawling city), figuring out the earliest burials, and flat camera batteries. I thought snakes might be a problem, but we only encountered one.

Which resources did you find the most helpful in the course of your research?

The National Trust of NSW’s masterlist of burial grounds was my starting point (nationaltrust.org.au/services/cemetery-conservation/cemetery-masterlist). I could not have done this book without all the cemetery headstone transcriptions compiled by so many family history groups and historical societies. I created a Trove list of Sydney cemetery publications to make it easier for everyone to track down these great resources (http://trove.nla.gov.au/list?id=64285). I loved going to the Society of Australian Genealogists (sag.org.au) and looking at all their cemetery records. And it hardly needs to be said, but the digitised newspapers on Trove fleshed out many stories. The online Australian Dictionary of Biography (adb.anu.edu.au) was also crucial for identifying where prominent people were buried.

What are some of the insights that a family historian can uncover by visiting their ancestor’s gravesite?

Family connections and memories coalesce in headstones, relationships may become clearer -- or more puzzling. You may even find someone you’ve never heard of listed within an inscription or epitaph. These might record an occupation, or even the personality or virtues of your ancestor. Or an unmarked gravesite might be a clue about family circumstances – economic or otherwise.

Have you ever visited one of your own ancestors’ burial sites?

I visited my great grandfather’s grave when I surveyed Macquarie Park Cemetery (also known as Northern Suburbs General Cemetery) for the book. It took a little while to confirm his location as the cemetery administrators had mistyped his name when they converted the burial registers to a database.

Next month: There’s more to this great grandfather’s grave than the author wants to believe – his name, his marriage and his “personal” material welfare?

<< inside history magazine, Summer 2017. << Sydney Cemeteries: A Field Guide by Dr Lisa Murray (NewSouth Books, $34.99) is out now.

Pictures: At prayer: An angel dominated this grave in a section of South Head General Cemetery. For us all. The Sparke family vault at Rookwood.


SPECIAL FEATURE: CEMETERIES COME AND GO!

FRANK MORRIS

Aside from churchyards, there had been two major cemeteries built in the 1800s in Sydney, NSW. Gazetted in 1819, one of them was Devonshire Street near to Central Railway Station.

Rookwood came in 1865 and Woronora in 1895. Helen Willows, 19, was the first person buried at Woronora in April 1, 1895.

More than 90,000 people have been buried there and 137,000 have been cremated.  In St Peters, NSW, down the road from Central, is a graveyard which is 175 years old.

It celebrated the event on April 5. John Benfield, a solider, was the first person buried there in March 1839. There have been 2515 interred at the site, the last one in 1896.

Picture: Monuments. These giant-sized statuette had a deep meaning for the person/s buried there.


NEXT WEEK: Sherlock Holmes and Friends – meet the Holmes’ Group. Two instalments next week. The rest of the series will run until November. Next September: Outstanding personally, Betty Cuthbert, whose eulogy is featured today, won the 100 metres at Melbourne in l956. She was possibly less excited the fact than most her admires, said a close colleague.


GLORIOUS SUMMER: THE SUMMERS WERE SURPASSINGLY LOVELY. A COOL BREEZE THAT SWEPT OVER THE SURGE UPON THE BROAD BEACHES WHERE TWO STOCKMEN WERE HEADING.

ROLF BOLDREWOOD DAYS: PART 2. LIFE AT YAMBUK – HOME SWEET HOME

The solid turf would disappear … you could end up with a strained joint and broken collarbone.

THOMAS ALEXANDER BROWNE*

And how pleasant, again, in contrast, when the cattle were yarded and the rails securely pegged, to unsaddle and walk into the house.

(Inside), where lights and glowing fires and a well-appointed table awaited us, presided over by a Chatelaine [lady of the house], whose soft voice and ever-varied converse – mirthful or mournful, serious or satirical, practical or poetic – never failed to soothe and interest.

Stock riding in those days, half real business and half sport, as we youngsters held to be, was certainly not one of those games, as Lindsay Gordon sings – “No harm could possibly find its way.”

Part of the Yambuk run was distinctly dangerous riding. Where the wombats dig their treacherous shafts and galleries, how many a good steed and horseman have I seen overthrown.

WHEN OUR NAGS ROLLED US

These peculiar night-feeding animals, akin to the badger of the old country, burrowed much among the coast hummocks. Their open shafts, though not particularly nice to ride among at speed, were trifling drawbacks compared to the horizontal “drives” into which your horse’s feet often broke.

The solid turf would disappear, and, with your horse in a concealed pitfall up to the shoulder, gave a shock that often told tales in a strained joint or a broken collarbone.

We fell lightly in those days, however, and, even when our nags rolled over us, rarely seemed to mind the trifling circumstance.

<< From Life at Yambuk; Australian Pathways, Spring 1998, volume 1 no. 1. *He changed his name to Rolf Boldrewood to write his bushranging novel, Robbery Under Arms.

Next month: A night ride – Ah, well do I remember, that loved and lonely hour – and demise.

Pictures: Odd pair. One bullock is captured by a stockman, and another animal escaped.

NANA: MY GRANDMOTHER WAS A DIFFERENT PERSON, ONE WHO COULDN’T BE DEFEATED. OR, IN A WAY. DISAPPOINTED. I SAW HER FREE OF AMBITION. FREE TO ENJOY, AS SHE LIKED TO PUT IT. BUT SHE GETS ANXIOUS, MIGHTY ANXIOUS WHEN THINGS GO WRONG.

THIS ABOUT IT! PART 2. GRANDMOTHER’S WITH LOVE

FRANK MORRIS

In no time, I began to get taller like a string bean. I was lying in my cot at my grandmother’s. It was 11.30am. It was a Saturday. Dad was sitting on the couch, reading. Experience warned me, however, that it was the Sportsman. My father was a gambler. Not a serious one but nevertheless, he was a “steady” one, if there’s such a word.

He never, for instance, gambled the house we had at Bexley. Or, anything important. Cards were much the same deal. I seems to recall an IOU he signed just moments before beating this fellow at cards. My father won the hand and he paid the IOU back.

My dad came across to me and put his giant hands around me. It was an affectionate hug. It lasted for several minutes. Other occasions, when he grabbed my hands his giant hands made 10 of mine.

SHE’S GONE TO HEAVEN

Where’s my mum, I begged. He dropped his hands down at his side and said, “Mum won’t be back, she gone to Heaven.” My mum was in bed, then she left her home. There we’re people hanging around. That’s all I remember. It worried me a great deal. And dad walked out the room. He went out to the Stanley wireless and switched in on.

Race afternoon had started when the afternoon presenter said, “Good day ladies and gentlemen …” Dad told me that was it is Ian Hay on 2KY.

I never realised this before, but dad was crying. He lived at grandmother’s the same as me. I’ll never forget those days. I could hear the front door open. Nana had been over to the neighbour opposite. Dad came to see my problem and his giant hands came to recue me from boredom.

Dad was smiling. He must have had a win at the races. He carried me to meet nana. Her outstretched arms were there to cuddle me. Nearly four, I was in another world. I hug her very closely. She bent down and whispered in my ear. I couldn’t hear it, but everything was fine. I hug her. Hug her. Minutes went by. Then Nana put me down.

It was some time later, when through my nana’s daughter, that I got the true story. My mother didn’t leave home but had died through a serious heart problem. They said that I was the apple of my mum’s eyes. I spent the next 20 years finding out why my mother died.

Coming: I was 5 years old and sick as a dog with flu.

Picture: Good old nana. She would hug me two or three times and kiss me on the forehead.


SIX GOLD MEDALS: BOBBY MORROW AND BETTY CUTHBERT, BOTH TRIPLE GOLD MEDALISTS, CONGRATULATE EACH OTHER ON THEIR VICTORIES IN MELBOURNE IN 1956.

VALE: THE ‘GOLDEN GIRL’ BETTY CUTHBERT PASSED AWAY

FRANK MORRIS

She was the ‘Golden Girl’ “who ran for her faith”, was how one newspaper described Betty Cuthbert’s zeal.

Cuthbert, who won four Olympic Golds and piles of other tracks records, died last Monday. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1969.

She dominated the women’s sprinting events at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games; she was the Australian ‘Golden Girl” of athletics. Cuthbert created records in the 100 metres (11.4) and 200 metres (23.4), and was a member of the victorious 4x100 metres relay team which broke the world record.

At Rome in the 1960 Olympics, Cuthbert represented in the 100, 200 and 400 metres. In Tokyo in 1964, she showed remarkable resoluteness and courage to win the gruelling 400 metres in the record time of 52 seconds. At Tokyo, Cuthbert established herself as an all-time great in athletics.

BROKE NUMEROUS RECORD

Cuthbert won two Silver medals at 1958 Cardiff Commonwealth Games. She a collected Gold medal for the 4x100 yard relay at Perth Commonwealth Games in 1962.

She broke world records on numerous occasions over 60 metres, 100 yards, 200 metres, 400 metres and 440 yards. In 1956, she was recipient of the Helms Award. She awarded the MBE for services to sport in 1965. Cuthbert became the first woman to be appointed to the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust in 1978.

Betty Cuthbert was a legend. She was one of the best Australians to ever compete. She inspires athletes everywhere to wear the national uniform.

<< The Hall of Champions, Sports House, Sydney.-

Picture: On your mark. The running style of Betty Cuthbert.

Posted in: Grand Years with Frank Morris at 11 August 17

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