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HISTORY of EAST PERTH, West Australia

Journal by ngairedith

the following was taken from a link on EAST PERTH CEETERIES


On a height crowned with cypress trees just at the outskirts of the city, looking across a valley of many roofs to the war memorial at Mt. Eliza, is the East Perth Cemetery, recently roused from the unbroken peace of a century to feature in the newspapers as a municipal problem.

Closed as a public burying-ground for 30 years, although the last vault interment took place at last at 1924, there are few footsteps nowadays to tread these crowded thoroughfares of the dead, few Sunday visitants to tend and trim with loving hands. A 12-acre wilderness of broken tombs and fallen angels, with countless graves levelled out of all memory, Perth's first cemetery is to-day the closest epitome of Western Australia's history, its tree-shadowed paths leading clear back into the early days, for in the first 100 years 10,000 dead of the young colony found sanctuary there.

Church records - and it seems that they are the only records available, copied years after from the faded loose sheets of the original - show as their first entry the name of John Mitchell, aged 22 years, private of the 63rd Regiment, who died on January 6, 1830, a few months after the foundation of the settlement. The officiating clergyman was Thomas Hobbes Scott, Rector of Whitford, diocese of Durham, evidently a visitor to the colony at the time. Before this date there were three interments, but oblivion has taken their names, with those of the fourth and fifth. The sixth was Thomas John Putt, a seaman of the Parmelia, who was born at Plymouth and died on February 10, 1830. He was followed by "Christian, a native in the employ of Mr. Tholler."

There follows a list of seamen, shipwrights, labourers and servants, humble workers of the lonely outpost. The New Year, 1831, opens with tragedy, when Anne Budden, servant, 20, her son Henry Budden, 17 months, with Emily Gawler, 15, and William Gawler were "drowned in Melville Water on Sunday, January 2," - the first of our holiday fatalities. It appears that a children's epidemic followed, for in the next few months only the names of infants are recorded, among them that of William Stirling, infant son of the Governor, who died on May 2, swiftly followed by another "William Stirling, gentleman, 32," perhaps the Governor's brother.

There were few deaths in 1831, and on February 25, 1832, Charles Simmons, first Colonial Surgeon, was buried there, aged 28 years. A little later Thomas Farmer, soldier of the 63rd Regiment, was drowned in the Swan River, and the first suicide was recorded, one Robinson, shipwright. Followed a case of typhus fever, a drowning tragedy in the Canning River, and the death of two children from whooping cought.

Bearing date January 15, 1834, and now placed at the entrance to the Public Library, is the jarrah memorial of one John Green, a bricklayer of Perth, who was buried alive in the making of a well, while another plank, still standing in the cemetery, is "Sacred to the Memory of Samuel Kingsford, of Wandsworth, Surrey," who died in 1840. A few years from the striking of their century, these wooden tablets, excellently preserved and seasoned, clearly show their crude hand-carved lettering, shaming the shattered monumental marble and the moss-covered stones about them, and bearing testimony to the remarkable lasting qualities of a hardly native wood.

It is in the western corner of the graveyard, where grey stones lean under the sombre shadow of cyprus and yew, that you will find names written deep in the history of Western Australia. Here rest the Honourable Peter Broun, Colonial Secretary from the foundation of the colony to the date of his death, a period of 18 years; Richard Hinds, Surgeon, 1843; Richard Hinds, his son, also a surgeon, 1846; Lieut-Col. Andrew Clarke, Governor, Commander in Chief and Vice-Admiral of Western Australia and all of its dependencies, 1845; John Septimus Roe, first Surveyor-General; George Leake, 1849, with Sir Luke Samuel Leake, Kt. first Speaker of the Legislative Council, 1886; John Burdett Wittenoom, first Colonial Chaplain, 1855; Frederick Durck [sic] Wittenoom, Sheriff of the Colony, 1865; C.A.J. Piesse, "sometime Colonial Secretary," who died in office, 1851; Sir Archibald Paull Burt, Chief Justice, from St. Kitts in the West Indies, with his wife and his 10th son, 1879; Bishop Hale, first bishop of the Colony, and his schoolboy son, drowned while bathing; Lieut-Col. John Bruce of H.M. 16th and 18th Foot, for 20 years Staff Officer of Pensioners; Anthony O'Grady Lefroy, C.M.G., first Treasurer; Walter Padbury, John Ferguson, Colonial Surgeon; William Bowles Habgood; Goldwyer, Harding and Panton [sic], three young surveyors who were speared to death while sleeping on a headland of Lagrange country Roebuck Bay, with Maitland Brown, who risked his own life to recover the bodies. To Tommy Dower, an aboriginal native who accompanied Alexander Forrest on his expedition from the de Grey River to Darwin, 1879, when the Kimberley district was discovered, and also accompanied Sir John Forrest on several surveying expeditions, in various parts of the colony "this stone was erected in recognition of his services to his country" - his lost country.

Between the craven lines one reads many a story of long ago, the life-story of the pioneer who made an alien land his own, building steadily and quietly a future greater than he knew - and of "Susannah his Wife," working with him through the years, the patient courageous helpmate who made the strange land home for him and for his children. Sad stories some of them are, for innumerable are the graves of children. Many a young mother, to whom life might have been very sweet, rests with her baby in the shade, and in one grave five infant sons of one family were buried within a few short years.

A Classic Gravedigger

To this burying ground many sects and nationalities have come home. On the crest of the hill is the ground of the Jewish community, dating back to 1860, a narrow shadowed Golgotha with tombs inscribed in Hebrew writ; this fallen stone was once a Chinese shrine, where Celestials came with their libations; there a marble scroll in German text commemorates "Unser Liebling Emilie," aged three, and just beyond it is the tomb of W.T.D. Lyon, who fell from aloft on the barque Mary Blair. Wind and weather have dealt hardly with many of the fallen and moss-grown stones, and in one instance a gnarled old basket willow has grown from the head of a grave, bursting the stone tomb, obliterating the monument, taking the life beneath unto itself.
One who has been closely in touch with the life of the community remembers well those early funerals, when from the little stone churches in fields that are now crowded thoroughfares the coffins were carried by relays of pall-bearers by a sandy track through the bush. Later came the pomp and circumstance of the Victorian funeral, black caparisoned horses stepping slowly, the nodding plumes of the hearse, closed mourning coaches and phaetons decked in black, the mourners with their black-rimmed handkerchiefs, long ribbons of crepe flying from their hats, and the measured tolling of the chapel bell.

At the burying ground, there would be a sober and sympathetic greeting from the old gravedigger, Harry Tichbon, host of that quiet company for 60 [sic] years. Tichbon died not so long ago at the advanced age of 95 years. In the very early days a boatman on the river between Perth and Fremantle, he had travelled with the sandalwood teams from York, and had seen many a great corroboree near the Causeway Bridge and where the Grovenor Hotel now stands. A stepbrother of Foster, victim of the well-known tragedy of the Olde Narrogin Inn, he was a rare character counterpart of Hamlet's classic gravedigger. Taking a keen interest in his work, he knew every blade of grass in the cemetery and all that lay beneath it. It is said that the sole remaining joy of his last years was to tell over, with many a characteristic aside, the story of those thousands that had "passed through his hands" at East Perth. Unfortunately, the picturesque wealth of his recollections was all unwritten, and he himself was interred at the Karrakatta Cemetery, where one of his sons is sexton yet.

East Perth, the God's Acre in which he toiled for so long and so faithfully, has now been placed under the control of the Perth Gardens Board, and its future is uncertain. It is possible that it may become a memorial park.

It is right and fitting that death and all the sad accoutrements of death should be relegated at last to a kindly oblivion, but surely in this instance it might be regretted that East Perth is not retained as a cemetery, to become like Genoa's Campo Santo, the Pere Lachaise in Paris, and Stoke Poges, where Grey dreamed his Elegy, a historic corner where generations of West Australians to come may read the stories and the names of early days.

photograph caption -

An historic corner in the East Perth Cemetery.

[The West Australian January 30, 1932, p4]

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by ngairedith Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2011-08-03 18:36:33

ngairedith has been a Family Tree Circles member since Feb 2008.

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