The nostalgia of cemeteries

There are a number of self-guided interpretive walks around the cemetery.

There are a number of self-guided interpretive walks around the cemetery.

I’m making a big assumption here, but I suspect that most people do not visit a cemetery as a general, pleasurable activity.  When we do wander through the grounds it is often at times of sadness, there are the memories of bitter-sweet nostalgia, or to pay our respects to someone who is dead.  I recently visited the West Terrace Cemetery where more than 150,000 bodies are buried.  This was a walking tour and talk run by volunteers with the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority.

Besides the family vaults, grand obelisks and deteriorating head-stones there is a rich history to be discovered.  What is the history behind an urn on a grave, the myths of pointy tops to the monuments, the various renditions of a a marble scroll, or the Celtic cross?  At the West Terrace Cemetery four WW 1 AIF soldiers awarded the Victoria Crass are buried there.  As you wander the rows, names from our colonial past bruise our school-time memories of history lessons, F.H. Faulding, Carl Linger, composer of The Song of Australia, or the Menz family plot are just a few.  The AIF section is Australia’s first dedicated military cemetery.  Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882-1909) was an internationally renowned musician and composer.  He apparently rated himself the fifth best composer in the world.  He was also a tad eccentric as well.  He would make his own clothing – suits, and waist coats – from terry toweling, and in his will he stipulated that the flesh be stripped from his body and his skeleton be exhibited at the Grainger Museum in Melbourne.  The executors respectfully declined to carry out this wish.

City of Singapore – ship fire, heroes, destruction and death

The burial site of firefighter Albert Greenman at the West Terrace Cemetery.

The burial site of firefighter Albert Greenman at the West Terrace Cemetery. The burial site of firefighter Albert Greenman at the West Terrace Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Trevor Pert, volunteer, Adelaide Cemeteries Authority (2015).

Having been a firefighter for thirteen years, I have a strong interest in commemorating and remembering those who died in the line of duty.  There is a grave in the WTC where one of three firefighters who died fighting the City of Singapore ship fire at Port Adelaide, rests.  He was Albert Greenman.

According to Fire Brigade history, from the publication Muscle and Pluck Forever, by Page and Bryant, 1983,  the City of Singapore ship-fire was on the 26th April 1924.  Quoting from page 320 of the publication:

Another body had been taken to the Casualty Hospital: that of Albert Greenman.  But when Dr Percival Cherry examined Greenman he saw there was nothing to be done.  … [He wrote at the police station] ‘This is to certify that I made an inspection of the body of Albert Greenman on a stretcher at the Port Adelaide Hospital last night at approximately 11.20 pm.  The body was dead on admission.  The skull was extensively fractured, the right half of the vault being almost entirely absent.  The brain was also absent.  The death in my opinion was instantaneous.’

According to the State Library website at Fire Brigades Headquarters in Adelaide a bronze plaque was placed commemorating the bravery of the firemen who died: GJA Anderson, James Hickey and Albert Greenman. This plaque was subsequently relocated to the foyer of the new headquarters building of the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service in Wakefield Street.

Two of those who died in this horrendous fire, George Anderson and Jim Hickey, are commemorated by a beautiful white marble statue of a firefighter at the Cheltenham cemetery.   Local fire fighters from Woodville, Rosewater and Port Adelaide fire stations in the late 1970s restored this site and is still kept neat and tidy.

Albert Greenman’s grave has no headstone or plaque.  It is only ‘known’ through the records at the cemetery.  Why this is so I have no idea, I can only speculate.  However, it is something I want to correct.  More will come in my blogs on this intriguing and interesting page from our State’s history.

3 thoughts on “The nostalgia of cemeteries

  1. Pingback: Research is interesting | A Baby Boomer's Blog

  2. Pingback: The Nostalgia of Cemeteries – part 2 | A Baby Boomer's Blog

  3. Hello, my name is Shayne, I was blown away to read your blog. I am beginning researching my family tree as my grandparents never spoke of what happened to my grandmothers brother Albert after he returned from the war. And now I know why. Could you please make contact with me –
    I’d like to do the right thing and get a headstone for uncle Alberts grave , Thankyou I await your reply .

    Like

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