The Nostalgia of Cemeteries – Part 3 – The never ending story

I have no excuse, I just stopped blogging some time back. However, this week and Albert’s story has got me motivated again. So much has happened since my second part to this project, way back in August 2016. There has been hours of research, reams of reading and some wonderful and some sad discoveries.

When Albert Greenman was buried, there was a significant funeral procession from the Wakefield Street Fire Station (HQ) where Albert served. This procession was led by the police greys and the police band. According to newspaper reports of the day, hundreds of people lined the streets to pay their respects and there was a large crowd at the West Terrace Cemetery as well. The other two firemen killed in the fire were buried in a joint grave at the Cheltenham Cemetery and the site is noted for a life-size white marble statue of a fireman. Albert was not buried with his comrades as this was a private grave site and Laura, his wife did not want that to happen.

Laura was pregnant at the time of her husband’s death and gave birth to a son, Albert Francis later in 1924. Unfortunately the baby only lived nine weeks. Albert Jr was also buried with his father.

In 1956, Laura’s mother, Caroline Martorana, aged 86 died and was also placed in the same grave. For some reason the grave remained unmarked and its only record was in the archives of the West Terrace Cemetery.

On a happier note, Laura remarried. In 1927 she married (Ridvers) Frederick Cox and they had a daughter. Now this is where this narrative becomes even more interesting. Laura’s grandson, Ray Hawke joined the Metropolitan Fire Service (South Australia) in the mid 1970s and he and I worked together at the then Salisbury Fire Station. Ray is still an operational Senior Firefighter (45 years service at the time of this Blog) and stationed at the Port Adelaide Fire Station. This is the station that was first turned out to the City of Singapore ship fire on April 26, 1924… although it is newer and on a different site. In 2019, inspired by her uncle, Ailsa Enting-Hawke also became an operational firefighter.

Much of this history and background material was unknown to the family. However, Ray now understands why his mother was not happy about him becoming a firefighter.

On Tuesday May 4, 2021 there was a Commemorative service at the grave site. (from the MFS Linkedin post)

For nearly a century, SA Fire Brigade Firefighter Albert Greenman’s grave lay barren.
On International Firefighters Day, the MFS, SA Country Fire Service and family held a memorial service to unveil his refurbished grave & honour his sacrifice battling the 1924 City of Singapore ship fire.

The descendants of Albert’s widow, serving MFS Firefighter Ailsa Enting-Hawke and MFS Senior Firefighter Ray Hawke participated in the service.

Albert’s place in history is now rightly recognised, so that generations to come will remember him. May he rest in peace – and his fellow SA Fire Brigade Firefighters George Anderson and James Hickey, who also perished in the City of Singapore fire.

Today we remember all firefighters who serve across South Australia and the world. Thank you for your service.

Clockwise: Ailsa Enting-Hawke addressing the attendees, the grave refurbished recognising all three deaths and Albert in his ‘fireman’s’ uniform of the day. Photos supplied.

Information and historical data for this and earlier blogs came from the Greenman family, the Hawke family, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide Cemeteries Authority records, Trove digitised newspaper files, Muscle and Pluck Forever by Page and Bryant; and Triumph-Tragedy and Port Adelaide by Ron Ritter.

The story that keeps on giving. As a postscript to this Blog I received an email late last night from Hugh Matthews who is the great, great nephew of Albert Greenman.

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