Research is interesting

For the past eighteen months I have been slowly plodding through the background to the death and final resting place of firefighter Albert GREENMAN.  Albert, as I have mentioned in two precious blogs, (The nostalgia of cemeteries and The nostalgia of cemeteries Part 2) was killed in the explosion that ripped through the ship, City of Singapore, in April 1924, at Port Adelaide.  The other two firefighters killed in that explosion have a memorial to their sacrifice at the Cheltenham cemetery.  There is no recognition, for Albert, on the plot at the West Terrace Cemetery (WTC).

Records at the WTC show that there is a third body buried in Albert’s grave and it is likely to have been his mother in law.  Caroline Barbara Lena MARHORANA who, prior to her death resided in Royal Park SA and died on July 2, 1956 (aged 85 years).  Caroline is probably the mother of Laura GREENMAN, Albert’s wife, so it is probable  that Laura’s maiden name was MARHORANA.  However, there are no persons listed with that surname in the White Pages, in South Australia or nationally.

Other spellings of MARHORANA indicate that this is a name with an Indian ancestry however, there is also a strong Italian connection as well.  Indian/Italian heritage could indicate some of the disquiet in the GREENMAN family almost 100 years ago.

So far I have not been able to track down when Laura GREENMAN died, where she was buried, or if there were any surviving children.  There may have been a daughter, an infant at the time of Albert’s death in 1924, but I have not found any details of that as yet.

Copyright cleared with Shayne Greenman 2016

Firefighter, Albert Greenman, C 1920s. Photo supplied by Shayne Greenman, Queensland, and used with permission.

Now the hiccup – nothing can be done with the site of Albert’s (et al) grave regarding its upkeep, or adding a memorial headstone without the written permission of the site licence owner.  All avenues need to be exhausted in attempting to ascertain who is the current holder of the ‘licence’ and either have their permission, or have the licence transferred into someone else’s name before any memorial can be considered.

Blackwell Funerals, according to the WTC records apparently handled the funerals of Albert (snr), Albert (infant) and Caroline MARHORANA.  As luck would have it, I am attending an information session regarding death, as part of my University Students’ course work next Tuesday at Blackwell Funerals.  So I will see what else I can discover whilst I am there.

Also I have discovered another publication on the history of Port Adelaide and it apparently has a significant section on the City of Singapore Fire in 1924 – Triumph, Tragedies and Port Adelaide (2005) by Ron Ritter.  I have that book on order through an Inter-library loan so I will see if it sheds any further information of value for this project.

The research is becoming more interesting.  What started out as a desire to have a memorial on the grave of a firefighter killed in his duty, is now interwoven with World War I history, family genealogy, family history, and the history of South Australia.

The Nostalgia of Cemeteries – part 2

In May 2015 I wrote about a visit to the West Terrace Cemetery.  As a part of that story I also commented on the unmarked grave of a firefighter, killed in the City of Singapore Ship fire at Port Adelaide.  Since then the challenges of research revealed that Albert Greenman was also a WW I – Western Front – returned soldier.  His unmarked grave gives no recognition to his service to Australia both in war and peace.

The Metropolitan Fire Service is supportive of providing some form of recognition on his grave.  However, all efforts to find any surviving family has, until today, drawn a blank.  As testament to the value and power of research and the internet, a nephew of Albert found my 2015 blog and has contacted me.

While it is still too early to predict what may eventuate from this online meeting, I am hopeful of a headstone being placed on Albert’s grave.  I’ll keep you posted on any progress via my blog.

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.