Headstones & Memorials

I went to the West Terrace Cemetery this morning looking for the grave of James and Mary Chapman but had no luck finding it.

I was thrilled, though, to find the following plaque commemorating Mary and Robert Thomas.

Mary & Robert Thomas

Mary & Robert Thomas

This is what is says:

Mary and Robert Thomas were among the first South Australian colonists, arriving with their four children aboard the Africaine in November 1836.  Their eldest son, Robert Jnr., had arrived earlier as part of Colonel William Light’s survey team.

Mary was an accomplished writer and poet, having published several poems while in England.  With her husband, she played an important role in documenting and commenting on early colonial life.

Robert Thomas brought the first printing press to the Colony and founded South Australia’s first newspaper, the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register, Mary was a regular contributor and held an influential position for a woman of the period.

Mary’s diaries and letters provide a detailed account of the ups and downs of early colonial life, the harsh living conditions and ongoing financial struggles.  Through hard times, it was Mary’s commitment to her family astute way with finances that saw them survive.

Like many graves, the memorial which once adorned this site has been lost due to exposure to the elements.

Mary and Robert aren’t ancestors of mine it was just so good to read about a woman’s achievements in early South Australia as well as seeing the plaque where their headstone used to be.

This headstone I saw is being eaten away by the elements, I wonder how long it’s been there for.  You can’t really tell from the photo but it looked like it was melting into the ground.  There is no discernible writing on it at all.  Whatever type of stone it is it’s sad that it didn’t hold onto its information for future generations.

Wind and rain erosion

Wind and rain erosion

I wonder how long this headstone has been standing.

I wonder how long this headstone has been standing.

Victorian Funeral Re-enactment

The cortege coming into the cemetery, thanks to Tanya Saint for this photo

Sunday I went to the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority and Victoriana Society of SA‘s re-enactment, at West Terrace Cemetery Adelaide, of John Luke Monck‘s funeral in 1880.  With a lot of pomp and ceremony the horse drawn hearse made its way up West Terrace and into the cemetery.

Mournful mourners following the hearse


Mourners following the hearse


The horse drawn hearse

I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the crowd, it was a good turn out of several hundred people, even though it threatened to rain.  Thankfully there was only a light shower after the funeral.

Funeral Card


Funeral Card


Funeral Card

The mourners and family members gathered around the grave, with the crowd looking on.  A traditional funeral service was held, the committal spoken as it would have been in 1880, we all sang the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy and then there was the closing prayer and benediction.  If you’re not familiar with the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy you can listen to it here http://youtu.be/PCnRYj3lMlQ

The coffin in the grave



Lovely people from the Victoriana Society who were happy to pose for photos


The patient horses and their driver

I had mentioned in the Australian Genealogy group on Facebook that I would like to go to this event and so did another Adelaidian, Tanya.  We hadn’t met before but we ended up catching the same bus to the cemetery and chatting as we crossed the road.  It didn’t take long to work out who each other was and we had a great time watching the funeral and talking genealogy!

My 3x great grandfather William Chapman died on the first of January 1897 and had a large funeral cortege.  This re-enactment gave me a bit of an idea of what William’s funeral might have been like.  My next post will be about William Chapman and his funeral.