Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Archive for the ‘Cemeteries’ Category

Norfolk Island Cemetery, June 29th 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 29, 2018

One of the most scenic cemeteries in Australia

On our last day we took a tour of the Norfolk Island cemetery.

Actually there are four other known burial sites, and there are unknown sites where the Polynesians buried their dead, but this is the one that became the official cemetery and is still in use today.

Entrance to the 2nd settlement section

We started off by looking at the only two graves that are definitely known to have a verified history.  (Apparently some gravestones were restored at some time in the past but at least some of them are known to have inaccurate information as to the person or the dates).

Altar grave of Sarah Gregory

First up was Sarah Gregory’s altar stone.  She died aged 67 in 1801 after having been transported here for stealing hogs, joining her husband who was transported for having possession of the same hogs.  She was a free settler by the time she died.  One of her children is historically significant too, because there are records of a man being made to run the gauntlet for having tried to sexually assault her. It’s nice to hear that she went on to have a good life, apparently unscathed by the experience.

Grave of Thomas Headington

The other grave known to have a verified history is Thomas Headington who was transported for theft. He died in 1798 aged 40.

The dead are buried with their ancestors and family

In keeping with Norfolk Islanders’ preoccupation with lineage, the dead are buried with the ancestral family.

Other graves of note are those of the convicts who mutinied against the brutality…

After the mutiny there was a particularly brutal commandant called Price who used burial in unconsecrated ground as a deterrent against insubordination. There is apparently a mass grave outside the fenced area, which has now been consecrated by the Bishop of Sydney.

Mass graves in unconsecrated ground

You can’t wander about an old cemetery like this without being chastened by the number of deaths in childbirth and child deaths, babies who lived just long enough to break their parents’ hearts.

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There were other perils too: a number of deaths by drowning, accidental shootings, and the unfortunate cook who was in the wrong place at the wrong time during the mutiny, along with a private aged only 22.

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Graves of three NZ soldiers who died in training accidents during WW2

More recently, three New Zealand soldiers were killed in a training accident during WW2.  It’s hard to imagine that, in a peaceful place so far from the battlefields.  Their parents must have thought they were safe here.

Cemeteries are always sobering places to visit, reminding us of the fragility of life…

Posted in Cemeteries, Norfolk Island 2018 | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Norfolk Island Orientation Tour, June 25th 2018

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 25, 2018

Today we did the Norfolk Island equivalent of the Red Bus Tours that we do in new cities when we’re overseas.

First up, the scenic aspects – you need to know that there were three settlements:

  • The First Settlement (1788-1814) took place within 40 days of Arthur Phillip’s settlement at Port Jackson.  He sent the HMS Sirius to take possession of the island, partly in case the French claimed it but mainly because Captain Cook had recommended that the Norfolk Island pine would make good masts and spars, and the flax could be used for sailor’s clothing.  He was wrong on  both counts, because the NI pine is too soft and the flax turned out to be too hard.  However, the island was very useful as an agricultural settlement, supplementing the pitiful stores they had on the mainland (where stuff obstinately refused to grow due to the drought). When they eventually abandoned the settlement they burnt everything so that there was nothing for the French to take possession of…
  • The Second Settlement (1825-1855) was the infamous penitentiary settlement, set up for the recidivist convicts who were sent here as a lost cause.  Over the thirty years there were 1300 suicides* and about 150 executions.  It was eventually closed down because it was finally deemed to be too brutal.
  • The Third Settlement (which is the one the locals are proud of) took place when the descendants of the Bounty Mutineers outgrew the resources available on Pitcairn Island and were resettled here by grace of Queen Victoria.

*Update 1/7/18: the historian who led the cemetery tour was very indignant about the suicide rate that is quoted by the tour guides.  She says that there are only three verifiable suicides.  I was a bit confused by her reasoning (if I followed it correctly) that if one suicidal convict asked another to put him out of his misery, then there was one murder (of the would-be suicide) and one subsequent execution (of the murderer) and neither of those could be called suicide.  And where are all their graves then, she asked?  Ok, I’m no historian, but this seems like splitting hairs to me.  If life was such hell, and for many it was especially under Price who was a notorious sadist, then both convicts would have achieved their aim of ending it all.  And their graves are not in the cemetery because they probably would both have been buried in unconsecrated ground in unmarked graves because of religious beliefs held at that time.


There is nothing to see of the First Settlement but the remnants of the penal colony have been designated World Heritage and the buildings are being preserved and restored.  There are museums to look at – and I’m sure I saw a bookshop (!) but the tour didn’t stop there at all, only at the Kingston lookout where we could take photos from afar.

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But the bus did stop at St Barnaby’s Anglican church. It’s very beautiful, and has an interesting little history as a missionary outpost which trained missionaries for the Polynesian area. When you consider the difficulties of importing anything here, it is quite remarkable that there is a stained glass window by William Morris and a beautiful pipe organ in perfect working order.

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We also learned that the chickens we see everywhere are feral chickens and that they have a cull every year to get rid of them. Clearly it’s not successful because they keep coming back. The cows are free range because there’s not enough grazing land in private ownership (somebody has 100 acres, which doesn’t leave much for everyone else on a very small island) so they use the old English system of grazing on commons. They are beef cows, eventually despatched to dining tables by the butchers here because there is no abattoir. There are no dairy cows because a pasteurisation plant is too expensive – so they have long-life milk imported from the mainland. (You’d think, wouldn’t you, that the very rich people who came here because it’s a tax haven might have generously helped out with some of these problems, but apparently not. I guess you don’t go and live in a tax haven unless you are mean-spirited anyway…)

PS We had nice lunch (chicken crepe and a beef burger with scrumptious chips) at Rumours Café where they had some second-hand books for sale.  Not just any old books, either!  I found a Penguin copy of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (which I’m hoping will be better than the more recent Pushkin edition which I read and didn’t like) and a paperback of cryptic crosswords which the lady wouldn’t let me pay for!  She and I had an interesting chat about Russian lit while she made coffees for other customers:)

Tomorrow, if the weather holds, we might check out the museums.  Or we might loaf indoors with a book…

Posted in Cathedrals & churches, Cemeteries, Dining out, Norfolk Island 2018 | 6 Comments »

Cheltenham 28.9.10

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 29, 2010

We had a late start this morning, enjoying the luxury of breakfast when we felt like it rather than to a hotel timetable. There was only a light drizzle and it wasn’t cold so we headed back to St Mary’s to take some photos and to search for the famous stocks.

We eventually found them just outside the churchyard but they were much smaller than I expected, and not so public. Anyone wanting to chuck eggs or tomatoes at the miscreant would have had to go out of their way to do it because they’re tucked away from the High Street and hidden discreetly by a wall. I like to think that perhaps the nearby church inspired compassion rather than spite in any passers-by – because it must have been miserable sitting on that cold stone seat for any length of time, never mind the humiliation.

We needed all the power of Tim’s fancy camera to get a shot of the cannonball marks on the church spire – they’re way up high! Apparently during the Civil War, Charles I stayed in the town and the spire was used as a range finder by Cromwell’s troops in 1642. Jill, our host here at Byfield House, has a hidey hole in the roof that was used for concealment during this period, and the church spire still bears the scars of the battle that took place here. It’s a rather unlucky spire because it also got struck by lightning in 1883, and forty feet of it fell down on top of the nave and some of the Georgian table tombs for which the cemetery is famous. I’ve discovered these details courtesy of another interesting book that’s here for guests to read. It’s called Timpson’s Country Churches by John Timpson, and it’s full of all sorts of curiosities about village churches – I wish I had more time to seek some of them out!

Eventually we got ourselves organised and set off for Cheltenham. It was bigger than we were expecting so it took us a while to find the art gallery and museum but it was well worth it.. Apart from he frisson of visiting the town from which our own home town gets its name, it’s a lovely place full of gorgeous Georgian and Regency houses. The museum had cabinets with bits and pieces from its Anglo-Saxon origins but what we liked was the paintings, pottery, decorative plates and photos from the 17th century onwards. Amongst other interesting bits and pieces there was a metal sculpture of a chimney sweep that was used to advertise the business which reminded me of The Water Babies – what a dreadful job it must have been for children in the days when such things were allowed! We really wanted to buy a souvenir book showing some of these things but none was to be had, and nor could we buy the polo shirts emblazoned with Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum that staff were wearing, All they had for sale was local craftworks – pottery and the inevitable handmade jewellery – so all we have is a couple of postcards.

Our next stop was the birthplace of Gustav Holst, composer of The Planets. He only lived in Cheltenham until he was eight but they have his piano there, the one he composed The Planets on, and there’s also an ornate music stand that would look very nice chez Tim and Lisa! There was a large portrait of the man himself, looking bespectacled and thoughtful – and upstairs there’s a fine collection of his father’s Regency paintings as well. The curators have wisely made this little museum interesting to a wide range of visitors by setting up the basement floor as it was in Victorian times with an authentic kitchen, scullery, wash-room and servants’ quarters, so there is something for everybody there.

On the way back to Painswick we took a side trip to Birdlip which is another one of those small country villages you see on Midsummer Murders. I’m starting to be able to differentiate between houses built at different times, even though I don’t have the architectural vocabulary to describe them. We strolled around admiring their lovely cottage gardens and Tim took heaps of pictures – which alas will have to stay locked up inside his camera until we get back home because my laptop can’t read his camera card no matter how I fiddle around with it.

Another side trip, to Sheepscombe was not a success. The roads were very narrow indeed and we kept having to back up into gates and hedges to let other cars past. At one place the road was so narrow not even a motor bike could get past until we backed up, and we came perilously close to getting bogged in some thick mud. We gave up after a while and headed back onto the A40, and had a local cider to restore ourselves when we finally made it back safe and sound.

Dinner at the pub tonight!

Posted in Cemeteries, Cotswolds 2010, England 2010, MusicLovers pilgrimage, Painswick, UK 2010 | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Edinburgh Castle, 5.10.05

Posted by Lisa Hill on January 22, 2006

 There was a much better guide called Bart on the Edinburgh Tour, who took us through New Town but along a different route to the earlier tour. We got off the bus at Edinburgh Castle, home of the Tattoo that we watch every year on TV at home. We were surprised to find that it is a much smaller area than it seems on screen, and that the ground slopes, which must make it all the harder to do some of the exploits we have seen…
 They say that people need hours and hours to see all that the castle has to offer, but too bad: we scampered round and took the panoramic shots & the shots with the the famous 15th century gun Mons Meg; checked out the Second Best Crown Jewels (only pearls!); tried again to understand the intricate history of the Marys and the Jameses and Civil War and the Restoration, and then had afternoon tea in the cafe, served by a vivacious young Aussie from Byron Bay!
Obviously there is much more to see, and we didn’t get to the war museum, but we managed to see the tiny room where Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to the boy who was to become King James VI of Scotland and, after Queen Elizabeth I, James 1 of England. We also had a quick look at St Margaret’s Chapel, a tiny Norman building which – the oldest building in Edinburgh – has remained intact for more than 900 years – surviving all manner of sieges and bombardments including the hordes of tourists who descend on the Castle every year, (apparently second in visitor numbers only to the Tower of London).
I think my favourite part was the cemetery for dogs owned by soldiers stationed at the castle. There, in a special garden set aside just for the graveyard, are a dozen or so little gravestones for dogs buried there. This is the kind of British eccentricity I like.
 By the time we’d tramped all over the castle we were in need of a rest, but the Scottish Heritage Whisky Centre was conveniently close at hand. After a welcoming sample glass (only a blend), we got on on a conveyor belt of seats made from barrels and travelled around 300 years of whisky making dioramas. The best part, however, was afterwards when we went into the bar and tried some 12 and 18 year old single malt Islay whiskies – for comparative purposes only of course!
 For our last night in Edinburgh we dined at a fine restaurant called La Garrigue, just a stone’s throw from the hotel in Jeffrey Street. We had a quiet table in a little room off the main dining room, with a view of the courtyard. The restaurant specialises in cuisine from the Languedoc region, and the menu includes scrumptious dishes like a cassoulet of rabbit with juniper berries and a confit of duck. It was an excellent meal and the service was great.

Posted in Cemeteries, Dining out, Edinburgh 2005, Scotland 2005 | Leave a Comment »