‘Not so spooky’ cemetery tour

Posted: 10am 20 Apr 2022

For those fascinated by local history, cemeteries are a treasure trove offering a unique insight into the lives of those who came before us.

History Redcliffe’s Pat Gee and Margaret Harding are hosting a tour of Redcliffe Cemetery on May 13 from 9.30-11am.

The tour, which will have a Black Friday theme, will detail the history of 26 historic graves with a focus on accidental or unusual deaths. The stories of a few soldiers and a couple of reverends will be included as well.

Anyone wishing to take the tour will need to get in early, with just 20 spaces available, and similar tours usually booking out.

When asked why cemetery tours are so popular, Pat says there is a rising interest in family history and cemeteries offer a unique insight into well-known and ordinary families from an area.

She says many people attend because they know they have ancestors buried there and others discover them during the tour.

Margaret says the tours usually attract locals, but promotion on social media and via the internet helps draw visitors from a broader geographical area with an interest in Redcliffe history.

The first grave at Redcliffe Cemetery was for Edward Henry Pollard, 2, who died in 1881 after suffering convulsions. He was the child of Scarborough Hotel landlord Mr E Pollard.

Of the first 27 people buried at the cemetery, six were children and five were listed as Aboriginals including ‘Nellie’ in 1887 and ‘Billy and Wife’ in 1889.

Stories behind the gravestones

One of the graves to be featured during the ‘Not so Spooky Cemetery Walk’ is that of Catholic priest Arthur Edmund O’Brien.

He died in 1957 following a period of ill-health. Originally from Bathurst, he moved to Queensland in 1923 seeking a more temperate climate and served in Dalby, Nudgee College and Redcliffe (1930-1955).

According to Judy Fell, whose grandmother lived next door, Father O’Brien was “grumpy man who resided with his housekeeper”. He had a prickly hedge growing on the dividing fence, which caused a feud between the neighbours. Ms Fell says her grandmother would cut off branches the throw them over the fence into Father O’Brien’s yard. “He would come along and, with a few choice words, pitch them back (over),” she said. (Source: Story taken from Humpybong and After (2005))

Another grave to be featured during the tour is Federick Gill Warbrick.

Mr Warbrick was born in New Zealand in the Bay of Plenty settlement of Matata and belonged to the Ngati Rangitihi tribe. He was one of five brothers and played in the 1888-89 New Zealand Rugby Union team called The Natives which toured Australia and the British Isles.

After the tour, he returned to Australia representing Queensland and later coaching. He bought a boarding house at Woody Point called Edgewater and married Florence Condor in 1895. They lived at the home and had two daughters. He died of tuberculosis in 1902, aged 36, not long after attempting to rescue two young boys in Moreton Bay.

“These are the stories behind the stories,” Margaret says.

“You just don’t know who’s about, really,” Pat says.

“It’s informing people that the history is there because sometimes they just don’t think about it – who was here first and how everything got started.

“I’m interested myself. I love visiting cemeteries. I did a tour many years ago of an old cemetery in Hobart. The headstones all had these stories on them and I thought, ‘this is great’.”

Passion for history

Pat’s book The Redcliffe Cemetery was published in 1991 and explores the history of the site and the graves on it. It is available for sale at Redcliffe Museum or Library.

During her research she photographed the graves and for some, which have since been desecrated, her images are the only record of them in their original form.

She also understands the meaning behind the symbols which adorn historic graves such as scrolls, angels, Celtic crosses and flowers.

It is free to attend the ‘Not so Spooky Cemetery Walk’, but History Redcliffe would appreciate a donation from participants.

Bring a hat, sensible shoes, sunscreen and water bottle.

Bookings are essential, visit the website to reserve your place.

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