Curious tales of the dead during Cemeteries and Crematoria Week

Old Bluff Cemetery

On November 14, 1861, the first recorded burial took place at Invercargill’s Eastern Cemetery.

Since then thousands of people have been laid to rest at our cemeteries and crematorium, leaving behind stories that add to our collective history.

Residents will have the opportunity to discover some of these stories when the Invercargill City Council hosts the annual Cemeteries and Crematoria Week between October 31 and November 8.

ICC Cemetery Team Leader Ricky Mulqueen said Cemeteries and Crematoria Week is an opportunity to highlight the value that cemeteries have in our communities and to recognise their importance as a space for grief, reflection, community and sometimes joy.

“Our history is written on the headstones and a walk through any cemetery anywhere in the world will tell stories of the local pioneers, where they came from and when and where they died,” Mr Mulqueen said.

Occasionally how the person died is recorded on headstones.

“We have examples here at Eastern of a Winton Baker who ‘died of scalding’, a pioneer that died during a ‘snow storm at Lochiel’, and the tragic tale of the family in 1871 that lost six children in a matter of weeks from sickness after taking in a sick traveller and the illness passing on to family,” he said.

Two tours hosted by local historians offer an opportunity to hear stories about the people laid to rest at Eastern Cemetery and Old Bluff Cemetery.

On Wednesday, November 4 at 6.30pm, join Lloyd Esler on a walk through the Eastern Cemetery showcasing some notable graves and hear stories of the lives led by people buried there.

On Sunday, November 8 from 1.20pm, members of the Bluff History Group will host a tour through the Old Bluff Cemetery, featuring a selection of Bluff’s most famous and infamous residents.

As well as mourners, the Eastern Cemetery attracts amateur genealogists researching family trees and people going for a stroll through the cemetery.

“Burt Munro’s grave is the most visited at the Eastern Cemetery and gets visitors all year round reaching its peak during the week of the rally,” Mr Mulqueen said.

Mr Mulqueen is occasionally asked about ghosts.

“I don’t like to confirm or deny coming across them but I don’t like being in the cemetery in the dark. I am superstitious so I try to be respectful in all I do so I don’t upset anyone (alive or dead),” he said.