021 065 3778 or www.karoricemeterytour.com
What a cracking summer we're having, and it seems there's many more days of sunshine and warmth to come. Perfect conditions for a leisurely walk around the oldest and most historic part of Karori Cemetery, learning about it's history and heritage, and learning about some of the people - famous, infamous, or just interesting - amongst the 85,000 interments.Easy walking for one and a half hours, accompanied by good dogs on leads if they want to come along too. Check out the summer Tours Schedule 2018 for times of the three themed tours, and work out which one suits or interests you. And if you would prefer another time of the day, or a different tour, just let me now and we'll sort something out. Bookings are essential, but easy to arrange:
021 065 3778 or www.karoricemeterytour.com
In November and December 1918 more than 600 people who had died of influenza in Wellington during the world wide epidemic were buried in Karori Cemetery. This was more than three times the usual monthly burial rate. Most of these people were buried in three distinct areas of the cemetery. More than 100 men who were in training for war service at Trentham Camp were amongst those who succumbed and they were buried in the newly developed Soldiers Section.
The 1918 Influenza Project is a volunteer based community initiative supported by the Wellington City Council. Volunteers are cleaning and tidying many of the graves of those who died, and researching their life stories. Their work, and general project information, is available on a dedicated website
As part of Wellington City Heritage Week, Karori Cemetery Tour is offering a FREE tour of three of the sites in the cemetery, starting at 1.30pm on
Monday 23 October (Labour Day).
Come along and learn more about the project, and hear the stories behind the headstones. The tour will take 1.5 - 2 hours, and you don’t need to book, though an email to indicate your interest would be appreciated (email@example.com).
Meet at the Lychgate, Services section, on the main road through the cemetery. The tour will proceed unless there is pouring rain and a howling wind from either the north or the south!
There will also be a FREE public talk about the epidemic on Sunday 29 October in the Community Room of the Karori Recreation Centre (behind the Library), at 2.00pm.
"The Great Death in Paradise: the 1918 Influenza pandemic in Fiji, Tonga, and the Samoas.”
presented by Dr Ryan McLane
There will be a cuppa and biscuits after a Q&A session following Dr McLane's presentation.
Wednesday 27 September, 10-30 am-12.30pm. Meet at the Main Chapel, Rosehaugh Avenue. Come along and learn more about the cemetery and some of it's heritage features. Suitable for all ages. Good dogs on leads welcome. The tour is across hilly terrain and sometimes on uneven surfaces and is not suitable for people with limited mobility.
No need to book, just turn up on the day.
This tour is offered as one of the events in the Wellington City Council Spring Festival which runs from Saturday 23 September until Sunday 1 October. Full details of the Spring Festival 2017 https://wellington.govt.nz/events/annual-events/spring-festival/schedule-of-events
While in London last year I went on a guided tour of West Kensal Cemetery. Amongst the small but enthusiastic group who had gathered was an Aussie, Loraine Punch, who was visiting even more cemeteries during her travels than I had managed to fit in. She is one of the guides of Friends of Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney. We chummed up and have kept in touch via Facebook posts and messages ever since. On Sunday 11 June Loraine took me on an extensive tour of Rookwood, showing me all aspects of this vast necropolis and her favourite headstones and stonemasonry. At 314 hectares (776 acres) Rookwood is the largest cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere, and dwarfs Karori Cemetery, which is a mere 40.5 hectares (100 acres). We spent two hours in the morning wandering on foot, then the afternoon hopping in and out of the car as we toured the vast expanse of this working cemetery.
As the largest Victorian era cemetery still in operation in the world, Rookwood is of significant national and historical importance. It has operated continuously since 1867, making it one of the oldest working cemeteries in Australia. It also offers 15 different burial types to meet the different needs of the 90+ religious and cultural denominations that use Rookwood Cemetery. The cemetery is run by two organisations – the Rookwood General Cemeteries Reserve Trust, and the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust.
From 1869 to 1950 the cemetery was serviced by a railway from Central Sydney station, where there was a Mortuary Station in one corner of the yards. Special trains for coffins (and their occupants) and mourners ran twice daily, arriving at Mortuary Station No. 1 from a dedicated spur line at Lidcombe railway station. The line within the cemetery was extended and eventually there were four stations to drop off coffins at locations convenient for their final carriage to the burial site. The receiving station at Rookwood was removed in 1957 and re-erected stone-by-stone in Canberra where it has been serving as a church ever since.
The Mortuary Station in central Sydney is open to the public several times a year and is well worth visiting.
“The Necropolis (as Rookwood was initially called) featured sinuous paths, ornamental shrubberies, specimen trees, summerhouses, chapels, water features, and an elaborate network of deep, brick-lined serpentine drains.” ("Sydney Cemeteries" A Field Guide", Lisa Murray, p. 109, pub 2016)
There are of course hundreds and hundreds of interesting headstones, much ornate stonemasonry, glorious statuary, and stories galore of the nearly one million permanent occupants. As a working cemetery, with constant burials, cremations, chapel services, and construction and renovation programmes, the cemetery is a hive of activity, and there are enough people passing through and visiting to sustain an onsite café and a couple of flower shops.
Loraine and the other volunteer guides from the Friends of Rookwood conduct a series of 2.5 hour themed guided tours on the first Sunday of the month, from March to November. It’s worth keeping an eye on their Facebook page to keep up with their programme.
The Chapel of St Michael the Archangel was designed in the mid-1880's in the Gothic Revival style. The statue on the belltower has been replaced twice since then, both times after catching fire when struck by lightning. A crypt area under the apse was used for storage of coffins arriving by train and awaiting prayers and masses before burial.
There's been a couple of interesting articles recently about the increased interest in what is sometimes now called "tombstone tourism" - visits to the graveyards of the rich and famous.
BBC News Online starts an item:
Visiting a graveyard for enjoyment is not everyone's cup of tea. But tombstone tourists - or "taphophiles" - are increasingly to be found wandering through cemeteries, examining headstones, and generally enjoying the sombre atmosphere. What is the appeal?
They then tell us all about it, and list four world-famous cemeteries - Pere LaChaise (Paris), Cemitério de São João Batista (Rio de Janeiro), Cementerio de la Recoleta (Buenos Aires) and Zentralfriedhof (Vienna). Oddly, they omitted Karori Cemetery (Wellington).
Read all about it here: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-39480595?SThisFB
A shorter item features on the Lonely Planet website: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/news/2017/05/24/dead-interesting-tombstone-tourism-graveyards-history/
Bridget and Thomas O'GORMAN had six sons and two daughters between 1888 and 1899
Thomas was a carpenter and electrician and the family lived for many years in Karori Road, Karori. When war was declared in August 1914, none of the older boys signed up. However, in May 1916 John and Timothy decided to do so, and they signed their attestation papers at Trentham on 16th May, and were assigned consecutive regimental numbers 24273 and 24274. Both became infantrymen with the Otago Regiment, and left New Zealand on 21st August in the 16th Reinforcements. They remained together when despatched to France on 15th November.
Their brother Thomas signed up just as his brothers were leaving New Zealand, in August 1916, and James decided to do likewise the following month. Thomas sailed for the UK in December 1916, and spent 4-5 months in camp in England before departing for France in May 1917. He also was an infantryman, and was signed up with the Wellington Regiment. James also spent a few months in England in training. He was a rifleman with the NZ Rifle Brigade, and he too was sent to France in May 1917.
So, for five months, from May - October 1917, four O'Gorman brothers were on active service on the Western Front. They all survived the Battle for Messines in June 1917, and would have been in and out of the front line and undergoing preparation for the Third Battle for Ypres which was launched on 4 October 1917. On this day New Zealand's 1st and 4th brigades took part in a successful attack on Gravenstafel Spur, which runs off Passchendaele ridge. The attack cost more than 320 New Zealand lives, including that of Thomas O'Gorman. Eight days later, on the 12th of October, buoyed by success on the 4th, but with inadequate planning and preparation and poor weather conditions, another major assault was launched, with disastrous results for the NZ troops. The 2nd and 3rd (Rifle) brigades suffered over 3,700 casualties in an attack on Bellevue Spur, Passchendaele. About 960 men are left dead or dying, amongst them John O'Gorman. Neither Thomas and John have no known grave, presumably having been blown to pieces on the battlefields. Their names are side by side amongst those inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing, listed amongst the names of those from New Zealand units inscribed on panels within the New Zealand Memorial Apse located at the centre of the Memorial.
Timothy, who had been in France since November 1916 with John, had been having a hard time, being hospitalised several times for scabies and boils. He was also wounded in action but returned to duty the following day so the wound can't have been serious.
James and Timothy knew the conditions under which John and Thomas had fought and been killed, but had no option but to continue with their war service. They were joined by Cornelius in Feb 1918, so there were still three O'Gorman brothers in France. Timothy obviously found the going tough as on 23 May 1918 he abandoned his position in the trenches and ran away, being captured later the same day and court martialled. He was found guilty of going AWOL, and given 70 days of Field Punishment No. 2, which meant he was placed in fetters and handcuffs and was also subjected to hard labour and loss of pay. He was still able to march with his unit, so remained in France and available for action at any time.
On 28 August 1918 Cornelius became the third of Bridget and Thomas's sons to lose his life. He was wounded on 26 August when the Rifle Brigade was pushing forward to capture Bapaume, and died 2 days later at 56 Casualty Clearing Station. He was then buried at Bagneux Gezaincourt Cemetery.
Having lost three sons, Bridget decided her family had done enough and in September 1918 she appealed for Timothy to be returned to New Zealand. The judge hearing her appeal was less than sympathetic:
A MOTHER'S APPEAL.
A mother's appeal was made to the First Wellington Military Service Board yesterday for the return of Timothy O'Gorman, now on active service. Appellant said she had six sons; five had gone to the front, and three had been killed. There was one son, aged 17, at home. The Chairman (Mr. D. G. A. Cooper, S.M.) to appellant : You have a very good record. You ought to be proud of it. Five sons gone on active service —three of whom have given up their lives. The board congratulates you. on the military record of your family. What does your son at the front think—does he want to return? Appellant: He did not say. The Chairman: Does he not want to be in at the finish? Appellant: I do not know. The Chairman: The finish looks very close now, doesn't it? Appellant: Yes; perhaps so; but my son may be finished before the war is finished. The board reserved its decision.
(Evening Post 19 Sept 1918 page 10)
Why did she appeal only for Timothy to be returned when two of her sons were still fighting? Was James not so important? Or did she know Timothy was, or had been, a bit fragile. Sadly, her prescient riposte to the judge came true for Timothy who was killed in action on 23 October, a mere 18 days before "the finish". There is no record in his military personnel file that his recall had been actioned, so he was still in the front line a month after his mother's appeal had been upheld. He was buried in Romeries Communal Cemetery Extension, less than 10 kilometres from the fortified town of Le Quesnoy which was captured by the NZ Division on 4 November.
James returned to New Zealand in March 1919, having survived on the Western Front for 18 months unscathed apart from skin infections. His return must have been bittersweet for Bridget, Thomas, his sisters and younger brother. For some reason which is hard to fathom James signed on again when WW2 started - but he didn't last long, resigning within a matter of a few short months. He finally died in 1973, at the home of his married daughter in Mosgiel.
Thomas died in 1929 aged 68, and he was buried in the Roman Catholic section of Karori Cemetery, in a plot purchased by Bridget three years earlier. Bridget, who had “taken to her bed” (according to family lore) before the end of the war, died in 1935, and was buried with Thomas at Karori. Family lore also tells that she requested one side of the grave not be concreted so that she would have the opportunity to get out if the occasion arose! Their youngest son William was buried with them in 1957. William’s wife Louisa was last to be buried in the plot, in 1982. The headstone and the plaque commemorating the four boys killed in France were cleaned by family members in 2016, having fallen into a state of disrepair prior to being rediscovered not long beforehand.
Only a few plots away is another O’Gorman grave, for Lionel Michael, 15-year old son of John and Katherine O’Gorman who died at St Patrick’s College in November 1924. Whether the families are connected is not at this stage known.
With thanks to members of the O'Gorman family for their input. The story of the O'Gorman brothers is currently being filmed so keep an eye out for release, probably in October this year, the centenary of Passchendaele.
Cemeteries Week is about demystifying death and celebrating what cemeteries represent as enduring, welcoming places for people to connect with each other and their communities, and to remember their history, heroes and loved ones.For information about events during the week, including a FREE walking tour of Karori Cemetery on Sunday 9 April, visit https://www.cemeteriesweek.co.nz/
Yes, there’s bound to be some bunnies hopping around at Karori Cemetery, but I don’t think they’ll be hiding any of those chocolate eggs we love at this time of the year. However, you won't have to hop if you come on one of the 1.5 hour walking tours available during Easter weekend. If you’re going to stay at home in Wellington for the duration, or planning to visit Wellington, make a booking to come along for a peaceful and informative walk in one of Wellington’s major heritage sites. The ever popular “Murder and Mayhem” tour will be available each afternoon, and “Housewives and Heroines” will also be available on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The schedule of tour times, and information about how to make a booking, is here.
The (summer) weather continues to be so horrid and not particularly suitable for walks around Karori Cemetery. However, there's sometimes a gap between rain storms and wind gusts, when a walk in the fresh air in the beautiful surrounds of Karori Cemetery is entirely possible. There's a surprising range of sheltered spots to keep out of the wind, and as long as shoes are suitable for soggy conditions underfoot, a tour of this interesting heritage site is entirely possible. I am happy to be flexible about times of tours, and number of people who want to walk, so give me a call on 021 065 3778 to discuss arrangements that suit you, or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org