Melbourne is one of the oldest cities in Australia. There are lots of historical places which I like to explore. Despite living here for 25 years, I still haven’t managed to see all of them. Luckily, those places are open to the public once a year. This is a great chance to get out of the house and find hidden gems: either in tunnels under Royal Children Hospital (done), Parliament House (done), Government House (done) and many many more. For the most popular places, you need to book online well in advance. And that too goes for the Melbourne General cemetery.
We were lucky as the day was glorious: warm, sunny and clear skies. Walking through the main gates (photo above) the first thing we could see was an old Rolls Royce, which used to deliver the deceased to the cemetery. It still can be booked for a hefty price.
From the 18th century, the family of the Resident Caretaker was living on the premises. And only in 1999 was this house vacated. The place is quite small, but very solid, built from the bluestone. The original furniture dates back to 1850. I was excited to spot exactly the same fireplace as in my house.
There are a few distinguished parts of the cemetery. The modern Gatehouse Mausoleum is very stylish. Like other similar places it offers a tiny chamber for ashes and a small plaque. This beautiful laser-cut metal screen provides shade for the visitors.
Recently, the canonised Mary MacKillop got a commemorative statue installed not far from the entrance.
I loved this memorial. This is so bizarre. The marble wall had the names of all the Australian Prime Ministers engraved. I totally understand the idea behind mentioning the deceased politicians, but down below there are names and dates of birth of a few who are still alive and kicking like Julia Gillard, Tony Abbot and Paul Keating. That’s really creepy.
The massive granite block was installed for ill-fated Australian explorers Burke and Wills, who attempted to cross Australia from South to North and died horrible deaths on the way in 1861. There was only one person who survived this ordeal and he was buried somewhere in this cemetery.
This particular monument is a real piece of art showing a sculpture of a weeping woman at the bottom of a tall obelisk. It was installed on the elaborate grave of parliamentarian Sir Samuel Gillot and his wife Lady Elisabeth. This image is very often used on brochures and tourist guides.
The first burial happened in 1853 for James Burnett of the Dalgety pastoral firm. From that moment on, many prominent politicians, socialites and war veterans found their resting place in this cemetery.
Because Melbourne was brimming with wealth at the time, many families could afford really stunning monuments with a high standard of craftsmanship. And it also spread across other structures like gates, chapels and rotundas.
This monument is to the memory of William John Turner Clarke, as well as some close relatives.
Very elaborate and detailed elements decorate some of the tombstones.
The broken column symbolises the life cut short for the singer and actress Florence Young.
An interesting common grave for the deceased Christian Brothers “whose remains are interred within this enclosure”.
A striking monument in the shape of the billiard table for the legendary player Walter Lindrum.
Modern Italian “art” is usually overly elaborate. Statues of Jesus, Mary and angels in different sizes are the must. Sometimes they have vaults with gates, locks and overhead lights (wealth dependant). This particular one has the pavilion look with a sweeping roof and grieving angels.
Grief is grief. For many of visitors, that day it was just an excursion, but for this old lady it was a moment of reconnection with passed away relatives.
Imagine my surprise when I spotted this particular grave in a secluded place near the chapel. My eyes could see the name and photo on the tomb, but my brain was hysterically trying to retrieve any buried (pardon my pun) information regarding Elvis Presley and his last resting place. I could swear on my life (another pun, sorry), that it could be anywhere else in the world but Melbourne. But it seemed so legit.
After a short sanity check I came closer and then it all fell into the place. I am not crazy and Elvis is Mississippi, where he belonged. It’s just a commemorative stone from his fans, who terribly missed him and couldn’t attend the real grave. This monument was installed just a few months after his death as a tribute from the Australian public to the King Of Rock and Roll, whose music and songs were admired by millions of people all over the world.
P.S. By the way his second name was Aaron. How many people knew that?
I captured only a few little stories and photos from our tour. There are many-many more. For example a grave of doctor P. Cussed, who performed the first surgery in Melbourne; or captain G. Cole’s, who built the first wharf; an intriguing story about a successful Madam being buried next to a famous politician who she had an affair with. Also there is lots of information about the Old Melbourne Cemetery, which was closed in 1922 to give way to Queen Victoria Market. About 900 bodies were exhumed and relocated, while 6000 more still remain beneath the market.
For those whose interest was sparked enough, I decided to include a link to the local organisation which runs day and night (“ghost”) tours at this cemetery. The next big event is the After Dark Halloween Tour on Monday 31 October. That would be spooky!
Guess who has booked tickets already!
Source: Elvis Presley – Can’t Help Falling In Love