The definition of a taphophile is someone who loves cemeteries and funerals. Although I am someone who does not love funerals (let’s face it, I always bawl like a baby, probably more so than the grieving family themselves) I sure do love cemeteries. Whenever I’m on the road, I’m sure to crane my neck to look at a cemetery passing by, imagining myself walking through the plots, reminding myself of my own finality.
My earliest memories are that of Rookwood Cemetery, located within the confines of Sydney. It is the biggest Necropolis in the Southern Hemisphere and is the final resting place of over a million souls. Pretty incredible, right? I would happily skip amongst the graves, practicing my reading skills, becoming familiar with those who had passed over, finding little artefacts such as watches and rosary beads, as well as pictures of the once living. People from different religions, cultures, political persuasions, socio-economic status and different times, all resting under the same sky.
I would define myself as a people person, but that isn’t just limited to the living. Deceased people fascinate me. The word “cemetery” is Greek for “sleeping place”. I want to know the stories of these people before the cemetery became their final sleeping place. What were their names, how long did they live for, where did they grow up and die, did they have a family? A head stone only tells you so much. I am in love with the individual story of one’s life, no matter how seemingly inane it may be. I like to use the details on the head stone and reconstruct pieces of what I think their story might be or might have entailed as well as reflect on what my life story might eventually look like if it were presented on a head stone. (So far it consists heavily of cats and chocolate, so I’m trying to work on the finer details).
So GOOey friends, here are some cemeteries I have enjoyed visiting in the Sydney and greater Sydney region over the years. Feel free to let us know at GOO what your favourite resting places are.
1. Rookwood Cemetery. Located in Lidcombe, Sydney, this cemetery has been established since 1868 and is the resting place of many prominent Australian figures and is also the resting place of my own grandmother. It has an array of mausoleums, monuments and memorials located in its confines and also runs walking tours (which I am adding to my list of must dos for 2016). You could spend days there (and if you’re lucky enough when you pass over, a whole eternity!) A must for any taphophile.
2. St John’s Cemetery, Parramatta. This is the oldest burial ground in Australia, and seems somewhat out of place within the urban sprawl of the Parramatta CBD. I have fond memories visiting this cemetery during my high school years and recall my admiration for a couple of interred souls with the first name of “Hannibal”. Many of Australia’s colonial pioneers are buried here including D’Arcy Wentworth, many of the Blaxland family and Mary Pymble. I am fascinated by convict history and the history of this cemetery will not disappoint.
3. All Saints Cemetery, North Parramatta. On the outside, it may seem a little innocuous, but again, it’s the human story that intrigues me. Parramatta is one of the oldest colonial settlements in Australia, so it is hardly surprising that it has its fair share of cemeteries. Approximately 2,000 people are buried with many in unmarked graves. According to the information on site, this includes many “poor, insane, abandoned, destitute and soon forgotten, most died as inmates of the Parramatta Lunatic Asylum, Parramatta Gaol, the Female Orphan School, Parramatta Orphan School and other benevolent institutions in the area.” There are many other families from backgrounds buried in the cemetery.
Other notable cemeteries I have visited, but need to explore further are Hartley Cemetery (which is well kept and lis one of the oldest cemeteries ocated in the upper part of the Blue Mountains, but is closed at night). Junee Cemetery, resting place of one of Junee’s most well known families, the Crawleys of the Monte Cristo Homestead (well worth investigating!) and Picton Cemetery (often referred to as one of the most haunted towns in NSW).
Some other cemeteries that I would love to one day visit include St Bartholomew’s, located at Prospect next to the Great Western Highway (always creeped me out driving past at night), Waverley Cemetery (you’d never tire of that view) Camperdown Cemetery in Sydney’s inner west, as well Mulgoa Anglican Church Cemetery and St Matthews Anglican Cemetery. There are thousands of cemeteries and bural places across Australia. Put them all on the list!
And while I have plans of being cremated and sprinkled over my favourite geographic locations, while I am living, I want to know - who wants to tag along on a taphophilic adventure?
Disclaimer: While GOO encourages its followers to discover Australia’s fascinating cemetery scene, we encourage you to do so respectfully and within the confines of the law. Many respectful groups and teams operate walking and historical tours of cemetery sites, and we encourage you to look into these. Another helpful website is the Australian Cemeteries Index: http://austcemindex.com/
When not leading others astray by night on ghost tours, Elie teaches squishy little people by daylight and has an obsession for all things cats.