Good Mrs birthday weekend. And what would be more suitable than spending a few hours on a Saturday night inside a cemetery… The night before her birthday.
Not just any cemetery mind you. Melbourne General Cemetery is THE cemetery in Melbourne and indeed Victoria. Lots of famous and infamous Australian people are buried here.
The cemetery itself has also a chequered past through corruptive deals and management.
Apparently, graves had been dug up in the past to facilitate the resales of the plots. Who knows what happened to the remains of the people who were once buried there? And imagine family members visiting one day only to find that somebody else is buried in their loved one’s plot.
The reason why Good Mrs and I are at the cemetery is that we have booked ourselves into a night walking tour. It just sounded like a lot of fun.
I did the original booking for this tour long ago. In fact, I booked it for a date in May 2015, but I booked it before I had my bicycle accident. I couldn’t go at the time. The arm gave me too much grief then.
There was then a period while there were no tours. And when I rebooked for October 2015, that date clashed with my Camino experience. So here we are.
Good Mrs didn’t find it any odd to visit a cemetery the night before her birthday. In fact, we both enjoy cemeteries as historical places and we have visited quite a few around the world. We find them to be a sort of open-air museums.
Kick off was the odd time of 8.35pm, the reason for which was never explained although I did ask.
Here is one side of a pamphlet given to us on the night:
And here is the other side of the pamphlet. With a map and numbers of the graves and other places that we visited on the night.
The tour kicked off on time and there were maybe 20 interested others like us.
Next to the Administration House where the tour started is the Prime Minister’s Memorial Garden. Several of Australia’s Prime Ministers are buried there.
Robert Menzies below was Australia’s World War II Prime Minister. He is also the longest-serving Prime Minister to date. Menzies served a total of 18 years, the latter 16 years the longest continuous term so far. Somehow you can’t see anybody being in office for that long ever again.
Malcolm Fraser was another Prime Minister who only recently died 20 March 2015. He is also laid to rest here in the Prime Ministers’ Memorial Garden. Next to his hero which was Robert Menzies.
The Prime Ministers’ Memorial Garden was lovely. If not for the adjacent busy road across a tall hedge taking away some of the tranquility. In addition, a long pipe rising up into the air from the ground next to that road does occasionally spew out a smell of sewerage. Thankfully, not tonight though.
The tour soon took us away from the cemetery perimeters and as the dark settled, the right atmosphere arrived. Here is our guide reading by torch from her notes next to the grave of Max L. Kreitmeyer. Kreitmayer was described as an Anatomical Modeller.
District Superintendent Christopher Gee below was a fireman who perished on duty. Gee was onboard an American ship anchored at Port Melbourne and fell into the hold of the burning ship. The accident happened as far back as 1895.
This monument is still maintained to this day by Melbourne’s Metropolitan Fire Brigade.
Note the firehose around the grave’s edges and the fireman’s hat on top. Graves and gravestones were more artistic then.
Walter Lindrum below was a legendary billiards player. Behind our tour guide, visitors have glued on coins onto the rim of the “billiards table”.
What would any “self-respecting” cemetery have?
A memorial to The King of course. Elvis Presley died back in August 1977 but as you can see, the memorial is still well maintained. Even with a teddy bear or two.
The Elvis Memorial is the most visited grave or memorial in Melbourne General Cemetery.
The tour covered graves of many other well-known Australians. For example, the graves of:
- Frederick Baker (who changed his surname to Federici) – an actor who died on stage at Melbourne’s Princes Theatre. Of course, he is now a well known “ghost” over there
- Marcus Clarke – the author who wrote “For the Term of his Natural Life”
- Sir Redmond Berry – the judge who sent infamous bushranger Ned Kelly to hang
- Peter Lalor – who lead the infamous Eureka uprising in the goldfields
- Ray Wilson – a jockey who died “on the job”. The same day as another jockey died
The tour took around 2 hours and we learned a lot during that time. Most were interesting, different and quirky. Well executed. Many laughs and giggles along the way.
All tours are run by employees and volunteers and it is obvious that they are passionate about it all.
The money they collect goes towards the upkeep of the cemetery. Not a small task, given the number of deserted graves and monuments and the restoration costs.
We had great fun and would certainly recommend the Melbourne General Cemetery night tour to any visitor or local for that matter.
If cemeteries at night do not spook you out…