Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Symonds Street Cemetery
Kia Ora! Hello from Tuesday night. I had a lesson in a very small part of Auckland's history a few weeks ago during their annual two-week Heritage Festival. For a city that was only founded in 1840, they have a lot of interesting history to discuss and explore. There were, I think, about 100 different talks, tours, displays, and shows that anyone could attend for free and I was disappointed to be heading out of town and only able to do one of them.
Happily though, I got to learn more about something that always interests me, much to the aggravation of my children. I took a 3 hour tour of the Symonds Street Cemetery in downtown Auckland. Because it was begun in the 1850s, there are many of the city's first citizens buried there, all divided up and organized by religion. The Catholics had to be moved when the motorway was built, and apparently they are all now grouped together for eternity with long lists of their names on lovely plaques. Most of the graves were from the first 30 years or so with only a few after the late 1800s.
We started out in the Jewish section and I took quite a few photos there because I have a few dear friends who are Jewish and I guess it made me feel connected to them for a moment. There is quite a bit of damage to the graves here but it's also the most easily accessed section, right on Grafton Street.
There was also a small chapel here that had a beautiful thing going on with leaves that I loved. Now that I think of it, this was for one of the recent Jewish holidays, I'm sure.
The whole cemetery is really quite large and is divided by some of the main streets of the city. Walking through its entirety follows well-worn paths that lead way, way down into the native bush that lines either side of a large gully, toward which all of the graves are slowly migrating. Many have been reinforced but eventually they'll have to decide to either reinforce them all or move them somewhere else, I guess. It's a very beautiful and peaceful hike in the midst of a busy downtown. A bit strange, really.
When the Grafton Bridge went in, a few more graves had to be moved but some just stayed put. Good enough, they said!
Out of around fifteen people on this tour, I was the youngest by at least 30 years. I met the coolest couple who later invited me to join them for lunch at a café down the street. Jenny and Brian. They have moved back here to Brian's homeland after spending their married life in England, both psychiatrists. Brian went to England fresh out of med school and traded his position as the ship's surgeon for his fare to England. It took 42 days and he was dreadfully worried that he'd need to perform an appendectomy, which he was really not prepared for. No worries though; everyone survived the trip. Or so he claimed.
My first thought when they asked me to lunch was, "Oh gosh, I really wanted to get back to some of the sections to shoot more before I have to get home to get the kids." And then my brain swung into action again and I realized, duh! This is what this is all about! Meet people, talk to them, get to know a bit about them in another country far from home. Have a cup of tea! You only get this chance for another few months. No regrets...