A well-worn epitaph for the deceased is 'Rest in Peace' (Requiescat in pace). However, in the first century of this city, we denied the dead a restful peace. We were a gaol, a convict colony. We did not treat our dead venerably, and we had no expectation that the colony would thrive. So we plonked our boot-hill in the middle of the town. Not once, but twice. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to mislocate one burial ground may be regarded as a misfortune; to mislocate two smells distinctly like a lack of vision.
Many of the original inhabitants of the city (and, by definition, the nation) were not left to rest peacefully, but were moved around willy-nilly. It beggars belief that mortal remains were kept intact, were relocated with correct head and foot stones. In total 2,285 plots were relocated from where they were originally interred. Here at Pioneer Park in Botany Cemetery (originally Bunnerong Cemetery) just 746 gravestones have been preserved. No mention of the remains. The rest of the stones were worn away by weather and neglect. Although the park lacks a graveyard authenticity (no need to worry about where one treads here), it is a very moving experience to walk up the rise through Botany Cemetery into this distinctly different area of commemoration.
The first official burying ground for Sydney was in the area now occupied by the Town Hall and St Andrews (Anglican) Cathedral. However, this was not cared for and became full and foul by 1819. So most (but not all, as we gloriously discovered just a few short years ago when digging up the basement of the Town Hall) of the bodies and headstones were moved down to the Devonshire Street (Sandhills) Burial Ground.
However, in 1901 it was determined that the main railway station of Sydney was to be erected on this self-same site. So, all the bodies were, once again, exhumed and relocated. However, this time, they had to be relocated where space (and descendants) permitted. Some remains were devolved to Rookwood Cemetery to the West, some to Gore Hill Cemetery to the North, some to both South Head and Waverley Cemeteries to the East, and still others to Bunnerong Cemetery to the South. Scattered to the four winds, if you will ...
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