Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Taphophile Tragics - My kingdom for a monument

Hunching my back beneath a brolly, I wove my way through Kew Cemetery, a jam-packed cemetery, yet respectable and middle-class, a touch old school, of sardines and cement.

With the coordinates scratched on a scrap of paper crunched into my coat pocket,I was aching for a headstone, a monument provided certainty. The previous day at Springvale Botannical Cemetery, I had located resting places for the two sisters of my great-grandfather, Charles Wilkins Cole, but they lay beneath turf, minus any headstone, any message from the past.

One of my jobbies whilst in Melbourne, was to record for my family tree, these last resting places. Now, following a totally different ancestral line, I tried to make reality fit the diagram. I was searching for the eternal resting place of my great-great-grandfather, John Dunstan Tonkin (1912), and my great-great-grandmother, Jane Forrest Gibson Tonkin (1899). They were here somewhere.

Some plots were mossy, some rugged. Some numbered, some not. Here was 669, so 888 and 889 could not be far away.

Using my trusty walking stick, I gingerly negotiated a 180 turn ... and there it was ... T.O.N.K.I.N ... right before me. Solid. Grey. Granite. Respectable. Named. Befitting an iron-monger.

My friend was as chuffed as I, and our joint whoops and hollers were fit to wake the dead. Almost. The two plots were within the one memorial, raised up and defined by a wrought-iron fence. JDT and JFGT, two infants (William 3 months and Percival 3 weeks), and one young adult, George aged 24 years. Plus their faithful daughter, Jane, who kept and cared for them, and joined them in 1930 aged 75.

I will transcribe the weathered inscription, and faithfully add the details to my tree. I will share the images, and the exact location, with cousins. And, when I visit Melbourne next, I shall have gained permission to plant the grave with perennials.

Some colour, and my own warm touch upon cold, hard stone.

This is my contribution to the Taphophile Tragics community.

17 comments:

Dina said...

This is so touching. I'm so happy for you.
You are so fortunate to have your family history.

VioletSky said...

Oh, congratulations!
I have never searched for any family graves, but I can imagine the intense feeling at finding one that 'belongs' to you.

Thérèse said...

You must have been very moved when you discovered the graves with your own eyes and with your heart!
A warm touch will do good.

Kay L. Davies said...

Oh, Julie, how wonderful. Is the last photo of your great-great-grandmother? She has a definite Queen Victoria mien.
I hope you get permission to plant perennials. How lovely and warm that will make the solid grey granite.

By the way, are you using the new Blogger? Is that why the first photo overlaps the text a smidge? I really should switch to the new style before they ditch my blog entirely.
K

Julie said...

Thank you, folks. The emotions were quite overwhelming.

Yes, Kay. I am using the new Blogger, but I also encase images and text within table elements. Today I went one step further and interlaced them. Will check the margins, and if that does not work, will revert to stripping rather than interlacing.

Paula said...

I know what you mean about the excitement of anticipation. I'm waiting to hear from someone who told me they will trek into the wilderness of the Delaware Water Gap to photograph my grandparents graves. I'm dizzy with excitement waiting to see the images.

hamilton said...

I am happy for you. My ancestors are all buried back in the UK, but I can imagine the thrill of seeing a family name inscribed on a stone. This one looks very nice. I like the simplicity of it. And that wrought iron fence. We don't have many of those and I love the ones you all show.

Joe said...

Congratulations on your success with your family tree Julie. As you know I have visited Boroondara Cemetery. It is fascinating. I plan to return as there is another notable internment I have in mind for Taphophile Tragics. If you need a roving eye from Melbourne let me know.

Jo said...

Fantastic, always wonderful to have a find like that. It makes me regret not going to Stockton on Sunday to visit my Grandmother.

Keep up the wonderful work on your Family tree.

Gemma Wiseman said...

O what a glorious moment for you! I have been secretly tracing Campbells and Coxes here from my mother's side! They were prominent in Sydney and Tasmania (I met one grand old lady in Launceston associated with the heritage-listed Clarendon!) But I have a lurking feeling that some of my Campbells were here on the peninsula. I have found some in each cemetery, but connections are quite another matter! I'm still working on it.
This is such an exciting moment for you!

biebkriebels said...

Very special you found some family graves.

Nicola Carpenter said...

Such a touching post, I am so glad you were able to find them. I hope you get permission to plant the grave.

I have found many of my husband's ancestor's unmarked untended graves, yet our council have refused my request to take over the care of the graves.You'd think they'd be happy I was saving them the job.

Herding Cats

Julie said...

Really? Refused your request? Possibly to do with public liability insurance, or perhaps contentious identification and future litigation.

They are weak-kneed and lily-livered so-and-so's ...

Joan Elizabeth said...

Your post makes me realise that I haven't seen my Grandparents graves. I've seen some of the greats, some of which are unmarked.

Francisca said...

Hurrah! I can so imagine your excitement and satisfaction when locating the graves, Julie... But only imagine, as I've never seen a single family member grave and am not even sure there are any.

Deb said...

Delighted you found what you were searching for Julie. It must have set you wondering which other members of your family stood here before you. It is always especially touching to see old graves with freshly planted flowers as you intend to do.

Oakland Daily Photo said...

Your persistence paid off. Nothing like being a history detective and finding what you were looking for. Congratulations.