Albany Memorial Park holds history in its bones

Like ribs on a skeleton, the many aged gravestones of Albany Memorial Park cemetery protrude from either side of the highway as you make your way down the slope of Middleton Road towards the glistening Southern ocean.

The cemetery covers about 2.5 hectares and has about 5000 graves, ranging from unmarked, through simple wooden markers to elaborate constructions.

It was the first consecrated cemetery in Western Australia, and offers a fascinating insight into the history of the town and its people.

It was originally a group of denominational cemeteries, and as such contains burials of people from many different walks of life, who lived or died in the town between about 1840 and 1959.

It is National Trust and Heritage Council-listed.

Here is a selection of stories which tell of different aspects of Albany’s early history, chosen through their headstones. Click on their names to read their stories.

One important person buried in the cemetery – and possibly even the first internment – was colonial surgeon Dr Alexander Collie, who was buried and then exhumed to be placed in the early cemetery.

Image Sharyn Moodie 2020

Then there was Able Seaman Henry Rodber – who was killed by a local storekeeper after some unrest between the navy and locals. The storekeeper actually paid for Rodber’s memorial cross.

And speaking of seamen – Albany’s seaside position means it has many occupants who succumbed to the ocean.

The Albany Harbour. scene of many deaths.

One was James Sinclair Garrick, master marine and master of the dredge Avon, who died from shock caused by falling into the harbour as he tried to board his vessel.

Then there is child Melville Muir, who drowned at a local boat harbour and W Satterly, who fell overboard as he tried to retrieve some errant pyjamas. Click on their names to read their stories.

Image Sharyn Moodie 2020
Image Sharyn Moodie 2020

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And Edward White, whose headstone (pictured below) is becoming harder to read each day. He was returning to his homeplace South Africa with his wife and child when he took ill and died at Albany on the SS Warrigal. It was 1900.

Walter Ilett had some bad luck working on the wharfs.

The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901), Friday 4 November 1898 – Page 2

Police inspector James Connor couldn’t swim yet tried to rescue his nephew when he fell off the wharf.

Image Sharyn Moodie 2020

Ship’s pilot Arthur Thompson who was crushed as he tried to move from one boat to another.

Image Sharyn Moodie 2020

Young Edward Cuddihy died when a family fishing expedition and picnic went terribly wrong.

And those who have died far from home, their story perhaps lost to time.

Peter Megil by the officers and crew of the American bank Canton, died Sept 8, 1888, Image Sharyn Moodie 2020
Image Sharyn Moodie 2020

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There are also some interesting children’s graves. Click here to read about children dying from ant stings, collapsing sandheaps and more.

Every cemetery has its share of railway accidents. George Searson died through his own efforts.

This cemetery has a host of special inhabitants and it has been a pleasure to share some of their stories.

Sources: Sunday Times, Sunday 11 April 1920, p10

Albany Cemetery Board, viewed at https://albanycemeteryboard.com.au/memorial-park/

Royal Trust Collection: View of jetty, Albany, W. Australia, c.1881. (The Cruise of H.M.S. Bacchante 1879-1882. Volume III, Bermuda, South America, Cape Town, Australia].

Published by Sharyn Moodie

Travelling around Australia for work, I've found so many amazing headstones. But what is more amazing is the stories behind some of these deaths, and the way newspapers of the day reported them.

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