Friday, December 31, 2010

More graveyard stories from Symonds Street

You could easily become lost in Symonds Street cemetery. Not geographically lost -- there are main roads and a whopping great motorway all around -- but lost in terms of the beauty of the monuments to the dearly departed, the social themes, the sadness of children's graves, the love and caring still evident as expressed by those who were left behind to mourn. As I've said in an earlier post, it is a dangerous place to go alone. Even in broad daylight. The place for society's dead is also for those society has left behind. But it is still magical in terms of the stories of old Auckland it imparts.

Take this wee monument, for example. Three Osbornes are remembered on this side: Margaret, Thomas and John.

But it is James who has the story, when he died near Poverty Bay, looking for oil.

The Poverty Bay Standard and People's Advocate gives the following account of the drowning of Mr James Osborne, recently from Auckland : — A labouring man named James Osborne, who arrived recently from Auckland, came to an untimely end on Saturday last while crossing the Waipaoa river, at the Rangatira block, on his way to the oil springs in company with his mates, all of whom were under engagement to the Petroleum Company. Three constables have been employed searching for the body, but without success. All that is known of the cause of the accident has been furnished by Mr Williams, engineer to the Petroleum Company, who states that he was proceeding to the oil springs on the 19th ultimo with some workmen, deceased among the number. On reaching the Rangatira crossing, Osborne's horse stumbled and unseated his rider, who suddenly disappeared, and was not again seen by any of the party. The river was much swollen and discoloured at the time.

(Christchurch Star, 15 October 1874)

George Holdship, an Auckland timber dealer from the last half of the 19th century, apparently put up this memorial to three children who died young: while he still lived here William Samuel, Edith Adeline, and John Charles. George Holdship started out in Auckland selling firewood, timber, sashes and doors from his works on Customs Street in Auckland in the 1860s, before becoming manager of the Auckland Timber Company, which later merged with the Kauri Timber Company by the late 1880s. From that point on, he lived in Melbourne and Sydney.

The monument itself is quite beautiful.

Above, is the headstone for Major William Gordon.

Major William Gordon died to-day at Onehunga. He was commander of the Military Volunteers in the Northern district; he entered the 73rd Perthshire Regiment of Imperial Army as an ensign on 15th September 1854, and saw some service in the Crimea. He was promoted to Lieutenant, Adjutant, and Captain, and having left the Imperial Army obtained the post of Commander of colonial forces in the Northern district where, by his strict impartiality and soldierly efficiency he rendered himself highly popular. He had been ill since October last. His loss will be deeply mourned.

(Southland Times, 13 February 1897)

The remains of the lamented Major William Gordon, late commander of Volunteer forces of the Auckland district were consigned to the grave in the Presbyterian cemetery. The funeral procession included, besides the near relatives of the deceased, some of the leading inhabitants of the village. Everything in connection with the solemn scene was free from display, and was as modest as possible. This simplicity was in accordance with the wish of Major Gordon, who though a thorough soldier, was utterly averse to anything like ostentation and music at the burial of the dead. About 250 of all ranks mustered at the drill shed, representing the Artillery, Engineers, Infantry, and Cadets. Owing to the wish of the relatives, the bands were not to attend, and the corps mustered with side arms only. The column, under command of Major Derrom, was formed into fours, and having marched to the Presbyterian cemetery, received the corpse in open order, and followed it to the grave, four officers bearing the coffin.

(Hawke’s Bay Herald 18 February 1879)

Now, was he actually buried in Onehunga, or was he buried here at Symond's Street -- in the Wesleyan section, not the Presbyterian? The stone was "erected by his officers and volunteers", anyway.

Major Gordon doesn't have the only story here, though. At the bottom, is reference to his son Thomas Boswell Gordon.

We take the following from the New Zealand Herald of a recent date: —" We regret to learn from a correspondent at Rio Janeiro of the death of Mr Thomas Gordon, of Auckland. He was the second son of the late Major Gordon, and his mother and friends are residing at Onehunga. Mr Gordon was well known and respected in this city [Auckland] having been brought up and educated here, and he was for some years connected with the New Zealand Shipping Company's service. He died of Yellow fever, at the early age of 22 years. Much sympathy will be felt with the bereaved relations." 
 (Timaru Herald, 29 June 1891)

This stone, being encroached upon by the adjoining tree and starting to become one with it, also has more than just fading lettering to it.

The funeral of Edward Griffiths, carpenter, son of Mr. William Griffiths, Seafield View, Grafton Road, took place yesterday, in the Wesleyan burial-ground. Deceased was a young man highly respected by a large circle of acquaintances, and from his attendance with the Volunteers throughout their period of active service last year his funeral was largely attended by members of the Volunteer Corps. The Volunteer band was likewise in attendance. A firing party of sixteen men, in charge of Sergeant Leech, assembled in the Albert Barracks, with a goodly muster of No. 1 Company, A.R.V., to which deceased belonged. He was likewise a brother of the Loyal Parnell Lodge of Odd Fellows, M.U . and the brethren met in order to pay a last tribute of respect to his memory, at the Lodge-rooms, Parnell, provided with their regalia— covered aprons, black scarfs, and white gloves. The Volunteers and brethren of the Odd Fellows then proceeded from their respective places of meeting to the residence of the deceased's father, where they were joined by a large number of friends of the deceased. The cortege left the house in the following manner :— Firing party of sixteen men with arms reversed; band of the ARV; the coffin, borne by eight men of No. 1 Company ; the chief mourners ; brethren of the I.O.O.F., M.U., AD.; friends of the deceased, and officers of Volunteers. The funeral service was performed in an impressive manner by the Rev. Thomas Buddle. 
 (Southern Cross, 31 March 1865)

He was 22 years old.

Three stones for the Arthur family.

For Richard Arthur:

It is with regret that we have to announce the somewhat sudden death of a well-known citizen, Mr Richard Arthur, auctioneer, which took place at his residence. Shelly Beach Road. At noon yesterday, Mr Arthur, who had been in failing health for some months past, took a trip to Australia on medical advice, in the hope that change of air and scene would benefit him, but the hope was not realised. He only returned from Sydney on Monday by the s.s. Tasmania, and was in such a weak condition as to preclude the hope of recovery.

Mr Arthur was one of the oldest auctioneers in the city, having over 30 years ago been in business with his father, Mr Carpenter Arthur, under the style of Arthur and Son, and on the death of his father carried on the business. Deceased was son-in-law to the late Rev Thomas Buddle and brother-in-law to Mr Thomas Buddle, or Messrs Whittaker and Russell. Mr C Arthur (of Esam and Arthur) is a brother of the deceased. Mr Arthur leaves a widow and family (two boys and two girls) to mourn their loss. During his illness his son (Mr Thomas Buddle Arthur) carried on the business.

Deceased was widely known and respected throughout the province, not only by a large circle of acquaintances but by the general public. For 20 years he was superintendent of the old High-street, and afterwards of the Pitt-street Wesleyan Church Sunday school, and also a steward of the church. He took a good deal of interest in Band of Hope work. The funeral of deceased will take place tomorrow. There will be a service in Pitt-street Church at two pm and the funeral cortege will leave for Purewa Cemetery at half-past two.
 (NZ Herald, 10 July 1895)

He wasn't buried at Purewa, it was definitely Symonds Street.

Above, the grave of his father Carpenter Arthur., died 1871 aged 64 years., while below, Bessie, Richard Arthur's daughter, died just under a year and a half old.


  1. Fantastic Lisa :-)

    Funnily enough i had taken the photo of a Carpenter ARTHUR's grave in Waikaraka Cemetery [died 1909 aged 60] a couple of years back...thought i had it on flickr but i can't find it. Might have renamed it and not added as yet. That will teach me for not putting a tag on the pic if i have! He must be a member of the family you found in Symonds Street Cem.


  2. Hi Sandy,

    I didn't find your Flickr image, but I did find this. Are those your photos?

  3. HAHA! Yes! That's me :-) I KNEWWWW i'd put it online somewhere and totally forgot about findagrave :D I been hunting for it for ages thru my flickr things! Even findagrave didn't come up for me when i did a google search.


  4. I seem to stumble across your trail a lot doing this kind of stuff. Heaven only knows why -- would it be because you're an ace gravestone photographer?? Yep, I think that's it. ;-)

    Cheers for all you do, Sandy.

  5. ngawwwww :-) well it seems it's been the same for me with you this year i'm so pleased to have collided, it's been delightful learning about the hidden secret heritage of Auckland...being still a relative newby to the area. Thanks for the compliment! Point and shoot is my motto...i'm just lucky they seem to come out ok :D but i do love sharing!


  6. You're better than point and shoot Sandy, and you put a lot of time into trawling through cemeteries in an orderly and thorough manner. I've found a couple of new ones for you to do when you're home too.

  7. Ohhh you've been spying! I can't wait :-)


  8. Very interesting about the Arthur family.

  9. Carpenter Arthur's son (also named Carpenter) is buried at Waikaraka Cemetery. He is the one that Sandy mentioned - died 1909 aged 60. He is the brother of Richard Arthur.

  10. I noticed an error in the above obituary from the NZ Herald 10 July 1895. It is not Mr G Arthur (of Esam and Arthur). It should be Mr C Arthur (of Esam and Arthur). The C is for Carpenter. This Carpenter was the brother of Richard and also the son of Carpenter Arthur(senior). Carpenter Arthur(junior) also had a son named Carpenter Arthur (my grandfather), who also had s son named Carpenter Arthur (my uncle), who also had a son named Carpenter Arthur (my cousin). Here it cousin did not name his son Carpenter!