A bit of an odd one, this, but I like walking round graveyards. I supposed I have a small fascination for them. They represent a very personal connection to history; one which I find you don’t get with buildings or landscapes.
Not that I spend a lot of time hanging out in graveyards, normally! But in my travels over the past 13 months or so, I’ve ended up visiting one in each country I’ve been to. Admittedly not many countries, but they are all different, some more obviously so than others. And of course, carrying a camera around, I got plenty of photos, which I’d like to share. I try and be as respectful as I can, but I don’t see there’s anything inherently wrong in photographing graves. I know I’m not unique in that regard!
So, a rundown of four overseas graveyards, and one (much) closer to home. I’ve put just a wee selection of my photos here on the blog. You can click the photo to take you through to a larger version on Flickr, and graveyard titles link through to all the photos for that graveyard. Enjoy!
Of the five graveyards on this page, Okuno-in was the only one I planned specifically to visit. It is special because it is one of the most sacred sites in Japan: a huge Buddhist cemetery in the mountains southeast of Osaka with over 1,200 years of history. I traveled there and back again in a day from Kyoto, and what an epic journey! I took four trains, a fenicular/cable car and a bus to get to the entrance of the graveyard.
A 2km walk takes you to the Gokusho Offering Hall and the Gobyo Mausoleum and Torodo Hall. The day I was there was very wet. Even with an umbrella, I got totally soaked, but it did make it quite atmospheric. And being Japan, there were still plenty of tourists!
Located on the headland near Manly, a suburb of Sydney, this is the resting place for many immigrants to Australia in the 19th Century who were quarantined on their arrival to Australia. There’s more information on the National Archives of Australia page.
Immigrants of course came from many places, but it’s odd to see graves for people who traveled from your home country. Knowing how long and tedious the journey to Australia is by modern standards, God knows what the early settlers had to endure. Anyway, Manly and the national park in which the cemetery is located is a really nice place for a visit if you get a chance.
I chanced upon this one while walking back into Wellington city centre from the Botanic Gardens. It’s a rather attractive cemetery, with graves to Christian, Jew and Moari. Famous citizens of the city are signposted, but the tragedy here is that the city built a big motorway/freeway right through the middle of it in 1970’s. As a result, it’s quite small, but nonetheless there’s some impressive memorials!
Sego Canyon, in NW Utah, is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are some wonderful ancient rock art on the canyon walls. Sadly, much has been vandalised, but they are still appealing given the oldest ones are several thousand years old. Further up the canyon lies the old mining village of Sego, but before you get up there you pass the cemetery.
A very small patch of land, and not well kept. These are graves at their most basic – simple memorials with whatever is to hand to mark their place. Barely any have an engraving to say who they belong to. Utah feels like Frontier Country, and there’s an atmosphere of the Wild West about Sego.
This is my “close to home” graveyard, being the most recent ancestral burial place for my family (on my dad’s side). Located in the village of Dalton, Dumfriesshire, there is a large memorial in one area of the graveyard with my grandfather, great-uncles, great grandfather and more buried there. The family crest and the family motto “Promptus et fidelis” (Ready and Faithful) appears on a number of stones.
The stones here are made from the local red sandstone, and many buildings are made of the same material. You can see from the photos that it’s prone to weathering and lichen growth. Not great for reading names, but adds texture and colour where they would not appear with a granite stone. I like them, anyway, but then again my name might end up on one of them in the future!