If Gravestones Could Talk (Paperback)
If gravestones could talk what stories they could tell of those who lie beneath, stories of the people who helped shape the township of Camden as we know it today. Of good times and bad times, of tragedies, accidents, of those who had helped build the town and had been part of the community. Of those that had triumphed out of adversity, of the people who worked to build a new life in a colony on the opposite side of the world from where they were born; people of many nationalities. Some had come in chains, others had fled poverty in the hope that the new land would give them opportunities to prosper.
Varying circumstances had brought them to this land. Some had been transported as convicts, and others had come as part of the military establishment. Poverty in the land of their birth had encouraged others to face the dangers of a long sea voyage and seek a new life in the Colony. Some had been engaged by landowners such as the Macarthurs because of the skills they could provide.
Late in 2007, I began to prepare a comprehensive listing of those who were buried in St. John's Cemetery using the old Burial Registers and a plan of the Cemetery. It was not until just before Easter 2008 that I began to understand how important it was to know not only the names of those buried there, but who the people in each of the graves were.
Tantalising comments in Burial Registers and on gravestones encouraged and challenged me to unlock the stories behind them, "Fell from a window at the Plough and Harrow;" "Run over by own bullock team;" "Killed by a maniac at Camden Park" were just some of the examples. The stories began to emerge from old newspapers and other documents; the gravestones began to speak.
This is primarily about some of those buried in the churchyard, about the formation of the town of Camden and building the church. Of people from England, Europe and the Pacific islands who were brought here in chains or undertook the perilous journey to a new life. Of their descendants, many took up the challenge and prospered, others did not meet their full potential as a result of accidents. Others cherished the freedom this land offered and paid the ultimate sacrifice by defending this land in time of war.
Resources for the stories are old newspapers, coroner's inquests, letters held in the State Archives and memorials within the church or churchyard. Whether it is in the stained glass windows of the church, on the gravestones in the churchyard, or in tantalising comments in the Burial Registers, the lives of many are told here. Less than half the graves have gravestones or memorial plaques, and many of those are slowly fading and the stones crumbling. All known inscriptions have been recorded and are included.
So often, we neglect our old cemeteries looking on them as faded, crumbling stone that have no relevance in our modern world. The people in the cemetery at St. John's may have been forgotten, but their stories give us a fascinating insight into our early history and the people who formed this township. Their descendants still call Camden home and are proud of their heritage and what their forebears achieved.