Perth, Western Australia
Nov 1, 2001
That was how Mr P.E.C. De Mouncey concluded the Deaths section of his address to the Western Australian Historical Society in October, 1830. The talk was entitled "Births, Marriages and Deaths Records of Western Australia" and his Cemetery section has become a yardstick for those researching the East Perth Cemeteries.
De Mouncey recorded the following early deaths in the new Colony, but as he pointed out, it cannot be taken for granted that everyone mentioned was buried at East Perth or that they were the only people to die. He ended his account with six entries involving burials in Fremantle (F) - some of the entries mentioning more than one person.
When comparing this table with the account given by "E.H." in his letter to the West Australian on January 30, 1932, reason for doubt becomes more clear. Even though "E.H." confined his account to the East Perth Cemetery, some extra names are mentioned and some of the dates are different.
"E.H." went on to talk about many famous Western Australian pioneers whose headstones were still standing in 1932, and fortunately, most of them are still there today. He finished his letter with an account of "the old gravedigger, Harry Tichbon, host of that quiet company for 60 [sic] years."
Sadly, "E.H." commented that although Harry's "sole remaining joy of his last years was to
tell over, with many a characteristic aside, the story of those thousands that had 'passed
through his hands' at East Perth ... the picturesque wealth of his recollections was all
unwritten" and went with him to his grave in Karrakatta Cemetery where his son worked as a
Mrs Ray Oldham provided the next clue to the existence of burial records in her address to the Historical Society in 1988.
She had already related how Ethel Burt and Clara Clement had cared for the Anglican cemetery from 1908 onwards until they married and handed the task over to Ethel's brothers, Alfred and Octavius. As would be expected, Harry Tichbon helped them identify unmarked graves and place small metal disks beside them.
In 1932, when the State Gardens Board took charge of the cemeteries in East Perth, its Chairman, L.E. Shapcott, tried to gather some information about his new charges, as Ray Oldham describes:
Twenty years later "H.W.B." wrote an article for the West Australian on June 21, 1952, praising some private citizens who endeavoured to transcribe the remaining headstones at East Perth before they disappeared as well.
Ted Doncaster joined the Anglican priesthood soon after that and most recently ministered in South Australia before retiring back to Perth. His efforts were not in vain, however, and were consulted in 1986 when Richardson and Davies embarked on their survey of the cemetery. Their work will be expanded upon later.
Miss Henderson was a member of the historical society and her index was also consulted by
Richardson and Davies in 1986.
Interestingly, Richardson made the comment that he and Davies were unable to locate sixteen of the names recorded in the 1950s by Miss Henderson and 49 names recorded by Ted Doncaster in his Anglican cemetery index.
Both the Henderson and Doncaster indexes are preserved in the Battye Library File PR2640. A microfiched set of monumental inscriptions for the cemetery dated 1961, was also released by the Western Australian Genealogical Society, but 1961 was long before that society came into existence.
In 1986 a collaborative effort between the Royal Western Australian Historical Society (R.W.A.H.S.) and the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) culminated in the release of East Perth Cemetery: Resting Place Of Western Australian Pioneers. Dr. James A. Richardson (R.W.A.H.S.) and Ranger David Davies (CALM) were the men responsible for the three volume report while Ray Oldham acted as convenor of the project. Its release also marked the historical society's golden jubilee.
Their work was by far the most ambitious undertaken and not only documented the people mentioned on the headstones, but also the description of each site, its inscription and its location within the cemetery.
When explaining the process, Richardson wrote that their index was compiled from data on existing monuments in the cemeteries, from Doncater's Anglican index dated June 7, 1952, and from Hendersons survey of all denominations made during the late 1950s. He also explained that three additional lists were constructed information gleaned from correspondence with relatives and interested parties; from newspaper reports; and form abstracts of previous surveys.
The rectilinear grid system shown below was devised to assign location references to each
site. The lines ran approximately north-south across the cemetery with
L1 in the north-west corner (Plain & Wittenoom Streets) and
L62 along the middle of the eastern side (Waterloo Crescent &
Bronte Street). Each site was assigned a number, beginning with L1-1
in the north-west corner and ending with L62-778 mid-way down the
(Richardson and Davies concluded that the layout of the graves was too irregular to assign rows running east-west, although an attempt at a grid pattern is in existence with letters running west-east ranging from A to Z and omitting the letters I and O and numbers from 1 to 15 running north-south.)
The burial register presented next was based on the 1986 survey results and its location
references have been included in the right-hand column. Corrections and clarifications were made
after comparing the 1986 (R.W.A.H.S) and 1961 (W.A.G.S.) indexes with the Registrar General's
Death Indexes which were released to the public after the 1986 project had been published. A
future project will be needed to cross-reference the data with the headstones as they stand
today - 14 years on.
In early 1998 two projects were completed and published by the Western Australian Genealogical Society. Both were released on microfiche and represented countless hours of research and transcription work.
The first was a transcription of the burial register for St. George's Cathedral. It was the Anglican Church in Perth which was responsible for East Perth Cemetery. The resulting index was a compilation of information taken from five burial registers held in the Battye Library in Perth covering burials for the periods of:
The second project was a collaborative effort between WAGS and the historical society and involved the indexing of East Perth Cemetery burials as recorded on Government Death Registers held in the State Public Record Office. The place of burial was only recorded in the registers after 1896 and this new index presents a record of East Perth burials for the 21 year period between 1896 and 1916. As would be expected, the number fell dramatically after 1899 when the cemeteries were closed and burials were restricted to family graves and vaults and special dispensations.
One other aspect of the cemeteries which still needs to be considered is the matter of burials which were exhumed from the cemeteries and moved elsewhere. The first burial in the Hebrew section was an exhumation, but at least in that instance, it was simply a matter of moving the remains from the Anglican Cemetery and placing them in the new Hebrew Cemetery.
Between 1917 and 1933 the Perth Diocesan Trustees gave permission for the remains of 24 burials to be exhumed and moved elsewhere. Consent from other official channels such as the Government and Commissioner of Public Health had to be obtained as well. In two cases (Saw & Wallis), the records said the remains were re-interred in the Karrakatta Cemetery, but a subsequent check of Karrakatta records confirmed that others were moved there as well.
The following list was extracted from the Anglican records and expanded with extra details supplied by Karrakatta Cemetery. It could be assumed that a similar situation existed with the other denominations and maybe, in time, similar lists can be compiled: