Port Fairy Beach Cemetery

Port Fairy


Port Fairy Historical Society

This cemetery is referred to either at the Old Port Fairy Cemetery or the Port Fairy Beach Cemetery but it would appear from the archive records on this cemetery held by the Department of Human Services who refer to it as the New Port Fairy Cemetery, that it came into operation after the current Port Fairy Cemetery. It must also be kept in mind that Port Fairy was originally known as Belfast.

The archive records do not hold any information as to exact date the cemetery was established or gazetted; it just notes that it was in operation from the 1850s. The cemetery today is hard to reach with specific details regarding this can be found on Ian Marr's excellent website on S.W. Victoria Cemeteries. You will know you have reached this old cemetery (or what is left of it) when you reach a plaque erected by the Port Fairy Historical Society. The graves are in the area behind the plaque.

This cemetery of approximately 5 acres was in operation between the early 1850s to until 1887 but burials probably ceased in it from the 1860s. It is believed that this cemetery contained up to 200 graves though in looking at the cemetery today this is certainly not evident. Trustees were appointed for the cemetery during its time of operation and the archive file on the cemetery notes that there was extra land surrounding the cemetery promised by W. Atkinson who granted the original land to the Trustees.

Most of the archive file deals with the issue of closing the cemetery and moving the graves and surviving headstones to the Port Fairy Cemetery. This issue was raised initially in February, 1887 when a report was made to the Shire Secretary by the Victorian Government Secretary of Lands calling "attention to the disgraceful state of the Belfast New Cemetery and asks that a sum of money be made available for the purpose of having bodies interred there removed." Later in 1887 the Shire Secretary requested to the Secretary of Lands that the "cemetery should be abolished" and made an application to have the cemetery closed before the bodies could be reinterred. On 23 May, 1887 the Governor in Council approved the "discontinuance of burials" and this was gazetted on 27 May, 1887. Correspondence regarding this issue continued for many decades and it was not until 1984 that it was finally resolved.

On 28 March, 1984 the Department of Conservation, Forest and Lands wrote to the Secretary, Public Health Division stating that "after considerable investigation it is proposed to temporarily reserve the site for cemetery purposes. It is further suggested that the existing monuments remain on the area as the historic values of this area would be lessened by removal of these monuments. The proposed cemetery reserve would be managed by the Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands in harmony with adjoining reserve for the protection of the Coastline." The Secretary, Public Health Division noted on 20 June, 1984 that it agreed with the proposal and added that "appropriate sand dune stabilisation measures be undertaken and that the fallen monuments are re-sited and preserved." So the Beach Cemetery remains today.

The Archive File on the cemetery contains a number of coloured photos of the cemetery taken in December, 1983 as part of the decision making progress regarding what would happen to the old cemetery. They show monuments for Margaret Kirk, Michael Connolly and William Buckley as the only ones noting inscriptions.

The GSV holds in its cemetery files a small file on this cemetery containing a letter written in May, 1975 by V. H. Wickenton to the Society noting a visit to the old cemetery and transcribing the remaining headstones and forwarded these transcriptions with a letter. The following people were noted as buried in the cemetery:
Margaret Kirk,
Anna Hill
John Turner
Sanders Michael Connolly
William Mercer Lockhard
William Buckley.

A search to date has located death information on four of these six people:- Margaret Kirk, John Turner Sanders, Anna Hill and William Buckley. What could make the research difficult into locating burials in this cemetery is that records might only show burials at Belfast Cemetery. Deciding which ones were the Beach Cemetery or the existing cemetery will add an interesting research dimension. Perhaps we will never know whom the nearly 200 burials were for.

Information on those identified to date is as follows:
* Michael Connelly who died 12 May, 1855, was noted as being with John Batman, when Melbourne was settled.
* John Turner Sanders died in 1849, aged 38 years.
* Anna Maria Hill, wife of James Hill a storekeeper, died on 4 May, 1850, aged 26 years and buried 6 May, 1850
* William Buckley, a settler, aged 55 years, died on 18 April, 1853 and was buried 20 April, 1853.
* Margaret Kirk, aged 28 years died 20 February, 1858 and was buried 21 February, 1858. She was born in Co Monaghan, Ireland and married to James Kirk in Ireland before coming to Victoria. Her headstone reads: Erected by James Kirk of Garick Macross to the memory of his beloved wife MARGARET KIRK who died Feb. 27 1858, aged 27 years." It is interesting the different dates on the headstone and the death record.

David Weatherill
Email: djweath@bigpond.net.au
Bundoora, Victoria, Australia












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