BOOK REVIEW: Sydney Cemeteries by Lisa Murray
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell
Non-Fiction / Reference
Lisa Murray is a self-confessed “cemetery tragic”, and that love and passion comes through in her meticulously researched guide to cemeteries in Sydney – from crowded inner-city plots to spacious burial grounds in semi-rural spots.
There are some ground rules. It has to be publicly accessible; not on private property. It has to be a general cemetery or a denominational cemetery; not a single headstone or headstones moved from elsewhere. It has to be within the Sydney metropolitan are; I have used the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers as my rough boundary of the Sydney basin. The bodies should still be there. Finally, and this is my ‘get out of gaol free’ card, there are always exceptions to the rules.
For the cemeteries that do make the cut, Murray includes the history of the cemetery, the years it was open for burials, and notable burials, as well as a few pictures, of course. These are grouped geographically so it’s easier for readers to make a day of visiting cemeteries in an area they might have to travel to, or even making them aware of the cemetery down the road from where they used to live (as it did for this reviewer)!
In between, Murray also provides top 5 lists, such as:
- Top 5 Views
- Top 5 Tools of Trade Gravestones
- Top 5 Cemeteries for Picnics
- Top 5 Oldest (Undisturbed Cemeteries)
- Top 5 Cemeteries for Seraphs and Angels
- Top 5 Quirky Spellings and Mistakes
Information on the history of cemeteries and related topics, like:
- The Cemetery Ideal in Sydney
- Types of Headstones
- Monuments and the masons who create them
- The hidden meanings of headstones
And tips as to other nearby cemeteries to visit in the same day, cafes and places to eat while in the area, and which information for the cemetery in question can be found online.
The only problem this reviewer faces, in planning a trip to Sydney and packing this book for potential cemetery-hopping is that the glossy pages make for a rather heavy book. But that’s the only complaint (well, that and a couple of minimalist formatting issues) that springs to mind.
All in all this is a well-researched, interesting guide which is brilliant for those living in Sydney or who have been there at some point, but is also bound to appeal to those who like taking a walk among the tombstones and who like learning cemetery-specific history.
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