Timaru Cemetery, South Canterbury, New Zealand.

Timaru Cemetery - a museum without walls
South Canterbury Cemeteries

South Canterbury, New Zealand 

How does someone find a headstone: 
The online database can be searched by cemetery using the advance search and by first names or even by sections e.g. RSA, General, Lawn, Free Ground, Children's. The Timaru District Council has made available on line its database of burial records for the Arundel, Geraldine, Pareora West, Pleasant Point, Temuka and Timaru cemeteries. Covers burials records not monument inscriptions. Many entries have good photographs. If there is a headstone there will be a photo for it.  The council had a guy on a work scheme taking photos for nine months. He finished the project in August 2007.  There are over 30,000 photos that complement the council's online cemetery database and probably around 26,000 headstones. The monumental masons that work in the cemeteries take a photo of all headstones they create and this may be a way to keep the database up to date with photographs. 2015 - on average each year the Timaru cemetery had 183 burials and 100 interments of ashes. There are interesting headstones are out there. If you find any, please let me know. Example:
John Landsborough, Timaru, Block D Lot 281 and 282. Died 18 Aug. 1880.
John Mowbray Howard Tripp, Arundel, 1940
"Under the wide and starry sky dig the grave and let me lie"
Jane Satterwaite  Timaru, 1910. Angel

An enquiry can be made through either :

1. Email  [email protected] 
2. At the counter, walk in to the District Council Office. Timaru District Council, 2 King George Place, Timaru.
3. Or phone. Phone (03) 684-8199

The name and year of death is sufficient to search on sometimes.  The more information given, the easier to narrow down the search. Fee. Generally no charge if you are enquiring about one name but if you have a few names there may be a five dollar fee. You will be given a plot map with the grave location highlighted by surname then listed then a detailed plan of the cemetery. Gravesites, by surname, in the vicinity will be on the plot map.  Makes the gravesite very easy you find.  The Timaru District Council staff are very helpful and pleasant.  Map pdf map find a grave

Plot map example            Timaru Cemetery Plan       The lychgate at the Timaru Cemetery

Their very comprehensive databases are current, within a week, and as accurate as possible but there are mistakes e.g. Row D instead of Row G.  Funeral directors are responsible for completing a warrant within a certain time period with the details and forwarding that to the District Council Office. There is a clerk assigned to look after the records. The database is dynamically updated when plots are sold these days so some of the names in the database will be plot purchase records. There's bound to be at least a few unmarked ones missing from the early days. From July 1st 2012 Plot and interment prices throughout the district will increase by about 10 per cent from July 1, with the new adult fees being $770 for a plot, $860 for interment and concrete berms going from $155 to $230. A Saturday afternoon funeral will cost an additional $50 at $400, while a funeral on Sunday or public holidays incurs a $700 fee.

Any transcription work contains some kind of inaccuracy. A typo, a transcription error or a transposition error, could get you another month, another year, another row, another name, another gravesite or another goose chase.  Double check. 

Online & Lookups

Betts Funeral Notices online

Timaru's cemetery was set aside the land when Timaru was first surveyed and has developed into a very large cemetery consisting of  24,242 graves in the cemetery and 2,618 ashes plots, as of 7 April 2002, bearing in mind some graves have multiple burials in them. The first grave was Morris Clayton who was buried 16 October 1860.  Thomas Augustus Purnell was interred at Timaru Aug. 31 May 1861.  In 1863 the cemetery was fenced and the land cleared. A grave of historic importance for Timaru is that of Captain Henry Cain. There's a statue of Capt. Cain in front of the old landing services building, which now serves as the Timaru visitor information centre and a bar. He went to sea at age thirteen, owned a bar in California and arrived in New Zealand in 1851 aboard the schooner Pauline which he owned, settled in Timaru in 1857, in 1859 opened the first landing service, owned stores in Cain's Terrace, mayor and harbour pilot and was buried in the Timaru Cemetery in 1886 after being murdered by being poisoned

1970s. Mr G.E. Edgeler, known as Ted, or Gordon, or the wee man with the silver trowel, was the sexton at the Timaru Cemetery for 23 years. He retired at age 62. His successor is Mr Arthur Parkes. "Being a sexton is hard work physically, also mentally." One wet afternoon, the sexton saw a man at the grave of his small son buried on the hill facing the railway line. The sexton went home and the telephone rang. It was the man. "Mr Edgeler, it's raining, and my wee boy's out there," The sexton said "Did you stop to think the wee boy is lying there watching the trains run by?" There was a  pause, then the man said: "Thank you. Now I can sleep." The next morning the sexton found two bottles of cream and some cigarettes at his back door. He uses the trowel to sprinkle earth during the part of a burial service when a minister says, 'We therefore commit his body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." it was more respectful to use a trowel than hands, said Mr Edgeler. At the same time Timaru got a crematorium the number of burials halved. Mrs muriel Edgele took telephone calls, she went out of her way to help people. 'She knows the cemetery backwards." And often when her husband was busy would show people a particular grave. And she made friends too. The Edgelers lived at 47 Domain Ave, the old cemetery house, have, through letters, become friends with people in Auckland and every Christmas put flowers on a grave for them.

Samuel Williams was interred in 1883 aged 64, a pioneer of Timaru.

Age at Death 15 Months Date of Interment Friday, 29 May 1863
Timaru Cemetery Section General Block F Plot 32   New Row 8 New Plot 32 Clergy Name FOSTER

Today the new lawn sections are not segregated for religion but in the past the cemetery was divided into sections. Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Anglican, Old, cremations and the veterans section is divided into two parts with one area, by flagpole and rose garden, lined with granite headstones.  The other section has brass plaques, set on concrete at ground level, which is where, returned soldiers are buried. Children's and stillborns sections are quite recent when compared with the old section. Apparently there's a green section that was used for burying stillborns up until the early 1980s or so that's unmarked. 

Timaru Herald, 12 December 1882, Page 2
We observe in the Gazette, a proclamation under the Cemeteries Act 1882, purporting to appoint Frederick LeCren a Trustee of the Timaru Cemetery, "in the place of Arthur Ormsby, deceased." Mr Ormsby, we are happy to say, is still in robust health, and Mr LeCren's appointment to his place on the Cemetery Board, on the ground of his decease, there-fore, is, to say the least, a little premature. On enquiry, we learn that Mr Ormsby recently resigned the office in question, and we have no doubt that Mr LcCren's appointment is all in order, but for an error on the part of a clerk in Wellington. It occurs to us, nevertheless, that some legal difficulties may arise out of the fact of Mr Ormsby having been formally proclaimed " deceased." Has he any lawful right to be walking about and performing all the functions of a living man, and a lawyer into the bargain, after the Administrator of the Government has proclaimed his decease, and the Minister of Lands who ought to have known better, by the bye has counter signed the proclamation.' We are inclined to think that until the proclamation is rescinded, and Mr Ormsby is officially resuscitated, he must be regarded merely as a highly respectable host.

Star 10 February 1905, Page 3
At a meeting of the Timaru Cemetery Board on Wednesday it was stated that 3127 burials had taken place in the Timaru cemetery, including 107 during 1904. Additional land has recently been purchased, the cemetery being nearly full.

Timaru Herald 12 Nov. 2002
Depending on the number of burials, it's estimated the cemetery can continue on the current site for 12 to 16 years, by using vacant land along Collins Street. Up to 500 burials could be accommodated at the eastern end of the cemetery, and about 600 ashes plots in the newly developed memorial garden. The average number of burials for 1990-2000 was 121 burials per year, and 64 ashes or stillborn interments. There also appeared to be a slightly increasing trend towards cremation. Statistics New Zealand had identified that the death rate will continue to increase and will remain high across New Zealand until the passing of the `baby boom' generation. Because of greater life expectancy it is not expected that death rates will reduce until around 2050 on average, but that could vary from locality to locality.

There is a concern for running out of space in about ten years from 2004.  The Timaru City Council is searching for an appropriate site. There's still quite a lot of green space there.  They've started making roundels for cremation and memorial plots recently, and some sections are getting a bit tight, but overall there's plenty of space for a few years yet. There's a restriction on the size of markers these days too probably due to the safety aspect and space allotment. Some headstones in the old section have fallen into disrepair.

Timaru Herald  Cemetery space fast running out
16 November 2006
There is very little life left in two South Canterbury cemeteries literally. Burial space at both the Temuka and Timaru cemeteries is at a premium. Forecasts estimate the Timaru cemetery may have less than 10 years left to accommodate the burial needs of the district. Cr Pat Mulvey said there was "very little life left in the Temuka Cemetery". "It's getting smaller and smaller." A meeting had been held to look at a proposed site for the extension of the cemetery. "The conclusion was that the site was unsuitable and other options will be looked at." Money had been budgeted for extensions to the cemetery. Meanwhile, the search continues for a new Timaru cemetery site. In the 2005/06 budget the council allocated $15,000 to aid the search for an appropriate site. In the council's 2008/09 budget $500,000 has been allocated for a new cemetery. Apart from the Timaru and Temuka cemeteries there are three other cemeteries in the district  Pleasant Point, Geraldine and Arundel. The Pareora West cemetery is closed.

Timaru Herald  19 Nov. 2006
Proposed expansion of Temuka's cemetery to the north is unlikely because of the risk of pollution. A report has found discharge would pass through the shingle soils into the water table and the nearby Taumatakaha Stream. Any area chosen as a cemetery site will require a regional council (Environment Canterbury) resource consent to discharge contaminants, including formaldehyde, organic compounds, ammonical nitrogen, various anions and alkali earth metals to the earth. Over the last 15 years on average 118 people were buried and 65 left their ashes at the Timaru cemetery. In Temuka the ratio was 44 burials to 15 leaving ashes. South Canterbury Crematorium director said there were about 400 cremations a year in South Canterbury and most of these people's ashes remained in crematorium plots. Scattering ashes was not that common. A practical stage of the grief cycle it was good to visit a specific location where the deceased remained.

Museum Records

The NZSG Cemetery microfiche covers monument inscriptions. The South Canterbury Museum holds a paper records for most of the South Canterbury cemeteries with and a surname index to search across all of them but the NZSG South Canterbury Branch monument inscriptions records were created before 1982 by their members who spent many hours transcribing the stones and created the records to ensure that the inscription will never be lost through deterioration or vandalism but the council has changed the numbering scheme, so you first have to look up the site and then look up the reference in a translation chart. Going direct to the council gets you the current reference. The museum admission is free, both for entry and archive use, although donations are appreciated, and there's a $2 charge for using the NZSG files that are also housed in the archives there.  The museum also has a CD database of much the same material. The council probably has the same information. 

NZSG South Canterbury District Cemetery microfiche (Timaru listings only)
Cemetery # Fiche # Cemetery Dates Covered  No. of pages Description
11 293-4 Temuka 1858-1982 175 MI
12 294-6 Timaru Vol. 1 1860-1980 163 MI
13 296-7 Timaru Vol. 2 1890-1981 154 MI
14 298-9 Timaru Vol. 3 1933-1982 175 MI
15 299-300 Timaru Vol. 4a 1927-1981   43 MI RSA section
15 299-300 Timaru Vol. 4b 1958-1981   18 MI children's section
16 300-303 Salisbury Park Crematorium a.1964-1981
Wall of Remembrance
16 300-303 Salisbury Park  b. 1950-1981   92 Plaque inscriptions
16 300-303 Salisbury Park  c. 1967-1981 104 Cremation records

Before 1967 all local cremations in Timaru were transferred to Christchurch. Linwood Crematorium and Harewood Crematorium in Christchurch are now run by the same owners. There is a wall of remembrance at Linwood Crematorium. 

Betts Funeral Service  Only keeps a database on the people that it has conducted funerals/cremations for.

New Zealand Cemetery Records (NZSG) - District U
This section, on page 46 of the List of Holdings, comprises some miscellaneous transcriptions not particularly relating to cemeteries. For example, there are some births, deaths and marriages notices extracted from The Lyttelton Times in the 1860s; fatal accidents in the South Canterbury Alpine area 1914-1983. Many of the records are extractions from newspapers.

Timaru Cemetery -2010
Memorialisation in the Landscape thesis 2001

Timaru Cemetery Tours - connecting the dots

Timaru Herald, 2 May 1910, Page 6 MR E. DRAKE
The funeral of the late Edward Drake, who died during Friday night, took place yesterday afternoon, and was very largely attended. Mr Drake had. been just thirty years in charge of the Cemetery, and was respected and esteemed by the Trustees and the public as a careful; conscientious officer. He was a native of Selborne. England and came to New Zealand as a youth in 1875, and was quite a young man when he was given charge of the Cemetery. He lived to see first one and then a second extension of the grounds. He leaves a widow, five sons and four daughters, the eldest son being a well-known member of the Timn.ru telegraph staff. Mrs Binskin, of Timaru, is a sister of the deceased.

Waimate Daily Advertiser 18 August 1915 Page 1
I engaged the rooms for my holiday, he said, because the lady wrote me that they overlooked a superb garden of 200 acres, richly adorned with statuary, where I was at liberty to promenade. Well? Jones inquired. It was a cemetery, he said bitterly.

Cemeteries were places of beauty, which revealed the architecture, art, religious symbolism and social history of the era in which they were created.

The South Canterbury Museum in 2003 printed a booklet Timaru Cemetery: Notable Nineteenth Century Characters with research and text by retired school teacher and local historian Alan McKenzie and the museum staff members. All the portrait photos in the booklet are from the museum collection. Alan guided the tour parties through the old section of the cemetery, telling some of the fascinating stories behind the monuments. Tours in the past were the first two weeks in March at 2pm and run on Sundays and Wednesdays. Bookings for the recently resurrected cemetery tours can be made by contacting the museum. The gold coin donation for the tours goes to the South Canterbury Museum Development Trust.  The 20-25 people, hour plus, tours continued in 2004, 2005 and 2006 with added tour programmes.
Timaru cemetery : notable nineteenth century characters / Alan McKenzie. 2003
Messages in Stone - Lynda Seaton, 2004, 32 pages
Timaru Cemetery -  Stories Beyond the Stones - Alan McKenzie, 2005, 24 pages
Timaru Cemetery - Monumental Tales - Alan McKenzie 2006
Timaru Cemetery - Passing Memories - Alan McKenzie 2007

Published in Timaru Herald on Apr. 2, 2019
McKENZIE, Alan Francis: On March 31, 2019, at South Canterbury Hospice.

The South Canterbury Genealogy Branch will be notified of upcoming tours, which will also be advertised at the appropriate time in the Timaru District Council Notice board, which appears on Saturdays in The Timaru Herald. The booklets, available from the museum for approx. $10, includes a map identifying the locations of the monuments can be used for a self-guided tour. 28 pages. 

Richard Turnbull's headstone, Timaru Cemetery, 15 Nov. 2009






Timaru Cemetery: Notable Nineteenth Century Characters - photos are on the Timaru Cemetery website
Dr Edward Butler (1834-1870)
Captain Henry Cain (1816-1886)
Captain Thomas Nicholson Clarkson (1836-1909)
James Craigie - native of Perthshire, Scotland (1851-1935)
Edward Elworthy (1836- 1899)
Bob Fitzsimmons (1819-1917)
Philip Javis Foster (c.1824-1899)
Thomas Webster Fyfe (1836-1926)
Samuel Hewlings (1819-1896)
Henry Le Cren (1828-1895)
Edwin Henry Lough (1833-1905)
Dr Patrick McIntyre (1846-1890)

Dr Duncan McLean (1840-1871)
Janet Meikle (1870-1906)
Captain Alexander Mills (1835-1882)
Strong Work Morrison (1833-1897)
Elizabeth Perry (1835-1890)
John Lishman Potter (1834-1931)
Joseph John Griffith Rowley (1864-1873)
Edward Percival Sealy (1864-1873)
Alfred Beaumont Smallwood (1846- (1869)
Edward Henry Tate (1829-1882)
Richard Turnbull (1826-1890)
Samuel Williams (1817-1883)

Richard Turnbull 1826-1890.
Richard Turnbull arrived in Timaru in 1864. He was elected to the Provincial Council, served as a member of the first Timaru Town Council and was later a member of Parliament. He built a large hall in Stafford Street, where in 1876 six hundred people attended a meeting which appointed a committee of 12 to investigate the building of a harbour breakwater. The hall was later rebuilt and converted to become the Theatre Royal. A son founded the firm DC Turnbull and Co., grain and shipping agents.
His headstone is under a tree near the entrance to the cemetery. Inscription: Erected by the friends of the late Richard Turnbull, M.H.R. for Timaru. To commemorate the many valuable public and private services rendered by him to South Canterbury and the country.
Born Jan. 17th 1826.
Died July 17th 1890.
From Timaru Cemetery, Notable Nineteenth Century Characters.

Hawera & Normanby Star,
30 October 1891, Page 2
Evening Post, 28 October 1891, Page 2
About 300 people witnessed the unveiling by the Premier of the memorial stone to the late Mr Richard Turnbull in Timaru cemetery on Wednesday. Major Steward and Messrs Hall - Jones and Rhodes, M.H.R., also spoke in eulogy of the departed. The Premier was introduced by Mr Ross, the mayor, who also gave a tribute of praise. The stone is a white marble obelisk, and was paid for by shilling subscriptions.

Western Argus (Kalgoorlie, WA) Tuesday 30 August 1927 p9
Oldest Gold Digger. Mr. John D.  [sic] Potter of Timaru, N.Z. who has just celebrated his ninety third birth day, claims to be "The Oldest Gold digger under the Southern Cross and the Union Jack." Mr. Potter was born in Sunderland, Durham (Eng.), on July 25, 1834. He was on the Ballarat diggings in 1854, and Aug. last was the 71st anniversary of Miner's Right No 16 which was issued to him on August 1, 1856. Mr. Potter was at Gabriel's Gully (Otago) in 1861, and is still hale and hearty, despite his advancing years.

The Canberra Times Tuesday 27 October 1931
SYDNEY, Monday. The last survivor of the famous battle of the Eureka Stockade, John Lishman Potter, died at Timaru, aged 98.

John L. Potter
Father of the above
July 25th 1834 - Oct. 24 1931
In his 98th year.
The Last survivor of the Eureka stockade fight of 1854.
"Peace perfect Peace"

[John Lishman Potter proclaimed himself to be at Eureka Stockade in Ballarat, Victoria, though he did not arrived until it was over. John and Matthew arrived together arrived two weeks after the rebellion where after miners revolted against the British colonial authority.]

Captain Henry Cain
Captain Henry Cain. A sorrowing woman.

Duncan McLean MD
Died 11th September 1871
Aged 32 years
Erected by a number of friends as a tribute of respect to his memory. (W. Torrence, mason)

Under a tree near the entrance of the Timaru Cemetery, to the left of Richard Turnbull's headstone.

Intriguing stories lay behind some of the headstones in the Timaru cemetery.  In 1906, Janet Meikle became the first of thousands of New Zealanders to do what? Die in a car crash, when her vehicle hit a bank near Timaru.

Grey River Argus, 28 February 1879, Page 2
Timaru, Feb. 26. The bodies of several apparently stillborn children have been found buried by stealth beneath the footpaths in the Cemetery. Inquiries are being made.

Walking around the cemetery you can spot places of origin or the ship they came out on.

In memory of William Couch, native of Cornwall England died 26th Oct. 1892 aged 78
William RICHARDS born at Penzance, Cornwall. Died Salisbury, May 16th 1933, aged 85 years.

From Timaru Cemetery MI transcripts:
"John COWLEY native of the Isle of Man d. 21st Feb, 1887 at 31, also Aggie SCRIMGEOUR d. Aug 21, 1895, at 16yrs."
It appears this headstone has been removed before 2004 from the cemetery plot since the transcript was done.

Why Anchors?

Grey River Argus, 12 March 1908, Page 2 A Sailor's Epitaph
In the churchyard of St. Andrew's, Hertford may be seen the following quaint epitaph over the grave of a sailor:

"Blow, Boreas, blow; let Neptune's billows roar;
Here lies a sailor safe stranded on the shore,
Though Neptune's waves have tossed him to and fro.
By God's decree he 'harbours here below ;
He now at anchor lies amid the fleet
Awaiting orders, Admiral Christ to meet."

Wanganui Herald, 8 September 1902, Page 3 DEATH OF OLD SEA CAPTAIN.
Timaru, September 8. Another old identity has just passed away here, in the person of Captain E. Raddon. The deceased was well-known as a seafaring man, and for many years was captain of the Whitehall, trading between the colonies and England. He has been living a retired life on a small farm at Kingsdown for some, years. He died of inflammation of the lung, aged 85. Died Sept. 6th 1902, aged 85 years. Edwin Raddon "Safe Beyond the Harbour Bay"

30 October 1882, Page 3
imaru, Oct. 30. Captain White, of Timaru, sailmaker, an old resident, died suddenly in the Resident Magistrate's Court to-day. He was seized with an apoplectic fit, and died before medical aid arrived.

Evening Post, 28 June 1888, Page 2
The Timaru Herald notes that some lambs made their appearance in the flocks of Captain Raddon, of Kingsdown, during the first week of June. [His headstone at Timaru has an anchor "Safe beyond the harbour bar."]

Captain Charles Stephen BASCAND, late harbourmaster of Timaru,
who was so long and favorably known on the Coast as master of the s.s. Waipara and other steamers
Age at Death 52 (Years )
Date of Interment 01/Jul/1883 Timaru Cemetery
 Captain Charles Stephen BASCAND, Timaru cemetery

Captain Robert Hardie buried at Timaru

Grey River Argus, 6 November 1917, Page 2
TIMARU, November 5. Captain James Tait, who has been Harbourmaster at Timaru since 1909 and previously from 1897, was master of the Harbour Board's dredges, died on Sunday afternoon, following a paralytic stroke on Wednesday night, aged 60. He was a native of Shetlands and followed the sea all his life. He was a master in the Union Co.'s employ before taking a harbour appointment at Timaru. He was a kindly man and well liked by all. He leaves a widow, four sons and two daughters.

Messages in stone : a guide to the meanings of the symbols on headstones / author, Lynda Seaton ; editing/Layout, South Canterbury Museum. Personal Author : Seaton, Lynda M. Corporate Author : South Canterbury Museum (Timaru, N.Z.) Imprint : Timaru, N.Z.: South Canterbury Museum, 2004. Notes : At the head of cover title: Timaru Cemetery.

Understanding Headstones by L M Seaton

Timaru Cemetery : Stories beyond the Stones McKenzie, Alan. Imprint : Timaru, N.Z.: South Canterbury Museum, 2005.

The 2006 new tour Monumental Tales, looks at graves in the south-west section of the cemetery and includes visits to the grave of former Timaru mayor and auctioneer Moss Jonas; William Nichols, the boy who started the fire which wiped out much of central Timaru in 1868; James Dorgan, a police officer who was shot while on duty in Timaru and Mackenzie pioneer Andrew Burnett. The dead centre of town is proving a popular destination.

March 2004: Ms Lynda Seaton conducted Timaru cemetery tours focusing on 29 symbols. For instance, the rose was said to be one of the flowers of the Garden of Eden - the first paradise. It grew there without thorns, but after Adam and Eve's fall from grace the rose took on thorns to remind humankind of their sins. However, it retained its fragrant beauty to remind people of the joys of paradise. The roses on memorials, whether in a crown or on their own, are symbols of the paradise now enjoyed by the deceased and are portrayed thornless. The butterfly is another symbol found on 19th century graves. The butterfly, which lives, mates, and then dies in such a short time, symbolises the brevity of life.  style

Near a shady wall a rose once grew
Budded and blossomed in God's free light.
Watered and fed, by morning dew
Shedding its sweetness day and night.

As it grew and blossomed fair and tall,
Slowly rising to loftier height,
It came to a crevice in the wall
Through which there shone a beam of light.

Onward it crept with added strength,
With never a thought of fear or pride;
It followed the light thro' the crevice length
And unfolded itself on the other side.

The light, the dew, the broadening view,
Were found the same as they were before;
And it lost itself in beauty anew,
Breathing its fragrance, more and more.

Shall claim of death cause us more to grieve?
And make our courage faint or fall?
Nay, let us faith and hope receive;
The rose still grows beyond the wall.

Scattering fragrance far and wide,
Just as it did in days of yore
Just as it did on the other side
Just as it will forevermore.
May your heart in its wisdom know love endures and life is everlasting.

The Draped Urn

After the cross, the urn is one of the most commonly used cemetery monuments. The design represents a funeral urn, and is thought to symbolize immortality. Cremation was an early form of preparing the dead for burial. In some cultures, especially in classical times, it was more common than burial. The shape of the container in which the ashes were placed may have taken the form of a simple box or a marble vase, but no matter what it looked like it was called an "urn," derived from the Latin uro, meaning "to burn." As burial became a more common-practice, the urn continued to be closely associated with death. The urn is commonly believed to testify to the death of the body and the dust into which the dead body will change, while the spirit of the departed eternally rests with God. The cloth draping the urn symbolically guarded the ashes. The shroud-draped urn is believed by some to mean that the soul has departed the shrouded body for its trip to heaven. Others say that the drape signifies the last partition between life and death.

The old section.
A cemetery is a story better than a book. Making memorials is one way we can give someone some individuality. A flat grass marker does not cut it. There are two things for sure on earth - you have to pay your taxes and you are going to die.  

Immortelle - memorial wreath under a glass dome.

1943 example at Temuka

In cemeteries the word usually applies to an arrangement of artificial flowers of tin or ceramic within a glass dome placed on top of a grave. Dried flowers, everlastings, were used as memorial objects were replaced with silk, ceramic, wax, silver and tin reproductions toward the end of the nineteenth century. Sculptured tin painted to look like leaves and flowers and placed under a glass shade cost 30s in 1890 in NZ. They were also called a memorial wreath. Sometimes up to three on a gravestone. A few might have a message inside the glass domes on paper, and the hand writing maybe faded.  Over time some of the dome have been damaged.

Author Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) (1835 - 1910), finding their placement at gravesites an expression of almost lazy affect. In his Life on the Mississippi (1883), he wrote "The immortelle requires no attention: you just hang it up, and there you are; just leave it alone, it will take care of your grief for you, and keep it in mind better than you can; stands weather first-rate, and lasts like boiler-iron."

Otago Witness 18 March 1871, Page 22
'Twas evening and I wandered sad
'Mong tombstones in an old churchyard,
Where many lay in last deep sleep
In narrow lonely beds so hard.

Here and there a stately pillar,

Raised by friends for memory's sake,
Struck the eye and made me wonder
Why for dead such pairs they take.

On I wandered, scarcely heeding
The slowly sinking golden sun,
Till suddenly on tombstone lowly
I read the words, " Thy will be done."

No gilded pomp nor graven cross
Marked now this tiny grave,
Yet still to read these simple words
A pang of pity gave.

No gaudy flowers adorned the spot
No wreath of immortelle,
But one sweet bunch of violets
Lay with'ring where it fell.

No name was graven, and no date
On that pure snow-white stone,
But only this one humble verse,
I read, "Thy will be done."

It told its tale beneath the sod,
Some buried darling lay
"Thy will be done" was carved in grief,
When all words fled away.

Home then I turned. A feeling sad
About my heart will run,
Whene'er I think of that small stone
Inscribed "Thy will be done.


A cemetery is a symbolic landscape - heaven on earth, the dead ask to be visited.

Entrance - A lot of history

The cemetery is bounded by Domain Ave in the north, Collins Street to the west and the railway line to the east with the entrance is on Domain Ave. This street runs between the Timaru Gardens and the cemetery with an avenue of trees on the boundary.  The cemetery has a small gully running through its centre with most of the graves located on the eastern side.  There are a number of unmarked graves in the gully by the hedge. There was a plan of the layout with rows well numbered near the office.  The Timaru City Council employs a contractor who carries out the interments, mows the grass, general tidying and maintenance duties and the council does the balance. 

Entrance into the Timaru Cemetery

Headstone Repairs - Feb. 2005

During 2002, The Timaru District Council was advised by a grounds maintenance contractor that a headstone had toppled onto a ride on mower unit. As a consequence, visits were made to the six cemeteries the Council administers and where possible, any unsafe monuments were placed on the ground. However, in the Timaru Cemetery alone, there were approximately 45 headstones that were in an unsafe state, but requiring mechanical lifting to fix. At this stage a review of a number of issues (including headstone deterioration) was undertaken by a Committee comprising councillors, community board members and council staff. One of the recommendations from the review was that $4,000 should be allocated from the Contingency Fund to make immediate structural repairs to the 45 headstones which were identified as being unstable. A donation of $3,000 was received from the South Canterbury Historical Society and the combined total of $7,000 was used to start the headstone reinstatement. A further amount of $7,000 was included in the Cemeteries budget during the last financial year. To date these modest funds have allowed us to use services from our three local monumental masons to work on approximately 350 headstones. The majority have been able to be reinstated to as before, but a small proportion which were significantly broken has been re-laid horizontal in a jigsaw configuration. These repairs have only been of a structural nature and do not include lettering or decoration repairs. With respect to headstone work, the rural cemeteries of Geraldine, Pleasant Point, Temuka, Arundel and Pareora West are practically complete. This year the focus will return to Timaru where there are a significant number of headstones requiring work. Sometime in the future, consideration will be given to the tidying of gravesite surrounds. At that stage local interest groups and service clubs may become involved to speed up the process. Whilst the headstones are the families responsibility to maintain, a legal opinion sought by this Council suggests the headstones are a fixture, therefore defaulting in ownership to the Council. Rather than try the onerous task of contacting descendants and the delays involved, this Council has adopted a proactive stance and is progressing with headstone reinstatements. Hopefully this approach will eliminate any future need to remove broken pieces of headstones from their original sites. 
Neville Rawstorn, Parks Administration Officer, Timaru District Council,
Telephone 03 684 8199        Fax 03 684 2206          Email [email protected]

Timaru Cemetery 15 Nov. 2009
There are many broken headstones and trees that need to be trimmed at the Timaru Cemetery.

New Zealand Tablet, 14 May 1903, Page 15
Mr. S. McBride, Timaru, is a direct importer of marble and granite monuments from the best Italian and Scotch quarries. He has a large stock of the latest designs to select from at lowest prices.

Timaru Herald, 28 August 1895, Page 2
Mr S. McBride has shown us a new shape of tombstone, a massive rustic cross, with twining ivy and a heavy base, in red Peterhead granite, a specimen of which he has just imported. He has also received some American marble slabs, nicely finished. The duty on such things is 25 per cent. It ought to be 250. The Timaru stone is more suitable for funeral purposes than any granite or marble, and something ought to be done to check the waste of New Zealand products sent Home every year in exchange for tombstones. New Zealanders ought to be patriotic enough to prefer the local stone for their last ornament, and to encourage local industry instead of the steam machinery of other countries.

Timaru Herald, 30 March 1916, Page 2 SAMUEL McBRIDE
The death occurred on Tuesday of Mr Samuel McBride, the well-known builder and monumental mason, at the age of 68. Mr McBride had been in poor health for the past year or two. The deceased was a man sterling character, of the highest repute as a tradesman, and he leaves in Timaru many monuments to his skill, enterprise, and integrity, in public buildings and memorials erected by or for the citizens, from the date of the Wreck Monument (to go no further back), to the recently erected Burns statue in the Park. The chancel and tower of St. Mary's Church are other standing testimonies to his ability as a builder. Mr McBride, a native of Dumfries, came to New Zealand as a young man and settled in Timaru in 1871. For some years he was employed in building stone houses, and then commenced business as a monumental mason, and among his erections are the Wreck Monument and the Boer War Memorial. Mr McBride was for some time a member of the Timaru School Committee, and after taking up his residence on Wai-iti Road he became chairman of the Gleniti Committee, and as he took great interest in the school he was re-elected chairman year after year for many years. He was an elder of Chalmers Church, a Past Master of Caledonian Lodge, and an early president of the Caledonian Society. Mr McBride was married twice, and is survived by widow and a family of eight sons and seven daughters.

Was he a McKay then a McCoy? So are both surnames right?

W.J. McCoy had a Funeral Notice in the Timaru Herald of the 3rd February 1917 and a Funeral Report was printed on the 5th February 1917. He was issued with a death certificate under the McCoy surname No. 704/1917 and W.J. McKay was issued with a death certificate No. 706/1917. These numbers are from the BDM Fiche. Now the unusual thing is that a James McCoy died a couple of days later, age 67, also recorded in the Timaru Herald as McCoy, given a death certificate as a McCoy, but both are recorded in the Timaru Cemetery as McKay's. Unfortunately only the soldier has a tombstone.

Otago Daily Times 16 February 1917, Page 3 MILITARY FUNERAL
CORPORAL W. J. M'COY. A funeral was accorded the remains of the late William Joseph McCoy, who died in the Timaru Hospital of cerebrospinal meningitis. The deceased enlisted at Mosgiel, and went into camp with the Nineteenth Reinforcements. He was taken ill at Timaru in October, when on his way south on final leave, and was in the hospital from October 12 till his death. The 2nd (South Canterbury) Regimental Band was in attendance, with 12 members of No. 45 Company of Senior Cadets, under Sergeant Woodham and Corporal G. C. Webster, as the firing party. The parade was in charge of Lieut. R. S. P. Hopkins, and marched to the Catholic Church, where the pall-bearers (six returned soldier, under Sergeant Davey) received the coffin, which was placed on a gun-carriage. The firing party, with arms reversed, led the cortege to the cemetery, the band playing the "Dead March." At the graveside the Rev. Father Herbert read the burial service, and three volleys were fired over the grave, Bugler Taylor, of the Senior Cadet Bugle Band, played the "Last Post." The whole proceedings were very impressive. The deceased was the second son of Mrs and the late John M'Coy, of North Otago, and a brother of Mrs P. W. Hayden, of this city. He was well known as an athlete, having won, amongst other trophies, a champion medal for wrestling at the Caledonian sports at Timaru, and was respected by all who knew him.

Dominion, 18 April 1912, Page 6
Dunedin, April 17. About 5.30 p.m. to-day John M'Coy, 55 years of age, who was lately employed on a farm at Enfield near, Oamaru, was found dead in bed in his room at the Shamrock Hotel. Deceased came to town on April 1, and had been staying with a married daughter at the hotel. During that time he had been in good health. The cause of death is unknown at present.

Timaru Cemetery headstone spruce up Jan. 2014.

Reference 30182
Mckay William Joseph
32878 Pte. 19th Reinforcements
Age at Death: 29
Date of Death: Wednesday, 31 January 1917
Date of Interment: Saturday, 3 February 1917
Section: General Block B Plot 435
Clergy Name: PRIEST
Reference 30183
Mckay, James
Age at Death 67
Date of Interment Tuesday, 6 February 1917
Section General Block B Plot 200
Clergy Name PRIEST

Auckland WMM Cenotaph Database
William J. McKay
Serial No. 32878
Last Unit Served New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Place of Death New Zealand
Date of Death 17 January 1917
Featherston Cemetery Memorial, Featherston, NZ

On the South Canterbury Memorial Wall his name is recorded as McCoy, W.J.
McCoy, Maggie of Whitstone, a  farming settlement near Weston. Weston. Mixed farming district and township, four miles W. from Oamaru.

His birth was recorded under McKay. (look under still births) In 1881 John McCoy married Margaret Knight.
Parents Maggie and John McCoy / McKay. Births
1885 McKay William Joseph
1889 McCoy Mary Anne
1891 McCoy, Susannah            Susanna McCoy married Percy William Hayden in 1911
1893 McCoy John Patrick
1898 McCoy Margaret Fanny
1895 McKay Richard Thomas

Timaru Cemetery - Military 25 from WW1 and  18 from WW2.

Rank: Leading Aircraftman
Regiment/Service: Royal New Zealand Air Force
Age: 59
Date of Death: 22/02/1947
Service No: 4216493
S/o Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Adams; nephew of Forester Adams, of Lake Tekapo. Also served in 1914-18 War.

Rank: Sergeant
Regiment/Service: Royal New Zealand Air Force
Age: 23
Date of Death: 05/07/1944
Service No: 4212805
S/o William Southworth Baillie and Agnes Russell Baillie, of Timaru.
Grave/Memorial Reference: Soldiers Area.7E.

Rank: Trooper   N.Z.T.S.
Regiment/Service: New Zealand Military Forces
Age: 48
Date of Death: 16/02/1942
Service No: 5/10/122
S/o Robert Chambers Bellam & Isabella Bellam, of Leeton, NSW, AUS.; husband of Ruth Annie Bellam, of Riccarton, CHCH.  Also served in 1914-18 War.
Grave/Memorial Reference: Soldiers Area.E14.

Rank: Private
Regiment/Service: New Zealand Medical Corps
Age: 39
Date of Death: 03/08/1918
Service No: 3/1824
S/o the late Joseph and Nancy Blackmore. Born at Timaru.
Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot 332/S

Private John Alexander KING
Service No: 255165
Date of Death: 05/11/1942
Age: 42
Regiment/Service: Canterbury Regt., New Zealand Infantry
Grave Reference: 350P TIMARU CEMETERY
Son of William Walter and Mary Emily King, of Timaru. Died in camp. 

If a cemetery is not used it will become a dead horse - six feet under.  Bring people into a cemetery and raise money for a cemetery.  An arts festival with a Wacky Grave Digger comedy skit or a Daffodil Sunday, Decoration Day, Memorial Day, Anzac Day, Remembrance Day can draw people to a cemetery.  Some cemeteries have hundreds of visitors and they come to a cemetery to take pictures and hob knob with the rich, famous & dead. 

Timaru Cemetery - the lawn section looking back towards the Botanical Gardens and hospital.     
This section is called the 'Lawn Section'.  Photos, double border, taken on a wet April 28, 2002. Courtesy of Han Freeke. 

Evening Post, 27 May 1875, Page 2
An attempt on the part of a prisoner to is thus described by the South Canterbury Times of Saturday :  On Friday last, 21st May, whilst the hard labor gang were at work in the triangular portion of the Timaru domain, on the left hand side of  the cemetery road, James Tucker, a prisoner who had been committed for trial on a charge of horse-stealing, escaped whilst one of the warders had his back turned, looking with another prisoner amongst the heavy grown weeds for plants. He was missed a few minutes afterwards, and the gang was knocked off their work, whilst the other warder in charge was sent with them back to the gaol. The head warder then went to the police and reported the escape. A party of the police then went in search for the runaway, and he was at about 4 p.m. found secreted in the house occupied by one Anderson, at Peeress town, by Sergeant Macdonald. He had hidden himself under a bed, and when discovered had changed his prison clothes for a suit of black, and the former were wrapped up in a bundle close to him.

Timaru Herald, 14 February 1883, Page 2
Timaru Cemetery. Mr John Mee has been appointed a Trustee of the Timaru Cemetery in the place of Mr Herbert Belfield, resigned.

Timaru Herald, 20 January 1869, Page 3
FRIENDS of the late A. NEATE are respectfully informed that the Funeral will move from the Church at three o'clock to-day. ROBERT TAYLOR, Undertaker.

Timaru Herald, 26 February 1875, Page 4
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMARU HEARLD. Sir,  Holding a strong opinion in favor of the abolition of funeral pomp and display, with its accompaniments of hearse, mute and nodding plumes, I trust you will pardon my presumption, and excuse my puny efforts in drawing attention to the evil effects of the funeral system, evil in so far, as in numerous instances it produced poverty. Another instance has lately occurred of a widow and children being left comparatively destitute by the death of the head of the family, and the destitution increased, partly by a natural desire to pay the customary respects to the dead, and partly by a slavish adherence to custom, the continuance of which has very little to recommend it, and therefore the sooner abolished the better. From what has come to my knowledge of the case I am referring to, the deceased was a member of one of the friendly societies of this town, consequently will be entitled to a specific sum of money. I state upon good authority, that after defraying the expense of the burial, one solitary figure will represent the number of shillings left to the widow. I mention this case, not with, a view to solicit assistance (although I have reason to believe that will be given by the Order to which he belonged), but to show more forcibly the folly of perpetuating a custom, the effect of which is to swell the profits of the undertaker at the expense of the survivors, in some cases a widow and children, or, perhaps, what is worse, destitute orphans. I know that the thought which will first suggest itself to the mind is, that instances are occurring daily of persons dying and leaving those who have been dependent on them similarly circumstanced, proving conclusively that reform, if not abolition, is needed. I would have the heads of families ask themselves, would they be willing, more especially if they are not blest with an over-abundance of wealth, that their survivors should incur an expense in following their remains to the grave ? an expense which could be ill borne, and entail suffering and want. There is no question that grief could be as heartfelt and sincere, and a due amount of respect observed in a simpler and less expensive manner. We have evidence of many laudably desirous of making provision for their wives and family, as instanced in the number of policies taken up in the Government Life Insurance ; why not go a step further towards reducing the chances of poverty by discountenancing a useless expenditure, necessitated only by the force of custom. This question will perhaps not so much interest the upper stratum of society, as the expense is of less moment to them than to their poorer brethren. Sir, I venture to hope and predict that the end of the present decade will not witness such meaningless exhibitions to advertise grief. I can only wish I had the genius and pen of Dickens to deal with the subject as I would wish. I am, &c, W. J. February 25, 1875.

NZ Truth 1 June 1907, Page 1
The Timaru paper says "The Dead March was heard in town yesterday. the Salvation Army giving a soldier's funeral to a late member, W. Culliimore. If anything will kill the military funeral as dead as the respected corpse, it is the Salvation Army. Some of the most magnificent songs have been slain by parodies. Booth's blood and boodle boobies are worse than a parody; they are the dog howling at the moon.

The South Cemetery is the Timaru Cemetery

Timaru Herald, 2 June 1869, Page 2
The Late Duncan Cameron. The body of this man was found on Sunday last by a person named Marshall, who had been searching in the place where the body was last seen in the water. On his person was found a pipe and an envelope containing some stamps. The funeral took place yesterday afternoon. A large number of the Timaru Artillery corps escorted the body on their gun carriage from the immigration barracks to St Mary's Church. The body was then lifted off the gun carriage and brought into the church by six members of the corps. A large number of people were present m the church when the impressive burial service of the Church of England was read by the Rev. G. Foster. After the portion of the service appointed to be read in the church was over, the procession was again formed, and wended its way through the streets of the town to the southern cemetery. Altogether fully two hundred people were present, sadly testifying to the very great respect deceased was held in. The procession was formed as follows: In front a firing party of twelve men of the Timaru Artillery Corps, then the gun carriage with the corpse, attended by six volunteers after which came the chief mourners, son and daughter of deceased, in a carriage with Capt. Crawford of the landing service.  ..On arrival at the cemetery, the mourners duly assembled round the grave, and the Rev. Or. Foster read the concluding portion of the burial service. After which, by permission of the clergyman, Mr Anderson, of the Odd Fellows, read the service of the Order. Each Odd Fellow then defiled past the grave, and, taking a last look at what contained the mortal remains of their gallant comrade, threw a sprig of thyme on the coffin. The firing party then stepped forward, and the sad ceremony was brought to a close by three volleys being fired over the grave.

Timaru Herald, 1 April 1872, Page 2 [aged 29]
DEATH OF Mr E. S. GARROW. One of those startlingly sudden deaths, made more sad and melancholy from the circumstances attending it the deceased being, as it were, one of ourselves occurred last Wednesday at the Rangitata. At the usual time that afternoon the coach arrived at the accommodation house, where the mails, as well as the horses, were exchanged. The fresh team had been hitched on, and the driver, Mr J. Cramond, who is also proprietor of the Selwyn and Waitangi line of coaches, was engaged m putting some passengers into the coach he having entrusted the reins to the deceased (a passenger) who was known to be thoroughly used to horses, and a very fair whip when the horses moved forward Mr Cramond sang out "put on the break." Mr Garrow did not appear to heed him but was observed leaning forward and did not appear to have any pull upon the horses. After going a few yards, the groom at the leaders' heads jumped aside, being compelled to do so by the restiveness of one of the horses. The team then started forward at a smart trot, Mr Garrow appealing perfectly powerless to stop them. After the groom had let go, the horses swerved off from the track into broken ground, and after going some little distance, the coach was seen to capsize. Mr Cramond, Mr Mitton and others, ran to the spot, and found poor Mr Garrow's body under the coach, with his head and arms free, but with an ugly wound on the forehead, from which he was bleeding profusely. ... On Friday last the funeral took place. The deceased being an old resident m Timaru, had many friends m all parts of the district consequently the attendance was very large, many coming from long distanced to pay the last honors to his remains. The funeral left the Timaru Horse Repository, at a little afternoon, the procession being formed in the following order The hearse, drawn by four black horses in front, Mr Alfred Cardale chief mourner, friends of the deceased on foot, then those in carriages, horsemen bringing up the rear. In this order the cortege proceeded to St. Mary's Church where the first part of the impressive burial service of the English Church was performed by the Rev. G. Foster, Incumbent of the pariah. The procession by this time numbering close upon a hundred persons then re-formed and proceeded to the South Cemetery, where the service was brought to a conclusion.

Timaru Herald, 25 November 1872, Page 2
Funerals. The bodies of the unfortunate men Murdoch McLean and George Blackall were interred yesterday at the Timaru cemetery.

Lyttelton Times, 1 January 1866, Page 2
The town of Tirnaru comprises that part of the province bounded on the north and east by the sea, on the south by the north boundary of section No. 1702, the north side of a road lying to the north of section Nos. 2387, the Cemetery Reserve 1706, and the north boundaries of sections 170( and 1607 on the west by the east boundary of section No, 1606, the east and north boundary of section 707, the east boundary of section 1652, till it meets Whale's Creek to the sea.

Grave Charges - undertaker's fees.


Monumental Inscriptions in Essex, England 
    Elizabeth and John PANTON erected by their son Walter PANTON, Timaru, New Zealand, 1920
    Anne and Thomas WRIGHT; and son Charles died at Timaru, New Zealand, 1888
    Sir John HALL, KCMG, of Hororata, New Zealand, 1889 restoring bells.

Otago Witness, 6 March 1875, Page 17
Mr Munro has just completed, at his Monumental Works, Moray place, a monument to be erected over the grave of the late Mr J. T. Wallace (station-holder, Mackenzie country), in the Timaru Cemetery. The monument is tomb-shaped. It is of Port Chalmers stone, fine-dressed, with a panel in each side of polished marble, and is surmounted by an anchor of marble, with polished bands. The design is very elegant.

North Otago Times, 26 February 1879, Page 2
Timaru. February 25. The bodies of number of apparently still-born children have been found buried in the footpaths and graves in the Timaru cemetery, having been placed there by stealth daring the night time.

Wanganui Herald, 30 September 1886, Page 2
At present the Timaru Cemetery is under guard of the police day and night. Pleasant occupation at night for the police.

A few old cemetery monumental inscriptions
Timaru & Waimate

Unsafe headstones

Cemeteries are microcosms of communities that created them.

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project

Tuapeka Times, 1 June 1889, Page 6
A Dentist's Monument.
They have just put up an epitaph in one of the London cemeteries
which equals in pith and exactitude anything of the olden time.
Over the grave of a dentist there runs the lines :
"View this gravestone with all gravity,
J  is filling his last cavity."

Visit the gardens, war memorial and walkway while in the area.
M = War Memorial  H =hospital
The Timaru Cemetery is like those in Scotland, located on a high point overlooking the sea.

Lets continue to preserve.  Patiti Point coastal walkway along beach. There are basalt cliffs, sand dunes, shags , black backed gulls, swallows and native plants in the area and a view of Jack's Point.  A beautiful viewpoint but not a safe area for swimming. Near here moa bones and a moa-hunter necklace reel were found beneath an oven in 1941 so this site predates Maori habitation by 250 years.  The bones were found about 80cm below the surface but an updated survey in 2000 noted that the site was not able to be found again as the area of the small valley has since been redeveloped, part as an industrial plant and part as a small grassy area beside the road.  In the past the area has been a Maori encampment, whalers' lookout 1838-1845, and the grassy hollow where Bishop Selwyn held the first divine service in South Canterbury, a small village, Peeress Town, to house newly-arrived immigrants commenced in 1874.  It developed a reputation as a place of squalor and hardship and was quarantined off for some time due an outbreak of typhoid. "The immigrants had allowed offal and filth of all kinds, from their own houses and from their pigs, to flow down into the well in the gully. There were 24 families living there and the men reused to sink another well even though all the materials were supplied " wrote Johannes  C. Anderson in Jubilee History of South Canterbury. The town was razed in August 1883, all unoccupied cottages wee burnt and the other as they became untenanted and sowing the land with English grasses and finally demolished in 1888 but a number of bodies remain interred at that site.

Timaru District Walkways   10 walks