Near-Death: The Cemetery in the 1970s

The families of the deceased continued to frequent the cemetery to tend the graves of loved ones during the early 20th century, but as the decades passed and the visitors themselves died, many of the early graves slowly fell into disrepair. Some headstones were quite unstable and dangerous, as demonstrated in 1935 when a falling headstone broke the arm of a young boy. The cemetery was full and in the 1960s it was closed to new burials, except for the continued use of family plots.

A city council ‘beautification’ programme was initiated in the 1970s, with the intention of eventually converting it into a lawn cemetery. At that time the cemetery was still quite full of graves, with little greenery. A lot of headstones had fallen into disrepair through vandalism and age, and the beautification scheme was designed to address the problem of ‘unsightly and dangerous graves’. Leaning or fallen headstones were removed and discarded as trees and roots slowly strangled the landscape of the necropolis. Much historical material was lost in this manner.

According to a sexton who worked there during this time, approximately 1,000 headstones were removed by the council. A majority of them were used within the cemetery to infill the gullies. Some were not removed but instead laid down and covered over. Sandstone slabs from some of the graves were also used in the foundation during construction of the wall along part of TJ Doyle Memorial Park Drive, on the riverside boundary of the cemetery.

Busway Blues
Some buried headstones from the 1970s beautification scheme were uncovered during construction of the Boggo Road Busway adjacent to the cemetery in 2008. Thanks to community pressure - and in particular the efforts of the FOSBC - the cemeteries department of the Brisbane City Council arranged the return of some of the excavated headstones from the Busway site. They cleaned up the partial and full headstones and endeavoured to place them back on their original gravesites. Sadly, some were missed in their excavations and have been dumped.

Excavation work during construction of the Busway, 2008. (Brisbane Times)