Tuesday, 3 June 2014

We All Need Friends!

We all need friends but for some, without friends, they would not exist but instead simply be piles of rubble.

I am talking about our historic places and the wonderful people who are "Friends of" whether it be Friends of a cemetery, a historic house, a library, a ship or something else.

These people have a passion for preserving whatever it is they are Friends of and without these people we would have a world a lot less rich in historic places.

Friends of Cemeteries are particularly wonderful people. Today, with much smaller families and many people who have moved away from their ancestral area have resulted in many cemeteries with grave sites where there are no regular visitors. Many of these cemeteries also were closed to new burials although some have reopened for burials with some controversy as they are reusing graves.

The Friends work at preserving the historical knowledge of the cemetery, documenting the graves, generally photographing and transcribing the headstones, relating these back to a burial plan and or register. 
South Brisbane Cemetery at night

Some even research the people within the cemetery, writing booklets about the people and doing Cemetery walks celebrating the lives of people within such as the regular ones with the Friends of Toowong Cemetery.

The Friends of South Brisbane Cemetery have a Facebook page and do regular moonlit tours with all money going to support their work. They have also written a number of publications which can be found on the site of the Boggo Blog.

Many of them have also created websites with this information freely available (and even if you had to pay a small sum to obtain this information the money is normally used to preserve the cemetery so going to a great cause!)

They also work on protecting the cemeteries from vandals whether they be drunken louts who take some macabre pleasure from smashing headstones to the unfortunately, now more common, government departments who want to clear cemeteries of those headstones because it "would be easier to mow and tidy without them", to re-use the plots even though the conditions in which those plots were bought said "in perpetuity" or to build a road, busway, apartments or sports ground on the cemetery land.

A recent great example of what can be achieved by Friends is the return of one of only two surviving clipper ships to Adelaide. The City of Adelaide is the oldest clipper ship left being built in 1864 a few years before the Cutty Sark (1869).

The City of Adelaide did a number of voyages bringing emigrants to Adelaide and this month celebrated the 150th anniversary of its first voyage to Adelaide by returning (with help as it is not seaworthy).  The plan is to make a home fitting for such a splendid vessel.

City of Adelaide arrived back to first destination port February 2014

So yes we all need friends, but these historic places need friends more desperately than most.

So what can we do to become better friends?

We could financially support the work being done, (this is not always possible in these times of financial hardship) but we can also do so much more by volunteering our time, whether that be in your local cemetery with some physical labour, by helping with some research about the people contained within, by promoting their cause or in numerous other ways. 

We all research family history and already have biographical information about our ancestors which we could share with the Friends of the cemeteries, ships, houses etc.

We can also help by being aware of our historic places and speaking out. It is hard for single voices to be heard but collectively we are not single voices and we can be heard and can make a difference!

So which historic site could you become a Friend of today?


  1. We do, indeed, all need our friends.. I am 'friends' with quite a few.. and we certainly do see the benefits.

  2. As I'm on Liverpool I thought of a spn " All you need is love" and that applies to more than people.

    1. My home state, Virginia, has "Virginia is for Lovers" as it's slogan. This post has given that phrase entirely new meaning and made me think that I should become a "friend" of some worthwhile local history effort as my family has been here since the 1640s.


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