Crosses on unmarked graves

 Back from left: Dorothy Stubbs Mills, Doug Stubbs-Mills, Gil Daw, Rosalin Trethewey, Anthea Taylor, Chris Ward, Bev Ward, Jane Pendlebury, Jayne Bates, Joyce Holt, Ted Botham, Peter Denholm, Bev Willson, Hartley WillsonFront from left: Janet Haywood, John Haywood, Doug Willson, Sandy Brown, Beatrice Wilson, David Wilson, Lyn Firminger, Errol Firminger.
Back from left: Dorothy Stubbs Mills, Doug Stubbs-Mills, Gil Daw, Rosalin Trethewey, Anthea Taylor, Chris Ward, Bev Ward, Jane Pendlebury, Jayne Bates, Joyce Holt, Ted Botham, Peter Denholm, Bev Willson, Hartley WillsonFront from left: Janet Haywood, John Haywood, Doug Willson, Sandy Brown, Beatrice Wilson, David Wilson, Lyn Firminger, Errol Firminger.

On Sunday November 2, an historic ceremony took place in Penneshaw Cemetery, with the dedication of 65 white crosses bearing the names of deceased, on what were previously unmarked graves.

Visitors came from the island community, Adelaide and Melbourne to witness the ceremony, with Gil Daw, president of the Pioneers Association welcoming everyone. “One of the core objectives was to preserve KI history,” he said.

In 2011, Kangaroo Island celebrated its 175th anniversary of the landing of the first official white settlers to South Australia.

At that time, a number of comments were made regarding the state of the Penneshaw cemetery, indicating that many old wooden grave markers had disappeared or were randomly found on the ground.

As a result, KIPA decided to launch a project to replace markers, and identify the burial locations of the deceased, many of whom were pioneers.

Mr Daw thanked Chris Ward who had taken on the task of research, and KIPA was supported financially by donations from Kangaroo Island Funerals, individuals and descendants of the deceased, and a grant from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal.

Chris Ward and Jayne Bates during the moving ceremony.

Chris Ward and Jayne Bates during the moving ceremony.

Mr Daw thanked Kangaroo Island Council and staff for their assistance installing the crosses.

He also thanked KIPA patron Vickie Chapman MP who was unable to attend, and retiring Mayor Jayne Bates for her support. Councillor Peter Denholm and director of business support, Ted Botham witnessed the ceremony as well.

Sandy Brown, well-known local historian and Uniting Church lay-preacher, listed the names of the grave-sites that were marked by the new crosses.

He explained that the deceased represented all walks of life, with ages ranging from infancy to 98 years, with the first child having been interred 134 years ago.

They came from the Dudley Peninsula, including Penneshaw and outlying areas. Sandy also mentioned Betty Thomas, an indigenous woman, who was brought to the island pre-official white settlement by the sealers.

Betty and Nat Thomas have a number of living descendants.

Mr Brown welcomed Lyn and Errol Firminger, who had travelled from Melbourne. 

Lyn and Errol Firminger at the grave site of relatives.

Lyn and Errol Firminger at the grave site of relatives.

Ms Firminger is the great, great, great grand-daughter of Donald McArthur, who was assistant lighthouse keeper at Cape Willoughby in 1860, and subsequently, a farmer in the district.

Donald is the oldest known person to be buried in the cemetery. Sandy dedicated the new white crosses, and thanked God for the peoples’ lives and the pioneering roles they played.

Jayne Bates, whose relatives were among those to receive white crosses, said “congratulations to the Kangaroo Island Pioneers Association. It was the ‘best project’ that added huge importance to the people who have gone before us, that helped shape our community today”.

Others who attended the ceremony, whose relatives’ graves bear the new white crosses included

Coralie Brown (related to all the Bates and Chenoweth families and great aunts, Martha Davidson and Martha Bainbridge); Anthea Taylor (related to Robert Barr Taylor); Bev Ward (both of Bev’s great, great grandparents, Thomas Johnston and his wife Eliza); Bev Willson (related to Ellen Willson); and Rosalin Trethewey (whose great grandfather was Captain James Richard Murray and his wife Mary Ann).

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