Thursday, 16 June 2011

A Short Walk

Stepping through the back gate of the Hong Kong Cemetery on Stubbs Road one immediately descends into a serene, peaceful world far away from the frenentic hustle and bustle of the thriving city. Apartment buildings tower into the skyline but once inside the cemetery all that can be seen is thick green foliage and the smell of frangipani wafts through the air.

Just inside the gate on the right hand side is a long narrow section. All that can be seen are a few numbered stones nestling in the grass. This area was reserved for burials made at Government expense—more commonly referred to as Pauper Burials.

The narrow path descends quite steeply as it snakes its way down the hillside. A small triangular area on the left contains the graves of expatriates from Shanghai. They had originally been buried in the Bubbling Well Cemetery in Shanghai but due to the closure of this cemetery in the 1950s some families had the remains of their loved ones moved to Hong Kong.

At the bottom of the next set of steps the path splits into two and bends sharply to the left. The upper path leads around a large section shaped like a boomerang. The majority of graves here date from the mid to late 1930s. This area provides wonderful views over Happy Valley and out to the Harbour.

The path leads on to a section containing graves from the late 1920s and early 1930s. Below this are military graves from the late 1920s through to the 1950s – including those of soldiers who died in the second world war. The graves in these sections are shaded by trees.

The lower path leads down to a large area which has no protection - where the sun blazes down with all its intensity throughout the summer months. I can remember starting this section on a sunny spring day. I had just left one of my dogs at the vets for an operation and I was really worried for her. Recording the memorial inscriptions took my mind off the events of the day but as the morning wore on the heat built up and eventually I had to retreat to the shade. Amongst graves from the 1920s can be found many old headstones from the 1850s. Oh what stories they can reveal.

The former Colonial Cemetery contains the graves of people from all walks of life—from destitute right up to high ranking Government officials. The former colony would not have been what it was without the ordinary people—the tavern keepers, the seamen, and the lowly civil servants. Keep reading my blog and you will be taken on walks through many areas of the cemetery and hear some of the stories behind the stones.

If you think you may have an ancestor buried in this far off land please contact me. I am always happy to search my index of Hong Kong Burials: