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:

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Hong Kong Cemetery - Do not despair if your ancestor had no headstone !!

Less than 50% of the persons buried at the Hong Kong Cemetery, Happy Valley, had headstones erected to their memory. Even if they were a prominent and highly respected member of the community it did not mean that they would ever get a headstone. More often than not immediate family members were back in the UK and arranging for a stone was not a viable option in days long ago. Take the case of Mr. G.W. Avenell who died on 12th. February 1927 of Typhoid Fever.

Mr. Avenell had been born in Farnham, England on 9th. March 1880 and as a young man saw service in the South African Wars where he was awarded the DCM. He first arrived in Hong Kong in 1902 with the Sherwood Forresters and then went with his regiment to Singapore. On leaving the military he returned to Hong Kong as Armourer Staff Sergeant to the Police and Hong Kong Volunteers. In 1918 he joined Messrs. Lane Crawford as manager of the Ship Chandlery Department.

He was a member of the Kowloon Cricket Club and also took a keen interest in lawn tennis having at one time been a member of the Wigwam Tennis Club. He was an enthusiastic worker for the YMCA and the Philharmonic Society. Mr. Avenell was also a Freemason being a member of the Zetland Lodge.

He was survived by a widow and child who were At Home in the UK.

Mr. Avenell was accorded a funeral with full military honours – but no headstone was ever erected to his memory.

Those of you who have read my earlier posts on this Blog will know that large exhumation projects were carried out at the Hong Kong Cemetery in 1969 and 1975. As Mr. Avenell had no headstone his grave was first exhumed in 1969 and his remains moved to the Ossuary. In 1975 the Ossuary had to be removed to make way for the approach roads to the Aberdeen Tunnel. A new ossuary was built and eventually all the remains which had been held in the old ossuary were moved into the new. Although Mr. Avenell, like many others, has been moved around the cemetery perhaps it is all for the good because at least now he has a plaque within the cemetery which shows his name.

If you would like a search of my Hong Kong Cemetery Burial Index please contact me. More often than not I am also able to provide a synopsis of the persons life in Hong Kong as illustrated above with the case of Mr. Avenell.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Sai Wan War Memorial, Hong Kong

The Sai Wan War Memorial, Hong Kong was unveiled by H.E. The Governor Sir Alexander Grantham GCMG on Sunday 20 February 1955. The names of 79 Police Officers are included on the memorial.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission should have details of all those remembered within the Sai Wan Military Cemetery

But remember, if your ancestor was buried in the Hong Kong Cemetery (formerly the Colonial Cemetery) then there is a fair chance that I will have details in my Hong Kong database of burials. It does not matter if there is no headstone because much of the information was extracted direct from the burial registers. I also have 7,000 photos so if your ancestor was one of the lucky ones to have a headstone then there is a fair chance that I will be able to provide you with a picture.

For a search of my Hong Kong Cemetery Burial Index please contact:

Sunday, 5 June 2011