with DENI GRIFFITHS
Those people look for the cemetery in any town they happen to visit.
For most of us though, we generally do not give a passing thought to cemeteries.
Well, except for those of us who were trying to scare each at night when we were teenagers. But that’s a different story!
The heritage-listed West End Cemetery, on the corner of Ingham Road and Church Street, is really worth a stroll around, especially late in the afternoon as sunset nears…
Nestled at the bottom of Castle Hill, the West End Cemetery has an interesting layout. Sections A through to D on the left of the gully were set aside for burying people who professed to follow a religion of a Christian denomination.
Those buried on the right of the gully, in section E, were, in life, deemed “non-Christian”.
They are mostly Aborigines, Jews and Chinese.
You would also be buried in Section E if you had committed suicide, something considered definitely unholy.
So what’s the big deal about Section E?
Aside from it being across the creek and away from the Christians, the burial was without dignity.
There are no headstones or name plates on Section E graves. The graves in Section E are identified with a small, uniquely numbered iron marker.
Funding to cover upkeep of the cemetery has always been difficult to come by, and in the 1950s and again in the 1960s, the West End Cemetery Committee applied to the Queensland Government to sell off, and sub-divide Section E as residential land.
The applications said there were less than 20 bodies buried in Section E.
The applications were denied, and recent geophysical surveys suggests there could be more than 400 bodies in Section E.
There were concerns that water run-off from Castle Hill, across the graves and into the creek would cause contamination so the cemetery was closed.
Burials ceased from the 1920s, the only exceptions being direct relatives of somebody already entombed at the facility.
A big new cemetery was opened in the early 1900s – the German Gardens Cemetery.
Like the suburb in which it was located, its name was changed during WWII to Belgian Gardens.
I’ve visited the West End Cemetery quite a few times, including after 6pm, when it was closed, and dark.
My understanding of why it’s closed is because of the concern of personal injury, and of course to not encourage ratbags, and vagrants.
Security does drive past and check a few times throughout the evening.
Anyhoo, some of the people I was with, have taken a few really interesting photographs. One time, we were standing still at the front gate, and a woman took four photographs, of the path looking towards the two large trees.
It was dark, and we could not see anything.
In the series of photos, taken around 7pm, a white mist appears to move closer in each successive photograph.
I have seen faces and general body shapes appear in other photos from around here as well.
Take from this what you will.
It could be something paranormal, or it could be nothing but unexplained weird camera exposure.
I reckon there’s a lot we don’t know yet.
The top of the cemetery is also the starting point of what I believe is one of Castle Hill’s best goat tracks, the Dianella Track. It’s a tad more challenging, as you have to climb boulders, plus the track is quite pretty with stepping stones in a little dry creek, surrounded by bush.
You could easily feel like you were somewhere away from the city, until you look over your shoulder at Townsville sprawled out below.
When you get to the top, change things up, and head down the eastern goat track, veer right towards Sturt Street, and then turn back towards West End, behind the cemetery.
A general walk around, stopping to read some of the tombstones would take about an hour or so, depending on your interest.
Human nature seems to naturally make us seek out, and make something of, the untold stories, such as trying to find the oldest date, or sad details of young children, and sometimes, you may wonder about the tragic circumstances when you see a family’s details etched into the headstones with dates very close together.
For those wanting to know more, Townsville City Council has three online brochures available, offering different cemetery trails – local publicans, Townsville women, and a trail with interesting info on life, death and memorialisation in the early days of the city.
Additionally, tickets are available for personal walking tours.
Just Google to see the options.
Leashed dogs seem to be welcome around the cemetery, and on the hill track.