Loch Ard (Princetown) Cemetery Trust

Mr J McInerney
Parks Victoria
Port Campbell

 

 

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  Situated above the Loch Ard Gorge near the Loch Ard Gorge Parking Area you will find the small cemetery of Loch Ard . The Lock Ard Gorge was named after the ship, “Lock Ard”, that was wrecked near Princetown on the western coastline of Victoria . The ship was on route to Melbourne from Gravesend , England carrying fifty-four passengers and crew when during the early hours of 1 June 1878 , being too close inshore, she hit rocks and sank. All but two people on the ship were drowned and a small number of bodies were recovered and interred on a nearby high cliff.

 

It was not until 20 September 1889 that the small burial area was gazetted as a cemetery of five acres. [VGG 1889/3144]. Five Trustees were appointed for the cemetery: Peter Cameron, Josiah Robe, Christopher Bowker, John Skinner and Michael Cody and on 6 June 1890 the Rules and Regulations regarding the operation of the cemetery were gazetted.

 

In The Age newspaper of 14 January 1897 was a small article noting that the bush fire in the Heytesbury Forest destroyed most of the fence around the cemetery as were many of the wooden tablets at the heads of the graves. Two memorial stones that were erected by the two survivors from the Loch Ard, Miss (Eva) Carmichael and Tom Pearce (the midshipman), were left standing. A request was made to the Secretary of the Public Health Department on 20 January 1897 for funds to rebuild the fence. John Shields, Secretary of the Loch Ard Cemetery Trust noted in his letter of request for funds that “Also the wooden fence that was round the Carmichaels and others that was lost in the ill fated Loch Ard is completely burnt. The slab of wood that was at the head of Reginald Jones is partly burnt and the Maltese Cross of wood that was erected over Arthur Mitchell is completely burnt.” In September 1897, a grant of ten pounds was made by the Minister.

 

On 28 August 1926 at Princetown the following members were elected at a public meeting to be Trustees of the Loch Ard Cemetery : Patrick Brady, Douglas Hill, John Osborne, James Robe and Henry Robe. Over the next couple of decades a small number of requests were made by the Trustees to the Minister of Health for funds to maintain the cemetery.

 

In 1962 the Minister of Health made a grant to the Trust of three hundred pounds to help restore and maintain the cemetery. The restoration was completed in late 1963 and Trust advised the Minister “that the cemetery should be maintained as a place of historical value and interest, rather than as a public burial ground.”[Memorandum: 20 February, 1964 . Department of Health to Commission of Public Health].

 

The cemetery continued to function as a public cemetery after 1889 with quite a few burials being undertaken in it.  There appeared to be very little interest in maintaining the old cemetery when in September 1961 the Shire of Heytesbury decided to make an annual grant to the Trust of sixty pounds per annum to help with the maintenance of the cemetery. By this time there was only one Trustee for the cemetery. The Council also made a similar grant to the Port Campbell Cemetery . In December 1961 a public meeting was held in the Public Hall, Port Campbell, and five Trustees were elected. At the time Athol Bowker was the SecretaryTreasurer of the Cemetery Trust.

 

In November 1963 the Trustees of the cemetery applied to the Commission of Public Health to close the cemetery for further burials. They also requested that the National Parks Authority be approached to see if they would take over the Trusteeship if the cemetery due to the impending declaration of the whole area surrounding the cemetery as a National Park. Following a request to the National Parks Authority they advised the Commission of Public Health that at its meeting on 4 December 1963 the Authority would be pleased to accept Trusteeship of the cemetery.

 

On 1 July 1965 the Trustees of the Princetown Public Cemetery ( Loch Ard Cemetery ) tendered their resignation as Trustees in favour of the National Parks Authority. On 13 October 1965 the discontinuance of burials in the Loch Ard Public cemetery was gazetted and on the same date the National Parks Authority was appointed as Trustees of the Loch Ard Cemetery . [VGG 1965/3199]. The cemetery has been under the responsibility of the  Parks Victoria (previously National Parks Service)  since then.

 

Over the years there were a number of further burials in the Loch Ard Cemetery . The Genealogical Society of Victoria holds a two page list of burial published in 1984 by Noeleen Robbins. The data is for headstones from 1/6/1878 to 26/1/1945 . On Ian Marr’s “Cemeteries of S.W. Victoria” website is an overview of the cemetery, details of how to find it, plus a list of burials. His page on the cemetery notes four burials from the Loch Ard shipwreck – two Carmichaels, Reginald Jones and Arthur Mitchell.

 

Buried in the cemetery were also at least two early trustees: Christopher Bowker (1909) and  Josiah Robe (1890). The last burial in the cemetery would appear to be Henry Robe, an early Trustee of the cemetery, who died 26 January 1945 . His wife who predeceased him in 1942 was also buried in the cemetery.

 

If anyone has any information on burials in this old cemetery, I would appreciate hearing from them.

 

References:

 

* Department of Human Services; General Health Branch, File: H-CEM-302; Loch Ard ( Prince Town ) Cemetery”.

 

* Department of Sustainability and Environment, Melbourne . Loch Ard Cemetery , Datasheet and Cadestral Plan.

 

* Genealogical Society of Victoria : Cemetery File. Loch Ard Cemetery ( Port Campbell National Park , Victoria ): Headstones 1/6/1878 – 36/1/1945” by Noeleen Robbins, 1984. [V 929.5945 LOCH ROB]

 

* LONEY, Jack; “Shipwrecks Along The Great Ocean Road ”; Maritime History Publications, 2003.

 

 
David Weatherill
Email: djweath@bigpond.net.au
Bundoora, Victoria, Australia
May, 2009
 

 
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