Walking among the dead in New Zealand

Many might consider it strange, but I simply cannot drive by a small country cemetery without stopping and having a look around.  They hold such a wealth of stories about a town’s history, from epidemics to floods, from mining disasters to adultery, murder, and mayhem.

It’s fascinating to wander alongside the ornate wrought iron fences that protect crumbling gravestones with faded names and dates, each telling only a piece of a story that has long been forgotten.

Such is the case with a couple of cemeteries I chanced on while road tripping around the South Island of  New Zealand.

The old Collingwood cemetery is a few miles off the main highway on the way to Golden Bay. A derelict hillside cemetery, it tells the story of a town named after Lord Nelson’s second-in-command at Battle of Trafalgar.

In the 1850s, the town was experiencing a gold boom and many thought it should become the capital of New Zealand.

But once the gold boom died, so too did any idea of it becoming the nations’ capital.


Further south, at Peel Forest in South Canterbury, both the church and gravestones have been shaken up during the recent spate of earthquakes that hit the region. But despite the damage, the Church of the Holy Innocents and its graveyard, surrounded by trees, bush, paddocks, cows and sheep, is a most idyllic place.

    New Zealand crime writer Ngaio Marsh rests here.

So too  does Elizabeth S Hawdon – the ‘first born child of  Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand’.

(photos @liz lewis)



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