Our journal, The Cemetorian, is produced quarterly.
VALE J MURRAY SMITH 1940 – 2016
Murray died suddenly on 26 July. He was found in bed with a book in his hand, a fitting end for a man who loved words.
Many will remember Murray on Cemetery Walks quietly standing in the background, sometimes jotting down notes, a kind and humble gentleman.
It’s an honour tinged with great sadness that Murray’s last written words to be published will be in our September journal.
The irony of it, Jan shared a joke with him commenting that it was not to be his obituary, sadly it is.
He was a mighty mentor to scores of young journalists, always preferring encouragement to admonishment. The journalist Peter Ellingsen wrote in The Age 2001 a full page in praise of Murray Smith. “Conversations with Murray, as I found after landing a cadetship in his office, revolved around him listening, nodding and chuckling, always with a twinkle in his eye. When he retired, he made it clear he wanted to go out quietly, brushing colleagues’ attempts to have a turn at head office and a drink in town”.
“Hey, NO parting gifts of any kind for me, thanks, mate,’’ he wrote to a colleague. “Most desirous of a no-fuss ease-out.’’
The article below is from our September 2016 Edition
Murray Smith will be delighted to know this is not his obituary.
A staunch supporter of The Cemetorians, Murray is one of our most generous members turning up at our regular walks, Christmas lunches, and events. Always full of witty observations, I approached him for a story about the cemetery and this is what he wrote :
Unforgettable …/That’s what you are,/Unforgettable/Tho’ near or far …”
That opening to American singer Nat King Cole’s early 1950s signature song, “Unforgettable”, resonates strongly with me today as I contemplate Brighton General Cemetery and the role played by the Cemetorians. It’s making all those buried there “unforgettables” via its walking tours, publications and website.
The term CEMEtery hisTORIANS seems distinctive in itself, judging from my quick etymology search via Google, feeding my “word nerd” tendency. As a lifelong resident of the Bentleigh area, and working much of my 56-year full-time journalism career (from 1956) on suburban newspapers, obituary writing was an early focus.
I think my initial contact with the Cemetorians was in 2006, when I attended a February walking tour that touched, in part, on unmarked graves of William George Robertson and his wife, Lily. I was thus brought to a somewhat personal identification in that I had learned from the diligent research of a cousin, Helen Stanley (née Smith), that our paternal great-grandparents, James Smith (born Smyth) and his wife, Marienne (née Logan), had come separately to Australia from Ireland – and their unmarked graves were at Brighton Cemetery.
James came as a laborer and Marianne as a servant. James is listed as a farmer on his death certificate, living in Selwyn St, North Brighton, who died, aged 51, at 3.15am on Christmas Day, 1887, and was buried the next day at Brighton Cemetery, with John McDowall as the undertaker. A Catholic priest, the Rev. M. Carey, officiated.
James was survived by Marianne and their four children, John Logan, 28 — who was later to become a Shire President of Moorabbin — Elizabeth, 25, James Patrick, 24, and Annie Francis Alexander, 20.
Marianne died, aged 73, on September 20, 1904, and was buried the next day in the same grave as James (in the Catholic section). Methodist minister Henry S. Cook officiated and W. D. Rose was the undertaker.
That Catholic/Methodist crossover has me intrigued, because I understand James had owned a local pub, “The Live and Let Live”, whereas my family had always been Methodist– I, for instance, am an “abstemious swine”, to use the terminology of “Alf Garnett” (played by Warren Mitchell) in the TV sitcom “Till Death Us Do Part” (1965-1975), and my younger brother is a semi-retired Uniting (formerly Methodist) Church minister.
“Unforgettable/Tho’ near or far …” could also relate to burial sites within the bounds of the 12 hectares (30 acres) of the cemetery, with walking tour entry points varying from the North Rd frontage to the top-end Hawthorn Rd gate.
Apparently in the Middle Ages it was common for burials to take place in church grounds, so this presumably led to subsequent cemeteries designating denominational sections — Catholics, Protestants, Jews, for instance.
My “word nerdism”, or pedantry, was delighted to spot a sign, “INDERPENDENT (sic) COMPARTMENT”, close to the Hawthorn Rd gate entrance during a tour this year.
It brings me to wonder: do stonemasons need sub-editors?
Stonemasons had led the movement that achieved the eight-hour day in Victoria, recognized internationally as a world first, in 1856 — not long after Brighton Cemetery’s first recorded burial (1855) — and that is recognised annually with a march from a memorial opposite the Victorian Trades Hall in Carlton. A couple of years back, preceding one such march, I was chatting to a young fella participant who happened to be a stonemason.
What lies ahead for stonemasons and cemeteries? Links to family websites engraved on headstones?
And as for religious sections, how about one for members of the AFL Fans Association or some such group? In support, I quote Peter Lalor, Australian football correspondent for The Australian newspaper (May 25): “… Even a South Australian-born leader of the Australian Football League (Gillon McLachlan) understands, like any foreign pontiff, that Melbourne is to the league what Rome is to Catholics.”
I rest my case. Murray Smith
Murray worked for the Standard Newspapers group of suburbans from 1956, and then it was amalgamated with the Leader Newspapers group. He was sub-editing at Leader’s Blackburn office into his 70s when he was recruited to the Herald Weekly Times 11th floor newsroom in 2011. He worked there on the Herald Sun, the Weekly Times, across the range of Leader titles and occasionally the Geelong Advertiser. He chose to retire in 2012 after 56 years to the day since he started work.
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