I recently enjoyed an extended trip to Australia. During my time there, I was struck by the strong connection to Ireland expressed by Irish ex-pats, the great pride they have in their Irishness, and the esteem in which many of these Irish emigrants are held by Australians.I hope to share some of my great and unexpected experiences in the coming weeks. Towards the end of my visit, I had to visit Karrakatta Cemetery, just outside Perth, in Western Australia in search of a particular grave.
This is a vast cemetery, covering some 98 hectares, with a mausoleum, a Crematorium, a Commonwealth Graves Commission Section , and a Dutch War Graves section, in which the victims of the WW2 Japanese bombings in Broome are buried. (I have written about these latter two in an earlier post here.) Since it opened in April 1899, Karrakatta Cemetery has been the last resting place for over 201,000 people, and 189,000 cremations have been carried out here. On this visit I was looking for the grave of an Irishman.The cemetery is divided into denominational areas representing 37 different religions and ethnic groups. Prior to my visit I had identified the grave I wished to see online,and made my way to it along the well laid out paths, with the help of a map.
I returned by a different route and was surprised to see so many Celtic Cross monuments close together, in an older part of the cemetery, I was in the Roman Catholic section, yet I was struck by the sheer number of these very Irish headstones. There are many different styles of Celtic Cross here, yet all embellished with Shamrock. There are no more Irish symbols than the iconic Shamrock and the Celtic Cross.
The majority of the crosses bear the IHS Monogram at the intersection of the arms and the upright sections, yet it appears to be absent on this very fine example in Gaynor Family monument, above
My friend Chris Goopy, has a blog entitled Irish Graves – They who sleep in Foreign Lands where she accepts images of Irish graves for publication. She has published a number of images I sent from Karrakatta, on which an Irish origin – town or County – was clearly stated. The Cullity’s from County Kerry memorial above is included on her website.
The majority of these Celtic Cross headstones did not have any mention of Ireland, but they surely are strong testament to the Irishness of the people who lie beneath them. There is quite a variety of Celtic Crosses but all have Shamrock entwined on or carved into them, requiring a certain amount of skill by the monumental masons.Even on plain headstones, the family names are resoundingly Irish. The sheer number of them is quite remarkable. In this photo above 7 Celtic Cross headstones can be seen. As with the O’Dea headstone above, this image has a representation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a Catholic symbol included in the design , with the image surrounded by Shamrock on the O’Callaghan memorial. The Hon Timothy Quinlan was born in Borrisokane Co Tipperary in 1861 and emigrated to Australia with his family at the age of 2 years. His very Irish memorial records his rise to the top of Western Australian political life.Three different Celtic Crosses. This memorial towers above the others, and exceptionally shows a harp, another iconic Irish symbol. (The one depicted here is the reverse of the official Irish symbol). John Hardy was a native of County Antrim and a veteran of the Crimean War. He emigrated to Australia in 1866, at the age of 42,and ended up as a Pensioner Guard at Fremantle prison. His full (and colourful) military record can be seen here.
These headstones with their Celtic Crosses date from the very early 20th Century. As such they would either be Irish-born or children of Irish-born emigrants who went here in search of a new life. The Daly monument here shows the link to Cork Ireland, in contrast to the image below of a tragic pair of young men, possibly brothers and young emigrants, or sons of Irish emigrants , who lost their lives in accidents. Their headstone is a simple one yet included the Celtic Cross and Shamrock as testament to their origins.
Emigration was no protection from grief and heartbreak. This Cantwell headstone is as sad as the monument to a 26-year-old wife below.
Julia sadly appears to lie alone in her grave. Inscribed at the base is this verse that provides an insight into the choice of a Celtic Cross emblazoned with Shamrock as a permanent memorial for graves of Irish in this sandy place, 10.000 miles from home. It reads:
”A Celtic Cross raise o’er me,
and the Shamrock round it twine;
‘Twill tell the land that bore me
that the dear old faith was mine”
The IHS symbol