Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Damage to the Springthorpe Memorial

During some extremes of weather in late January 2018, the Springthorpe Memorial sustained some damage, due to fast and extreme temperature changes having an adverse impact on the marble.

The Boroondara Cemetery Trust’s primary responsibility, under the Act which governs the operations of cemeteries, is to see to the perpetual maintenance of the entire cemetery, so it is unable to expend its own funds on the repair or maintenance of substantial private memorials such as the Springthorpe Memorial.

The Trust is, however, actively investigating the condition of the memorial, seeking an expert review of its condition, and options for restoration of the memorial in the event that external funding can be obtained. The Trust has approached a number of suitably qualified parties in this matter, and has engaged with Heritage Victoria regarding this important memorial.

Note that the Cemetery website is being regularly updated with postings of additional facts regarding this and other projects on an ongoing basis.


Monday, 5 March 2018

God's Triangle

A year or so ago we were contacted by Mr Ian Richardson who asked for our assistance to locate the grave of his aunt, Florence (Florrie) Cox.

Ian is an Australian former journalist who lives in London.  He was born in Wonthaggi and worked for a time at 3BO in Bendigo and Radio 3AW in Melbourne.  From there he and wife Rosemary travelled to London where he was offered a job in the new department of BBC World Services.  They now reside permanently in the UK.

It was 1997 and Ian was sorting photos with his mother when he came across a picture of her grandparents and their children.  There was one person in the photo Ian didn’t recognize. Ten years of sleuthing ensued , the result of which was Ian piecing together a story that anyone, journalist or otherwise would be intrigued by.

Ian has written a book entitled “God’s Triangle”.

When Florence "Florrie" Cox and the newly-ordained Baptist missionary, the Rev. Frank Paice, became engaged to be married in 1912, there was much joy in the two families and at the church they both attended in Melbourne, Australia. But it was in an age when society regarded discussion about sexual matters - even at their most basic - as a taboo. Hence, Frank and Florrie hit the marital rocks on their honeymoon in Bengal, India, when they discovered she had a very rare intersex condition, about which they knew nothing. So began the compelling saga of how the couple struggled to understand and cope with Florrie's condition, while fellow Baptist missionary Olga Johnston waited impatiently in the wings to snatch Frank away.

Why did the families and the church go to such lengths to hide what happened? And why did two Supreme Court judges in Melbourne order the divorce file to be sealed for all time? Ian Richardson, an Australian journalist who worked for many years for the BBC, was determined to learn the truth about his Great Aunt Florrie. God's Triangle is the result: a true story of revelation and betrayal.

I’m happy to report that we were able to locate Florence’s grave.  It was a particularly difficult grave to find, wedged between two rows and completely unmarked.  You can see in the photo below it runs between two rows - very unusual.

Ian was very appreciative of FOBKC's help in locating Florence's grave.  He returned to place a special plaque on the grave so that Florence can finally be recognized and given the acknowledgement and respect she deserves.

For more information or to purchase this fascination book go to http://www.godstriangle.com

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Madge Connor

There has been quite a bit of publicity recently surrounding the 100th anniversary of women in the police force in Victoria, the poster girl being Boroondara Cemetery's very own Madge Connor. We have often feature Madge on our walks as she was and I think still is an inspirational woman.

Understandably the papers aren't able to publish her full story, so we'd like to do so here, acknowledging her groundbreaking appointment and her work in paving the way for women in the police force.   She was a true 'force' to be reckoned with. 

Image result for madge connor

Madge Irene Connor was born possibly on 14 November 1874 at Waterford, Ireland, only child of John Edward Howard McCarthy, master mariner, and his wife Mary, née Barron. By the time she retired, however, Madge had eight recorded variations of her name and four dates of birth. She claimed that after her father was lost at sea, when she was aged 2, she went with her grandmother and mother to England, then the United States of America where they stayed for two and a half years before moving to New Zealand. Her mother died when Madge was 7, leaving her upbringing to an aunt. Aged 16, Madge eloped to Australia. Life in Melbourne with her husband Edward Connor (O'Connor), an English-born labourer, and two children was difficult.

Edward died suddenly in 1916, and it is possible that the police constable informant for Edward's death registration brought Madge to the attention of detectives. She started working undercover for the Victoria Police later that year: by her account obtaining evidence against 'many subtle craft people and illegal bettors' and taking up residence in a boarding house with a hardened criminal and 'his woman' in order to obtain evidence against him.
This work stood her in good stead when, following campaigns by women's groups, the Victorian government appointed female police agents. Connor was the first of two, selected in July 1917, on half the pay of a policeman, with no powers of arrest or rights to a pension. They did not wear uniforms.  In 1922 she helped in undercover surveillance of a witness in the case against Colin Campbell Ross. Quickly accumulating commendations for her work, she was stationed at Russell Street and Fitzroy for most of her career. 

As early as 1920 Connor led deputations of female police and watch-house matrons to the chief secretary, arguing for an increase in their salaries. She described the often distasteful duties they had to undertake for seventeen shillings and sixpence per week. Successful in obtaining a small increase, Connor made further representations in 1923. 

Unrelenting in pursuit of equality, she wrote several reports, insisting that a 'stroke of the pen' would solve all problems.  Connor proved correct. On 12 November 1924 the by then four policewomen were sworn in, becoming the first women to obtain equal pay, nearly half a century ahead of women in other occupations in Australia. Then 5 ft 6 ins (167 cm) tall, with grey eyes, light brown hair and a fair complexion, Connor gave her religion as Church of England. Because of a technicality in the police seniority system, she lost her place as 'senior in service', becoming 'junior in number'. She continued to bring petty criminals, fortune-tellers and bookmakers before the courts until she was forced to retire on 14 November 1929.

Ineligible for a police pension, having not completed the necessary fifteen years as a sworn officer, Connor operated as a private detective. She died on 12 October 1952 at St Vincent's Hospital, Fitzroy, and after a Catholic service was buried in Boroondara Cemetery, Kew, survived by her daughters. 

Source:  Australian Dictionary of Biography

Monday, 24 April 2017



Athol McGregor Kirkwood is one of the many sons buried on foreign soil but remembered on their parents’ grave in Boroondara Cemetery.

Unit: 6th Australian Infantry Battalion
Date of death: 27 July 1915
Place of death: Gallipoli, Dardanelles, Turkey
Cause of death: Killed in action
Cemetery or memorial details: Shrapnel Valley Cemetery, Gallipoli Peninsula, Canakkale Province, Turkey

Group portrait of 14 unidentified soldiers and officers standing in a cemetery on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The central cross commemorates the men of C Company, 6th Battalion, who were killed in action. The grave on the right is that of 323 Lance Corporal Athol McGregor Kirkwood of Melbourne, Vic, who was killed in action on 27 July 1915 and was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The officer standing directly behind the headstone, second from the right, is wearing epaulettes decorated with stripes.

Shrapnel Valley Cemetery is a cemetery from World War I and is the second largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in the former Anzac sector of the Gallipoli Peninsula after Lone Pine Cemetery.
Shrapnel Valley (sometimes called Shrapnel Gully) got its name in the early days after the landing. As the Turks realised that this had become the highway to the front their guns rained shrapnel shells down upon this area. These shells made a particular whistle before they burst showering those below with lethal pellets. It was said that as the shells could be heard before soldiers passing through the valley had the chance to take cover. Confronted with such danger, it was written that men became ‘fatalists’ and thought that a particular shell had a man’s name and number on it! – ‘Until that shell arrived, it was best to let others see them going proudly rather than flinching’.

Gallipoli was an eight-month campaign fought by Commonwealth and French forces against Ottoman Empire forces in an attempt to force the Ottoman Empire out of the war, which it was hoped would relieve the deadlock of the Western Front and to open a supply route between Russia and the Mediterranean through the Dardanelles and the Black Sea.
8 May 1915
The Australian 2nd Brigade (Victoria) - 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions - attacked Turkish positions at Krithia in the British area at Helles. The attack was unsuccessful. Charles Bean wrote:

The stone houses of Krithia were still 2000 yards away, but in advancing 1000 yards the brigade, already reduced at Anzac to 2900 men, lost in one short hour another 1000.

Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Metal.

For conspicuous gallantry and ability on 8th May, 1915, during the operations North of Cape Helles (Dardanelles).  During an advance, when the Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers had been killed or wounded, Private Kirkwood assumed the command, taking charge of the men in his immediate neighbourhood, directing their fire and by his coolness and courage rendering invaluable assistance in steadying all ranks at a critical moment.  He led each advance in his section of the line and finally performed most valuable service in consolidating the position gained.

Source: London Gazette No. 8855
Date:  6 September 1915

Sunday, 17 July 2016

"A wonderfully fulfilling project"

These were the feelings expressed by the grandchildren of one of the cemetery's 'residents' recently.  The two girls, Suzanne and Sam, decided to clean up their grandparents' grave as a surprise for their mother.  They consulted with family friend, Helen Page (trustee and horticulturist) who encouraged them in their endeavours. 

We don't have any before photos, but here is the 'after' and you will agree that they have done a beautiful job.

This is something anyone who has a family grave that may currently be sprouting nothing but weeds can do.  It doesn't have to cost a lot of money - just some time and effort.  You may have noticed some planting that's been done near the High Street gate entrance in recent months.  If you haven't, it's worth a visit as Helen and her workers have created a very impressive entry with simple plantings.

We'll be updating this site in the weeks to come with some guidelines on how headstones can be safely cleaned and maintained.

Sunday, 21 February 2016


Boroondara (Kew) Cemetery

Published by the Friends of Boroondara (Kew) Cemetery

We are proud to announce that late last year we launched our new book, called "Leaving their mark" which documents, through short biographies, the lives of some of the movers and shakers who were instrumental in the making of Marvellous Melbourne.  Many were involved in moulding our society, and we honour their contribution and thank them for leaving their mark.

Copies of our book are available from:
  • The Boroondara (Kew) Cemetery office (during work hours)
  • Tim's Bookshop, High Street, Kew
  • Email to info@fobkc.org

Cost is $25.00 (plus $10 for postage)

If you are interested in the history of Melbourne then this book is invaluable.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Our first Working Bee

Earlier this year we were asked by Helen Page, a Trust member who is overseeing the revitalisation of the landscaping at the cemetery, if the Friends would be interested in creating a working bee group to assist the cemetery staff's work.   After a letter drop to many households in the streets surrounding the cemetery we welcomed four very enthusiastic "neighbours" who were joined by some equally enthusiastic FOBKC members and the first gardening working bee was off to a good start on Saturday, 2nd May. 
The working bees will be primarily focusing on removing large areas of ivy which has become very invasive.
For our first outing we attacked an area east of the rotunda under a large, 100-year old oak tree.
When we removed the ivy from here
We found this beautiful headstone 

But there was more ..
 and after several hours work this was the result


Well done to all involved.

Since then the under-canopy has been lifted and this result is outstanding.
The working bees take place on the first Saturday of the month, starting at 10:00 am and finishing up around 3:00 pm.  Volunteers are welcome to come and go at any time during that period.  Coffee, tea and biscuits are on hand for anyone who would like a break to sit back and admire the work they've done.  And let me tell you there are some very satisfied workers.  

As the location varies, call or email if you'd like to join us so that we can let you know where we will be on any given day.  (Call Pauline on 0417 278 950 or email info@fobkc.org)

PS:  If you find a brand new pair of secateurs - they're mine.