Northern Cemetery Tragedy Trail

Dunedin’s Northern Cemetery, opened in 1872, contains more than 17,000 burials, representing a cross-section of the city’s population from its earliest days to the 1930s.

Life in the new colony was hazardous and the cemetery bears witness to a variety of deaths by accident or misadventure. This trail explores the graves of some of Dunedin’s most tragic figures of the late nineteenth century.

Three Dunedin stewardesses were among the 135 passengers who died when the SS Wairapa was wrecked off Great Barrier island. William Campbell was killed when his horse fell at the Oamaru racecourse (see the jockey’s cap on his gravestone). John Taylor, a shoemaker, jumped to his death when a fire broke out in the Ross Building in Dunedin’s Octagon. William Larnach, successful politician and businessman, committed suicide, beset by family problems.

Robert Monkman, first officer abord the SS Tairoa, drowned when the ship was grounded off the Kaikoura coast (note the anchor on the grave). George Thomson, prominent teacher, scientist and politician, saw his wife, two daughters and a son die of tuberculosis. Charles Nicholas, successful businessman, died when a stage coach overturned in Trotter’s Gorge on his way back from Dunedin to his Kuriheka homestead.

Thomas Frew died in an explosion at the Kaitangata coal mine. Eva Eason fell under a train after assisting an old lady to board. James Curle owned the Pride of the Yarrow , which was involved in a fatal collision in Otago harbour. Josiah Evans died when he was caught up in a revolving belt at the Crown Roller Mill in Dunedin.

This trail was produced by the Southern Heritage Trust. Printed brochures of this and several other Northern Cemetery trails are available from the Sexton's Cottage .

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