Newsletter No 236 October 2017 contained a report on the unveiling of a significant new art project at the Eltham Cemetery. Titled “Our Eltham – Artistic Recollections” it features 31 ceramic panels containing artwork with a local history theme. The work is the joint creation of artist Nerina Lascelles and ceramicist Linda Detoma, supported with stonework by Leigh Wykes and steelwork by Neil Carter, all skilled local Nillumbik artisans.
The main purpose of our excursion on Saturday 3rd March 2018 at 2.00pm will be to view the panels and will include readings from the interpretive booklet published by the Cemetery Trust. There will also be the opportunity to inspect other artworks within the cemetery.
Enter the cemetery from Metery Road (Melway Ref. 21 K9) and proceed to the adjacent car park.
This excursion is free and is open to the general public as well as Society members.
Please note that dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.
The phone number for contact on the day is 0409 021 063.
A Plea from Harry Gilham
‘I have an unfinished tale to tell……..’
To start…where were you on the Friday evening or Saturday morning of August 3rd – 4th 2013?
Why this question? Well, read on through this account to find out….and then, hopefully, you can help to fill in the blanks.
A weathered headstone, broken into three parts, was discvered that August night in a soggy cardboard box leant against the main entry to Eltham Cemetery in Mount Pleasant Road, Eltham. The headstone belonged to the 1876 burial of Peter Lawlor – no – not the Eureka Peter Lalor and possibly not even the Peter Lawlor who was the first Police Officer at the Eltham Police Station from 1857 to 1872, but maybe even another Peter Lawlor of, at the moment, an unknown background………or does the headstone belong to the policeman?
From the headstone we do know that his children were Michael, Margaret, Maud and Edith.
The Inscription reads:
Who died February 12th 1876
Aged 55 years
Also his children
The maintenance staff at the cemetery carefully removed the dark green fungus to show those details. As you now walk past Site 22 in the cemetery you will notice that a bluestone base remains with a centre grooved indent, retaining most of the bottom edge of the headstone. The three recovered parts have been attached to a heavy wooden board and lie on the grave at site 22.
During the 1960’s to early 1980’s a list of all the headstone inscriptions in the Eltham Cemetery was compiled by ‘someone’. This Peter Lawlor headstone was not included in this list. From this omission we can assume that it had been taken/borrowed prior to compilation of the list.
Research by the Cemetery Trust Secretary, Rita Wooley using their records found the following information about this Peter Lawlor family:
Peter Lawlor purchased the Catholic Church site Number 22 for £1 on March 2nd 1862. (This site is beside the Sweeney and Murray family graves).
Margaret was the first of his children buried in Eltham on 2nd March 1862, aged one year.
The second child buried was Maud Kate who was buried on 26th June 1869, aged 11 days.
There is no record of the burial of his other children, Michael and Edith nor his wife (name unknown).
However, from the free offerings from Ancestory.com the following information was recently obtained, but needs further confirmation and consideration.
The Peter Lawlor who died aged 55 in 1876 has a middle name of Paul and his parents were Daniel Lawlor and Bridget Mulhall.
The son Michael Lawlor was Jeremiah Michael Lawlor who died in 1860 and whose parents were Peter and Kate (no surnames given)
Margaret Sarah Lawlor who died in 1862, has parents listed as Peter Lawlor and Catherine Ledwedge.
Maude Kate Lawlor who died in 1869, has parents listed as Peter Lawlor and Catherine Ledwedge. Edith Beatrice Lawlor who died in 1873 age 1, has parents listed as Peter and Kate.
The final bit of the confusion or is it the confirmation that the headstone is of the policeman and his family, is that the Eltham Primary School records list two children of Peter Lawlor (the policeman). The oldest is Albert Ledwedge Lawlor who joined the school aged 4 years in July 1866 and Peter Vincent de Paul Lawlor who joined the school aged 5 years 1 month in February 1869. Both left in March 1872.
The mystery is why or how did the headstone leave the cemetery and why or how or even by whom, did it return? Someone must know something! Any clues to the mystery are better than nothing.
The Eltham District Historical Society keeps records of early Eltham people and any additions are welcome. If you know anything about this Peter Lawlor and his family please contact anyone below. If needed, the sources of information can be anonymous by using the Post Office Box.
Eltham District Historical Society Post Office Box 137, Eltham 3095 or firstname.lastname@example.org
President – Jim Connor 9439 5916
Past President – Harry Gilham 9439 1175
Eltham Cemetery Trust
Secretary – Rita Wooley 9432 1963
This article appeared in our January 2014 newsletter
UPDATE 11 August 2018
Additional evidence has surfaced with the recent digitisation of a number of old slides within the Society’s collection. On 27 May 1990 the Society undertook a Cemetery Excursion of a number of local cemeteries including Eltham. Among the 23 slides of that excursion is one of the grave of Peter Lawlor; the stone still standing though on a significant lean, quite blackened but in one piece. This means that the stone did not disappear from the cemetery till after this date, narrowing down the time period of its sabbatical from May 1990 to August 2013.
Two long-term residents of the Nillumbik Shire met for the first time late in 2011, a meeting that later resulted in the commissioning and creation of a recently installed sculpture in the Eltham Cemetery.
Michael Wilson, a recognised goldsmith, jeweller and sculptor has created this sculpture for Harold Mitchell AC, a patron of the arts, founder of the Mitchell Foundation and a successful businessman, who has also contributed his skills to many major cultural organisations.
Unveiled on Wednesday 1 July 2015 it is the first of the Eltham Cemetery Trust’s Grand Estate Sculptures. Titled ‘A Currawong Takes Flight’ and constructed in Corten steel and bronze it recognises two of Eltham’s native species: the Red Box Eucalypt tree with its soft green scalloped shaped leaves and the Pied Currawong with its adept flight patterns and melodic chortle.
As the purchaser of one of the Grand Estate Plots in the Cemetery, Harold Mitchell AC intended to commission an artist to design and make a contemporary sculpture. He subsequently commissioned Michael Wilson to create a piece that would reflect the unique environment and artistic heritage of Eltham.
Plot No. 6 is located at the highest point of the fence-lined border between Montsalvat and the Cemetery. This is close to the last bronze sculpture by Matcham Skipper, titled ‘Young Man Awakening’, which was commissioned by the Eltham Cemetery Trust to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Cemetery, which was established in 1858. This sculpture is intended to express a sense of awakening to life as it depicts a rare and endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly as it lands on a youth’s hand.
As Matcham Skipper was a mentor and early supporter of Michael Wilson’s developing artistic talents the creative connection between these two installations is most appropriate. Michael considered the Mitchell commission was an opportunity to create a very special work to reflect the beauty of the Eltham environment and the local community.
The Eltham Cemetery is a peaceful natural environment set in natural bushland adjoining Montsalvat and is the tranquil resting place for members of many well-known local families. Pioneering families represented include Shillinglaw, Brinkkotter, Bird, Carrucan, Sweeney, Hunniford, Knapman, Falkiner and Wallis. More contemporary names include Knox, Ford and Fabbro. Sir William Irvine, a former Premier and Chief Justice of Victoria is also buried there.
Our Society encourages interest in and the sharing of stories about the local history of the Eltham district in Victoria, Australia