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.
Contacts: 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.