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Published November 7th 2015
Unearth unknown stories around West Terrace Cemetery
You may have heard about some of the tours on offer at the West Terrace Cemetery and thought why would I want to walk around and look at a bunch of old headstones and gravesites!
Like me, I think you will be surprised when you visit and come away having gained an insight into the lives of some of the former citizens of Adelaide.
The West Terrace Cemetery is one of Australia's oldest capital city cemeteries and if you have a look at Colonel William Light's original plan of Adelaide dating from 1837, the cemetery at it's current location was marked way back then.
There are varying tours on offer, but if you are looking for a guided tour which encompasses our pioneering history, then "A brave few - Pioneers Tour" is a good choice.
Our guide we could tell was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the cemetery and the subject matter. The secret of any good guide is their ability to tell a great story rather than just reel off facts and figures.
The tour lasts around 90 minutes and meanders around the cemetery visiting many famous gravesites along the way including the well-known names of Kingston, Morphett, Ayers, Finniss, Menz and the partner of Colonel William Light (Maria Gandy).
After having listened to the guide and wandered around for a while, there are so many stories which portray how difficult it would have been for someone making the long arduous journey of between 4-6 months to Australia from England back in the 1830's.
The headstones reveal tragedies which claimed the lives, in some cases of numerous children within the one family, mainly of disease. One in particular, the Muller family with sixteen children were decimated particularly from the 1850's to the 1870's, with several deaths in the same year, in fact nine of their children died before the age of one year.
Another reveals the story of the first white European female settler to land in South Australia, Elizabeth Beare back in July 1836 on Kangaroo Island and how she only survived until she was 11 or 12 years of age.
Hearing about some of the children and their tragedies can be quite moving and very emotional for some people, like the story of a young boy with the name of Allan James who was role playing with a friend making out one was the German enemy and the other an Australian, when his friend grabbed a pistol out of a draw not realising it was loaded, and fired at young Allan, fatally injuring him.
Allan was only 9 and the time was during World War One.
Most of us don't realise how progressive South Australia has been even dating back to our original settlement, however when a guide takes you to some of the gravesites and reveals some of our ground-breaking legislation and social change, you can't help but be proud of what we as a community have achieved over the years.
Examples include the Ware family who ran the Exchange Hotel in Hindley Street (no longer there) who had the licence for around five and a half decades and many prominent businessmen around Adelaide dined and refreshed themselves there, making millions of pounds worth of business deals around the tables.
Stories are also revealed about South Australia's first Italian settler, Antonio Giannoni, the first Premier of South Australia, Boyle Finniss and West Terrace Cemetery's first Cemetery Sexton, John Monck.
Special themed tours, apart from the Pioneer tour are also available including "Tales and Treasures: A general tour of the cemetery", "Crime and Punishment", "Unusual Ends and Practices", "Walking with Anzacs", "Housewives to Heroines" and "Legends of the Game".
The tours range from those focussing on the underbelly of Adelaide, to military, also focussing on women and sport.
All of these tours cost $10 per person and bookings are essential. Guided tours are run each Sunday and Tuesday at 10.30 am for 90 minutes.
If you are looking for a totally different experience, then visiting West Terrace Cemetery at night is an option.
Once the sun goes down, tour participants are issued with lanterns to follow a guide around the eerie headstones and gravesites telling tales of larrikins, eccentrics, murderers and their victims.
These tours are run each Friday night currently at 8.30 pm and 10.00 pm lasting for 1 hour.
Once December is upon us, the tours will run at 9.00 pm and 10.30 pm and this will be the hours until the end of March.
The cost is $25 per adult with concession and childrens pricing available.
The cemetery itself is heritage listed and you can view many cypress trees, for example which have been associated with cemeteries for hundreds of years.
Very early species of olive trees as well as quandongs are still growing amongst the rows of gravesites which add to the amazing atmosphere within the cemetery.
For those of you who might prefer to wander around on your own, there is also a self-guided trail around the cemetery which is achieved by obtaining a self-guided trail map from just inside the cemetery's main entrance.
15 sites can be visited by following the map and trail which will take you around 1 hour to complete, with a total distance of around 2 kilometres loop.
The walk is classed as easy, however would suggest you wear appropriate footwear as some of the paths are uneven, although flat.