Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

Karrakatta Cemetery

With June now upon us, the weather seemed absolutely determined to turn its back on the fact that winter was also here.  Though distinctly cooler, the sun shone warmly down on my face and the azure blue sky was brushed with white, wispy clouds.  I could not have picked a more beautiful or inspiring day to walk around Karrakatta Cemetery.

History
Taking over from the East Perth Cemetery (which was Perth’s first cemetery) in 1899, Karrakatta became the main cemetery for Perth and the metropolitan areas.  Since it has been opened, there have been nearly 200,000 burials within the grounds and it is the resting place of many fascinating people that played a part in Western Australia’s history.

Karrakatta Entrance

Most of the grounds close to the front of Karrakatta are incredibly well maintained and looked after.  Pathways leading between gravesite sections are surrounded by various plants and shrubs.  Tall trees provide welcome shade and it is not uncommon to spot benches wherever you turn.  Taking advantage of these seats, it is almost meditative to sit down, listen to the wind blowing through the trees and allow the beauty of a place that is often avoided to flow around you.

Graves bathed in the shade of the trees.

If however you take the opportunity to walk further (and deeper) into the cemetery, you will notice that some sections are in stark contrast to this prestine neatness.  It is these sections that are the epitome of the sterotype that comes to mind when one thinks of the word ‘cemetery’.

In one particular section I found the grounds to be completely covered in crunchy brown leaves which was no doubt a reminder of the ferocity of Perth’s storm a few months ago.  There was a road paved with red pebbles which in turn was lined by overgrown trees, leaning towards one another and darkening the path ominously.  Of course the sterotype would not be complete without the old, cracking, lichen covered headstones deeply inscribed with the names of those long since departed.

Tree Covered Path

I was in my element.  I dragged my mum around the various sections and t0gether we crunched along and wound our way around the sea of headstones, all in the name of family history research.

The afternoon whiled away and it seemed as though the cemetery was literally throwing inspiration at me.  The grounds and trees were alive with the calls of various birds and I listened in rapture.  There was one particular Willy Wagtail who was completely unafraid of our presence and even had the gumption to follow us as we walked away.

Friendly Willy Wagtail

The once vibrant sun started to disappear behind the clouds and the cool breeze became increasingly chilly.  As I neared the end of my “Graves to Visit” list, the last photo taken was a relief.  Karrakatta Cemetery holds the title of the largest cemetery in Western Australia and it holds it well.  Despite starting out eagerly, a few hours of walking from one side of the cemetery to the other side of the cemetery, all the while searching for a particular grave is enough to leave you exhausted.  Pleased with my afternoon’s work, I packed away my camera and notebook and we slowly trundled along, heading back towards the entrance.

Sea of Headstones

Karrakatta Cemetery has two historical walk trails that take you past the gravesites of either Statesmen and Scholars or Heroes and Humanitarians.  If you would like more information on these trails (including downloadable maps) please visit:

http://www2.mcb.wa.gov.au/NameSearch/search.php

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9 thoughts on “Karrakatta Cemetery

  1. Chris says:

    you should take a picture of that really creepy part of the cemetary…towards the back! :S

  2. Terri Usher says:

    Hi Jess,

    I think we have emailed each other before.. Enoch Barratt is my 4 x Great Grandfather through my dad’s maternal Line. My father’s parents are buried in the ‘creepy’ part of the cemetery at Karrakatta, way up the back in the old Methodist section. I was there late last year to hunt down the grave and take pictures. Dad’s parents died in 1933 & 1934 when Dad was still a toddler and his younger brother still only a baby.

    Thank you so much for writing our family history into stories.
    Terri Usher (Hamilton)

    1. Jess says:

      Hi Terri,

      I think you might be right – your name does seem familiar to me.

      I know the exact section you’re talking about! I’ve trawled around Karrakatta many times and I’m pretty sure I’ve been to that area too. My brother is the only one that thinks it’s creepy though. I personally love cemeteries and find them to be very peaceful places to visit.

      You’re most welcome and thank you for reading! 🙂

  3. KELLY H. says:

    HI my name is Kelly,would you know if a Margret Elizabeth Ayton is buried at Karrakatta,she is my grandmother.thankyou.

    1. Jess says:

      Hi Kelly,

      The Karrakatta register is searchable via: http://www.mcb.wa.gov.au/ResearchAndGenealogy/Search.aspx. I just had a quick search using the surname Ayton and there is an Elizabeth Margaret Ayton listed. She died on 22 November 2008 at age 87 but it doesn’t look like she was buried. The record states under Ashes Request “Taken by Funeral Director at Fremantle Cemetery”. You may need to contact the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board at Karrakatta for more information.

      Hope the above helps!

  4. Anne Young says:

    Hi Jess, I have just set up a new blog associated with the Facebook group Saving Family Headstones at Karrakatta. Would it be OK with you if I reblogged your post? Attribution remains with you and the link is to this page. Regards Anne

    1. Jess says:

      Hi Anne,

      Sure! Please feel free to reblog this post.

  5. Anne Young says:

    Reblogged this on Saving family headstones in Western Australia and commented:
    Jess visited Karrakatta in 2010

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