Tales from the colonial crypt, Jock Phillips

Unearthly Landscapes: New Zealand’s Early Cemeteries, Churchyards and Urupā 
Stephen Deed
Otago University Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9781927322185

A confession: I am a cemetery buff. On arriving at any New Zealand settlement, it is not long before I find the local burial ground and spend an hour or so walking slowly along the lines of headstones perusing and reading every one. This is not some ghoulish addiction. It is because there is no quicker or more intense way to encounter our history. You learn intriguing personal stories, you confront tragic drownings or the loss of infants in epidemics. Unusual family relationships are suggested which leave you yearning to know more; and you wonder at the moral values inscribed in stone in tributes to leading citizens. The design of headstones offers insights into architectural history and bears a fascinating relationship to domestic styles. Cemeteries are beautiful, peculiarly peaceful places.

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