• Date: 17/01/2018
  • Cemetery: Coburg Pine Ridge Cemetery

Friends of Coburg Cemetery

 “Cemeteries explain why we are who we are and remind us that long lives, short lives, love, death, tragedy, joy, friendship, crime, and beauty are common human experiences across time.”

Friends of Coburg Cemetery is busy planning a year of engaging activities at one of Melbourne’s most historically-rich cemeteries.

The volunteer-run friends group delivers walking tours and other educational events to showcase the beauty, diversity and historical significance of Coburg Cemetery to the community.

Events planned for 2018 include an eerie moonlight tour (29 April 2018), a tour featuring those with streets, stations and parks named after them (22 July 2018) and a creative session taking impressions from gravestones (16 September 2018). 

President of Friends of Coburg Cemetery (FOCC), Julie Stratford, has a longstanding passion for the 150-year-old cemetery, which she says was established “when Melbourne was still young and new and wild”.

“The cemetery was a popular social venue a hundred years ago. Laid to rest, we have notorious criminals, circus performers, famous lawyers, Collingwood footballers, Eureka Stockade rebels, American Civil War veterans, successful business owners and some everyday heroes and heroines who have made Coburg, Preston and surrounds what they are today,” Julie says.   

“Through our events and the work we do, we encourage the broader community to learn and appreciate the cemetery for the historical significance of the space, the memorials, the people interred there and their stories.

“The cemetery and its monuments are like theatrical devices to enhance telling the stories of our past. They explain why we are who we are and remind us that long lives, short lives, love, death, tragedy, joy, friendship, crime and beauty are common human experiences across time.

“We show people how the cemetery reflects the development of our own suburbs and our society, and the ways that we have changed.”

FOCC’s membership base is diverse, including locals with an interest in the area and its history, descendants of people interred at the cemetery, and those interested in history or researching their family tree. 

“There are also those interested in the space as a great place for bird-watching and spotting wildlife,” Julie explains. “We have amateur photographers who create stunning images amidst the angels, monuments, garden and the great expanse of open sky. 

“There is great beauty in a cemetery. Anyone who has seen the evening light on white marble or the rainbow of colours in granite under the moonlight will agree.”

Some FOCC members get involved in researching the lives of those interred at Coburg, or by running walking tours. Others simply enjoy working on projects with people who have similar interests, or gain a sense of satisfaction from working physically - tidying plantings while checking out the local wildlife.

In particular, the group’s historical walking tours have proven to be a fascinating opportunity to bring together people who are excited to discover history’s stories and characters.

“For me, the most exciting activity was researching and running the ‘Lawyers, Guns and Money’ guided tour,” Julie says.  “We unearthed some fascinating stories about gangsters, victims of crime and remarkable community leaders. We also made connections with historians, crime writers and other interested -and interesting - people.”

For its inaugural project in 2011, FOCC also developed a permanent, self-guided walking tour for cemetery visitors. The group researched and produced signage highlighting the lives and achievements of 30 remarkable people buried at the cemetery.

“It was a lot of work, but very rewarding,” Julie says. “It will continue to be enjoyed by visitors to the cemetery for years to come.”

Find out more

  • If you are interested in forthcoming events or becoming a member or volunteer with Friends of Coburg Cemetery (FOCC), you can find out more here.
  • You can follow the FOCC on Facebook here.
  • More Information about GMCT’s cemetery friends groups is available here.
  • Read more about the history and heritage of GMCT cemeteries here.