Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A visit to Gwennie

When you are the person to sort through someone's personal possessions after they die, you can develop quite the connection with them, even though you only met once.
When our old neighbour, Gwennie, died in 2008, we bought her house the following year, lock, stock and barrel with all her personal possessions included. We sorted through decades of clothes, shoes, jewellery, hats, handbags and gloves, medicines, correspondence, knick knacks and photographs. I only recall meeting Gwennie once or maybe twice.
Since Gwennie was born in our house and lived here til her 90s, we sifted through her entire life from beginning to end. She went to Brisbane Girls' Grammer. I found her little autograph book, with messages from her friends, from when she finished school in about 1928.
She never married or had children, but instead remained living with her sister and their father until they both passed away. Gwen worked as a secretary at MacDonnell & East, the department store in George Street. I think it's now a duty free shop. Gwen loved to shop and play golf. She drove a car and went to church.
I found photos of Gwen dressed up for special events, then I would find the outfit she'd been wearing, hanging limp and faded in a musty cupboard fifty years later. 
So, I hope you don't think me odd, but this brings us to Toowong Cemetery. I knew this was where Gwennie was buried, but through the magic of Google I was able to locate her exact whereabouts.
This be she, in the family plot.
I tooked Mim and Peaches with me. They were fascinated by the cemetery. Sure, it's an unusual holiday activity, but definitely worth a visit.
Gwennie is in quite an old part of the cemetery. A lot of graves around her are from the late 1890s and early 1900s. Being old graves and not having such immediate relatives to tend to them, combined with the havoc of tree roots, parts of the cemetery are in a bit of a state.

Every head stone tells a story. This poor dear woman is buried with three or four babies.
Have you read The Mayne Inheritance? This is Patrick Maine's grave.
If all that cemetery talk has got you a little melancholy, here's a portrait of Tom the miniature wombat to lift your spirits. I'm not sure who took it? At some stage, obviously my camera has been swiped out of my handbag and replaced before I've been any the wiser.
On the weekend we took a trip out to the 'Scenic Rim' and went off the beaten track. It was well worth the effort.


  1. understand your interest in Gwennie's stuff!!! her history is intertwined with your life in such a lot of ways! i have been doing my family history on and off since 1995 and love wandering around old cemeteries...absolutely fascinating!!!

  2. Ah, the scenic rim, I know it well! Lovely country. What a fascinating time you are having going through a lifetime of treasures, but how sad she died alone without family to find her treasures. As it happens we are currently doing the same with the old family home of my parents, and lots of little surprises there are too! History is so special and worth preserving.

  3. Lovely post. Reminds me to savor every day and use the good china... because we will all be just like dear gwennine one day x

  4. Gwennie's life lives on through your family - of course you should visit her final 'home'. I think she'd be pretty chuffed!

  5. I loved this post.

    Gwennie sounds like a lovely woman. I bet she's completely chuffed your living in her house.

    I'm definitely taking the kids to the Toowong cemetary. The boys think the new tunnel will be filled with dead bodies as the driller drills under the cemetary and disturbs the graves. (I don't encourage these discussions.)

    What's the go with Google and cemetaries? Can I find my grandmother's grave in the Lutwyche Cemetary for instance?

    1. Hi MMMC, You should be able to find your grandmother's location with this link http://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/community/community-support/funeral-planning-and-grave-search/grave-location-search/index.htm
      Click on the top link on this page.

    2. Oh thank you. I just found it and remember how much I miss her. I think I'll have to visit her soon. Thank you.

  6. It must be fascinating to go through her life. So much history in your own home..

    TDM. Xx

  7. I remember when I first found your blog spending hours trawling through your early posts and being so fascinated by the story of your home. I think Gwennie would indeed be chuffed that you are still thinking of her. Yes, I did read the Mayne story - very interesting. I love anything historical.

  8. Love reading your blog have been following ever since first reading in the sunday paper thankyou for sharing x

  9. How come if Gwennie was your neighbour you only met her once (or maybe twice)? We have an elderly neighbour. She doesn't come out much so I make it a point to visit with her and check up on her every few days.

    1. You would really need to see how our houses are positioned. We weren't directly next to her the way you may be picturing. She was diagonally behind us, outside our back gate, and much higher than our house. She was also in a nursing home for the last couple of years.