History continues to fascinate

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by Rachael Comer

Alan McKenzie knows the Timaru cemetery well.
The Timaru man has produced several booklets about the grave yard, and on behalf of the South Canterbury Museum ran tours for about four years.
The interest in cemeteries came about after Mr McKenzie researched his family’s past.
“I’ve always been interested in people from the past,” he said.
“I like learning about the ups and downs of life and what people went through in those days.
“Also, the people that came to Timaru from other countries to start a new life.”
Mr McKenzie said some of the people he had researched had “changed the face of Timaru”.
“I also look at very ordinary people though, even if they didn’t have drama or had an adventure.”
Mr McKenzie said the cemetery had previously had a pauper section and there were many stories around the people buried there. There were also suggestions of more than one body being buried in some sites in the early days.
“It’s said as well that in the very early days of the cemetery if some children were stillborn their parents buried them at night under the footpaths so they didn’t have to pay the fees.”
Mr McKenzie used the internet, the museum and council records in his research and found the process interesting.
“I am always interested in epitaphs and the symbols on stones. There are so many different stories.”
He said cemeteries were a place of peace, with many stories to be told.
“I try to encourage people to visit them. They’re a peaceful place to wander and read a few stories.”