History of the Whitsunday (Proserpine) Cemetery

Produced by the Genealogical Society

The Proserpine Cemetery commenced being used in the late 1880's and was placed under the control of the Proserpine Shire Council in the early 1900's.

Prior to this, there were many burials in isolated locations, and we have attempted to detail all of these. Regrettably, it will always be the case that some of these "lone graves" will never be located, but to at least acknowledge that they did exist is most important.

In the early days of burials within Proserpine Cemetery, there was practically no order used in burials apart from the segregation of the Catholics and Protestants. The weather apparently dictated the location of many burials. If the burial occurred during the "wet" season, they took place in the northern section of the cemetery, while during the dry season; they were able to be carried out in the southern area.

Originally the cemetery only contained two major sections. There was the Catholic Section (now detailed on maps known as Sections C-1 to C-8 inclusive), and the Protestant Section (now detailed on maps know as Sections OP-1 to OP-11) inclusive.

For a long time, babies went wherever there was a space, and admittedly they didn't take much space, so were often squeezed in between other graves. Later certain sections were allocated for baby burials. It is quite notable that within the list of "Missing Graves" the incidence of children and babies is quite significant.

Regrettably, in the early days there was evidence of colour and racial prejudice when people of certain minority groups were buried "against the fence". The fence referred to here was that which used to be erected on the western side of the old Protestant side.

Unfortunately, this fence was removed when an extension of the cemetery area proved necessary and a road was constructed. This road services the New Protestant area (now detailed on maps known as Sections NP-1 to NP-9 inclusive). It is almost certain that there are graves under this road.

In the days when suicides were looked on as shameful, there was pressure for such burials to be made "outside of the gates" and there is strong evidence to suggest that at least one such burial occurred. Certainly, in the list of "Missing Graves" there are several suicides. However, despite lengthy research, it has been impossible to determine which one of these people were buried outside the cemetery, and indeed where the actual burial took place.

Naturally, there were (and still are) requests for certain members of families to be buried together and consequently, we have people buried in plots reserved for them beside their loved ones, or, as is often the case, actually buried in the same grave.

For some time, the cemetery operated on a "when necessary" basis only. In an area where in rained regularly, budget allocations by Council, did not permit the required regular maintenance that was necessary for the cemetery to maintain an orderly operation.

When Ken MacPherson took over as Parks and Gardens Curator for the Proserpine Shire Council, he understood only too well the importance of having the cemetery and subsequent burials conducted in an orderly fashion which would prohibit "loss" of graves. He made his "office" at the cemetery, from where he directed the men under his control, while he spent hours of his working (and own) time, trying to map the cemetery.

His knowledge of local history assisted him greatly with this task.

Ken's retirement from the Council saw the project incomplete. When we commenced our "task" late in 1985, the Council made the map available to us. We carefully sectioned off the map and made tracings of it, then went to the cemetery and painstakingly checked it. There were some mistakes which were easily corrected, but the benefit of Ken's work was really appreciated, when on too many occasions, the markers for the grave were found lying loose on other headstones.

  1. P  1300 WRC QLD (1300 972 753)
    Email  info@whitsundayrc.qld.gov.au

    67 Herbert Street, Bowen
    Shop 23 Whitsunday Plaza, Cannonvale
    Cnr. Stanley and Conway Streets, Collinsville
    52 Main Street, Proserpine
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