Looking for Three Dead Prime Ministers

Day 336, Monday 23 July 2018

Someone has recently created a new Wikipedia article, List of Burial Places of New Zealand Prime Ministers. There’s a column in the list for a picture of the gravesite of each PM, but it’s mostly empty. I decided it would be an interesting ride to find the gravesites of the three 19th century PMs who were buried in Auckland, Sir William Fox, Sir Frederick Whitaker, and Daniel Pollen.

The first step was to find addresses for each of the cemeteries: Pukekawa Cemetery, in Meadowbank; St. Stephen’s Cemetery, in Parnell, and Orchard St Cemetery, now George Maxwell Memorial Cemetery, in Avondale. Using a variety of websites, I was able to find plot numbers and locations for each. This looked like it was going to be easy. I plotted a route to the cemeteries, and away I rode.

At Pukekawa, I knew I needed Block C, but it’s a huge place and most of the blocks aren’t labelled. I asked a couple of people if they knew where Block C was, but they both gave me incorrect information. I did find a block which was the correct one, but I wasn’t sure of it at the time. Eventually I went to the administration office, where they confirmed I had the right block, and explained to me how to find the correct row and plot. I had assumed the rows in each block started at 1, but this was not the case, and the plots had several gravesites in each, so my counting was a bit off. I did find William Fox’s site.

On to Parnell, where St. Stephen’s is a much smaller and older graveyard. There was no one there to ask, and the section and plot numbers I had were useless as nothing was labelled. I looked at every grave there. Some had illegible gravestones, but I thought it was likely that a PM would have a well-maintained grave. However, I did not find Whitaker’s grave. I started searching again, this time concentrating on the more prominent graves, and this time I found it. I had missed it on my first search because Whitaker’s name was not the first one on the stone.

At George Maxwell Memorial Cemetary, there was again no one to ask for help, and the plot number was of no use when no plots had numbers. I had a grid reference of B2, which I thought might mean the grave was close to the front left side. Eventually, I found a modest, very worn gravestone near the front right side. Pleased that I had found all the graves I was looking for, I rode home and even the rush hour traffic didn’t dampen my spirits.

Distance travelled: 42 km. Total distance so far: 42,194 km

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