Stone Cuttings Newsletter

Our Newsletter is published every two months and is currently produced and edited by Russ Stewart.

For full view with pictures, click here July/August Newsletter: Text only below:

“Show and Tell” at Ross Bay Cemetery

Each year the BC Heritage Fair Society hosts a Canadian history contest for the young people of British Columbia. Winners of the regional fairs come to Victoria on odd years to compete in the hopes of being selected to take their project to Ottawa. This year the organizers have asked the Old Cemeteries Society to host a “show and tell” information event at Ross Bay Cemetery. Our plan is to highlight our activities by asking the students to participate in three activities, cleaning, recording and story telling. If you would like to be involved, or just help with the event, please let us know by email or just show up. There will probably be thirty to forty students, so we could use some help! July 4, 2019, at 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Ross Bay Cemetery.

Old Cemeteries Society Garden Party

The OCS executive invite you to join them for the annual evening garden party at Ross Bay Villa on August 14, 2019. The garden will be open at 5 p.m. and sandwiches, veggies, coffee /tea and dessert will be served. Do bring a friend to introduce to our society and to the activities we are involved in. In order that we provide sufficient food, please RSVP to Gudrun Leys, 250-598-8870 or email oldcem@pacificcoast.net by August 11, 2018.

Ross Bay Villa Garden Party.

The Roscoe family celebrated the first BC Confederation Day at Ross Bay Villa on July 20, 1871. Join us on Sunday, July 21, 2019 at the Ross Bay Villa Historic House Museum for our annual BC Confederation Day Garden Party. Admission is free. You can tour through the restored 1865 Villa, and enjoy a game of croquet on the lawn. There will be music and games for children that the Roscoe children might have played. Tea and sweets will be available for a modest sum. Chat with members of the Old Cemetery Society and the Victoria Heritage Foundation who will have information tables in the garden. Try your hand at making ice cream. 1:00 to 4:00. We hope to see you there.

Obon Ceremony

On August 11 at 2:30 p.m. the annual Obon ceremony in observance of the Japanese Buddhist Day of the Dead will be held at the Kakehashi Monument in the southwest corner of Ross Bay Cemetery. The public are invited to the ceremony and to the reception following.

Tours at Congregation Emanu-El

Congregation Emanu-El, 1461 Blanshard at Pandora, the oldest synagogue in continuous use in Canada, is offering tours this summer. Where: 1461 Blanshard at Pandora When: Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday until August 29, noon to 1:00 p.m. Cost: $10.00 cash only. Quick 10 minute tours are offered every 15 minutes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. by donation. Most tours will be lead by Amber Woods, author of Guide to Victoria’s Historic Jewish Cemetery recently published by the Old Cemeteries Society. For more information: https://www.congregationemanuel.ca/history/tours/

Tours at Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral will be hosting scheduled guided tours for the first time this summer, offering an insight into everything from flying buttresses to bell-ringing. The 45 minute highlights tours will explore the nave and chapels, their art and architecture and the people behind the building. Tickets: $10 per person and $20 per family (2 adults, 2 children.) Buy in advance online (Eventbrite) or at the cathedral office. Group tours for school and community groups are available on request, as are specialized tours at $15 per person. For details, go to http://www.christchurchcathedral.bc.ca

Cleaning at Ross Bay Cemetery

Sharon Welsh will be stepping down from coordinating the cleaning bees and we are looking for someone to volunteer to take over.
Please contact the office if you or if you know someone, who would like to volunteer.

  • No experience necessary;
  • Must enjoy working with an excellent group of volunteers;
  • Likes working in the cemetery on Saturday mornings – washing, scraping, sweeping, etc;
  • Needs to enjoy speaking with locals and visitors about the Old Cemetery Society and the Cemetery;
  • On the job training available until you’re comfortable.

A Tombstone Tourist in Peru by Wilf Bruch

In February of this year, Jane and I had a opportunity to spend a week in Peru. The sights, sounds and foods were just wonderful. The famous landmarks at Nazca, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of Cusco all lived up to expectations. But of course, what would any trip be without a visit to a local cemetery? We didn’t have many chances to stray from our tours but I did persuade our guide to stop at a very rural cemetery on the outskirts of Ollantaytambo. I was surprised to see so many mausoleums and that it was poorly kept. I guess I should not have been surprised at it’s condition as the people of this region have a tough enough time just surviving. All in all, a great trip. Here are some photos-

Containers for the Dead by Diane Persson

In February of this year, Jane and I had a opportunity to spend a week in Peru. The sights, sounds and foods were just wonderful. The famous landmarks at Nazca, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of Cusco all lived up to expectations. But of course, what would any trip be without a visit to a local cemetery? We didn’t have many chances to stray from our tours but I did persuade our guide to stop at a very rural cemetery on the outskirts of Ollantaytambo. I was surprised to see so many mausoleums and that it was poorly kept. I guess I should not have been surprised at it’s condition as the people of this region have a tough enough time just surviving. All in all, a great trip. Here are some photos-

What’s the difference between a casket and a coffin? Any box in which the dead are buried is a coffin, and while a casket was originally regarded as a box for jewelry, use of the word “casket” in this sense began as a euphemism introduced by the undertaker’s trade. A distinction is commonly drawn between “coffins” and “caskets”, using “coffin” to refer to a box with tapered sides and “casket” to refer to a rectangular box, often with a lid used for viewing the deceased. Caskets may incorporate features that claim to protect the body or for public health reasons. For example, some may offer a protective casket that is sealed shut after it is closed for the final time. In addition, some cemeteries require a vault which serves as an outer enclosure for buried remains and the coffin serves as an inner enclosure. The primary purpose of the vault is to prevent collapse of the coffin due to the weight of the soil above. Coffins are made of many materials, including steel, various types of wood, and other materials such as fiberglass or recycled materials. Some manufacturers offer a warranty on the structural integrity of the coffin. However, no coffin, regardless of its construction material (e.g., metal rather than wood), whether or not it is sealed, and whether or not the deceased was embalmed beforehand, will perfectly preserve the body. There are some unique containers created to hold the dead at the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, TX. Especially interesting are a casket built for three people and the fantasy coffins of Ghana, West Africa. The casket for three was built in the 1930s at the request of parents whose child had died. They were so depressed at the loss that they asked the funeral home to build a casket large enough for the husband, wife and child. Their plans called for a murder suicide and the casket to be shipped to where their child could be disinterred and placed between the parents for final burial. Later the couple changed their mind and moved to another state. Twenty years later the wife sent a letter to the mortuary owner stating that her husband had died, and she’d like a refund for the triple casket. The owner denied her request, saying that the funeral home had changed ownership and there could be no refund for this special order. The casket remained in storage until acquired by the museum. The casket for three Design coffins in Ghana, also called fantasy coffins or figurative coffins, were initially made in the 1950s and continued a tradition that already existed in Accra where the kings used figurative palanquins in the forms of their family symbol. A palanquin is a covered litter for one person carried by bearers, and those chiefs who were using figurative palanquins had to be buried in a coffin looking like their palanquin. Fantasy coffins no longer have a spiritual function but are considered real works of art, and every fantasy coffin is uniquely created to capture the essence of the departed—whether a character trait, an occupation, a symbol of one’s standing in the community or what they hope to achieve in the afterlife. Ghanaian figurative or fantasy coffins

The National Museum of Funeral History has the largest collection of fantasy coffins outside of West Africa. These remarkable coffins vividly depict a KLM airliner, a Mercedes Benz, a fish, a canoe, a leopard, a chicken, a bull, a crab, an eagle, a lobster, a shallot and a Yamaha outboard motor

Washington State Legalizes Human Composting

Washington State legislature has passed a bill, and the governor has signed it, to allow the composting of human remains within the state effective in May 2020. It is possibly the only government in the world to explicitly allow “natural organic reduction” of human remains. The bill also legalizes alkaline hydrolysis, a base chemical process that also uses heat, pressure, and water to liquify remains. Bone is not liquified in the process, so it can be crushed and given to loved ones.

Tombstone Oddities

Memorial inscription painted on a wall in Pompeii circa 79 A.D., to one Chia from his friend Pyrrhus, “I am sorry to hear you are dead, and so, goodbye!“

Last Words

James Dean 1931-1955 “That guy’s got to stop…he’ll see us.”