There are 49 souls at William Head Institution that are sentenced to eternity. These 49 are men buried in the small cemetery on the prison grounds. They are not inmates who died while serving their sentences. In fact their deaths predate the prison by many years.
In the 1890s, William Head was used as a quarantine and inspection station for people disembarking from ships. Some of the graves contain the remains of people who died mostly from smallpox before their quarantine period was up. A few were merchant sailors whose names and ships are inscribed on metal plaques. Two soldiers, Richard Massey and Peter McMillan, who were part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, are marked with Commonwealth War Graves stones. But the vast majority of those buried here are Chinese men who died on their way to perform labourers’ service in the First World War.
About 85,000 Chinese men came through William Head and, after quarantine were shipped by train to waiting ships on the east coast, which took them to France. Thirty-five of these men never made it to France and lie in simple plots surrounded by concrete borders and marked with plain concrete crosses.
The last burial appears to be that of George Lorimer, a boatswain, who died at sea at the age of 48 in 1939.