Council cemetery committee recovers from near death experience

Eve Chappell and Jenny Thomas both work in research at the Historical Society and are current committee members of the cemetery committee.
Eve Chappell and Jenny Thomas both work in research at the Historical Society and are current committee members of the cemetery committee.

The council's cemetery committee which in January was at death's door has a new lease of life.

In January the Cemetery Trust Committee was facing closure after twice in a row failing to reach quorum. If they had missed out a third time it would have been the end of the line.

After a story printed in this newspaper drew attention to the problem, a huge new group of applicants swamped the process. With 16 new candidates, the committee will be forced to ask some not to stand (council rules limit committee size to 12). For an organisation with four active members before Christmas it's been a huge turnaround.

Committee member Eve Chappell said it reflected the Glen Innes spirit.

"That is Glen Innes to a tee," she said.

"Quite often we don't know if there's a problem somewhere, when you know that there's a problem there's always a group or there are people in the community that will come forward.

"Glen Innes is a fantastic community like that but they have to know what needs to be done or what a problem is."

In January Eve, who is also the manager at the Historic House, explained that the committee helps to helps maintain the cemetery records books, and to maintain and restore the physical graves, as well as to oversee how the Cemeteries are run.

"People who have come up here have often replaced the headstones," she said.

"It's tremendously important to people. A lot of people who travel up here want to go to the cemetery.

"It's a huge part of family history - it's one way of a family getting closure."

At a council meeting last night councilors discussed which prospective members to ask to step aside. Councilor Col Price, who has been a member of the committee since 2004, said he went to the February meeting "expecting to wind it up" and was very pleasantly surprised.

The committee is hoping to help people picnic in the cemeteries and are broadly looking for new ideas 

"I'm sure there are things we do do if we think broadly enough among the whole group," he said.

The committee was spooked by a mass vandalisation of headstones in Armidale in 2009. They went through a program of systematically recording information about all Glen Innes headstones, a process that was entirely voluntary.

"That hard slogging work has been done.

"Cemeteries are a place that deserves to be looked after well.

"They have a personal meaning for all the people who've got relatives buried there. But there's also a community feeling about it as well, knowing that it's as well maintained as possible.

"If you don't believe Glen Innes has a Celtic (heritage) wander through the old Presbyterian section there and see there's an awful lot of people born Scotland who died in Glen Innes."

Council resolved to send it back for the committee to vote to elect 12 members from the 16 candidates. Col Price said it wouldn't be too hard to trim it back.

The candidates are Louise Brown, Eve Chappell, Robert Davidson, Joanne Green, Joan Hughes, Carlene Knight, John Lee, Russell Meehan, Leanne McHarg, Kerry Strong, Jenny Thomas, Robert Thomas, Cathi Tibbs, Tim Tibbs, Raelene Watson and Marlene Weiss.

Ms Chappell said the turnaround is "absolutely marvelous"

"I think it's just meant that people probably didn't know about it."

She said the committee has a diverse range of people from the community, but has a slight shortage of regional members to cover more remote cemeteries. The existing committee could act as "go-betweens" though.