Saturday, June 25, 2011



The removal of eleven Chinamen's bodies from the Waifcumete Cemetery will be begun to-morrow morning, and will continue for several days. The work will be restricted to the mornings of each day and for safety the cemetery will be closed against the general public until noon and opened for the afternoons. As the bodies are taken up from the graves they will be instantly placed into zinc coffins, and frantically sealed, before leaving the cemetery, so that the danger at the spread of disease will be very small indeed. The bodies are not to be stored for any length of time in Anckland but will be despached at the first opportunity to Dunedin. They will there be taken, aboard the Ventnor, the vessel which is to convey the bodies from other parts of the colony to China. The Ventnor may be seen in Auckland next Monday, when she is exp&oted to arrive from Java with a cargo of sugar for Chelsea. Auckland Star, Volume XXXIII, Issue 228, 25 September 1902, Page 4

The disinterment of Chinese bodies in the Waikumete cemetery is under the direction of Mr Mee Chang, the contractor who has carried out the work at other places in the colony. Mr Mee Chang is an elderly Wellington gentleman, who, is now in Auckland with his assistants. He is working under instructions frorii a Chinese firm, of whom Mr Ding Chong is manager. Mr Chang has been awaiting the arrival of zinc and solder from South by the Ngapuhi for the construction of the inner air-tight coffins. These goods arrived this morning at Onehunga, packed in four large cases and 10 small ones, and were forwarded to Auckland by train, reaching the city at noon. Mr Chang had a small quantity of zinc material in Auckland previously.

The operations were to have begun this morning, but have been deferred till to-morrow, and may possibly be commenced at daybreak, in order to get as much work as possible done before twelve noon, which is closing time each day. The Chinamen are to have complete control of the cemetery during the mornings, and then the place will be open to the general public during the afternoons. Mr Ericksen, the sexton at Waikumete, will be in attendance, and Mr Winstanley will be present on behalf of the Health Department. Auckland Star, Volume XXXIII, Issue 229, 26 September 1902, Page 5


The exhuming of the bodies of dead Chinamen from their graves in Waikumete cemetery began at daybreak his morning-. Nine bodies are to be lifted if they can be discovered, but it is doubtful if they can all be located with certainty, as the cemetery records appear to contain only four of the nine names. Some graves of unnamed persons will probably be opened for the purpose of ascertaining if the names of the missing Chinamen can be discerned on the coffins. There are known to be about twenty-two Chinese buried at Waikumete, but only those are being disturbed whose relations have arranged for the proceedings. An instance of the difficulties which attend the securing of the right bodies is presented by the case of a Chinaman who was drowned with two other Chinese on the Wairarapa. The names of the men were known at the time, but they could not be individually identified owing to their close resemblance to one another, and they were not separately named when buried. The question of how, to pick out the right man now is one which is likely to puzzle even a Chinaman. The possibilities which the intricacies of the situation open up are too far-reaching for speculation. The bodies are of all ages, the last disinterment movement having occurred twenty years ago, when about 200 bodies were taken. The present undertaking involves the removal of about 450 bodies from 30 or 4O cemeteries of the colony. There are 190 coffins stacked ready at Greymouth, 200 near Dunedin, and similar numbers in some other places. It is stated that one or two disinterments are to take place from the other cemeteries around Auckland. The expense is defrayed from a fund raised by subscription in the colony, together with a charge on the relatives who receive the remains in China equivalent to 30/. A contribution to the disinterment fund entitles each Chinaman to a pass guaranteeing him immunity from the penalty of £20, which he has otherwise to pay for re-admission to China. At twelve o'clock to-day only two bodies had been exhumed. The slowness of the proceedings was due to the want of zinc to make the inner coffins.
Auckland Star, Volume XXXIII, Issue 230, 27 September 1902, Page 5


Time, 5.30 a.m., on a bitterly cold morning, in Waikumete Cemetery. Half-frozen, a pressman and a photographer attached to the staff of the "Graphic" make their way from the sexton's house to the furthermost corner of the cemetery, where is situated the section for Chinese and Atheists and aliens unprovided for elsewhere. A noise of hammering comes from the section, which is a good half mile from the Anglican and Presbyterian allotments, and on arrival work found to be in full operation. The reception of our "reporter and his photographic confrere is the reverse of friendly, and an immediate wrangle ensues amongst the gravediggers, evidently on the subject of the camera friend's presence. A Chinese halfcaste European insists on their instant ejectment. The sexton, however, who has been handed proper credentials, proves a firm friend, and insists that he, and not any Chinaman, or half-caste Chinaman, is in change of the cemetery, and that he has his instructions. Things then calm down a trifle, but the work is resumed amidst much grumbling, and many vindictive and malignant glances are cast at the camera, and muttered curses uttered at the photographer as he dodges round looking for a chance shot. Once, indeed, when the shutter clicks, a furious celestial raises his pick in menace, and mutters a threat to do for the intruders, 'but he thinks better of it, and at the intervention of the European coffinmaker a truce is declared until arrival of "the boss." That individual presently arrives. He scans the permit; gloomily enough, and 'bids that the photos be taken forthwith, and the photographer and pressman depart. It being pointed out that there is no picture yet to take, and seeing that bluff has no effect, all active opposition as at once and finally dropped, and no difficulty put in the way of obtaining pictures or witnessing the proceedings save in giving mendacious information, lighting fires to obscure the graves with smoke, and endeavouring to tire out the patience of the reporters, etc. By ten o'clock four graves are opened, but owing to the non-arrival of some solder and zinc from Auckland it, is decided to open only two coffins on this occasion. The first of these contained the corpse of one Kong Shang, who died in 1891, a young Celestial of 36. It was thought that there would be nothing but dry bones there, but the stiff white clay is evidently a preservative, for when the coffin, which is full of water, is opened, it is seen that the bones have a decided covering of what had once been flesh and though drenched in carbolic acid a sickening odour makes itself felt at intervals. Directly an attempt is made to stir the body it all falls to pieces, the decomposed flesh falling off in almost imperceptible flakes, which had doubtless been dust had the grave been dry. Very carefully the impassive Chinaman in the grave rinses and unconcernedly places on a sieve a thigh bone, then some ribs, and a skull, foillowed by the rest of the bones, minute search, indescribable in print, being made for the smaller bones and joints. It is an intensely gruesome spectacle, and the horror is added to by the indifference to sight and smell or sentiment evinced by the Celestial workmen. The venerafble clerk, a fine old fellow, with the face of an ascetic and a student, carefully tallies the bones which, having been rescoured in a large white tub, are finally dried and wrapped up, each duly docketed by the methodical old gentleman, who is evidently a most conscientious and probably deeply religious man. He, too, is fastidiously clean, and does not, one notes, eat as the others do in ithe midst of their noisome labours. The next body is that of a man who must have been of exceptional stature and weight for a Chinaman, and who has been dead but two years and a half. There is much difficulty in getting this coffin to the surface, and the opening thereof, and the awful stench which completely dominated all disinfectants when the body was removed to the zinc one prepared by the European tinsmith beggars description, and may be left to the imagination. None of those whose duty called them to be present are likely to forget the experience, or to desire a renewal of the same. The soldering having been completed, it must be admitted no effluvia was discernable. The zinc coffin was then put in a rode case and packed in sawdust ready for shipment. There is no reason to think the zinc coffins will not prove effective and inoffensive under ordinary ciroumstances, and careful usage, but a fall or any accident in loading would, one imagines, have very disastrous effects. The work ceased at noon to-day. Mr Wm Stanley, Government Sanitary Inspector, is present, and looks after his work in so thorough a manner that no fears need ibe entertained by settlers or the general public. The pictures secured 'by the "Graphic" protographer are of a unique nature and the most gruesome details having been omitted, are quite without offence. They will be published on Wednesday. The custom of the Chinese at home is to disinter bodies after seven years, and place the main bones in a large jar alongside the grave. It is in order to forward the bones to China for relatives to do this that the present exporting of remains is undertaken.
Auckland Star, Volume XXXIII, Issue 231, 29 September 1902, Page 5


The steamer Ventnor arrived from Java this morning,and anchored in the stream. She brings a large cargo of raw sugar, and will berth at the Chelsea Wharf tomorrow morning to discharge. She is quite a new steamer, having been built as recently as 1901 at Port Glasgow by Messrs Russel and Co. for the Ventnor Steamship Company. The vessel is an iron steamer of 3960 tons gross register, and her principal dimensions are: Length 344 ft, beam 49ft, depth (loaded) 29ft. The master is Captain H. G. Ferry, and wUh him are associated the following deck officers:—Chief, J. Cameron; second, Q. Lamson. The chief engineer is M. McCash. The master reports .-The Ventnor left Java on September 10, and had fine weather to entering the Torres Straits, thence strong south-east winds ancl heavy seas until the New Zealand coast was, sighted at the Poor Knights yesterday, followed by thick, rainy weather down the coast to arrival as above. The Ventnor will remain in port about nine days, sailing hence for Newcastle and the East. It has been also arranged that the steamer will convey to China the disinterred Chinese bodies from the Waikumete Cemetery. Auckland Star, Volume XXXIII, Issue 234, 2 October 1902, Page 4


Mr Cochrane asked the Waitemata County Council this afternoon to raise an objection to any repetition of the disinterment proceeding, which had been going on at Waikumete. The exhuming of bodies was a very nasty thing for any district, and had caused a good deal of grumbling at Waikumete. Mr Bruce said the disinterments were sanctioned by law. Mr Cochrane said Southern councils had protested. He was told the scene was flisg-usting in the extreme. The Treasurer said the wet clay soil of "Waikuincte had a preservative effect. At Devonport after a body had been buried a few years nothing remained but bones and the tin plate of the coffin. The Chairman (Mr O'Neill) said it was a matter of sentiment with the Chinese people to take the bodies home. Mr E. W. Alison did not see what they as a council had to do in the matter. Mr Cochrane thought the Chinamen should in future be compelled to bury on a small island if they were determined to disinter. The council took no action in the matter. Auckland Star, Volume XXXIII, Issue 235, 3 October 1902, Page 5


The disinterment of the bodies of the Chinese from cemeteries throughout the colony during last, and the early part of the present month excited a good deal of interest. In Greymouth nearly 200 bodies were "resurrected" and stored in a shed in the cemetery, much to the disgust of the residents, who unsuccessfully protested against the bodies being allowed to remain above ground until the arrival of the Ventnor. The expenses of the removal of the dead Chinese to their native land, where alone their spirits could find perfect peace, was borne by their friends, the undertaking being so costly that, only the wealthier relatives could afford the expenditure, many hundreds of unhappy Celestials being obliged "to lie in cold corruption and to rot" in the cemeteries of the "foreign devil."

The exhumation of all the bodies was carried out by the one party of "resurrectionists," Chinese with a half-caste leader and a European plumber. The Chinamen carried out their gruesome work with the utmost indifference, knocking off to eat their meals immediately after handling the bodies without a thought °Some of the bodies had been interred about twenty years others within the last year. In the case of those that had been reduced to skeletons the bones wwere carefully sorted, labelled and packed in boxes ready for shipment. In other cases the flesh had reached an advanced stage of putrefaction, and in these the bones were stripped and similarly, treated to the skeletons of older bodies. When the bodies were still whole they were packed in air-tight coffins, soldered down, and labelled with the name of the departed. In all eleven corpses were taken from their graves at Waikumete. These were not shipped on the Ventnor at Auckland, but were taken down the coast in smaller vessels to Wellington, and there transhipped to the Ventnor.

The Chinese in Auckland were excited on the receipt of the news of the foundering, but when questioned as to what, according to Confucianism, would become of the spirits of the sunken Celestials, they professed ignorance. Auckland Star, Volume XXXIII, Issue 257, 29 October 1902, Page 5

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