Cemetery work a chance to learn about the past

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Final resting places of the long departed are being given a spruce-up at Cardrona Cemetery.
Stu Littlejohn and Natalie McDonnell, from Dunedin Monumental Masons, have been working at the site cleaning, resurrecting sunken headstones, straightening posts, and restoring lead lettering.
Mr Littlejohn said a marble headstone that was broken in two would be taken to Dunedin to be pinned together and reset into the base.
Rotten fence railings would be replaced with the same wood, shaped to fit perfectly with the existing fence.
The aim was to be sensitive to the age of the site, ensuring any restoration was done with care, he said.
‘‘When you see it finished, you get such great satisfaction. Once it is all done, it is just amazing what they come up like.’’
Restoration was one of the favourite parts of her job, Ms McDonnell said.
Understanding the stories behind the graves was of interest to her.
‘‘When you look at some of them, the old ones, there has just been tragedy, like lots of children. Some families had a really bad run.’’
It was rewarding to be able to transform the sites, she said.
The work was possible thanks to a bequest by Upper Clutha resident Henry Barker, who died in 2017.
Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust of New Zealand chairman Dr Terry Hearn said a ‘‘five-figure sum’’ was donated by Mr Barker to the trust.

Spirited cleanse . . . Giving a headstone a high pressure clean is Natalie McDonnell, of Dunedin. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON