Graves flattened for better access


Mar 28, 2002
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Morning all,

I heard a disturbing story about the Halifax graves the other day that left me cold. I wondered if anyone had heard something similar or could confirm or deny the story.

The story goes that - allegedly - the "City Fathers" of Halifax ordered that a number of gravestones of victims of the December 1917 Halifax explosion (when 2,000 people were killed in an explosion in the aftermath of the collision between two ships in the harbour) were bulldozed and tarmac-ed over to provide better access for tourists visiting the Titanic graves at the Fairview Lawn Cemetary. One of the reasons allegedly given was that the cemetary needed better wheelchair access.

The local residents of Halifax - allegedly - are furious but have been told to shut up to avoid any bad press and to avoid what might possibly result in a downturn in tourism for the town.

I say allegedly because I don't know if the story is true. Has anybody else heard this?

Cheers,

Boz
 

Jason D. Tiller

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I haven't heard of this one before and it sounds suspicious to me as well. As Mike said, word would have gotten out eventually. Plus, I don't believe the local government would ever consider doing such an immoral act.

Boz, may I ask where did you hear about this?
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Honestly, I think anyone attempting this would arouse a storm of controversy no matter what. The graves in question are mostly of Halifax's own citizens. All else aside, I don't think the families would take too kindly to that.
 

Paul Rogers

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Well I, for one, wouldn't be surprised to find out that this rumour is true. I don't know much about Halifax's economy, but a town that relies on tax dollars (as it may) will do quite a lot to both increase and keep that revenue.

It also depends on whose graves may have been destroyed. If they were relatively old, then there'd be not that many relatives left to create a fuss.

In summary, I wouldn't dismiss this story out of hand.
 

Senan Molony

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I have doubts.

In the first place, the track goes right up to the Titanic graves in Fairview Lawn.

Secondly the T graves are all on a hill, a very palpable slope indeed, so the hill itself would have to be "flattened" to give wheelchair access.

The area below the hill, which is relatively flat, was filled before the T victims were interred in 1912. Therefore explosion victims could not be interred en masse there.

In Mount Olivet the T graves are highly accessible, being on the flat and close to a track and a wall.

The only one that is not accessible is Baron de Hirsch. But there are only a few T graves there.

In short I think the municipality is a bit more attuned these days in the wake of allowing people to dig up the remains of long-dead kids.
 

Dave Gittins

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From the Internet, I found that there is a loud and long dispute going on at a place called Beechville, on the outskirts of Halifax. It concerns some kind of changes affecting the local cemetery. It has nothing to do with Titanic, but we know how things get distorted.
 

Jason D. Tiller

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Hi Senan,

"The only one that is not accessible is Baron de Hirsch."

Unless, you go through the back way!
evil.gif
 

Inger Sheil

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Any dealings with gravesites are going to be an emotive subject. Cemetaries and individual graves are moved, crypts cleared, and works affecting gravesites happen all the time...often causing anxiety, unease or even grief. The needs of the living and the 'needs' of the dead - if they can be said to have needs - are sometimes sadly in conflict.

Although, as Dave suggests, the Beechville situation may have nothing to do with the Titanic graves, I hope that a solution is reached that spares the locals involved heartache.
 

Senan Molony

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The most amazing thing about Halifax, which you have to see if you go there, is a memorial located in the distant 'burbs.

It is an anchor. A very large anchor. An extremely heavy anchor of some anchorial avoirdupois... would the word 'hefty' ashamed of itself...

It is there because it was blown there in 1917. More than two and a half MILES inland.

To see it is positively staggering. It came from one of the ships involved in the Mont Blanc/Imo collision.

It is powerful proof of the most powerful man-induced explosion before Hiroshima.

There is a good book on the subject called "The Town That Died." Michael Bird is the author's name.
 

Paul Rogers

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I believe the rumour to which Boz refers is that the graves of the victims of the Mont Blanc / Imo explosion (at the Fairview cemetary? Not sure) were the ones destroyed to make easy access to the Titanic graves.
 

Senan Molony

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Hi Paul,

There was a man called Rogers in charge of the Halifax Relief Commission set up in the wake of the blast to administer compo, you know.

There are definitely some blast victims buried in Fairview. But the lower end of the cemetery, where the gate and track are, had been filled in with graves by 1912.

That's why they dug the Titanic graves into what was effectively a green embankment at the time. There's a perpendicular track to the main track running there now.

I remember Blair Beed, an authority on Fairview, who has written books on *both* the cemetery itself *and* the explosion, saying that some of the existing graves below the Titanic slope had been re-opened in 1917 to accommodate blast victims in existing family plots.

But having asked him about the explosion victims myself at the time, I have no recollection of him saying "there's a big mass grave of victims over there."

My understanding then and now is that there are no 'Lusitania' style explosion plots in Fairview.

Therefore no collective patch of explosion graves to build over, as far as I understand it.

Even if there was a mass grave for explosion victims located into the slope to the right of the Titanic graves (as one looks from the main gate), it would make absolutely no sense from the physical layout of the cemetery to locate pedestrian access there.

"Just mah too seance."
 

Paul Rogers

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There may be a misunderstanding here.

The way I perceived the rumour is that it relates to an access road built *around* the Titanic graves, possibly built to resemble the outline of a ship, as seen from above. It is not in relation to a build over a mass grave.

The rumour goes: whereas the graves from the explosion of 1917 were originally immediately adjacent to, and around, the Titanic graves, a clear space has now been created to separate the Titanic graves from all others; thus creating an access path around the Titanic graves. Creation of this path involved tarmac-ing over some of the 1917 graves.

Obviously I cannot vouch for the rumour's accuracy, and I happily defer to the opinions of those (like Senan) who know the site and the locals well, and who are in a much better position to judge its likely accuracy.
 

Senan Molony

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95576.jpg


It is a bit hard to appreciate the size of this Momma... but you certainly don't want it hurtling through the air in your direction. It is about the width of a man's torso.
Suffice to say it would flatten, and there would be a grave.
1,140 lb for us Europeans is more than half a ton. About the weight of a supermini, falling from the sky.
But it fell in the woods (2.35 miles from the scene, I exaggerated earlier) way past the city limits at the time.
The Imo of course was formerly the White Star vessel Runic. But there is another Titanic connection - Captain James Murray of the 'Empress of Britain' sent greetings to the Titanic on Friday April 12, 1912, and got a reply: "Many thanks for your kind message from all here. Smith."
Murray commanded a Naval party that responded to reports of a ship on fire in the harbour on December 6, 1917. He and his men were among 2,000 killed when the Mont Blanc blew up.

Major improvements to the Titanic graves in Fairview Lawn were carried out in 1998. The tide has distinctly gone out since then.
 

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