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22 December 2008

Abbey Chapel

My name's David Abbey. I live in Penola, a small country town, south of Adelaide and west of Melbourne, and I'm here at my chapel, a private little chapel that's where my ancestors are buried.

I've been here on this property here for all my life. The family's been here since 1854.

Old McPherson, my great uncle, great grand uncle, he was the first to designate this area. It was his preferred spot and he was buried here 100 years ago in November 1907. And then his sister died here in 1910 so they were the first two people to be interred.

We continued that on. My father's buried here, his sisters and my brother's buried here and some of my friends are buried here. I just planted one the other day under a couple of tonnes of concrete.

So, there's all sorts and sundry. There's bushies and good people buried here, some scallywags and some really good people. And when I'm here it will be the best.

I can see this place every morning from where I sleep just across the road, you know, I look out and I think, 'Jesus, I'm going to go there one day.' I'm about the only bugger in Australia to be looking out at his cemetery I think.

Burying mates in the backyard? Well, I suppose that's right. It is my backyard although is a designated cemetery, it's a private cemetery. It's about the only private cemetery still operational in Australia, although there are others but not like this.

A lot of friends are buried here. I've got five friends buried here. Other people have asked me but we can't accommodate everyone. I mean you can't have every Tom, Dick and Harry buried here. We've got enough scallywags.

Moving coffins, I had to move my brother because he was out of line at one stage, well, he was out of line as I was going to configure the cemetery so I had to dig him up and rebury him.

Besides, it was a good yarn about that. He reportedly committed suicide but there were rumours getting around that it was murder so I thought, Jesus… The scene was getting a bit hot so I thought I'd better dig him up and put him in some concrete, so that the authorities wouldn't actually find out about it.

So, I dug him up and put boards underneath the coffin. Bloody hell, it was a messy job. It was the middle of winter and I jacked him up with the front end loader, had the tractor out there and he was swinging about eleven feet in the air and all the people were out there pruning vines at the time and they were wondering what the hell was going on and I said, 'Well, I'm just shifting my brother, you know. I'm just trying to cover up what really happened to him. It wasn't suicide I can tell you.' And they were horrified. They were 'Oh My God! You terrible man!'

So he was reconfigured that way but now he's back in line so I can pave over the whole lot of the ancestors now, keep them in one line and put a gazebo over the top of them.

When we were digging the hole for my brother the backhoe accidentally chipped a coffin, a buried coffin, and anyway when I looked down the hipbone was in the bucket and I could hear 'chink, chink, chink, chink' coming out the bottom of the coffin and I went down there and there were all these gold sovereigns rolling out of it.

When I looked through the side of the coffin the lady was clutching a neckful of diamonds and rubies, so I went and leant in there and pulled them out and my father always said to us there was gold buried here but I didn't believe it, anyway it all came tumbling out, about 13.2 kilos and got Snake Kidman a beauty in the pub. I said, 'Well, I found the gold sovereigns Bray, and ripped the necklace off the poor lady's neck.' And he said, 'You grave robbing bastard.'

The place has got stained glass through it. A lot of it is of native flora and fauna. And then of course my mother's favourite flowers are stuck there in the panels there, so there's not a heck of a lot religious about it except the floors perhaps. They take tiles so there's a couple of crosses on the floor that were put there just to.. I suppose, put a bit of religious effect to it, a little bit of religious light.

Like I said earlier, every time I wake up in the morning I can look out my bedroom window and see this place so I thought I'd put a double storey on it, a second storey on it, and live here myself. It would be a smaller, more comfortable place, less to look after.

I mean you got all your mates here and they stay pretty quiet, and I'm not far from the hole. You know, I've got to build my own crypt and hopefully my kids will be around to put me down.

Bones are sacred and this is why this place is still sacred. It's sacred to me and that's why I like to keep it that way and keep it tidy and neat as possible for family and friends and scallywags alike.