Not so first as he thinks

Charles Cowling

Stand up for vertical burial: the lowering device

From Australia’s Herald Sun:

A CANCER victim yesterday became the first person to be buried upright at Australia’s only vertical cemetery.

Allan Heywood lost his battle with cancer last Tuesday and was buried in the unusual, space-saving grave in the new vertical cemetery outside Camperdown in western Victoria.

“It’s nice to be first at something. Everybody wants their little place in history,” the Skipton man said with the hint of a laugh.

“I’ve attended a lot of funerals over the years and I’ve never attended one that I’ve enjoyed … I’m an atheist as well,” he said.

Mr Heywood paid $2750 – about half the cost of a basic conventional burial – to be buried upright in a biodegradable shroud, conveyed to his final resting place on a steel trolley which is angled vertically to lower the body into a tubular grave.

He said the lower cost and that there was no graveside service, headstone, casket or grave marker meant his children wouldn’t face any financial burden and could arrange their own memorial service at the local pub or footy club.

Mr Heywood’s body was lowered feet first into its hole by cemetery officials. When his body has been joined by 39, 999 other bodies, the space-saving cemetery will be grassed over and grazed.

Vertical burial is approved in some Asian countries and also Holland – but I don’t think any have been carried out there.

Fact: The world’s first-ever vertical burial took place in England (or, as they say in the US, England, England). It was one of two last wishes of the delightfully bonkers Major Peter Billiere who died precisely nine months to the day after predicting he would.

His funeral was held on 11 June 1800 at Box Hill in Surrey in a hole reputedly 100 feet deep. Into this, Major Billiere was lowered head first, according to his instructions, and there he will remain, according to his philosophy, until the Day of Judgement when he will be resurrected right way up in a world turned upside down. The headstone reads: “Here lies Major Peter Labilliere, with his head in the ground and his feet in the air.”

Major Peter Labilliere’s headstone

The good major was an early adopter of the celebration of life style of funeral, so his other final wish was that the youngest son and daughter of his landlady should dance on his coffin. Apparently the lass demurred; the lad larged it.

This is all true, by the way. If you don’t believe me, go google.

Not this Billiere

One thought on “Not so first as he thinks

  1. Charles Cowling
    Perpetua's Garden

    “When his body has been joined by 39, 999 other bodies, the space-saving cemetery will be grassed over and grazed.”

    How lovely for the cows! What about the survivors? Nothing but a generic green pasture to gaze at when they visit…

    The space-saving utility of upright burial is sensible – but there is more to burial than practicality.

    Indeed, this concept is certainly even more naive as to the archetypal human needs of memory and sense of individuality than woodland cemeteries, where at least a (generic) tree might survive to mark the spot for some decades.

    We only know about Major Peter Labilliere at all because he also had a headstone at his head!

    Thomas Friese
    http://perpetuasgarden.org


    Charles Cowling

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