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Picton Cemetery, South Island, New Zealand

Picton Cemetery

Picton Cemetery

On my first day in Picton, I visited the cemetery which was conveniently located across the street from my hostel, Tombstone Backpackers.

Although it might seem morbid, I actually enjoy visiting cemeteries in the towns that I visit.  Cemeteries give me an idea of who settled the area and when.  In the case of Picton, a huge number of the deceased are from Scotland and were some of the original European settlers (the Maori had a village here first), arriving in the mid-1800’s.

Cemeteries are also a good reminder to the ego, which can get carried away with itself, not to take things so seriously.  No matter who you are, rich or poor, or how important life seems, a cemetery says “Get a grip.  It’s not that important.  Lighten up.  Live while you can!”  Even tombstones, which seem so lasting in their marble solidity, eventually fade and break, and the once remembered is eventually forgotten.

I once heard a quote about us having three deaths:

There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time. — Dr. David Eagleman

Maybe because so many of the graves in the Picton cemetery were so dilapidated, I felt a special need to say as many names out loud as I could.  You are not forgotten.  Yet.

One tombstone touched me.  Four children and a husband buried there.  And the stone placed by the grieving widow.  The stone stated that they died on the S.S. Penguin which prompted me to do a little research.  The S.S. Penguin was built in Glasgow and transported to Wellington where it began a ferry service in 1902.  In 1909, the ship left on a beautiful afternoon in Picton and ran into a storm near Wellington that sank the ship.  Of the 105 passengers, only 30 survived.  One survivor was this poor widow.  It was the worst maritime disaster of the 20th century in New Zealand.

Cemeteries are often built on prime property, very often overlooking the town. This was the case in Picton – the cemetery having the best view of the city.

Photos of Picton Cemetery:



  1. great theme for the hostel. bet they had an interesting menu too (if they had food).

    • It was great. Best hostel I stayed in in New Zealand too.

  2. I love cemeteries too. What wonderful images. I have been to quite a few cemeteries in France of the same vintage and the designs are very similar.

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