Unearthing history and relics as a hobby? I dig it
Believe it or not, I quite like TikTok despite its reputation as a thing for people a third my age.
As with any social media platform, there’s the usual spattering of daggy dancing, fashion reveals and pointless pouting at the camera, but there are some real gems.
I’ve become fascinated with two people: a guy who digs for relics in Arizona and a woman who restores old headstones in Canada. First, the relics.
John Gray gave me this idea one day when we were driving from his old home at Toolamba. As we cruised along the road to Mooroopna, he pointed out an overgrown corner of a property.
“That was the old Cobb & Co coach stop,” he said.
Which got me thinking, wouldn’t it be great to excavate it.
I think I’d been watching a few too many episodes of Time Team, where they dig up patches of land, predominantly looking for the remnants of ancient buildings. Along the way, they find lots of relics such as pottery, tiles and jewellery.
Without a team of experts, my search would be small in scale, using a metal detector and pick and shovel. No ground-seeking radar (I love the term ‘‘geophys’’) or excavators, just a solitary and patient hunt for interesting objects.
Imagine the coins and keepsakes that would have fallen from people’s pockets as they alighted from the coaches to stretch their legs and have a drink.
Somewhere there must be maps plotting all the Cobb & Co rest stops. It is a hobby in the making.
Cemeteries, meanwhile, have long been a fascination.
I’ve been to many worldwide because they are such a great place to learn about the lives and deaths of ordinary people.
The Novodevichy Cemetery, just outside the walls of the Kremlin in Moscow, is the most fascinating of places, the equal of any art gallery or museum I have visited.
This brings me to the lady in Canada.
She goes to longneglected gravesites. They have probably fallen into disrepair because there are no surviving descendants to care for them.
She goes through a gentle process of washing and cleaning the headstone, revealing as she goes what she can about the person, their life and how they died.
It might sound a little morbid, but it is actually quite uplifting to see the headstone become readable again, removing the anonymity created by moss and grime.
We would all like to be remembered for the life we lived, and this interesting hobby gives these people back what would, in most cases, be their only public record.
Just how the trustees of Australian cemeteries would respond to someone turning up with a lowpressure washer, cleaning chemicals and a scrubbing brush would have to be tested.
Perhaps it would be best not to turn up unannounced.
At the time of the early European settlers, the original Shepparton Cemetery used to be the existing car park area above Princess Park and across from the library.
The first recorded burial at the current site was threeyear-old Andrew Larson, buried in 1876.
There are 13,600 known burial locations in the Shepparton Public Cemetery, and it is well worth a walk. Whether you take a scrubbing brush is up to you.