A stand of old graves under a huge Peppercorn tree is the site of the oldest grave in the cemetery; part of the Old Church of England portion, but originally known simply as the Anglican section.
It’s a modest but solid memorial, to a Scottish settler, Hugh Niven, who had arrived in the colonies in 1832. In January 1839 he took out a lease of a 22,842 acre pastoral run that encompassed Buninyong at present day Narmbool, then known as Portland Bay. He stocked this land with 100 cattle and 8,000 sheep.
But that same year he fell from his horse and died two days later in Geelong on 23 September, aged 34 years.
It was said that the entire European population of Geelong – approximately 200 people – turned out to pay their respects at the funeral of their fellow colonist – the initial one in our cemetery.
The memorial is a well preserved Barrabool Hills Sandstone monument, carved after 1854 with the inscription engraved on a brass shield, which is let into the flat surface of the peculiarly designed stone. The inscription details that ‘Niven, late of Sydney, prior merchant in Glasgow, had died in his 35th year of his life after nearly seven years in this colony’.
Around this grave are grouped several other monuments, bearing the dates 1840, 1841 and 1842, that would appear to form the nucleus of the present cemetery. Unfortunately, these stones have all suffered from the ravages of time, and some of the inscriptions have almost become obliterated.
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