16 January 2023

Fresh look at courageous people resting in peace at Tirrannaville

| John Thistleton
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Friends of Goulburn Historic Cemeteries volunteers take a break from their latest working bee: Trevor and Edna Crow, Kim Baker, Peter and Marilyn Manfred, Linda Cooper, Daphne Penalver, Greg and Heather West. Photo: John Thistleton.

Clearing long grass and sticks in a bush cemetery south of Goulburn has rekindled poignant stories of people who fought for justice and a better way of life.

They tell of an unborn baby tragically killed in a collision on the Braidwood Road and reveal the true identity of a decorated detective sergeant of police.

Friends of Goulburn Historic Cemeteries began the cleanup last year when new volunteers said they had next-of kin buried at St Andrew’s Anglican Cemetery at Tirrannaville. More recently they have been out with whipper snippers, mowers, rakes and brooms cleaning around the gravesites and taking away rubbish.

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When Geoff Holmes, a former teacher at the Tirrannaville School died in July, 2017, he was buried alongside his unborn grandson, Lars. The baby’s tragic death prompted the Holmes family to acquire five plots at the cemetery.

A head-on collision with another car in January, 2005 caused Geoff’s daughter Sue, 30-weeks pregnant at the time, to lose her baby.

The family then endured three trials in which the juries were told a man was attempting to overtake a cattle truck on a rainy, overcast day when his vehicle and the Harris’s car collided. The trials ended with two hung juries and an acquittal of the accused driver.

The Holmes family will place headstones on the graves of Lars Harris and Geoff Holmes, after waiting for the ground to settle. Photo: John Thistleton.

Geoff’s wife Robyn said all the family intended to be buried at Tirrannaville.

Before he died in 2012, former detective sergeant John Edlund had told his wife Sue he did not want a memorial, but the Tirrannaville resident shook her head, saying the bush cemetery nearby would be an appropriate place for one, for their children’s sake.

His ashes are spread near a stone with a memorial plaque bearing his original name, Sydney John Curyer, which was changed to John Edlund when he was 15 after his parents separated. The plaque remembers the “fighter in the ring, in life and for justice”.

Formally recognised for his courage in arresting dangerous criminals, John nevertheless had to fight for many years to have a senior police officer’s false accusation of threatening him overturned. The issue was resolved with an apology from the NSW Police.

John and Sue’s daughter Clare attended Tirrannaville Primary School, as did John’s other children, Mark and Wendy in the early 1980s.

A plaque in memory of John Edlund, bearing his original name of Sydney John Curyer. Photo: Sue Leahy.

Sue, who lives about two kilometres from Tirrannaville, spends more than three hours on a ride-on mower keeping the historic cemetery’s long grass in check. “It’s quite dodgy with the old graves which have footstone markers,” she said. “I’ve mowed it a few times, I know my way around there now.”

Builder Bill Cooper, who launched numerous fundraising appeals for equipment for Goulburn Base Hospital, is also buried at Tirrannaville. He also fought the health bureaucracy’s attempts to cull medical staff in Goulburn.

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His wife and Friends of Historic Cemeteries volunteer Linda Cooper said Bill had worked for a previous generation of the pioneering Gibson family who provided money for the construction of the 1860 sandstone and rubblestone St Andrew’s Church, which sits above the cemetery.

Bill had also done much work for the little church. His last job was returning the altar to its original position after it was shifted to the opposite end.

“He loved working at the church and said to me, ‘Just scatter my ashes at Tirrannaville’,” Linda said. “I didn’t do as I’m told, I buried the ashes,” Linda said. “He has the most simple little plaque and is close to the church and near the door.”

Bill Cooper often worked at St Andrew’s Church at Tirrannaville where his ashes are buried nearby. Photo: John Thistleton.

More than 100 graves are in the cemetery, including the last resting place of Goulburn’s acclaimed architect, Edmund Cooper Manfred and members of his family.

Friends of Historic Cemeteries volunteer Heather West distributed flyers to surrounding residents encouraging them to help maintain the cemetery. A neighbouring resident Joy Winters allowed all the green waste to be left on her property.

Behind trees and shrubs which hide it from the Braidwood Road’s passing traffic, the cemetery holds many stories of people’s unique journey through life’s joys and travails.

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