The Qingming Festival

Every April Chinese communities around the world mark Qingming,  or ‘tomb sweeping’ festival, which takes place twice a year in Spring and Autumn. This is when the graves of relatives are visited, swept and tidied. Prayers are offered, as well as tea, wine and joss sticks. In China and Taiwan it is a public holiday on either the 4th or 5th of the month, while foreign Chinese communities tend to carry out their visits on one of the weekends either before or after.

In Liverpool, Anfield and Everton cemeteries have sections specifically for Chinese graves. Chinese graves are traditionally situated on higher ground as they represent better feng shui. The size of the headstone is significant too, with elders having larger ones than younger persons. Prior to the burial, strict funeral customs are observed, with rituals varying according to the deceased’s rank. When an elderly person dies for example, their son must sit next to the coffin during the wake which takes place in the home. For a younger person however, the elders are not expected to show grief and the body remains at the funeral home.

Chinese gravestone

Inscriptions on Chinese headstones usually contain more detail than on Western ones. There are usually at least three columns of characters, with the middle one containing larger writing due to the information being more important. That is where the deceased’s name is inscribed, usually with the family name first followed by the given name. The columns on either side and writing along the top contain information about the date and place of birth, starting with the village and the writing increasing in size as it goes through county, district and province. When it comes to details about death, the date that it occurred and sometimes even the time is inscribed.

Apart from at Qingming, members of the Chinese community are not expected to visit graves on a regular basis. When they do however, it is quite an event. The See Yep association (named after the four counties in the south west of the Guangdong province in China) organise visits to both Anfield and Everton cemeteries, with coaches departing from Chinatown in the city centre.

Members of the association visit to pay respect not just to their own ancestors but all compatriots buried there. At Anfield, the Chinese section is on the left after heading in through the Cherry Lane entrance, while at Everton it is on the right hand side after the road bends to the right once the chapel has been passed. 

Beatles Graves in Liverpool

A new statue of The Beatles at the Liverpool waterfront has been unveiled to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the last time the band played in the city on 5th December 1965. Neither John Lennon or George Harrison have grave markers anywhere, their ashes having been opened privately, but there are other people connected with the Fab Four who are buried in Liverpool.

julia Lennon grave

Both Paul McCartney and John Lennon lost their mothers while they were teenagers. Paul’s other Mary died in 1956 when blood complications arose following a mastectomy and she was buried in Yew Tree Cemetery. John’s mother Julia was knocked down by a car on Menlove Avenue in 1958 and buried in Allerton Cemetery. For many years her grave was unmarked and a simple stone marker now stands there, bearing the names of her four children.

Only three of the four lads that went on to conquer the world played in the group’s residency gigs in Hamburg in the early days. The drummer then was Peter Best, who was replaced by Ringo Starr shortly before the first single Love Me Do was released.  the concerts in Hamburg were performed by a five piece band, with Stuart Sutcliffe on bass guitar. He left the group to concentrate on an art career in July 1961 after their second stint in the city. He tragically died of a brain hemorrhage on 10th April the following year, just three days before the rest of the group arrived in the city to begin a six week residency at the Star Club. Manager Brian Epstein flew out their with Stuart’s mother and arranged for the body to be brought back to Liverpool, with the burial taking place at Huyton Parish Church.

Epstein, who ovBrian Epstein Graveersaw the groups sensational rise to worldwide stardom, also had a tragically early death, at the age of just 32, in 1967. He was found in his London flat and was believed to have accidentally overdosed on medication. To allow the family some privacy, the band members did not attend the funeral or burial, which took place at the Jewish section of Everton Cemetery.

When Ringo Starr joined he group in August 1962, he did so from Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, who were billed ahead of The Beatles in Hamburg in October 1960. The group though never hit the heights, both of their singles failing to make the charts. After disbanding in 1967 Storm became a DJ before returning to Liverpool to live with his mother after his father’s death. On 28th September 1972, Storm and his mother were found dead at their home in Broadgreen Road. Alcohol and sleeping pills were found in his bloodstream and it was believed that after finding her son’s body , his mother Violet had deliberately overdosed to kill herself. They were cremated together and the ashes scattered at Anfield Cemetery’s garden of remembrance.

One of The Beatles many number one hits was Eleanor Rigby, who is buried in St Peter’s Churchyard in Woolton. Eleanor was a scullery maid and died of a brain hemorrhage in 1939 at the age of 44. Even though Paul McCartney and John Lennon would often go there, McCartney maintains this is purely coincidental, although has admitted the lyrics of the song could have come about due to his subconscious.

Whatever the truth is regarding Eleanor Rigby the gravestone, which was only discovered in 1980, has become a stop on the Beatles tourist trail, with taxis and minibuses often seen outside the churchyard. The other graves too are often tracked down by Beatles fans who have visited the city from all corners of the world.



A History of Everton Cemetery

Everton cemetery is actually situated in Fazakerley, more than three miles from the historic centre of Everton. The reason for this is that in 1876 the overseers of Everton parish determined to buy a sufficient quantity of land so that they had an exclusive area for burials, rather than rely on Liverpool’s Anfield cemetery. After an extensive search, they settled on 54 acres of farmland that were purchased from Mr Woodward for £12,000.

Preparation of the land began in August 1877 but a severe frost in the winter of 1878-9 delayed work and it was not until 16th July 1880, some months behind schedule, that the Church of England section was consecrated by the Bishop of Liverpool, the Roman Catholic consecration following five days later.

A man who was on the vestry board that oversaw the development of the cemetery and then played an important part in the history of both Everton and Liverpool football clubs is buried there. Brewer John Houlding lived in a house overlooking Stanley Park, which led him to develop an12210976464_45e80373bd_o interest in Everton who played there from 1878 to 1883. After spending one season at a field off Priory Road, Houlding arranged the lease of a piece of land that became the Anfield football ground and Everton’s home from 1884 to 1892. A dispute then arose over rent and the board members voted to move to a new ground at Mere Green which was renamed Goodison Park. Left with a ground that he now owned but no team Houlding formed Liverpool Football Club. Houlding died in 1902, a year after Liverpool had won the first of their eighteen league titles, and by then relations had thawed after the acrimonious split and players from both clubs carried his coffin at his funeral. Houlding was then interred in a family plot at Everton Cemetery.

In August 1914 a man looking for an escaped canary stumbled upon a tragedy at Everton cemetery when he found the bodies of two lovers. They were identified as William Holden and Ethel Frost, both of whom were deaf and had been intending to marry. However Ethel became friendly with another man and in a fit of jealousy William cut her throat with a razor blade before taking his own life. Anther murder victim buried in the cemetery is George Walker, an 82 year old who was battered to death in Warbreck Moor in 1953 in what became known as the Old Curiosity Shop Murder. His killer, twenty year old John Todd, was hanged for the crime.

In the 1st World War nearly 700 American servicemen who died whilst in Liverpool hospitals were buried at Everton cemetery. However after hostilities ended their remains were exhumed and either reburied in Brookwood American cemetery in Surrey or repatriated to the United States. Compared to some other cemeteries in Liverpool there are not so many war graves, with 55 from the 1st World War and fifteen from the 2nd World War.

In 1997 an unusual exhumation took place at Everton cemetery when the head of Yagan, an Aboriginal warrior was exhumed. A bounty had been placed on him after he killed several white settlers near Perth in Western Australia and after he was shot dead in 1833, his head was sent to London and eventually found its way to the Liverpool Museum. After being held in storage for a century it was buried in an unmarked grave in 1964 along with a Peruvian mummy and a Maori’s head. Aboriginal elders lobbied for its repatriation but this was complicated by the fact that twenty stillborn babies and two who had died soon after birth had been buried above it. With it being impossible to get permission from all 22 next of kin to disturb the remains, a six feet pit was dug alongside the grave and then Everton Cemetery Chinese memorialYagan’s head was exhumed horizontally. Even then the ordeal wasn’t over, as arguments over the most appropriate place form his burial in Australia meant this did not take place until 2010.

There are three distinct sections at Everton Cemetery- Church of England, Roman Catholic and General. Within the General Section is a dedicated area for Chinese graves and there is a memorial there to all Chinese people who have died in the United Kingdom. Every Spring and Autumn group visits are arranged to the cemetery by the Liverpool based See Yep Association, which represents the interests of those community members originating from the South West of China, to pay their respects.

There are not too many notable burials at Everton Cemetery but one significant grave is that of Brian Epstein, the manager of The Beatles who died in 1967 at the tragically young age of 32.

Everton Cemetery remains open to burials today. The main gates and stone piers at the Higher Lane and Long Lane entrances to Everton cemetery are now Grade II listed, being inscribed 1879. Also listed are the three lodges and one surviving chapel of the three that were originally built.