Spartan

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Final resting place: Rose Anne Hall (nee Dryden), and her husband Sir John Hall (former Premier of New Zealand, and campaigner for universal suffrage). Churchyard of St John’s, Hororata, Canterbury, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2018

Monuments to the dead are often elaborate structures; from mausolea and sarcophagi to intricately carved headstones of crosses, winged angels, birds, flora, and all manner of other symbolic elements. Often the more prominent the person in life, the more magnificent their funerary art.

So it was something of a surprise to find — in the churchyard of St John’s Anglican Church Hororata – the spartan graves of Sir John Hall (18241907) and his wife Rose, nee Dryden, (1828-1900).

Both Rose Dryden and John Hall were born in England and arrived in New Zealand as young adults. John Hall came to farm in Canterbury, but entered politics quite quickly. He served as a Cabinet Minister in several administrations, and as Premier of New Zealand between 8 Oct 1879 and 21 Apr 1882.

Although a conservative, Hall is best remembered as one of the major driving forces behind women’s suffrage in New Zealand, championing the cause in Parliament.

I can find little information about Rose Dryden. Indeed she is not even mentioned in Hall’s biography in Te Ara — Encyclopedia of New Zealand.  In fact, the only reference I can find for her in NZ historical sources is an entry in NZ History that she (probably) signed the Women’s Suffrage petition, alongside 32,000 other women. This petition was famously presented to Parliament by her husband; all 500 pages glued together to form a roll that stretched over 270 metres.

The Halls were prominent citizens of the Canterbury province, having their farm and homestead in Hororata. They were actively involved in the community — regularly attending church at St John’s (and apparently teaching in the Sunday School), as well as school prize-giving, sports days and other events. I know this because the Big T’s family also has strong roots in Hororata, and newspaper archives tell me that some of his ancestors were recipients of those school prizes.

The Big T and I spent well over an hour in the St John’s churchyard, searching for — and finding — headstones for a very large number of his ancestors. Amongst those memorials to the dead, the Halls’ graves stand out as perhaps the plainest and most spartan.

Perhaps their children believe that the best memorial to their parents lies in the ballot papers cast by women in each election.

Posted to Ragtag Daily Prompt |spartan

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30 thoughts on “Spartan

    • I like to think so. According to the obituary of the Big T’s great grandmother, she worked for the Hall family, but I don’t know in what capacity. We have no family letters or documents that give any indication, and I’ve asked the most elderly aunts but it was news to them.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. How ironic that the wife of the man who promoted women’s suffrage has no story of her town to be found in his biography or elsewhere. But sadly not surprising.

    And yes, our actions in life are the best way to create our legacy. Not our gravestones.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely photo, Su, and interesting that the graves are relatively plain. After reading your post, I remembered posting a photo of a memorial seat for Sir John Hall in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/tag/botanic-gardens/#jp-carousel-2982 It is a simple and humble seat. I wonder if there is a similar one somewhere for his wife? Perhaps her descendants didn’t think a memorial was necessary. Perhaps she was a person who didn’t want any fuss or acknowledgement. Or perhaps, like all those women are now being given belated obituaries in the New York Times, she was simply ignored by history.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interestingly, as it is almost the time of the year to remember Parihaka, two great great grand daughters of John Hall, who was Prime Minister at the time of the invasion, were present at the Crown’s apology to the people of Parihaka.
    https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/332613/tears-as-crown-apologises-for-parihaka-atrocities
    They are both women Sir John would be proud of.
    Min Hall is an architect. Her website gives her office address as Auckland.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Sarah. It was pretty special for us, finding so many of T’s ancestors buried in the same place. And then the Hall’s with their connection to women’s suffrage. I agree; ballots before monuments any day. xxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

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