You don’t expect to find the leader of two countries buried in the English Riviera do you? Here is such a chap though - George Waterhouse was premier for South Australia and the prime minister for New Zealand. This occurred in the nineteen century though. I doubt this would even happen now.
Here I am in Torquay’s main cemetery about forty minutes away from the harbour by foot; it’s an uphill walk that gets the heart pumping a bit. I could have boarded a bus but you see more walking and if I’ve got an audio book in my ears I’m in another world and time seems to zoom by.
George was born in England but his family emigrated to Hobart in Australia in 1839 (he was 15) and then moved to Adelaide. In his twenties he ran a sheep station but gave it up by age 27 to entered the South Australian Parliament. Over the next decade he went through a cycle of being elected then resigning. However by 37 he had achieved the top job. By this time he was married and had two adoptive daughters. Life didn’t go to plan though and after two years of leadership which were dogged with claims of financial mismanagement he resigned and returned to England.
He must have liked the sun as aged 45 he emigrated round the world again but this time to New Zealand. He was the Prime Minister by 48. He found the upper house stubborn and hard to inspire and resigned. He stayed on in politics though but aged 65 he retired and returned to Torquay on the South coast. He died aged 82, a ripe age for the era. Despite this noteworthy achievement he never received a peerage or knighthood for his services in governing two colonies.
George had been in a poor state for a few years and it looks like his grave has been too. I found it – in pieces - along one of the perimeter walls. He lies under the disassembled stones with his wife. I thought this headstone worthy of fixing but the pieces were too heavy for me to lift. You’d think the council would rebuild it wouldn’t you or at least put up a wee waterproof sign summarising the man’s achievements. He’d been the head of two countries after all. Directly over the wall is a main road; how many people have walked down the pavement knowing the leader of two countries lay a few feet away? Very few.
Going to head out of the harbour and up there to the main cemetery (about a 40 minutes walk away)…
He lies by the perimeter wall…