News & Events

Tiptoe through the tombstones

Tuesday October 29 2019

The temptation to “meet” some of the interesting residents of Terrace End Cemetery as part of events planned for Palmerston North’s Local History Week has proved so strong that a second date has been added.

Photo shows woman peeking out from behind a headstone in the old city cemetery.

Leanne Hickman, along with Tina White and Richard Mays, will take participants on a historical journey during the Terrace End Cemetery by Twilight tour on 6 and 7 November. Hickman is pictured with the grave of Edward McKenna, who earned a Victoria Cross during the New Zealand Wars. McKenna stayed in New Zealand, working on the railway before retiring to Palmerston North. When he died in 1908, he was remembered in a military funeral, with the event marked in the media of the day.

The Terrace End Cemetery by Twilight tour next Wednesday (6 November) is already booked out, and organisers have added a second outing on Thursday (7 November) to meet demand.

Historians Tina White and Leanne Hickman, with assistance from writer and actor Richard Mays, will lead the tours from 6.30pm each night. White is well known for her Memory Lane columns published in the Manawatū Standard, and Massey tutor Hickman has written for the Manawatū Journal of History and is a member of the Historic Places Manawatū-Horowhenua group in Palmerston North.

Tour participants can expect to hear the stories of a former mayor, a Māori chieftain and a grave inscribed with old-world Chinese. Other graves to be visited will include those of war heroes and 1918 influenza epidemic victims. “If you have a story to tell about your own ancestor, we'd love to hear it,” White says. “Don't forget to wear stout, grippy shoes, as the tour will probably take in part of the upper level if it's dry underfoot."

The grave of the former mayor is that of James Nash. Nash and his wife, Elizabeth, received royal honours for their work during World War I and for their efforts to help victims of the 1918 influenza epidemic.

One of the oldest graves in the cemetery is that of Maori chieftain Kerei Te Panau, who died at the age of 103. When Palmerston North’s central Post Office was opened in 1906, its clock tower chimes were named "Kerei Te Panau" after the chieftain and dedicated at the building's opening ceremony by Nell Wood, wife of then mayor William T Wood. After the 1942 earthquake, the tower was removed and the chimes were stored at the Palmerston North City Council’s depot until 1956, when they were placed in the Hopwood Clock Tower in the Square, where they still chime.

Bookings are essential for the Terrace End Cemetery by Twilight tour. Call the Palmerston North City Library Heritage Team on 06 351 4100, email, or visit the team on the second floor of the Central Library.

Local History Week, organised by the Palmerston North City Library’s Heritage Team, runs from 3 to 10 November. Other events during the week include a workshop at Ashhurst Cemetery, the Mokaa – the Land of Opportunity exhibition, displays, talks, tours, walks and workshops. 

Photo shows three people among the historic headstones in the city's old cemetery.

Tina White (left), Leanne Hickman, and Richard Mays pictured among the graves of the Waldegrave family, after whom Palmerston North’s Waldegrave Street was named.