"It is like a visit to an outdoor sculpture garden, a walking park and a page from history rolled into one."
That is how the members of the Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria describe a visit to Ross Bay Cemetery. On July 16, the Society provided a tour to approximately 20 VWNC members for the reboot of Heritage Tours.
Ross Bay Cemetery is one of Canada's oldest and largest surviving Victorian-era cemeteries. Among those buried there is Emily Carr, one of Canada's most famous artists and authors. Carr's grave is the most visited in Ross Bay Cemetery.
A substantial monument marks the gravesite for the family of Robert Dunsmuir: politician, coal baron and builder of Craigdarroch Castle.
Also notable was the gravesite of Isabella Ross, the person for whom the cemetery is named. She was the first woman to be a registered landowner in BC, and once owned most of what is now Ross Bay Cemetery.
The tour guides, Yvonne van Ruskenveld and John Azar, made Victoria's history come alive with their stories of the famous -- and the infamous. They wore microphones which made it easy to hear them while physical distancing.
The guides are members of the Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria, a charitable organization that encourages the research, preservation and appreciation of Victoria's twenty heritage cemeteries. The tour was so well-subscribed that two concurrent tours were arranged.
As well as artistic monuments and headstones constructed of marble, sandstone and granite, Ross Bay Cemetery has a beautiful setting with winding pathways and views to the ocean and mountains. It is not unusual to see deer in its park-like setting.
Thanks to Jane Ross for organizing the tour, and to Lia Woods, for the photos.