Sacred Ground – Danny Kucharsky – Review

Let me say up front that I like cemeteries.  You can visit the famous, bone up on your history, enjoy a quiet walk, take in architectural details and read up on other people’s lives.

So I was quite pleased to receive a copy of ‘Sacred Ground / On De La Savane -Montreal’s Baron de Hirsch Cemetery‘ by Danny Kucharsky and published by Vehicule Press.

Mainly historical, Sacred Ground looks at 100 years of existence of the Baron de Hirsch cemetery in Montreal. Giving a brief but overall look at the Jewish presence in Montreal we read that the first Jewish cemetery was established in 1775 although the first person to be buried there was in 1776 was a gentleman named Lazarus David, who had originally purchased the land and created the cemetery.

The book provides biographies of some of the more famous inhabitants on the grounds including the Yiddish poet Jacob Issac Segal , the ‘Princess of Yiddish Literature’ Rachel Korn as well as a writer well known throughout the rest of Canada, A. M. Klein.

The book republishes a sampling of obituaries collected by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Ottawa. They range from the straightforward “He drowned in Cartierville” to the intriguing “The twenty-seven-year-old Clark Street resident  was mistaken for a bank robber and shot by a police detective. He was employed by the Canadian Hat Manufacturing Co. as a designer. He came to Canada seven years ago.” One of the oddest is “Strean, the “longtime president of Chevra Shaas congregation”. and  “prominent contributor to the Jewish community…died as a result of unjust criticism by a small group of Chevra Shaas member.”

Examples of headstone inscriptions are also given, my favourite being ‘A truly unusual man” for  the simplicity and forthrightness of the words.

The book is illustrated with photographs by D. R Cowles. A few photographs are scattered through the book but a small portfolio is located in the centre of the volume. Tinted and printed on a better quality of paper stock the photographs are both beautiful and haunting. They do suffer from the small format of the book but are a welcome addition.

Literary Tour Photography

Emily Carr – Writer and Artist

I recently dropped by to see Emily Carr, the well known West Coast artist and writer, and, yes, she’s been dead since 1945. That doesn’t stop people like myself from visting her gravesite in Victoria’s Ross Bay Cemetery. The cemetery is the final resting place for a who’s who of British Columbia history but it’s only Carr’s site that draws fans who leave notes, and art supplies and pens. Carr’s artwork can be seen in many major Canadian galleries and her books, including Klee Wyck and The Book of Small and  are still in print. Fans can also visit Emily Carr House, the house where she was born which is maintained as a tribute to Carr and her work.

Carr’s grave marker surrounded by pine cones, pens, pencils, brushes and other items left by visitors.

A sample of Carr’s writing at her grave site.

A note and crayon left at the site

Emily Carr house


Dead Poet Directions

Planning a vacation and want to combine your fascination with poets and gravesites? Have a look at the Poets’ Graves website. This site has mainly English poets but you can check out where the Japanese poet Basho was buried after his death in 1694 (Otsu, Shiga), the American poet Charles Bukowski (Rancho Palo Verdes, California) or the French poet Arthur Rimbaud (Charleville-Mezieres, Ardennes).  Each entry is short but gives information about the gravesite as well as the poet in question (Did you know that Oscar Wilde is buried in Paris in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery which among others houses the singer Jim Morrison and French poet Paul Eluard). There is usually at least a single photo of the grave and/or headstone as well as a photo of the writer. See George Barker’s headstone peeking out from behind a large plant. The site also has shorter entries in lists of gravesites for writers, musicians and artists.