Cremation: The History

Article excerpt

UNTIL the late 19th century, the British Empire viewed cremation as a practice of heathens and pagans.

The push for cremation arose during the British funeral reform movement of the late 19th century, which was spurred by the excess of Victorian-era funerals.

Cremation became a very emotional topic like euthanasia is today.

The medical profession were among the advocates citing sanitation arguments while the churches opposed it.

In 1886, the Vatican issued a decree labelling it a pagan practice.

The main advocate of cremations in Australia was Dr John Mildred Creed.

Early non-indigenous cremations in Australia:

* A Chinese leper, Mr Foo Choo, was cremated in 1890 at the Quarantine Station in Portsea, Victoria at the height of the White Australia policy for "hygiene reasons".

* In 1895, Mr Singh (a Sikh) was the first consenting non-indigenous person to be cremated. This was performed at Sandringham beach (a popular bathing beach) in Victoria without any permits.

* Later that year, an 83-year-old piano teacher, Mrs Elizabeth Hennicker became the first European to be cremated in Australia. This also happened at Sandringham beach and was performed by the undertaker Joseph Le Pine. The media attended and generated poor publicity as people could watch the remains burning. …