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© Rob McGibbon, 2013

28th February. Olive’s Funeral

Saturday morning.

The cortege starts out from The Hydro, taking Olive’s coffin along Eastern Esplanade, then away from Cliftonville and down to the railway station at Margate. Additional privately allocated First Class carriages have been attached to a train of the South Eastern & Chatham railway company to take mourners to London.

The train makes a special stop at Hither Green, where the mourners disembark and the coffin is carried to a hearse. Relatives and friends from the Higgins family’s London roots in New Cross and Deptford join the funeral procession and follow its slow journey to Ladywell and Brockley cemetery. An extra carriage is laden with a vast array of colourful floral tributes. Amongst the flowers by the coffin itself are ones shaped as crosses and wreaths with handwritten messages…

“A token of devotion from heartbroken Dad”

“To my darling Olive, in ever-loving and happy memories, from Peggs (Mums)”

“To my darling sister, from Frank”

“To darling Olive, from Eileen”

[‘Much rushing + hurrying by Dad + Peggs, leave at last amidst luggage + Eileen’s tears…I just noticed a little girl exactly like Eileen, wonder if she ever feels like me. I pity her if she does…’]


The cortege makes its way through the ornate iron gates at the Ivy Road entrance of the cemetery where even more people are waiting at the Ladywell chapel. The service begins at 12.30pm.

Later, the mourners follow Olive’s coffin down a path to the Brockley part of the cemetery and to the Higgins family grave in the shadows of low trees. A large, greying marble gravestone – half its length engraved with lead-filled lettering, the lower half clean and empty – rests to one side of the opened earth.

Thomas Higgins has already attended three funerals here since he purchased Plot 1330 20 years earlier. In late March 1894, when he was only 30, he buried his six-week-old son, Victor Thomas, who had died suddenly. In 1899, Thomas’s elderly mother-in-law was laid to rest and, only three years earlier, he had stood by this grave once again after his wife and Olive’s mother Martha had died from breast cancer at just 47. Now, Thomas must watch as his beloved daughter Olive is lowered into the same ground.

“…Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust…”