April 8th, 2021It’s a grave job but Alan never lost the plot
The 66-year-old will retire in May, having dug 3000 graves since taking on the job in April 1979.
For the first 30 years, he singlehandedly excavated the gravesites with the tools of his trade.
“I had a shovel, spade, mattock and a pick,” Mr Graham said.
He recalls how the position became his.
Mr Graham had registered for work at the abattoirs, one of the largest employers at the time in the district.
On his way home, he spotted Rowan McMillan, sitting in the back of his ute in the cemetery eating a sandwich.
“The conversation went, do you know of any work going, and he looked at me and said you can have my job if you want it,” Mr Graham said.
He worked with Mr McMillan for three months learning the ropes before officially taking over the role.
Mr Graham is comfortable in his role as a grave digger with a visible degree of pride in his skills.
He emits a sense of solitude and also an aura of precision evident in the surety that every grave he digs is meticulous
“I’m the one who has to get up and go to work and have the job done,” he said.
“I prefer to only have to worry about myself, so I can’t blame anyone else, I like being out in the open air, and I get to work on my own.”
He has a routine for digging a grave, whether standard size or three-foot wide to accommodate an American coffin.
It takes Mr Graham approximately seven to eight hours to complete a standard size gravesite.
“If there is a need for more than one coffin within the grave, you can add on a few more hours,” he said.
Three funerals in three different cemeteries on the same day was the heaviest workload he achieved.
“There was an early morning burial at Trentham, then I had to be here [Daylesford] around lunchtime and back out at Glenlyon for about three o’clock,” Mr Graham recalls.
While the backhoe has taken over a lot of the hard physical work, Mr Graham still needs to square the corners of the grave to ease lowering and fitting the coffin.
Mr Graham can proudly lay claim to his skill of fastidiousness as a gravedigger, a role which his wife Anne describes as noble.
Words: Carol Saffer | Image: Kyle Barnes