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Macau Protestant Cemetery

The Old Macau Protestant Cemetery is situated directly to the east of the Praca Luis de Camoues and can be reached by walking north and downhill from the Ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral.

Macau Protestant Cemetery

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This is a fascinating little cemetery filled with the graves of Protestants who either died or passed through Macau since 1814. Ecclesiastical law forbade the burial of Protestants on Catholic soil and the Chinese also rejected the idea of having Protestants buried on their ground.

So Protestants started burying their dead just outside the city walls. The Chinese were not impressed, considering the practice a desecration of their land. The only route left to Protestants was to bury their dead in neutral territory--under the city walls.

Macau Protestant Cemetery

It was not until 1814 that land was sold to the British East Indian Company who opened the cemetery in 1821 to finally resolved this fraught situation.

Macau Protestant Cemetery

It is easy to miss this cemetery just to the right of the Camoes Grotto and Gardens, but once inside it holds a certain somber, mossy attraction.

Macau Protestant Cemetery

The tombstones are big slabs of resting stone or upright crosses inscribed with anything from a simple name to detailed inscription, allowing a peek at the former life inside.

Macau Protestant Cemetery

The graves here are very detailed and personal, recounting life stories and achievements. Inmates include many naval officers along with Robert Morrison, first Protestant missionary to China, and Lord John Spencer Churchill, ancestor of Sir Winston. Artist George Chinnery, renowned for his pictures of Macau, holds pride of place.

Macau Protestant Cemetery

REVIEW on the
An East India Company Cemetery: Protestant Burials in Macao by Lindsay and May Ride, edited by Bernard Mellor

Next to the Camoes Garden lie the tombs of some of the notable and the notorious who played a part in Macau's long history.

The Protestant Cemetery shelters Robert Morrison, the first Protestant missionary to China, as well as opium traders, adventurers and artists.

The cemetery had a fascination for Sir Lindsay Ride, the University of Hong Kong's longest-serving Vice-Chancellor, and his wife, Lady May Ride. Lady Ride's recent death in England recalled her life-long connections with Hong Kong and Macau.

Macau Protestant Cemetery

She lived in Hong Kong for 81 of her 83 years. During the Pacific War, her husband escaped from Japanese-occupied Hong Kong and established the British Army Aid Group, which gathered intelligence information and assisted escapees.

Several of their operatives were based in Macau, as the Portuguese enclave - although encircled by the Japanese - was not occupied. One of the BAAG's key agents in Macau was the prominent businessman, the late Y.C. Liang. He remained a close friend of the Rides until his death.

May Ride's first connection with what was to become a life-long fascination occurred in 1928. On a family visit to Macau, she came upon the crumbling ruins of the disused Old Protestant Cemetery.

Macau Protestant Cemetery

After the war, most of the Rides' weekends were spent in the Portuguese territory, then a sleepy place, and they started to explore the cemetery. They recognised, as many do not, that the real genesis of Hong Kong as a trading port began in Macau.

Intrigued by the stories that its crumbling stones and neglected tombs seemed to hint at, they began restoring and documenting the old cemetery in their spare time.

They wore out scrubbing brushes at the rate of one every two days, and spent their evenings writing up their findings and talking with their great friend historian Father Teixeira. This weekend hobby became an absorbing pastime that came to take up most of their leave, and involved them in further research whenever they were in England or the United States.

This gradually developed into a book, which was almost ready for publication when Sir Lindsay Ride died in 1977. His ashes were buried in the Old Protestant Cemetery, the first interment there for more than a century.

The work lay dormant for almost twenty years, and was finally published in 1995 as An East India Company Cemetery - Protestant Burials in Macao.

Their fascination with Macau led to a companion volume to the cemetery book, also halted by Sir Lindsay's death. This work details the many old Portuguese stones, statues and memorials to be found at various places in Macau. Entitled The Voices of Macao Stones, it is to be published by Hong Kong University Press this summer. - JASON WORDIE.

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