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Northern Cemetery Title

Dunedin's Buried History

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Images of the Northern Cemetery (C) Derek Smith 2003

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BRACKEN, THOMAS

Bracken came originally from Clones in Ireland. His mother died several days after his birth and he was left in the care of his aunt after the death of his father in 1853. At the age of twelve he emigrated to Victoria, Australia. He started an apprenticeship as a chemist with his uncle but after eighteen months left to wander Australia as a stockman and shearer. Thomas Bracken’s wanderings took him to Dunedin, New Zealand in 1869 following the reports of gold rush fever. The following year he became a journalist, then editor for two years of the “Saturday Advertiser”. By 1881 Bracken had been elected as a member for Dunedin Central in the House of Representatives. He was an advocate of Maori and women’s rights. In later years Bracken was to lose and recover his seat in politics until he retired in 1887. Thomas Bracken was a patriot, a romantic writer and considered a poet of the people. He is best remembered for writing the words to New Zealand’s national Anthem “God Defend New Zealand” in 1875. Although his verses were written in both English and Maori they did not become well known until the 1940s and the advent of community radio. Bracken died suffering of Goitre and in humble circumstances in Dunedin Hospital, but his words live on.

Research by Jane Davidson


Portrait of Thomas Bracken
Image courtesy of:
Hocken Library, Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago, Dunedin E2908/27

Monumental Inscription


Sacred To The Memory of Thomas Bracken, Poet, Journalist, Legislator. Born Ireland 1843, died at Dunedin 1898.

“Not Understood, how many breasts are aching

For lack of sympathy, ah! day by day

How many cheerless, lonely hearts are breaking

How many noble spirits pass away – Not Understood.

Oh God! That men would see a little clearer

Or judge less harshly where they cannot see

Oh God! That men would draw a little nearer

To one another, They’d be nearer Thee –

And Understood”.

- Thomas Bracken

[Monument is a tall white concrete and marble pillar topped by a draped urn. The monument builder was Frapwell & Holgate and the architect J. A. Burnside.]



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