Winifred Atwell’s Grave

Being home for Easter is an opportunity to catch up with family, both the living and the dead. And today we visited a few cemeteries around the area, including Memorial Garden at South Gundurimba, about fifteen minutes drive from Lismore. It’s a small cemetery “in the middle of nowhere” with not many graves at all. It’s also on the back road between Lismore and Grafton, and so I guess many people pass it on the road without even realising it’s there.

Winifred Atwell memorial at South Gundurimba near Lismore, NSW, Australia
Winifred Atwell memorial at South Gundurimba near Lismore, NSW, Australia

The cemetery’s most famous resident is Winifred Atwell, a Trinidad-born pianist who was very popular in the 1950s and 1960s with a series of boogie woogie and ragtime hits. According to Wikipedia, “She was the first black person to have a number one hit in the UK Singles Chart, and still the only female instrumentalist to do so.”

A recent article in the local newspaper, The Northern Star describes her connection with the area and why she came to be buried on the North Coast right next to her husband whose own death preceded hers by six years.

Ms Atwell and her husband, Lew Levisohn, had lived on Sydney’s Northern Beaches for many years after emigrating here and becoming Australian citizens. “But on a drive (around the Northern Rivers) they spotted the tiny Lismore Memorial Garden Cemetery, South Gundurimba, and fell in love with its beauty and tranquillity. “It is quite a thing for such an iconic entertainer to be buried at a little cemetery in the middle of nowhere.” The couple also had a longstanding friendship with a now deceased Catholic priest Father Jim Carney, who was serving at Coraki when Mr Levisohn died, said Ms Preston. It was reported that Father Carney had been kind to the couple in Mr Levisohn’s final days and it was Ms Atwell’s wish that he be buried by Father Carney near to his parish and that she be buried beside her beloved husband when the time came.

Winifred Atwell grave at South Gundurimba near Lismore, NSW, Australia
Winifred Atwell grave at South Gundurimba near Lismore, NSW, Australia

Although I’m not what you would call a great fan of Winifred Atwell, I do remember with certain fondness seeing (as a child) her performances on television programs like “The Two Ronnies” and “The Mike Walsh Show”.

And I hope, Harold who I know through ABBAMAIL and ABBA Village and who has a wonderful story of having met Winifred Atwell enjoys, at last, seeing her grave and having it confirmed she is buried next to her late husband. I also thought it was interesting to see fresh flowers on both their graves, and to also see the small memorial to a great talent who died almost thirty years ago.

PS : September 2022

Sometime in the last year or two, the grave has had an appropriate “upgrade”.

6 Replies to “Winifred Atwell’s Grave”

  1. Hi J. mum and Joannie and I went to the cemetery today to see Dad, he would have been 90 today, in speaking with the caretaker he was telling us that tomorrow there’s to be a celebration for Winifred Atwell there tomorrow – I guess anything at Gundurimba is weather dependent and it’s certainly wet under foot-it’s been 30years since she passed and there’s a show on at the Lismore Workers’ Club

    1. Hi Christine, yes I know. I know someone, Harold who is a big fan and he’s spending some time there for the anniversary. Having visited Ossie’s grave I was able to pass on some info about how to find the cemetery, and to keep an eye out for the sudden turn. Hoping all’s well. Jimmy xx

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