Gone and quite forgotten

Headstones are an effort to leave a permanent reminder of our demise. But they too, return to dust.

There are countless gravestones like this over our big country, decaying, decayed, destroyed.

I shall tell the sad story of two of them now, and revive their memory, if only for a short time.

James Gray’s cracked headstone (above) lies partially obscured by red dirt at the Coolgardie cemetery, Western Australia.

And although the words below his name say “gone but not forgotten’’, he certainly appears abandoned.

The 23 year old, whose age was given as 22 by the local paper, died a simple death due to pneumonia after about three weeks of illness. He had only been married two months and a day when his final call came.

He was part of a large local family, and was involved in the Amalgamated Miners Union, so was most likely a miner, and the Coolgardie Football Club.

“A very largely attended funeral was that which conveyed the mortal remains  of James Bryce Gray ‘over the border. ‘”

Image Sharyn Moodie

About 40 kilometres from Gray’s final resting place, is the Boulder historical cemetery. It is littered with cracked fallen stones, many long illegible.

It is difficult to make out the first name on Arthur Perkins’ cracked headstone, which has been partly jigsawed together, but his story can be eked out.

While the newspaper article tells the tale in the graphic yet matter-of-fact verbage of the day, reportage of the inquest was more detailed, if no less macabre.

An inquest was held in the Boulder Police Court on Friday into the cause of the death of Arthur Perkins, who was torn to pieces in the Horseshoe shaft on the previous day.

newspaper report

The inquest heard Perkins had complained of a headache before entering the cage to return to the surface after his shift, but after it went up about 200ft he fainted into a sitting position. Another man in the cage grabbed his coat to support him, but when the cage passed a plat (an enlarged shaft entry) he no longer had support behind him and fell backwards. His head was caught between the cage and the cap and he was pulled out and plunged downwards.

There was much discussion about dynamite fumes, whether they caused the man to faint and if they were worse than usual. Another man in the same cage also fainted.

The jury returned a verdict that the deceased was accidentally killed while ascending the shaft while unconscious from the effects of dynamite fumes.

They added a rider that there should be better ventilation.

A fallen angel? Possibly the gravestone of a little girl, also buried in the Boulder Historic Cemetery. Image Sharyn Moodie
Coolgardie, Western Australia

Sources : Kalgoorlie Miner Monday 25 August 1902 p 4, Friday 21 March 1902 , p 4

Kalgoorlie Western Argus (WA : 1896 – 1916)Tuesday 25 March 1902, p 1

Published by Sharyn Moodie

Travelling around Australia for work, I've found so many amazing headstones. But what is more amazing is the stories behind some of these deaths, and the way newspapers of the day reported them.

2 thoughts on “Gone and quite forgotten

  1. Life was so incredibly hard back in those days, I will never understand how they managed to cope with the death of their children. We are so fortunate today. Thanks Sharon for your great stories

    Liked by 1 person

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