Colonial leader laid to rest – twice

1835 – Western Australian pioneering doctor Alexander Collie wanted to be buried next to his close friend and Aboriginal leader Mokare*.

Mokare had travelled alongside Collie as he explored the south of the state, and played an important part in maintaining friendly relations between the land’s inhabitants and the newly arrived Europeans.

He was a regular house guest of Collie, and had died in June 1831, most likely from influenza.

There was no official town cemetery in Albany, where Mokare breathed his last, and he was buried on a small plot there (lot S112).

And when the bachelor Collie died four years later (see below for that story), he was indeed buried alongside his friend.

But just four years later an official cemetery was declared in the town and Collie’s remains were reinterred to the Albany Pioneer Cemetery, one of Western Australia’s first consecrated cemeteries.

Some sources say Collie was the first interment in the new cemetery when it opened in 1840 (1).   

However, other claim that his remains were not moved until the construction of the Albany Town Hall over the site of his first resting place in the 1880s (2).

Whenever he was moved, as the centenary of his death approached, no-one knew where he was buried.

In 1935, the British Medical Association was considering erecting a headstone on his grave.

An old cemetery plan was found on which the first grave marked in the cemetery, at that stage known as the Church of England cemetery, was that of  a “Dr. Colley” – which supports that he may have been the first burial in the new cemetery.

 There was no specific location except that it was at the extreme western end of the old portion of the cemetery, which was marked unmarked with headstones.

The memorial headstone, picture above, was erected, so presumably his place of burial was identified.

While it is unknown what happened to Mokare’s remains, a statue of him was erected  in the Alison Hartman gardens in nearby York Street  as part of a reconciliation program in 1997.

Plans to create a “place of reflection’  behind the town hall as another mark of respect were raised in 2019.  

How did Alexander Collie die?

He had arrived in the fledgling western colony in June 1829, as a surgeon on the HMS Sulphur which founded the region.

After a few years spent exploring the south-west and also working as in general medical practice,  he moved to Albany as the first Government Resident.

Here he began to suffer from what he first thought was asthma.

It obviously affected him badly as “He gave up the idea of marriage because ‘no one would marry a broken winded animal such as I’.””  (2)

Eighteen months later he returned to the more-established township of Perth to become colonial surgeon.

Despite having the means to build the best house in Perth, his continued health deterioration forced a decision to return to England.

But it was too late.  Having embarked on a ship for Sydney, he only reached King George Sound and Albany before he was moved to the house of prominent early setter George Cheyne and soon died.

He made a will sometime in these final few weeks of his life. He left his brother James ‘my largest silver snuff box’; his brother George ‘my writing desk and gold ring.’

Everything else, including his grand home,  he left in equal parts between the two of them.

*various spellings include Morkew, Mawcarrie, Markew or Makkare.

Albany, Western Australia

Sources: 1. Albany Memorial Park Cemetery, ANZAC Walk 1 brochure, https://library.albany.wa.gov.au/programs-collections/albany-history-collection/albany-memorial-park-cemetery-walks.aspx,

2. Alexander Collie – Australian Dictionary of Biography, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/collie-alexander-1911

Mount Barker and Denmark Record, Monday 27 May 1935 – p3, Monday 1 July 1935 – p3

The West Australian, Friday March 13, 1936, p13

Monuments Australia: https://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/people/indigenous/display/60018-mokare  Monuments Australia.

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.

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