By Harry Argus
On July 31, roughly 60 people gathered around a gravesite in a lonely town in rural WA to remember a faithful friend.
It was a moving moment; one which has not been seen since 1926, but it reflected that when it boils down to it, the Church is about family. Family and friends had travelled from various towns in the State to Kookynie, 8km north-east of Menzies, to attend the funeral of the late Peter Smith Lloyd in the town’s cemetery.
Peter was a local prospector who had lived in the district for many years, and wanted to be buried in the peaceful Goldfield’s outback ghost town that he so dearly loved.
Fr Joseph Rathnaraj, parish priest of the Kalgoorlie-Boulder parish, travelled 200km to the town to conduct the very moving funeral service, which was the first Roman Catholic burial since William Spicer, aged 43, died of kidney failure on May 31, 1926.
During the prayerful funeral service, which was set amongst the beautiful mulga trees that grow naturally in the cemetery, the wonderful life of Peter was expressed in three eulogies, which were spoken by family members.
Burial records indicate that there have only been six other burials conducted in the Kookynie Cemetery since William Spicer’s funeral in 1926. They were in 1926, 1929, 1934, 1936, 2000 and 2002.
The population of Kookynie has been very small in numbers since the First World War, and at the present time about fifteen residents live in the town with one hotel.
Before the First World War the town’s population rose to about 7000 people with many gold miners working in the district.
The town at that time had a hospital, seven licensed hotels, five coffee lounges, a brewery, a local Shire Council and a mayor.
Another similar funeral took place 11 years ago on April 24, 1997 at the cemetery of the little Goldfield’s ghost town of Widgiemooltha, situated on the highway half way between Coolgardie and Norseman.
Fr Peter Toohey SSC conducted this moving Catholic funeral service, and laid to rest the mortal remains of Eoin McLean McLeod, aged 66, who was a local resident of the little gold mining town of about 20 people.
This funeral was the first Roman Catholic burial in the Widgiemooltha Cemetery since Mary Doyle, aged 83 died on July 13, 1945.
Her family at the time owned the local hotel in the small town.The location of the Widgiemooltha Cemetery is very interesting. Due to the town of Widgiemooltha being located amongst hard diorite hills, the cemetery is located six kilometres away from the town on a scrubby sand island one kilometre in from the shore of Lake Lefroy.
Mourners and visitors need to walk across the mainly dry salt lake to reach the island.
Rest in Peace.