The Coolibah’s of Bourke cemetery guard a fascination piece of Australia’s frontier history. An hour spent browsing the inscriptions will take you back into a world of bushrangers and drovers, cameleers and river boat mean, lost children and local heroes. Bourke’s cemetery predates the town.
It has been the scene for two of Australia’s most famous funerals. September 1892 saw a young Henry Lawson join in the procession following the coffin of an unknown young stockman, who had drowned in a billabong near Bourke. His union papers identified him as ‘James Tyson’. Later it was discovered that his name was John Hallahan.
The melancholy event was captured by Lawson in what became his best story – The Union Buries It’s Dead – a classic tale from the Western frontier. In 1993 Professor Fred Hollows, the eye surgeon known worldwide for his passion to restore sight, was buried in Bourke. His motto ‘that all the world may see’, echoes the mateship ethic Lawson celebrated a century earlier. Many of the epitaphs in the cemetery tell of the tragedy that constantly stalked the Western Plains. Bourke cemetery – a true window to the past.