Tombstones At East Perth Reflect Our History
By H.W.B.

When Brig. William Stirling visited this State less than two years ago, he might have been shown the grave of another William Stirling, an early relative of his, who had died in Perth 118 years before.

The only trouble was that the grave was one of many that time and the people of Western Australia had not treated kindly, for it was in the East Perth Cemetery.

This William Stirling was a nephew of our first Governor, Captain James Stirling, R.N., and had come out with his uncle on the Parmelia in 1829. Nearby is the grave of one of the Governor's own sons.

Flanking the graves are tombstones (many mouldering and broken) of men and women whose names forged a mighty link with the pioneering days of the colony and with every phase of its history to the early 20th Century.

But the link was tarnished, and Brig. Stirling had to be taken to places that breathed more natural beauty and less history, and no doubt he left Western Australia with some happy impressions.

However, if he visits the State again times will have changed, for the State Government is now engaged on the restoration and beautification of this significant plot of ground that looks down on the city, and yet is removed from the throb of the city's heart.

A mere handful of individuals can take credit for having repeatedly drawn the Government's attention to the condition of the East Perth cemetery, and for persevering until something was done.

Likewise there are some private citizens who have contributed in no mean way to the smooth working of the restoration and the identification of scores of graves for which records have been lost.

One of them, Mr. E.W. Doncaster, a man in his early twenties employed at the Government Statistician's office, has compiled an accurate dossier of graves in the Anglican portion of the cemetery. Listing over 1,000 names with location references and other essential details has been a labour of love for this young man.

Two others who are now voluntarily engaged on listing graves and essential data in other portions of the cemetery are Misses K. Caldwell and D. Henderson, members of the council of the Western Australian Historical Society.

First Colonists

Sleeping in the cemetery are several of our first colonists - those who accompanied Stirling on his voyage to Fremantle in the Parmelia 123 years ago - and many who landed in the first decade of the colony.

There are John Septimus Roe, first Colonial Surveyor and explorer, who surveyed the sites of Perth and Fremantle; Charles Simmons, first Colonial Surgeon; Peter Broun, first Colonial Secretary; George Eliot, afterwards Resident Magistrate at Bunbury for many years; and several others who played a prominent part in the colony's early struggles.

The Rev. John Burdett Wittenoom, first Colonial Chaplain, who died in 1855, is buried in the cemetery alongside his wife and five members of his family.

The third Governor, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Clarke who died in February, 1847, after only one year in office, was laid to rest here.

Famous Names

Explorers, statesmen, public servants, members of the judiciary, citizens and pioneer farmers and pastoralists will be remembered once again when the restoration is completed, for here are some of the notable names that will appear on marble, granite and stone:

William Leeder, who died in 1844 and gave his name to the suburb of Leederville.

Frederick Wittenoom, Sheriff of the Colony, who was laid to rest in 1865.

Captain Harry Rolles, of the old 51st Regiment (1841), and Lieut.-Col. John Bruce, Commandant and Staff officer of Pensioners (1870).

Luke Leake, first Speaker in the Legislative Council from 1870 to 1886, his brother George Leake, C.A.J. Piesse, who died in office while Colonial Secretary, and Anthony O'Grady Lefroy, Colonial Treasurer, who died in 1897.

Bishop Parry and three children of Bishop Matthew Hale, noted churchman and founder of Hale School.

John Hardy, of Peninsula Farm, Maylands, and John H. Monger, one of the founders and pioneers of York.

Dr. John Ferguson, a Colonial Surgeon, William Cowan, private secretary of Governor Hutt, and William Shenton, editor of the "Perth Gazette."

Sir Archibald Paull Burt, a notable Chief Justice, whose sons Oct. and Sept. later left their mark as administrators in the Public Service.


An exploration tragedy of the sixties is recalled by a monument tomb to James Harding, Constable W.H. Goldwyer and F.K. Panter.

While exploring in the wilderness south of Roebuck Bay in 1864 they were attacked and speared by natives at a place out from La Grange Bay.

An expedition courageously led by Maitland Brown searched for them when they failed to return and discovered their bodies, which were brought to Perth and given a State funeral.

Other names on tombstones in the cemetery that are synonymous with the State's pioneering history are those of Hamersley, Chipper, Burges, Barrett-Lennard, Drummond, Sholl, Lefroy, Clifton, Strickland, Lochee, Parker, Padbury, Hillman, Whitfield, Trigg and Throssell.

Weakened Links

Historically speaking, the restoration of the East Perth Cemetery is one of the most important moves that have been made since 1926, when the Western Australian Historical Society was formed to preserve and strengthen some of the fast disappearing links with the State's past.

It could well be a start in developing a greater historical consciousness among the people of the State and particularly the younger citizens.

Many historic landmarks, lonely graves and old relics scattered over this big State have yet to be preserved, and they must be preserved soon if they are to remain in existence.

Meanwhile history is being made every year in country towns, in new settlement projects and in new and old organisations, but little is being done to record that history.

Perhaps one day is not far distant when a National Trust, subsidised by the Government and composed of historically-conscious leaders will take the whole matter in hand and make it a well organised, objective undertaking.

photograph caption -

This is one of the several graves of distinguished colonists who were buried in the East Perth cemetery over a century ago. It is the resting place of Peter Broun, first Colonial Secretary, who came out on the transport Parmelia with Captain James Stirling R.N. (the Colony's first Governor) in 1829.

[The West Australian June 21, 1952, p2]