THE gravesite of Fremantle’s first federal representative has been restored by his descendants, but they say the local cemeteries board made the task more difficult than necessary.
Elias Solomon was Fremantle’s MP in the first parliament after federation, having already served three terms as the port city’s mayor and one as its state representative.
But over the years the auctioneer’s gravesite — like those of many colonial pioneers — fell into disrepair: a falling branch from a huge gumtree smashed through the cast iron railings.
The state of the grave “saddened” current federal MP Melissa Parke, who told the Herald in 2012 she’d lobby the Gillard government to spruce up the graves of all of Australia’s first federal MPs.
But Shirley Rooke, a great-grand daughter of Solomon, said that offer went nowhere, so the family decided to do the work themselves.
The cemeteries board forced the family to repurchase the grave in order to put a plaque up: the family felt a sign for a heritage trail it’s on was underwhelming, listing Solomon as simply “auctioneer and politician”.
The family had the railing recast and gave it a general clean-up, and two weeks ago 33 of Solomon’s descendents gathered at the ceremony to celebrate the project’s completion.
Another great grand-child, Jim Rowlands, says many of the city’s colonial graves are in disrepair, and he says the cemeteries board should do more to look after and promote them.
He says the poor state of Solomon’s grave before repair was ironic given he had helped found the cemetery and was on its board at the time of his death.
by STEVE GRANT