This wonderful yarn emanates from the rough and tumble days of the Edie Creek goldfields in the late 1920s. It was buried in the letters section of the August 1968 Pacific Islands Monthly and richly deserves resurrection. Pre-war, most miners walked from Salamaua to the diggings at Edie Creek and periodically would walk back for a spot of R & R in town.
Sep Underwood, the letter writer, recalled a character known only as Simmo, who died of blackwater fever, which killed many miners. As Simmo was a regular at the Salamaua pub, it was decided to start his funeral procession from there, the hearse being a hand-cart pushed by two ‘boys’. A couple of the mourners, who'd started the wake early and weren’t capable of walking, were assisted aboard the cart to ride with the corpse.
Simmo’s grave was marked by a simple wooden cross made from a wooden condensed milk box. Whether by design or accident, the bar of the cross bore the words ‘Stow away from boilers’. The grave was dug on the beach just above the high water mark and Simmo was laid to rest. But not for long.
A week after he was buried, waves from a violent storm washed out Simmo's grave and broke up the coffin. When the storm subsided all that could be seen of Simmo was one of his hands protruding stiffly from the sand. The chief mourner, unsure of the etiquette, proceeded to put an empty glass in the hand and fill it with Simmo’s favourite tipple.