THE mining town of Coober Pedy, in South Australia, is known for its colourful characters. One such legend was Karl Bratz, a miner who died from cancer at the age of 52 in 1992.
At Bratz’s funeral, in the Boot Hill Cemetery, mourners celebrated his life graveside over an 18 gallon keg of beer, with the minister said to be on the tap.
Once emptied the keg became Bratz’s tombstone, suitably inscribed with “have a drink on me”.
Bratz never lost his sense of humour and designed his own coffin of corrugated iron.
The “beer keg tombstone” has become a tourist attraction in the mining town.
Tales from the Top Rail Facebook Group member, Ash Gibson, tells the story about Karl Bratz’s corrugated iron coffin. She posted: “There is a prelude to Karl’s story ……. one day I was leaving work at the local hospital and I always drove home past the sheet metal worker and gave him a wave. This particular day, I almost ran off the road because outside his shed was a really strange object. A quick U turn and back into the yard and sure enough it was a galvanised coffin, ordered by Karl for his eventual demise. Well made by Clem.”
Australian Pub Project Facebook Group, member, Shane Parry also posted: “He made the corrugated iron coffin well before he died stating that he lived and worked in corrugated iron sheds all his life so he wanted a coffin made out of the same stuff. Allegedly had it in his lounge room standing up with shelves in it before he died -legendary stuff!!”
Bratz wasn’t the first to use a beer vessel as a tombstone though. The Gilgrandra Weekly reported on August 31 1933:
Beer Barrel First Favourite
A Perth message states that one of the queerest memorials in the world is at Hamlin Pool, a settlement in the far north-west, which boasts of three houses and four inhabitants. Standing above the grave of a man, it consists of a pole surmounted by a beer barrel, according to Mr. L. C. Bolt, a postal engineer, who has just returned from a visit to the settlement.
A teetolling woman had beer barrels and a white dove carved in marble onto her tombstone in Heidelberg, near Melbourne.
The story goes that many years ago there lived in the district an elderly woman who used to pray devoutly that she might have strength to abstain from liquor.
On one occasion, just after her prayer, a white dove flew into the room.
The World News reported in August 1934 that she accepted this as an answer to her prayer and became a teetotaller.
“She lived a frugal life, would not eat meat, use tallow candles, or wear leather shoes. She endeavoured to leave behind her a warning, hence the combination of marble dove and beer barrels, besides numerous inscriptions directed in the cause of abstinence.”
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