Pooran Singh from Punjab settled in Australia in 1899, and died in 1947 at the age of 77. The Australian family, which organised his cremation and has been preserving his ashes for the past 63 years, is looking for Singh’s descendants to whom it can hand them for immersion in the river Ganga, in deference to his wishes.
Guyetts Funerals, an organisation dedicated for such functions, had supervised the funeral.
Speaking to a radio programme for Punjabis, Alice Guyett-Wood, a scion of the family that controlled Guyetts Funerals, said that before her father, Jack Guyett, died in 1986, he had told her: “We should have done something about Pooran’s ashes. We should have sent them to India because he wished them to be immersed in the river Ganges”.
There is no written instruction on this, but it has passed through generations of the Guyett family. Guyett-Wood said: “We didn’t have the authority to dispose them of, so we just held them. I had thought that we may even go to India and fulfil Pooran’s last wish.”
Records at Guyett’s Funerals show that he was cremated on June 10, 1947, and his religion has been given as “Hindoo”. The ashes have even been accorded pride of place at the Warrnambool cemetery, where Singh’s last rites were performed.
Pooran Singh left Punjab as a 30-year-old when he landed in Australia. Like many other Punjabis at that time, he worked as a hawker, selling goods in his horse-cart, from one hick town to another. He had left his family in Punjab and spent the remaining 47 years of his life in the province of Victoria, whose capital is Melbourne.
Melbourne-based historian Len Kenna and his research partner Crystal Jordan have found a copy of Singh’s will. The money he had left was distributed in accordance with Singh’s wishes by the executors of his will, with some of it going to a few Warrnambool residents, who presumably took care of him in the last years. Nearly £1,500 was sent to India, with £360 apiece for each of his four nephews.