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Obituary for Peter Simmonds – Bourke loses a favourite cowboy

Peter Simmonds is remembered for his great competitive spirit. Photo supplied

Bourke lost one of its favourite sons on 19th February, when Peter Simmonds passed away after a long battle with liver disease. A funeral service was held at Bourke’s Holy Spirit Catholic Church last Thursday to remember and celebrate the remarkable life of Peter Gerard Simmonds.

Following is an abridged version of a eulogy written by Peter’s good friend, Stuart Gordon.

Eighteen years ago, Peter was diagnosed with PSC, a rare, incurable liver disease that affects 5 in 100,000 people. Life expectancy is usually 12 years from diagnosis, but Peter made18.

Most of us never knew of his condition, nor did we imagine a bullet-proof character such as Pete, or Pedro, as he was known, would be beaten by anything other than a mad beast or hard work. If this illness was meant to slow him down, it had the opposite effect.

His large and beautiful life is like reading a paperback western crossed with a boy’s own adventure journal. Pete always needed to be somewhere, usually in a hurry, and was three steps ahead of everyone else. But let’s go back the beginning…

Its 1964 and our Prime Minister is Robert Menzies, the Beatles tour Australia, Dawn Fraser is Australian of the year, and at Bourke hospital, Frank and Carole Simmonds welcomed their second son, Peter.

His arrival was announced on the front page of the Western Herald on 23rd October – the second son after Greg, in what was to become a family of four boys and Katie.

He grew up fast, learnt to love the smell of horse manure and two-stroke fumes, and raced home-made go-carts and horses up and down the back lane.

From an early age Peter took to riding. Kenny Johnson remembers little Peter coming off a poddy calf at the Bourke Rodeo arena. He picked himself up with a look of disgust, and asked: “What did I do wrong Mr Johnson, I was sure I had him that time!” He was already learning from his mistakes.

At St Ignatius school, Pete was knocked into shape by the Mercy sisters and the staunch Irish Nun, Sister Patrick. Carole did her best to instil Christian values into her children. Frank’s part was modelling hard work, community service, and the importance of friendships. These values remained with him for life.

Bourke in the 80’s was alive, with a vibrant rodeo scene, active racing club and a fantastic pony club. There were more horses in town than dogs.

Three things Peter discovered early would define his life – horses, Tracey, and carpentry.

As a teenager he did track work for Uncle Tommy Lack, one of Bourke’s leading trainers. This brought him across the path of Tracey Donn, who was riding for her Father Bede, a racing enthusiast from Nyngan and a close friend of Pete’s Dad, Frank.

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