102-year-old LDS Australian likely was at capstone laying

The capstone was lowered in place on the top spire of the Salt Lake Temple on April 6, 1892, following 39 years of toil and sacrifice by thousands of members.

At that pivotal event, crowds jammed Temple Square and people lined the nearby streets. Some watched from trees, others from the rooftops. Estimates place the number of people attending the event from 40,000 to 60,000.Now, 101 years later, the temple has become part of the landscape and the spectators are gone - except, perhaps, for a 102-year-old man in Australia who said he was at the event as a 1-year-old.

The Church News recently received a letter from M.J. Babbage of Caboolture, Australia, saying that William Lavell Ireland, a member of the Burpengary Ward, Brisbane Australia North Stake, was taken to the ceremony by his parents.

"Being very very interested in your account of the building of the Salt Lake Temple (March 20, 1993), I showed the Church News pictures of the capstone laying to the elderly gentleman," said Brother Babbage.

"He said, `Yes, I was there.' "

"He asked me to enquire of you if you know of anyone still living who also was there on that date of April 6, 1892."

Brother Babbage explained that the centenarian was born in Williamstown, Victoria, in South Australia on Feb. 26, 1891. He was was taken to live in Utah when he was 1 year old. It was while he was living in Utah that his parents took him to Temple Square on the day of the capstone ceremony.

"Although he cannot remember the actual experience," said Brother Babbage, "his mother told him time and time over about it and built a vivid, detailed picture in his mind."

Brother Ireland's parents later migrated to the colonies in Mexico. Brother Ireland, in an interview with a local newspaper on his 100th birthday, recalled that in that setting, the barter system replaced cash. Everything was bartered within the community. And the Church had its own cannery, waterwheel electricity, cattle, and dairy farms.

Young Bill left Mexico and returned to Australia in 1912, where he attempted to make his fortune in gold and diamonds in the Cairns area.

Today, he is probably the oldest lifetime member of the Church in Australia.

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