A Difficult Journey Through the Murchison

Travelling in a 1913 Buick from Byro Station to Perth, Mr D’Arcy and Mr Nicholls found themselves in various predicaments in 1917. When they left, it had been raining heavily. The night before, 80 points fell, which greatly altered the dirt roads. Twenty miles out from the station, it began raining again.

Refusing to turn around, the men continued onwards. They reached Narryer and stopped to have some lunch. While there, they were told that 136 points had fallen during the day. After leaving, they found that statement to be true. The road was covered with water. There was no way of knowing where it was exactly, so they had to judge where they were going by the trees.

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The Phantom Buggy

Sergeant Hobson of the Western Australia Police Force started his shift at five in March 1917. As he rode his bicycle along Beaufort Street, the early morning light struggled to break through the heavy clouds.

Ka-lop, ka-lop, ka-lop, ka-lop. A fast-moving horse put him on alert. Ka-lop, ka-lop, ka-lop. Where was it coming from? Ka-lop, ka-lop. It was too early for a horse to be travelling that fast. He stopped cycling, placed his feet on the ground, and held onto the handlebars as he listened. The sound became louder as the horse approached.

He looked north. No horse. He looked south. No horse. Puzzled, he looked north again. A driverless horse and buggy flew past his line of sight, travelling on the wrong side of the road. “Bloody hell,” he swore as he scrambled back onto his bicycle.

A horse and buggy circa 1905. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call Number: 006595PD).
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How the Lighthouse Got its Stripes

The ‘Zephyr’ returned to Champion Bay in November 1870. They arrived in the evening, and without any light to guide their way, Captain Setten had to go through the “most anxious ordeal of heaving-to his ship till daylight…” On top of that, he dealt with a heavy southwest gale. He was one of many who pressed upon the need for a lighthouse at Point Moore.

Six years later, works were underway and halted in January 1877 until the arrival of the prefabricated iron tower from England. In June, the ‘Lady Louisa’ arrived at Champion Bay with all the materials on board. Men unloaded them from the ship and began construction. By mid-July, works halted again. An error was made during the construction of the lighthouse’s foundation and needed immediate rectification.

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Buried at Stockyard Gully

On 18 May 1886, drover, Harry Bower, collected siblings Amy and Sam from Irwin River and accompanied them overland to Fatfield Station. They arrived at Arrowsmith, dined at Warerdo, and continued south. Four miles on, the rocks at Stockyard Gully caves became visible. Before they reached them, Amy asked if there was any water in the area. Harry pointed to a clump of trees in the distance where they could get a drink, and Amy responded that she could wait until they got there.

As they approached the caves at sunset, Harry remembered there was a chance they could get some water inside. He said to Amy and Sam, “There is a drip down in that cave. I will go down and see if I can get you a drop of water.” He took with him a pannikin and entered the cave. Seventy yards in, he stopped and stared at what he thought was a dog lying on the ground. To the left, he could see something else. Cautious, he went back to the entrance to find something to light his way. Having dismounted from their horses, Amy and Sam stood at the entrance peering into the darkness. Turning back to the cave, Harry gazed at another object, assuming it was a log. As his eyes adjusted, he realised that what he was staring at was the remains of a man.

Stockyard Gully. Courtesy of Chris Lewis.
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Northam to Perth on a Tricycle

In March 1938, Alfred Williamson left Melbourne on a tricycle determined to ride to Sydney in 21 days. The story was widely reported and attracted national coverage in the newspapers. Reading about it in Western Australia was Roy Lunt. Months later, in June, he got into an argument with Ronald Fletcher about the ride. Ronald thought it was a “wonderful feat,” while Roy was of the opinion that he could easily do something similar. Arising from the dispute was a bet and a challenge. On 25 June 1938, he had to ride from Northam to Perth on a child’s tricycle.

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Waterloo Bridge Granite

Demolition starts on Waterloo Bridge (left) in 1934 while traffic uses a temporary iron bridge (right).

Structural issues with the Waterloo Bridge (which opened in 1817) resulted in the London County Council’s decision to demolish it in 1934. The granite used to construct it did not go to waste. A lot was used for paving or rubble, balustrades were turned into pedestals for bird baths or sundials, and larger pieces were offered to parts of the British Empire. New Zealand took a piece and turned it into a memorial for Paddy the Wanderer at Wellington. Canberra accepted two stones and displayed them under the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.

The two Waterloo Bridge granite stones at Canberra. Courtesy of Google.

In London at the time was James MacCallum Smith, who was part of the delegation petitioning the British Parliament for Western Australia’s secession. He had read about the demolition of the bridge and the subsequent interest of various people to obtain relics of it. As the bridge had “great historical interest,” he decided to try to obtain something for Western Australia.

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Escape to Shark Bay

In the afternoon, on Tuesday, 25 January 1859, the warders mustered in the convicts working in quarry gangs just outside Fremantle Prison’s walls. As they checked the numbers, they found that five men were missing from three different groups. John Williams, John Haynes, Henry Stevens, Peter Campbell, and Stephen Lacey were presumed to have absconded an hour before the warders noticed they were missing.

Fremantle Prison circa 1866. Courtesy of State Library New South Wales (Call Number: V5B / Frem / 4)

From Fremantle, the five men travelled east on foot to the Canning River and then waded in the river along the shore until they reached Point Walter. At Point Walter, they stole a boat and proceeded to row it west along the Swan River. Helping themselves to a keg of water from the convict station at North Fremantle, they then slipped across Fremantle Harbour undetected and rowed north.

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The Rottnest Monster

While on holiday at Rottnest, Lewis Timperley stumbled across a strange object washed up south of the channel, two miles from the settlement. The barrel-shaped creature was twelve feet long. It was four feet wide behind the ears and eight feet wide between the two flippers. The flippers themselves were about two feet long and 20 inches wide. In front and behind them were smaller, narrower flippers. The crescent-moon-shaped mouth had no teeth, and the body was covered in white hair that resembled wet wool. When cut, the cream-coloured flesh looked like tripe. Not long dead, it quickly drew the attention of people on the island.

News of the discovery soon spread among the inhabitants of the island, and there has been a steady pilgrimage to the spot where the monster is lying.

The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950); 19 September 1934; Page 5; Mysterious Sea Monster
The Rottnest Monster
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Isabella Duncan’s Memories

On 27 May 1933, Isabella Duncan turned 90. From family and friends in the state, she received messages of congratulations. Born in the north of England in 1843, Isabella arrived in Western Australia in 1851 with her parents, Francis and Mary Ann Pearson. She was eight years old. The family immigrated because Francis was offered a job to erect the smelting works at the Geraldine Mine on the Murchison River.

Mrs Duncan

The eldest of five children, Isabella could not remember much about her home town in England but could remember that before the family left, they travelled to London. For two weeks, they remained in London until they boarded the ship ‘Morning Star’ for Western Australia.

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Northam’s Bushmen’s Home

At the same time as the organisers of Geraldton’s Bushmen’s Club struggled to establish it, Northam’s Temperance Hall and Bushmen’s Home went from strength to strength. Fundraising began on 31 October 1876 in the form of a bazaar held at the Mechanics Hall. A variety of “useful and fancy articles” were available for sale. On the committee were seven women: Mrs Clifton, Miss Ranford, Mrs Monger, Mrs Jones, Mrs Throssell, Mrs Gregory, and Mrs Morrell.

Along with the bazaar, they also advertised a public tea meeting. Adults could attend by paying one shilling and six pence, while children’s admittance cost a shilling. Further enticing people, “foot races, quoit matches, and all kinds of rural sports” would take place.

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