An announcement tacked onto the end of an article printed in Fremantle’s newspaper ‘The Herald’ stated that Geraldton’s first newspaper was going to be called ‘The Victorian Express.’ The proprietors were Messrs. S. M. Stout & Co.
At 4 pm, on 11 September 1878, the first issue was pulled by the Government Resident, George Eliot. The town of Geraldton celebrated, and over 100 people gathered to witness the occasion. Residents decorated the buildings and the vessels in the harbour with bunting, and “beer flew around like a deluge.” A long-desired want, in the form of a local newspaper, was finally realised. It was noted that, “The proprietors of the Victorian Express have the best wishes of the community for the success they deserve in their laudable undertaking.”
Unfortunately, the first issue of the Victorian Express is missing. We do, however, have the second issue. Advertisements covered the front page of the newspaper. Henry Woodman, the proprietor of the Victoria Hotel in Geraldton, described his “first class hotel” as being a few minutes from the jetty and railway station and boasting “a fine sea view…” Patrons’ comfort was of the utmost importance; hence the hotel department was kept separate from the bar.
John Hosken, the proprietor of the Railway Hotel in Northampton, advertised that his hotel consisted of a commercial room, parlors, and bedrooms “furnished in the best style.” The best brands of wines, spirits, and ales were available, as well as hot and cold baths, saddled horses, and traps for hire. The stables were well-ventilated, and the ostler attentive.
Pages two and three were likewise predominantly dedicated to advertisements and included shipping, sporting, trade notices, intimations, and banking. The ‘Trefusis Aerated Water and Cordial Manufactory’ premises were on Gregory Street in Geraldton. They advertised aerated waters of every kind and delivered to any part of Geraldton, with country orders sent by rail.
News and correspondence covered page four. On the evening of the 10 September 1878, the band of the Geraldton Rifle Volunteers practiced their instruments at the end of the jetty. Despite a gusty wind, they played for an hour to a crowd of spectators. The jetty was the main promenade for Geraldton residents, and many hoped the band would continue to play during summer, providing the town with much-desired entertainment.
On 11 September, 40 members of the Volunteers paraded at the corner of Gregory Street and Marine Terrace. Captain Hillman marched them to grounds opposite the Pensioners’ Barracks and put them through various manoeuvres such as bayonet exercises and skirmishes.
The Central Board of Education appointed Mr Carson to the role of Master of the Government Boys’ School at Geraldton. He came from the Perth Boys’ School and was replacing Mr Stout, who resigned to establish the Victorian Express.
The value of land in Geraldton was increasing in price and was considered a sign of progress. Land on Fitzgerald Street purchased by Mr Fitzgerald for £6 was sold in 1878 to Messrs. Shenton and Crowther for £110.
Also squeezed in the ‘Local Intelligence’ column, a small paragraph recorded what may have been an amusing anecdote. Police removed two drunk men from the Court House after they tried to take a seat during recent trials.
Geraldton Cricket Club faced the Greenough team in a recent match. Men and women alike watched the game. Geraldton won the toss and scored 49 in the first innings while Greenough scored 66. After lunch, Geraldton returned. Scoring was slow until F. Kelly scored 29. He was “carried off the ground in triumph” with Geraldton reaching 65 in the second innings. Greenough’s batting in the second innings was strong and, having reached Geraldton’s total of 114, they won the game with one wicket to spare.
Letters to the editor were printed and, while there were important ones relating to the postal service and telegraph department, the most amusing was signed with the pseudonym ‘Beau Brumel,’ who was a fashionable society figure in Regency England. Dated 13 September 1878, they lamented the lack of tailors in town. The writer had a poetic way with words, making the letter worth reading in its entirety.
Although it is said that a tailor is but the ninth part of a man, I see no reason why he should only form a nine hundred and ninety ninth part of our population. It would scarcely be credited that while our town can boast of a plurality of parsons, lawyers, publicans, storekeepers and pet cats, we have but one Knight of the Shears! True, until very recently, we could count two Sir Snip’s – the one has made his fortune, and gone to old Ireland to spend it; the other, all hail to him! appears to have more work than he can do, for he manages to send me my winter tweed just as summer is coming on, “six months’ after date,” and vice versa. Our races are approaching, I require a new pair of riding pants, and it will be rather awkward to have to go without, as the imported article won’t fit. I therefore make bold to make known a general want in the hope that some outward moulder of the human form divine may take compassion upon us and help to make us “beautiful for ever.”
This story originally featured on ABC Mid West and Wheatbelt’s Saturday Breakfast on 24 October 2020. You can listen to that episode via the following link: https://ab.co/2C67gqO
- Photo of the train on the Geraldton-Northampton Railway courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call number: 3881B/186).
- Photo of the Geraldton Rifle Volunteers courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call number: 021325PD).
- Snippet of the map courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia; Item 0663 – Geraldton Sheet 3 [Tally No. 504291]; AU WA S2168- cons5698 0663.
- 1878 ‘COUNTRY NOTES.’, The Herald (Fremantle, WA : 1867 – 1886), 15 June, p. 1. (Supplement to the Herald,), viewed 20 Oct 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article106307390
- 1878 ‘COUNTRY LETTERS.’, The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901), 25 September, p. 3. , viewed 20 Oct 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65957015
- 1878 ‘Occasional Notes.’, The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901), 25 September, p. 3. , viewed 20 Oct 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65957026
- 1878 ‘LOCAL.’, The Herald (Fremantle, WA : 1867 – 1886), 14 September, p. 2. , viewed 20 Oct 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article106305512
- 1878, Victorian Express (Geraldton, WA : 1878 – 1894), 18 September, p. 1. , viewed 21 Oct 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page23196636