Wild Rose’s Revenge

In order to raise money for a new building for the Independent Order of Good Templars, a Wild Flower Show and Art and Industrial Exhibition was held in the Miners’ Institute at Day Dawn. On 9, 10, 11, and 12 September 1903, people exhibited their artwork, needlework, baking, musical talents, writing, floristry, and collections in the hope of winning a prize. While it was not part of advertising, there was also a beauty show.

Such was the ways of the Murchison, however, that a beauty show did not necessarily mean nominating the most beautiful person. ‘Leg-pullers’ would hijack the competition and, meanly, they would look for “the most unrelievedly hideous anomaly in pants” or “the dowdiest, frowsiest old frump in skirts.” They then looked for a person whose appearance was the opposite to create contrast among the competitors. Often, for example, there would be an old prospector competing against a young bank manager, with the prospector winning. Once a person’s name was on the list, the public paid money to vote, with the nominees’ supporters doing their utmost to have them win the prize.

Not everyone agreed with their actions. A writer using the pseudonym ‘Diogenes’ wrote to the editor of The Murchison Times and Day Dawn Gazette lamenting the use of people’s names without consent just to “cadge a few shillings.” Various ladies’ names were added to a list, placarded in town, and “bandied from mouth to mouth.” While some had consented, many had not. When asked to remove names, organisers refused.

Consummate cheek of this kind is astounding, yet it only goes to prove that with this crowd the love of money is greater than the love professed to be borne towards others.

The Murchison Times and Day Dawn Gazette (Cue, WA : 1894 – 1925); 3 September 1903; Page 3; Open Column

On the first day of the show, the Day Dawn Chronicle noted that “a new star has arisen,” displacing the favourite, Alice Fletcher. Those supporting Alice were not concerned; they were waiting for the right time to “flood the market.” By the following week, the show was over. There had been 50 votes separating first and second and, with five minutes until closing, “a big commission flopped into the market and settled all disputes.” Alice was defeated, and in a surprise result, the winner was a middle-aged eccentric woman known as ‘Wild Rose.’

Rose, whose actual name was Rose Stanton, did not take kindly to the comments in the newspaper. Nor did she appreciate them using a nom de plume. Having read what the reporter had written, she stormed down Heffernan Street to the office of the Day Dawn Chronicle.

It is not often that anything exciting happens in the township; even a dog-fight is a thrilling rarity.

Sunday Times (Perth, WA: 1902 – 1954); 27 September 1903; Page 8; Joys of Journalism

Surrounding her was a cloud of anger, and in her hand was a whip. Anticipating a scene, the people of Day Dawn left their shops and gathered on the street to see what would happen. Once she reached the galvanised iron building, she stalked around outside, “prospecting around for vengeance.” Inside, the staff of the Chronicle were oblivious as to what would befall them.

The proprietor, William Mills, was first on the scene. Having spied the crowd gathering outside his window, he nonchalantly exited the building to see what was happening. Rose immediately sought her revenge. She let out a furious yell, rushed towards him, and began hitting him with the stick end of the whip. William managed to get out of her way, and Rose followed him on foot. What proceeded was a chase, round and round and round the yard. Every few seconds, she would use the whip, more often than not missing.

Rose was a blood-hot Amazon in petticoats; sweating, panting, stumbling, with her skirts flying anyhow and her hair all awry…

Sunday Times (Perth, WA: 1902 – 1954); 27 September 1903; Page 8; Joys of Journalism

The pace soon slowed, and William made his escape through a gate, shutting it behind him. Rose cracked the whip, hitting the fence. The chase did not calm her fury. Encouraged by the crowd, back to the front of the building she went, and in she walked.

Remarkably, the editor, Ernest Kelly, was so engrossed in his work that he did not notice the commotion outside. He was still sitting at his desk when Rose burst into the room. Ernest looked up absent-mindedly from his work and initially did not attempt to flee. Rose then bolted at him and “gave him a cut over the shoulders.” Ernest (now wide awake) sprang into action and tried to make for the door. Blocked from exiting, a scuffle in the corner of the room ensued. Seconds felt like minutes, but finally, Ernest emerged “heated and hatless” with Rose looming behind him. She did not follow him outside but returned to confront the workers in the composing room.

The pressman scooted nimbly to the front of the building and came out breathless among the crowd, who greeted his appearance with large expression of joy.

Sunday Times (Perth, WA: 1902 – 1954); 27 September 1903; Page 8; Joys of Journalism

The typesetters were admirably carrying on as though “no insatiable visage with a whip were making chaos of the Chronicle.” Not willing to confront Rose, they remained inside for a few moments before hastily making a retreat. Running out the front door, they made their way to the nearest pub “to seek consolation in a beer.

With everyone gone, Rose remained inside, marching up and down as if to demonstrate that she was the victor. She then “made a stately exit and a statelier retirement.” For a short distance, some of the crowd followed her, offering their congratulations. Those who stayed behind waited patiently for the newspapermen to slink back to the office from their hiding places. Weeks later, a writer for the Sunday Times described it as “a great day for Fingallton” and noted with some amusement, “People haven’t done talking of it yet.

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