Monster Christmas Cake

In 1894, Veryard and Son’s of the Roller Bakery in Perth baked a large Christmas cake weighing six hundredweight (over 300 kg). It was incredibly popular, and, whether they meant to or not, a Christmas tradition was born. They continued to bake cakes, and, each year, the weight increased. In 1895, the cake weighed ten hundredweight (over 500 kg), and in 1896 it weighed fifteen hundredweight (over 750 kg).

Regardless of the size of the cake, every piece sold. Many customers missed out, and, as 1897 progressed, they decided that the Christmas cake for that year had to surpass that of previous years.

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Bert Snell Goes Missing

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are advised that the following story contains names of deceased persons.

On Christmas Eve in 1933, Bert Snell, who was caretaker of the Yarraquin woolshed, over six kilometres east of Cue, left to visit his mate’s camp. He borrowed some tobacco, and they both walked back towards the shed. Bert’s mate eventually left him, and Bert continued on his own.

On Christmas Day, the manager of the station, Fred Boddington, phoned the shed. No one answered. He continued phoning, but Bert did not pick up. Puzzled as to why Bert wasn’t answering, he made his way to the shed to see what the matter was. When he got there, he found it deserted.

Knowing of Bert’s mate’s camp, he went to see if he had any more information. He told Fred that he walked with Bert a short way, and then Bert continued on his own. He had not seen him since. Fred immediately raised the alarm. Bert Snell was lost in the bush.

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Letters to Aunt Mary

On 29 July 1898, a letter was printed in the Western Mail and was written using the pseudonym ‘Aunt Mary.’ Addressed to the children of Western Australia, the writer asked for help to fill that column of the newspaper. They hoped that children would send in stories, letters, questions, poetry, compositions (anything they liked) as long as it was their work. As an added incentive, children who wrote well could find themselves in receipt of a prize.

I should much like to hear something about the pets belonging to my little readers, and hope I shall soon have so many contributors that the children’s column will swell into the “children’s page.”

Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954); 29 July 1898; Page 51; Children’s Column
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The Second Issue of the Victorian Express

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.

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A Cue Tragedy

At 9 pm on 23 May 1899, the sound of the bell ringing alarmed the people of Cue. Smoke billowing north-west of the town confirmed their fears: fire.

People rushed towards the origin, and, as they drew closer, many realised that the camp burning belonged to Charles Litchfield, who was the Government surveyor and draughtsman.

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Cue’s Decorated Bicycle Competition

But, as if to make up for the loss of the gum, nature has carpeted the Murchison with wild flowers. The sand in spring time bursts into flower – pink, yellow, and white – in one wave of colour through the land. There are some delicate orchids, but the everlasting is the flower of the Murchison.

The Murchison Times and Day Dawn Gazette (Cue, WA : 1894 – 1925); 28 September 1897; Page 4; The Murchison
Everlastings in the Murchison
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The Day Dawn Patriotic Knitting Club

In October 1915, during WWI, it was suggested by the Karrakatta Club in Perth that they adopt a Melbourne club’s idea and organise to send Christmas cheer to the soldiers overseas. They decided to utilise billies and aimed to include in them “something to eat, something to smoke, something to use and something to amuse.” Despite their limited time, the scheme was successful and very popular with the soldiers. They decided to continue it in the following year.

Distributing Christmas billies to the soldiers in Egypt circa 1915.

The idea of the Christmas billies reached the women living at Day Dawn, a small town several kilometres southwest of Cue. A few women had donated billies in 1915, but in early July 1916, a group of women decided to contribute on a larger scale. Along with fundraising for goods to place in the billies, the women started knitting. However, seeing as though there were some women and children who did not know how to knit, Mrs Mary Threadgold decided to establish the Day Dawn Patriotic Knitting Club.

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A Tombstone for a Hearth

In September 1930, plumber John Cumming was employed to carry out drainage works along Post Office Lane in Geraldton. He had excavated eighteen inches below the surface when he came across part of a tombstone – the rounded upper portion and half of the right side.

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Seven of Diamonds

On 11 August 1921, the Minister for Agriculture, Henry Maley, collected his morning mail. Among the envelopes was an ordinary grey one, postmarked Mornington Mills. He opened it. Inside was a single playing card, the seven of diamonds.

There was nothing written or drawn on the card. Assuming it was a prank, he tore it up and threw it in the bin. Later that day, he attended a meeting of the Executive Council. During the meeting, Chief Justice, Sir Robert McMillan, showed that he too had received an identical envelope, also containing the seven of diamonds. He further revealed that Justices Robert Burnside and John Northmore had received the same.

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Caught by His Prints

At 7:30 pm on 12 August 1906, the Bradbury family left their home on Thomas Street in West Perth and attended the Congregational Church service. Frank Bradbury (aged 12) was last to leave and shut the door behind him without locking it. At 9 pm the family returned to find the door wide open and the rooms and furniture ransacked. Missing from the premises was a silver chain and locket, a silver watch, a silver matchbox and one shilling and five pence.

Henry Plant in 1901. Courtesy of Prisoners of the Past and the State Records Office of Western Australia.

On the following afternoon Siegfried Bremer, a pawnbroker on Barrack Street in Perth, was working in his shop when he was approached by Henry Plant. Henry (giving a false name) had a silver chain and locket he wanted to sell. Siegfried asked the relevant questions and, finding the answers suspicious, decided to call the police.

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