Christmas in 1899

Hay Street in Perth circa 1899. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia.

[It matters little] …whether we make good cheer snugly within four walls and with closed windows, or beneath the verandah or spreading tree, or in the house with doors and windows open to the most welcome of guests, the breeze – Christmas is ever the same, the day when we give ourselves up to friendship, to merrymaking, to pleasure, and desire nothing better of Fate than that it shall “let every man be jolly.”

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The Captain’s Boots

For about fifteen years Phillip Duffield worked as the ‘landing waiter’ for customs in Geraldton. His job was to monitor all the people who arrived at the port and ensure that they were not bringing contraband to the town.

Phillip took his job seriously. Such was his “surprising sagacity in diagnosing contraband and his incorruptible fervor in pursuing offenders” he soon became known to everyone as ‘Phil the Ferocious’.

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A Lonely Death

While searching for timber about two miles north of the Darlot Road and opposite the 19-mile well, Edward ‘Old Ned’ Ashbury and his mate, Mr Scott, stumbled across the skeletal remains of a man. They returned to Lawlers and, on 5 May 1901, Edward reported what they had found to Sergeant George Pilkington.

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The East Murchison Goldfields – where the remains were found. Lawlers is highlighted in red. Courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

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The Cannington “Ghost”

In mid-November 1898 a ghost began haunting the Cannington cemetery at midnight on successive nights. The “ghost” was clearly a man and on 13 November concerned residents lodged a report with Perth police. They noted that he appeared to be wearing dark tights, was covered with a white cloth and had “large glaring eyes.

Practical jokers come and go, but the ghost joker seems to go on forever.

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Albany’s Gold

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King George Sound and Albany circa 1870s. Courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

On 5 February 1867, an Albany correspondent for The Inquirer and Commercial News wrote a letter with information many people in Western Australia had been waiting to hear for some time.

Gold has been found by a man named Butcher, a short distance from the town. It is in dust, and the Resident Magistrate has prevented any digging near the spot.

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A Short-Lived Telephone Box

In mid-April 1912, the Postmaster General’s Department erected a telephone box close to the centre of the St Georges Terrace, Adelaide Terrace and Victoria Avenue intersection in Perth.

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The intersection of St Georges Terrace, Adelaide Terrace and Victoria Avenue circa 1934. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia.

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Gold in the Garden

Uninterested in the conversation inside their Grandfather’s house at Wembley, Don and Courtney decided to head outside to split some logs. Their Grandfather, John Dundas, directed them to an old hollow tree stump which he had removed some time ago. They got to work with their axe and wedges and while they did not chop it up completely, they did enough work to alter its shape.

The next morning, on Sunday, 13 July 1930, John went outside to stack the firewood. He looked over the old tree stump and noticed that there were some strange looking stones within it. He picked them up and was surprised by their weight. Clearly these were no ordinary stones. He then scraped off some of the dirt.

The gold glitter showed through. There was no doubt that they were solid gold.

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Geraldton’s First Train Incident

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The opening of the railway in Geraldton circa 1879. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia.

The construction of the Geraldton to Northampton railway began in 1874 and while sections of the track were completed in the following years, it was not officially opened until 1879.

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‘Jonas’ and the Whale

Yankee Whaling

While today (in most parts of the world) whaling is thankfully banned, in the past, whaling was an occupation that was carried out regularly. Whales were hunted to extremes for their blubber, oil and bones. Western Australia was no exception with whaling being an early industry in the colony. Early accounts indicate great excitement at whales being killed and reports were regularly printed in the papers. On 2 September 1843, the Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal printed an article recounting the news for the whaling industry for the previous fortnight. They then went on to describe “a curious scene” in Fremantle.

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The Dude

True to form, it was while digging around on Trove trying to find something interesting to post for Valentine’s Day (yes, this post has been sitting in draft form for quite a while) that I came across a reference of ladies admiring dudes.

Initially, I laughed. I thought about the word ‘dude’ and the context in which I knew it existed. It’s been around throughout my lifetime and has been spoken by characters such as Bart Simpson. To say hello to someone, you might say, “Hey, dude!” While referring to someone, you might call them a ‘cool dude’. I again thought back to the article and giggled some more. The word in my head was most likely completely at odds to the meaning portrayed in 1885. Ladies of the very proper Victorian era admiring ‘dudes’. Hilarious!

The word ‘dude’ has actually been around for a lot longer than I realised. Far from being a recent invention courtesy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Simpsons, its origin began in the early 1800s and, according to Google’s Ngram Viewer, gained in popularity towards the end of the 19th Century before skyrocketing in the late 20th Century.

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