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.

Despite the obvious scepticism towards the spectre, some people were believers and were so frightened that they took to keeping their lamps burning all night in order to ward him off.

How seriously the police took the report is not known. They had no luck capturing the ghost and after several more nights of “hauntings” the residents of Cannington decided to take the law into their own hands.

On Saturday, 19 November, eight men waited patiently for the ghost to appear in the cemetery. When the ghost finally emerged one man brandished his revolver and threatened to shoot. The ghost, fearing the weapon, did not move and was successfully captured.


Unfortunately for the ghost he was not handed over to the police and was instead punished at the hands of the men. Choosing to hold a ‘paling circus’ they stood around the man and repeatedly hit him with fence palings until, in the words of The West Australian, “the groans and the moans and the usual dull, hollow sounds were what should be uttered by a properly constituted ghost.

Bruised, bloodied and suffering from his injuries, the ghost was eventually allowed to go back to where he came from. Meanwhile, the men, who perhaps initially congratulated themselves, began to worry about their own punishment lest their identities be revealed.

By all appearances nothing more occurred in relation to the ghost. The identities of the men remained hidden and no one was charged with assault. The ghost’s identity and the motives behind his actions were also not revealed. Having endured a harsh (and unnecessary) lesson he never haunted Cannington again.



Albany’s Gold

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.

With so much at stake it was important that the find was confirmed. Specimens were sent to South Australia for testing however the writer believed the gold was pure and stated that some of it had been smelted by a blacksmith from the P & O Company.

Exciting News

Another Albany writer noted excitedly, “The gold panic is raging.” Many however erred on the side of caution and refused to get their hopes up lest it all ended in nothing.

Likening the discovery of gold in Western Australia to the story of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’, The Herald declared that “We Western Australians have been told so often that neither gold fields, nor any other good thing, can possibly fall to our share, that we have almost accustomed ourselves to believe it, and have sunk into a state of somnolency from which it is difficult to arouse us.

They were also concerned about what a gold rush would do to Western Australia. “…what shall we do?” they questioned. “Are we all to run off, like a parcel of madmen, to the “diggings”?” While they admitted that prosperity would inevitably follow the discovery of gold, they were however filled with fear that people would abandon their jobs and Fremantle would become a desert.

An update in early March 1867 offered very little information. The gold had been discovered near the lighthouse on Crown Land and the Resident Magistrate, Sir Alexander Cockburn-Campbell, continued to prevent any further digging. No one had heard anything about the results of the tests.


By the end of the month there were rumours that the gold was a hoax and on 20 April 1867, it was finally confirmed; the excitement and expectation gave way to disappointment. The Albany gold was fool’s gold.

The gold had been analysed in Victoria and the assayer, H S Severn, of the Union Bank in Melbourne, wrote the letter which dashed everyone’s hopes.


For the original Albany correspondent who first broke the news, hope had not yet been exterminated. People in the town continued to smelt the “yellow metal” but they did so “…on the quiet.” The writer even confirmed that he had seen a nugget which was larger than a sovereign. As far as he was concerned, he was thoroughly convinced of the find.

I have now more confidence that the discovery is bona fide than I had before.

On the other hand, The Herald, perhaps feeling a little smug at having predicted the outcome of Albany’s gold rush, announced the news in a small paragraph and ended with the wise old saying, “…all is not gold that glitters.


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.

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

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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William Timym – Wuff, Snuff & Tuff

AWW 11 Jan 1967 Pg 60

Being an obsessive Trove and Australian Women’s Weekly browser, there have been many instances where I’ve come across the short, adorable comics, Wuff, Snuff & Tuff by Tim. Most of the time however I was already searching for something else and apart from a quick glance, I didn’t really pay careful attention to them. Today I finally looked closer and my eyes were opened to how cute, sweet and witty they are.

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