Cuthbertson Exploration Party

Western Australia – The Coming Colony. – Wanted, a few men, with 250l. each, to join a well-equipped expedition to explore and prospect this new El Dorado, under an experienced Australian explorer; good prospects and profits certain.- Address Cuthbertson. 46. Queen Victoria-street, E.C. [London]

Walter Robert Cuthbertson’s advertisement attracted the interest of ten men: Philip Thomas, Henry James, Alfred Oldham, James Stanford, Robert Muller, Henry Beaumont, John Henderson, Mr W Smythe, Mr H Tarn, and Mr H Walker. Middle-aged, wealthy, and often with backgrounds in mining, they handed over their £250 and signed up for, what sounded like, the adventure of a lifetime.

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A Lady’s Journey to Geraldton

At 7:45 am, in Perth, Edith Bickerton boarded the train bound for Geraldton. A postal worker, and occasional writer for the Western Mail, she decided to record her story for the newspaper. Printed in February 1905, she called it: “Along the Midland Railway. Perth to Geraldton. A Lady’s Journey.

A train at Perth Railway Station circa 1905. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia.
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Always Faithful to the End

Warning: this story discusses suicide. If you are struggling and need help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au.

On 24 November 1929, His Excellency the Governor, Colonel Sir William Campion, officially unveiled Western Australia’s War Memorial in Kings Park. Built on a high point of the park, it overlooked the Swan River and the city of Perth. For most people, it was a place of remembrance. However, perhaps for some, it was a reminder of the pain they endured.

Eleven days later, at 8:30 am on 5 December, park ranger, Ernest Harwood, found a man’s body lying face down against the memorial. He looked to be about 28 years old and was five feet nine inches tall. He was sturdily built and neatly dressed in a navy blue serge suit. He was also wearing a white linen shirt and collar, white cotton singlet, light blue tie with purple spots, blue suspenders with white stripes, black shoes and socks, and a grey felt hat with a light-coloured band.

The man had a high forehead, full face, small nose, brown eyes, and was missing his top front teeth. He had brushed back his curly auburn hair. Police noted two identifying features: he was missing the tip of his right little finger, and there was a tattoo on the inside of his right forearm – a picture of a woman’s head and shoulders above an anchor.

The cause of death was evident. Clasped in his right hand was a six-chamber revolver with five bullets and a spent cartridge. A bullet wound on the right side of his temple indicated that he had taken his life.

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Mount Magnet to Perth

Ironing clothes was the last straw. Employed as a housemaid at the Grand Hotel in Mount Magnet, Vera had had enough. Putting the ironing aside, she leaned over the ironing board and declared to her friend, “Hazel, I’m fed up; I want a change. I’m going to walk out.” Hazel exclaimed in response, “Me too!

They later described what they were feeling as ‘the blues.’ To combat that feeling, in addition to leaving their place of employment, they decided to walk 595 km to Perth. Shaking hands on the plan, both agreed that it would add some much-needed excitement to their lives.

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Rescue at Horrocks

Adrian photographed in the yawl at Malta.

In 1950, Adrian Hayter, a journalist and adventurer from New Zealand, travelled to England and bought a 35ft motor-powered yawl named Sheila II. He intended to sail it from Europe to New Zealand via Gibraltar, Suez Canal, India, Indonesia and Australia.

On 10 January 1954, he departed Indonesia with six weeks supply of food and water. A letter sent from the British consul at Surabaya stated that his expected arrival date in Fremantle was the end of February. Months passed, and Adrian did not arrive. No one had seen him in Darwin, nor Fremantle. In mid-April, after missing his estimated Fremantle arrival date, all masters of ships sailing in the waters between Australia, Indonesia, and Singapore were asked to keep a lookout for him.

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Bolgart Robbery

Tim Heggarty (left) and John Coutts.

At 4:15 am on 11 March 1939, Tim Heggarty heard a noise in James Laurance’s shop at Bolgart. He lived in a home adjacent to the store with Mr and Mrs Coutts. He awoke John Coutts, and they both investigated, quietly walking to the rear of the building where they saw someone had forced a window open.

John entered through the window and into the office. He heard a person walk from the office into the store, and turning back to Tim, whispered to him to ask Mrs Coutts to wake James Laurance. Tim and John guarded the rear of the premises while James (armed with a stout jamwood stick) arrived at the front. He unlocked the door, walked in, and saw a figure dart out of the store into the street.

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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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