O’Driscoll’s Loss

As was the case for many people, it was the goldfields that drew John O’Driscoll to the shores of Western Australia. He was born in about 1865 in Loveland, Ohio, USA. The son of an Irish immigrant, he arrived in Australia in 1889. By 1899, he had moved west and established himself on the Murchison goldfields as a storekeeper.

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Wreck of the Cochituate

At midnight, on 30 June 1861, a man arrived in Fremantle in a state of exhaustion and starvation. He was a Dutchman named John Barlish and was part of the crew on the barque ‘Cochituate,’ of Boston, U.S.A. The ship left Melbourne on 7 May, bound for Singapore, when it struck West Reef of the Abrolhos Islands at about 3 am on 14 June.

Houtman Abrolhos circa 1753. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call number: MAPR0000001).

The ship began to fill with water, and within an hour, started to break up. It became necessary for the Captain and the crew to abandon ship. They boarded the ship’s boats with some provisions; Captain Bangs, the second mate and three men in one boat, and the first mate (Mr Devries) and six men in the other.

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The First Death at Paynesville

In February 1899, the Leighton brothers were progressing with the erection of the Tremayne Mill at Paynesville. To get the mill running, they needed more water and, thus, it was necessary to deepen the water shaft of the Lady Maude mine. Three shifts were put on to carry out the work. 

Locality Plan showing Paynesville. Courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia (AU WA S2168- cons5698 1354).

On Saturday, 11 February 1899, Ernest Harbordt was working the night shift in the water shaft with his mate, Edmund Lowrie. Ernest was at the bottom of the shaft, while Edmund stood at the top on the brace. 

At about 1 am, Ernest sent up a bucket. Not long after, Edmund heard something fall and then a splash in the water. He looked down and noticed that the candle at the bottom had extinguished. He called out to Ernest, asking if he was okay. When he received no response, he yelled for help. 

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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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Sister May

Typhoid fever is still very prevalent in the colony. Last week 129 cases with 10 deaths were reported, as against 75 cases and eight deaths for the corresponding period of last year.

Coolgardie Miner (WA : 1894 – 1911); 22 April 1896; Page 5; Typhoid Fever

On 17 April 1896, Sister May, a trained nurse, arrived in Fremantle via the steamship Adelaide. She was born in Bridgewater, Victoria, in 1874, and at age 17, she commenced training to become a nurse at Inglewood Hospital in Victoria. After a year, she moved to Melbourne before leaving for Western Australia in 1896.

Sister May

Two days after her arrival, the Reverend Rowe inducted her into the Sisters of the People. The Sisters of the People was an organisation formed in the 1890s in conjunction with the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Their purpose was to provide nursing services to the sick who could not afford medical help. Often, they went to rural areas. After her induction, Sister May went where she was needed the most and proceeded to Cue.

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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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Married by Hoyts

Determined to help during the depression, ‘The Daily News’ established The Golden Apple Appeal as a way to raise money for single unemployed women, children of the unemployed, and orphanages. The Appeal involved selling apples (provided by Western Australian growers) in Perth. Each apple was wrapped in paper and cost one shilling. The paper had a number printed on it, which the buyer kept until the officials conducted a raffle. There were two prizes, and the people with the winning numbers could win either £50 or £100.

A stand during the Golden Apple Appeal.

The Appeal was popular, and interest only grew when Hoyts Theatres Ltd agreed to help. On the 18th and 19th July 1931, apple sales exceeded expectations, and funds raised totalled over £2,000. For the following weekend, the publicity manager of Hoyts, Bert Snelling, came up with a novel idea to generate further interest: an open-air wedding.

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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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The Great Wizard

Having completed a successful tour in South Australia, on 21 April 1868, Frederick William Auger Kohler, accompanied by his agent, Louis Peter, departed Adelaide for Fremantle. The brig ‘Emily Smith’ arrived a month later, on 19 May. Disembarking at Albany, Frederick, or, as he was professionally known, Professor Kohler, placed an advertisement in a newspaper announcing his imminent arrival.

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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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