Northam to Perth on a Tricycle

In March 1938, Alfred Williamson left Melbourne on a tricycle determined to ride to Sydney in 21 days. The story was widely reported and attracted national coverage in the newspapers. Reading about it in Western Australia was Roy Lunt. Months later, in June, he got into an argument with Ronald Fletcher about the ride. Ronald thought it was a “wonderful feat,” while Roy was of the opinion that he could easily do something similar. Arising from the dispute was a bet and a challenge. On 25 June 1938, he had to ride from Northam to Perth on a child’s tricycle.

Continue reading “Northam to Perth on a Tricycle”

Waterloo Bridge Granite

Demolition starts on Waterloo Bridge (left) in 1934 while traffic uses a temporary iron bridge (right).

Structural issues with the Waterloo Bridge (which opened in 1817) resulted in the London County Council’s decision to demolish it in 1934. The granite used to construct it did not go to waste. A lot was used for paving or rubble, balustrades were turned into pedestals for bird baths or sundials, and larger pieces were offered to parts of the British Empire. New Zealand took a piece and turned it into a memorial for Paddy the Wanderer at Wellington. Canberra accepted two stones and displayed them under the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.

The two Waterloo Bridge granite stones at Canberra. Courtesy of Google.

In London at the time was James MacCallum Smith, who was part of the delegation petitioning the British Parliament for Western Australia’s secession. He had read about the demolition of the bridge and the subsequent interest of various people to obtain relics of it. As the bridge had “great historical interest,” he decided to try to obtain something for Western Australia.

Continue reading “Waterloo Bridge Granite”

Escape to Shark Bay

In the afternoon, on Tuesday, 25 January 1859, the warders mustered in the convicts working in quarry gangs just outside Fremantle Prison’s walls. As they checked the numbers, they found that five men were missing from three different groups. John Williams, John Haynes, Henry Stevens, Peter Campbell, and Stephen Lacey were presumed to have absconded an hour before the warders noticed they were missing.

Fremantle Prison circa 1866. Courtesy of State Library New South Wales (Call Number: V5B / Frem / 4)

From Fremantle, the five men travelled east on foot to the Canning River and then waded in the river along the shore until they reached Point Walter. At Point Walter, they stole a boat and proceeded to row it west along the Swan River. Helping themselves to a keg of water from the convict station at North Fremantle, they then slipped across Fremantle Harbour undetected and rowed north.

Continue reading “Escape to Shark Bay”

The Rottnest Monster

While on holiday at Rottnest, Lewis Timperley stumbled across a strange object washed up south of the channel, two miles from the settlement. The barrel-shaped creature was twelve feet long. It was four feet wide behind the ears and eight feet wide between the two flippers. The flippers themselves were about two feet long and 20 inches wide. In front and behind them were smaller, narrower flippers. The crescent-moon-shaped mouth had no teeth, and the body was covered in white hair that resembled wet wool. When cut, the cream-coloured flesh looked like tripe. Not long dead, it quickly drew the attention of people on the island.

News of the discovery soon spread among the inhabitants of the island, and there has been a steady pilgrimage to the spot where the monster is lying.

The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950); 19 September 1934; Page 5; Mysterious Sea Monster
The Rottnest Monster
Continue reading “The Rottnest Monster”

Northam’s Bushmen’s Home

At the same time as the organisers of Geraldton’s Bushmen’s Club struggled to establish it, Northam’s Temperance Hall and Bushmen’s Home went from strength to strength. Fundraising began on 31 October 1876 in the form of a bazaar held at the Mechanics Hall. A variety of “useful and fancy articles” were available for sale. On the committee were seven women: Mrs Clifton, Miss Ranford, Mrs Monger, Mrs Jones, Mrs Throssell, Mrs Gregory, and Mrs Morrell.

Along with the bazaar, they also advertised a public tea meeting. Adults could attend by paying one shilling and six pence, while children’s admittance cost a shilling. Further enticing people, “foot races, quoit matches, and all kinds of rural sports” would take place.

Continue reading “Northam’s Bushmen’s Home”

The Bushmen’s Club That Never Was

On 26 January 1876, The Inquirer and Commercial News reported that “Measures are being taken for establishing a Bushmen’s Home at Champion Bay…” According to one writer (perhaps with a biased view), labouring bushmen often lived without the good influence of society. Alienated in the bush for so long, they eventually left their employment and headed straight to the “nearest public house to spend every penny of their wages in drink.” They stated that bushmen, “fiercely excited or helplessly prostrated by drink,” could be seen in country taverns at all times of the year. They drank until they had no money left and then went back to the bush to seek more work.

A Bushmen’s Club was thought to help solve this problem. The purpose of it was to provide a place in town for bushmen to sleep and eat. They would also provide various forms of entertainment. With their existence stemming from the temperance movement, alcohol would not be available on the premises.

Continue reading “The Bushmen’s Club That Never Was”

The Floods of 1862

The summer months are gone, but as yet we have not had rain. People are now anxiously looking for showers to restore the face of nature.

The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901); 7 May 1862; Page 2; Champion Bay

By the end of May 1862, the barometer fell, and so did the rain. A month later, relief that the dry spell had broken gave way to concern. In the week preceding 20 June, thunder and lightning raged, and the rain fell heavily. It continued throughout the start of July. For three weeks, there was “an almost incessant fall of rain.” When it finally started to ease, newspapers first reported on the flooding in Perth.

Continue reading “The Floods of 1862”

The Dangers of Fruit Peel

If by a practice, always blamed,
Of dropping orange peel, unclaimed,
We find that we are badly lamed - 
We shall have to make other arrangements.

Well before the ‘Keep Australia Beautiful’ anti-litter campaign, rubbish was thrown on the ground. While paper might simply look unappealing in the street, it was fruit peel that caused the most danger. People often ate fruit such as oranges and bananas while walking and dropped the peel straight onto the footpath. As it slowly deteriorated, it caused those who stepped on it to slip.

“It used to be Orange Peel, now It’s Banana-Skins.” An illustration circa 1886.
Continue reading “The Dangers of Fruit Peel”

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.

Continue reading “O’Driscoll’s Loss”

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.

Continue reading “Wreck of the Cochituate”