Mahomet’s Treasure

Abdallah Mahomet arrived in Western Australia in the 1840s and by the late 1860s had relocated to Geraldton. An early settler in the area, he lived on a piece of land two miles south of the town, surrounded by sand dunes and possessing its own underground water source.

The Government allotted to him for the period of his natural life about ten acres of ground, a small portion of which he regularly cultivated…

The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879-1954); 4 August 1880; Page 1; Country Letters

Making use of the plentiful water on his property, he took to growing vegetables, fruit and flowers. Carrying two baskets at the end of a long pole, he regularly walked into town and offered his produce for sale.

As he grew older he became known to everyone as Old Mahomet and the area where he lived was called Mahomets Flats. Alcohol, however, grew to be a problem in his life.

On 24 July 1880, 70 year old Mahomet left his home at 7 am with the aim to reach Geraldton between the hours of 8 am and 9 am. He went there on a specific errand but refused to state what it was until he got back.

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Grim Yarns

There is a sickly odour of the sepulchre permeating the atmosphere, and the chief employment of the idle is to stand around and swap ghoulish stories – yarns that are dank, dismal and dirty, and reminiscent of dry bones, festering corpses, foul whiffs from the charnel house, blue mouldy of ghostly visions, and grisly spooks and other horrors…

And so it is that wherever Death casts a shadow, people will have some kind of story to tell. In late November 1894, the Coolgardie Miner had heard of several such grim yarns. Unable to resist “dabbling in mortuary matters“, they diligently reproduced them in an article.

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Controversial Slacks

Driving with her mother and sister from Sydney to Canberra in 1933, 23 year old Dorothy Henderson-Smart of Johannesburg thought little of the black slacks she wore throughout the journey. Comfort was her main priority on a drive that would take many hours.

They arrived in Canberra and on 21 November 1933 they took a tour of Parliament House. Still wearing slacks, Dorothy noticed a few men looking at her but she had no idea why. It wasn’t until later that day that she was informed that the wearing of slacks by women in Parliament House was inappropriate.

Old Parliament House circa 1927. Courtesy of the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate archive.
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Whatley Park Pensioners

What I love about history is the constant opportunity to learn something new. Research is always vital however this can be difficult if you’re not sure where to look. This may especially be the case where buildings or infrastructure is torn down. Once the physical reminder of history is lost, it’s likely the memory of it will be lost too. Generations upon generations of people are born and what was once well-known to many can become forgotten. The same can be said for stories.

As is often the case, I came across Whatley Station and the Whatley Park Pensioners purely by chance whilst searching for something else. At first confused (where in the world was Whatley Park?) I began researching and found myself learning a piece of Bayswater’s history which seemed as though it had (perhaps unintentionally) been buried in the past.

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Goodbye Chaps, I’m Off

Having already escaped from Coolgardie Gaol in January, police kept a close watch on George Thompson when they loaded him onto a train on 17 March 1897. He was to serve three sentences at Fremantle Prison; 12 months for stealing, four months for breaking out of gaol and three months for giving a false name to the police. Thompson was one of 14 prisoners being transported from Coolgardie to Fremantle on the midday train.

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The Great Jansen

The Great Jansen (Harry August Jansen) was touring Australia for the first time and was scheduled to perform at His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth for two weeks. Opening on Saturday, 27 July 1912 he was described as a magician and illusionist and it was stated that his magic “eclipses anything hitherto attempted.

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Frog in a Hole

Harry Ainsworth had done it all. He’d struck gold at Lake Austin, made his fortune, moved into a grand house in Geraldton and in 1895 became Mayor. By the 1900s he’d lost everything. Hoping to recover some of his fortune, he returned to Lake Austin and once more began searching for gold. What he didn’t expect to find was a frog.

Lake Austin with The Mainland in the middle. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call Number: 9022.M95H2).
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The Drummer’s Death

The regular jazz drummer who played in the orchestra at the Empire Dance Hall couldn’t make it to the flannel dance held on 9 December 1932. A call was made to Edward Cassey asking if he could fill in. Despite having never played at the hall and not knowing its location, he said yes.

Edward Cassey
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Bubonic Plague in Geraldton

The sudden deaths of two people who were said to have been perfectly healthy sent rumours swirling. Bubonic plague was reported in Perth and Fremantle in January and February 1906. Had “the much-feared disease” made its way to the port town? The Geraldton Express was the first to ask the question.

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