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.

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Ernest Cavill Visits Geraldton

Ernest Cavill

On 5 December 1895, Ernest Cavill, the champion swimmer of Australia, arrived in Western Australia from Sydney. Before sailing to England to challenge Joseph Nuttall for the Championship of the World, he intended to stay in the west for a couple of months. During that time, if there was interest, he hoped to give exhibitions of diving, swimming, and various water feats.

Ernest began his stay in Perth; however, it was not long before a correspondent using the pseudonym ‘Dolphin’ wrote to the editor of Geraldton’s newspaper, Morning Post. They said:

It would be a good idea to get Mr. Ernest Cavill, the champion swimmer of Australia, who is now in Perth to visit Geraldton. It is not often we get the opportunity of seeing such a champion as Mr. Cavill perform in the water, and the benefit to our local swimmers by seeing the style and skill of the first swimmer in Australia would be very great.

Morning Post (Geraldton, WA : 1895 – 1896); 15 January 1896; Page 3; Correspondence
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The Separation Movement

We do not forget the marked neglect we experience in every respect from your Perth Government, including the slight we have had with the Electric Wire, but thank God if gold is abundant we shall very soon be free of your Perth Government neglect altogether, and have a separate Government of our own.

The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901); 17 August 1870; Page 1; Champion Bay

Perth newspapers seemed unconcerned by the claims made by a Champion Bay correspondent in August 1870. Talk in the community, however, continued. A little over a year later, in mid-September 1871, a writer mentioned the “separation scheme” but noted that the settlers did not mean anything by it. By the end of the month, the seriousness was apparent.

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Geraldton’s Town Clock

The earliest reference in the newspapers calling for a town clock in Geraldton occurred in 1878. The Geraldton Express noted several townspeople had suggested the clock, and that they were willing to “contribute liberally” towards it. If the town council brought it up at the next meeting, those people would be happy to initiate proceedings to rectify a long-standing need in the town.

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A Tombstone for a Hearth

In September 1930, plumber John Cumming was employed to carry out drainage works along Post Office Lane in Geraldton. He had excavated eighteen inches below the surface when he came across part of a tombstone – the rounded upper portion and half of the right side.

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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, was a problem in his life.

On 24 July 1880, 70 year old Mahomet left his home at 7 am, aiming 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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The Ghost of Francis Street

BA1657
Geraldton circa 1880s. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia.

Have you seen the ghost! is the latest query under the verandah. Dark rumors have been for some time circulated, of a mysterious apparition which at uncanny hours, haunts the solitudes of Francis street.

According to the Victorian Express, in 1882 numerous Geraldtonians had indeed seen the spectre, dressed in black and walking along Francis Street in the middle of the night. While the reporter was no doubt taking a little creative liberty, they stated that when it was approached it vanished “…into thin air, with a mocking laugh, a flare of blue light, and a smell of sulfur.

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