A Story from a Photo

Often when I’m researching using the archives, I’ll look for what I need, then I’ll look at all the other pages. The Western Australian Police Gazette at the State Library of Western Australia is one such fascinating resource. While most of it consists of text, there are also photos: people recently discharged from prison, unidentified deceased people, and occasionally missing people. It was the latter category that immediately caught my attention many months ago. In front of me was a photo of a young man, wearing a hat, crouched, with his hands resting on two dogs. His infectious smile expressed joy and happiness. Yet, in late January 1930, he went missing from his farm at Mollerin. What was his story?

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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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Haunting of the Chitibin

Thomas Dent was born in approximately 1826 in Baston, Lincolnshire, in England. The early years of his life are unknown, but as he grew older, he worked as a farm labourer. His troubles with the law began in his early 20s. On 20 December 1848, he was convicted of trespass and poaching. On 3 August 1849, he was convicted of assault. For both crimes, he served time at the House of Correction in Folkingham.

On 30 December 1850, Thomas, along with James Webber and John Dent, stole two gallons of rum and other articles from John Cole’s house in Baston. He was convicted of housebreaking and stealing and, due to his previous convictions, was sentenced to seven years’ transportation.

The order for transportation. Courtesy of the National Archives (UK).
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The Mysterious Mr Brown

Bill BrownAt 12:40 am on 1 December 1928, a man aged in his 20s was found lying unconscious on a street in Perth. He had severe injuries to his head and was taken to Perth Hospital for treatment. Several days later a trepanning operation was performed and, while it was successful, it may have caused him to develop encephalitis. When the man eventually regained consciousness, he had lost all knowledge of his identity.

The operation, however, though it restored Brown to life, robbed him of some portion of his mental faculties and, from that day, he has been unable to remember any incident which took place before the operation. His life, up to that date, has been a blank to him ever since.

At the time of his admittance to hospital his address was recorded as the Horseshoe Coffee Palace in Perth. Also provided was the name of a friend who lived in Subiaco. Despite police efforts to locate the person, no one by that name was found. The man had no other relatives or friends and he remained in hospital, unidentified, for nearly a year. He was eventually dubbed, William Brown.

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A Royal Mishap

May it please Your Royal Highness, On behalf of the citizens of Perth, the capital city of the State of Western Australia, we, the Mayor and councillors, beg to tender to Your Royal Highness a loyal and hearty welcome.

PrinceAnd welcome him they did. The people of Perth lined the streets and cheered loudly as Prince Edward, standing in a car specially provided for him, acknowledged the thousands who came into town to see him.

The official schedule for his visit was jam-packed. The Prince was not only staying in Perth, he was spending 10 days in Western Australia and was visiting some of the country towns.

He was to travel to each destination by railway (the fastest way to travel in 1920) and, in order to ensure that the Prince travelled in the comfort he was accustomed to, a special carriage was constructed and fitted out accordingly.

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Rocky Bay Joe

Looking upon the decade as a whole, we can see that many interesting events took place throughout the 1830s. William IV succeeded his brother to the throne of the United Kingdom in June 1830. The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 (abolishing slavery in the British Empire) was passed. Charles Darwin set off on a voyage of discovery in 1831 with the information collected later used in his book, ‘The Origin of the Species’. On the other side of the world, Western Australia (settled by Europeans in 1829) was still only a fledgling colony.

It was also in the early 1830s (approximately 1833) that Joseph Byron was born and, unlike the aforementioned events, his birth would have gone unnoticed except to those closest to him.

Attempts to establish the place of his birth have thus far been unsuccessful. While it is possible he was born in England, there is also the chance that he was born elsewhere.

Later evidence indicates that Joseph was lucky enough to receive an education. He was literate which gives rise to the assumption that he came from a family of means. Nevertheless, as he grew older, a career in the military called to him.

Again, details of his life in the military are sketchy. He served time in India and may have been part of the forces in Jhansi during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. By early 1864 and in his early thirties, he was certainly stationed in Jhansi as it was there that he was court-martialled.

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