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.

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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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A Cabin Boy’s Adventure

Arriving in Bunbury on 28 February 1932, the King Lud began loading wheat and was one of many ships anchored at the jetty during (what was noted to be) an “unexpected busy period“.

SS King Lud circa 1931. Courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

It departed for Fremantle on 8 March and arrived on the following day. Upon their arrival, a report was made to the police stating that the cabin boy, Sidney James Chapman, had jumped ship and was missing.

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Twelve Mile Dance

Dominating the top right advertising column of The Daily News, Billy Heaton and Clive Kerger boldly announced that they would be “Dancing to Fremantle for £100“. Both men represented rival theatres. Billy was backed by Union Theatres and was dancing at the Princess Theatre in Fremantle while Clive was representing Charles Sheridan’s Piccadilly Palais de Danse.

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Frank Fogarty Escapes

Frank Fogarty’s rap sheet read like an ode to burglary. He was first convicted of breaking and entering and stealing and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in 1897. In subsequent years he was found in possession of skeleton keys and housebreaking implements; was unlawfully on premises; and gave a false name. By 1903 he was the known leader of a group of “crib-crackers, safe dynamiters and bold bad burglars” known to the police as the Fogarty gang.

He was considered to be one of the “cleverest safe openers in Australia” and had no qualms about regularly putting that skill to use.

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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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III – The Final Part

This post follows on from I – Murder at Mount Magnet and II – A Suspect Emerges

Not much had changed in two years. The investigation into the Mount Magnet murder had ground to a halt. The police had not been able to identify the victim and they had not been able to identify the perpetrator. North of the town the Rose Pearl continued to sit abandoned save for a few old prospectors. It held fast to the truth surrounding the crime but still had one last secret to share.

At 5pm on 17 November 1902, Reuben Brooker and Charles Pollock were trying their luck prospecting in one of the old shafts known as the Black Swan. Reuben went down into the mine shaft and at the bottom (60 feet) began the task of removing earth which was blocking a drive. While doing so he came across a rotting chaff bag tied with a piece of lace. The ominous odour arising from the bag was enough to convince him to send it up to Charles.

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The Skeleton in the Dunes

A report reached here by last night’s mail that the skeleton of a man has been found on the coast near the Donnelly River by Mr. G. Giblett. The body is supposed to have been there some time.

20 October 1892

While no doubt shocking, finding a skeleton was not an altogether unusual occurrence in Australia. People often headed out into the bush or the outback and, if they did not have adequate experience in such environments, soon found themselves lost and often succumbed to the elements. What makes this case interesting is the age of the bones, the sheer amount and variety of objects found nearby and the mystery of who exactly the individual was.

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The Great Monkey Escape

It all started innocently enough. The British India steamer Nalgora departed Calcutta in early November and arrived in Fremantle Harbour on 27 November 1931 carrying a cargo of gunnies (coarse, heavy fabric) and bananas. The unloading of the cargo began almost immediately and it was at that point that a monkey was spied on deck.

Nalgora
The Nalgora. Courtesy of the Australian National Maritime Museum.

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‘Jonas’ and the Whale

Yankee Whaling

While today (in most parts of the world) whaling is thankfully banned, in the past, whaling was an occupation that was carried out regularly. Whales were hunted to extremes for their blubber, oil and bones. Western Australia was no exception with whaling being an early industry in the colony. Early accounts indicate great excitement at whales being killed and reports were regularly printed in the papers. On 2 September 1843, the Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal printed an article recounting the news for the whaling industry for the previous fortnight. They then went on to describe “a curious scene” in Fremantle.

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