WA History

The Māori Whaler

It was the people who knew him best who, after he had passed, recounted the early years of William Parr, also known as Butty. While it was likely that they knew these details because he had told them the tales of his life, it was also possible that there were some inaccuracies due to the second-hand nature of the telling of the story.

Butty was born circa 1813 and was said to be from Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) in Aotearoa (New Zealand). He was the son of a Māori chief and was given the names Pah or Putty, which later became Butty. In the 1820s, during the musket wars, he was captured by another Māori tribe from the Bay of Islands. He lived with them for many years until, at age 16, he joined a church mission and sailed on their schooner Columbine.

…his face and chest were scarred with tatoo markings.

The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954); 22 July 1933; Page 4; Old Colonial Days
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History, WA History

Poisoned at Day Dawn

Dressed in her best clothes and halfway through drinking her tea, Georgina Hussey doubled over in pain. Unable to bear it, she went to lie down. In bed, she proceeded to have a fit. Horton Sibley, the man she lived with, hovered nearby. He decided to find a doctor. Before doing so, he asked their neighbour, Ellen Clarke, to sit with her. Ellen tried giving Georgina water, but it did not help. After reviving a little, she had another fit. Frightened, Ellen told her younger sister, Janet, to fetch their older sister, Sarah Ann.

Sibley returned without a doctor but received some advice from the chemist, Andrew Taite. It was of no use. Georgina knew her condition was fatal. As Sibley sat beside her, she turned to him and said, “Kiss me Jack, and say goodbye.” On 16 September 1906, at about 7 pm, less than half an hour since the pain started, Georgina Hussey died.

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Historical Snippets

The Case of Frank Griffith

Frank Griffith arrived at Peak Hill in July 1900 after a spell of bad luck prospecting. He obtained employment at the company Peak Hill Goldfields Ltd and started working on the surface before going underground. He planned to recoup his funds before heading out prospecting again.

Peak Hill Gold Mine circa 1900. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (090565PD).

Before starting work underground, he chatted to another miner and showed him some gold he had found at Quinns. The man, seeing a similarity to the specimens at Peak Hill, told him to get rid of it. Frank knew of its origins and was unconcerned. He kept it with him and buried it six inches in the ground at his camp, an act that was common among prospectors.

Almost every prospector had specimens he liked to carry with him, regardless of the risk he ran in keeping them when working for a company.

Mount Magnet Miner and Lennonville Leader (WA : 1896 – 1926); 22 December 1900; Page 2; The Griffith Case
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Historical Snippets, WA History

Geraldton’s Air Raid

On 19 February 1942, Japanese forces bombed Darwin. With the risk of danger increasing, men and women on the home front got to work. They constructed air raid shelters, prepared their homes, and carried out additional training. The Daily News reported, “Everywhere on the Home Front there is an atmosphere of industry and enthusiasm. Realisation of their danger has come at last to West Australians, and they are preparing in haste against it.

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Australian History, WA History

Harry Waters and the Lightning Gang

Harry Waters

Harry Waters was broke. As he sat drinking in the billiard saloon of the Geraldton R.S.L., a criminal acquaintance appeared. James Henry Hawkins was in the same financial position. The two men sat together, nursed their drinks, and spoke of their lack of money and how they could rectify the situation. Waters had an idea. One he had been considering for some time. He suggested they join forces, travel to country towns, and rob the co-operative stores.

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Historical Snippets, WA History

Vivien Grant Carter

Vivien was born on 20 June 1891 in Blackburn, Lancashire in England. She was the fourth child of her parents, Richard and Lucy Carter. Richard was a draper by trade and emigrated to New Zealand in the 1880s, where he met and married his wife. They later returned to England in the early 1890s. Despite having emigrated once, he decided to do it again. In late July 1900, the Carter family boarded the ss Medic, and on 30 August, they arrived in Western Australia.

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Historical Snippets, WA History

T’othersiders vs Gropers

According to ‘Veteran’, who wrote about the genesis of Australian football in Geraldton for the Geraldton Guardian, local youths had a football that they kicked around on the Recreation Ground. They occasionally fielded sides and held competitions, but it was not until the influx of the t’othersiders (people from the eastern states) in the 1890s that they established teams.

Perhaps meaning well, ‘Veteran’s’ words indicate they may have been a t’othersider themselves. Their story of the teams leaves out other clubs formed in the 1880s. Nevertheless, they were correct with regards to the t’othersiders. As people poured into Western Australia hoping to strike it rich on the goldfields, they soon played the game they loved and looked to establish a team.

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Historical Snippets, WA History

Spaldo & the Eastern Road Beer Thief

Henry Arthur Spalding (known as Spaldo) was born in Birmingham in England in 1850. In 1877, at the age of 26, he boarded the ship ‘Robert Morrison‘ and immigrated to Western Australia. After a few years living in Perth, he moved to Northampton and was appointed the first stationmaster for the new railway.

For the next six years, he was the town’s stationmaster, he ran the Post Office and Telegraph Office, and he was also the Clerk of Courts for the small local court that heard cases relating to small debts. In 1884, he added another title to his duties when he became the traffic manager for the Northern Railway. Said to be a “courteous and efficient officer,” it was thought that the appointment would give “much satisfaction” to everyone in the town.

A correspondent shared an example of his courtesy and thoughtfulness with the Victorian Express in 1886. The writer travelled on the northern line and, upon entering a carriage, found a book left in a rack. They assumed that someone had forgotten it and opened the copy of ‘Wilson’s Border Tales’ intending to read it to while away the time. Written on the first page was a note from Spaldo. No one had forgotten their book; he had placed it there for passengers so they could “beguile the tedium of the journey.

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Historical Snippets, WA History

How the Lighthouse Got its Stripes

The ‘Zephyr’ returned to Champion Bay in November 1870. They arrived in the evening, and without any light to guide their way, Captain Setten had to go through the “most anxious ordeal of heaving-to his ship till daylight…” On top of that, he dealt with a heavy southwest gale. He was one of many who pressed upon the need for a lighthouse at Point Moore.

Six years later, works were underway and halted in January 1877 until the arrival of the prefabricated iron tower from England. In June, the ‘Lady Louisa’ arrived at Champion Bay with all the materials on board. Men unloaded them from the ship and began construction. By mid-July, works halted again. An error was made during the construction of the lighthouse’s foundation and needed immediate rectification.

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WA History

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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