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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Isabella Duncan’s Memories

On 27 May 1933, Isabella Duncan turned 90. From family and friends in the state, she received messages of congratulations. Born in the north of England in 1843, Isabella arrived in Western Australia in 1851 with her parents, Francis and Mary Ann Pearson. She was eight years old. The family immigrated because Francis was offered a job to erect the smelting works at the Geraldine Mine on the Murchison River.

Mrs Duncan

The eldest of five children, Isabella could not remember much about her home town in England but could remember that before the family left, they travelled to London. For two weeks, they remained in London until they boarded the ship ‘Morning Star’ for Western Australia.

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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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The Floods of 1862

The summer months are gone, but as yet we have not had rain. People are now anxiously looking for showers to restore the face of nature.

The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901); 7 May 1862; Page 2; Champion Bay

By the end of May 1862, the barometer fell, and so did the rain. A month later, relief that the dry spell had broken gave way to concern. In the week preceding 20 June, thunder and lightning raged, and the rain fell heavily. It continued throughout the start of July. For three weeks, there was “an almost incessant fall of rain.” When it finally started to ease, newspapers first reported on the flooding in Perth.

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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 Dangers of Fruit Peel

If by a practice, always blamed,
Of dropping orange peel, unclaimed,
We find that we are badly lamed - 
We shall have to make other arrangements.

Well before the ‘Keep Australia Beautiful’ anti-litter campaign, rubbish was thrown on the ground. While paper might simply look unappealing in the street, it was fruit peel that caused the most danger. People often ate fruit such as oranges and bananas while walking and dropped the peel straight onto the footpath. As it slowly deteriorated, it caused those who stepped on it to slip.

“It used to be Orange Peel, now It’s Banana-Skins.” An illustration circa 1886.
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A Seaside Holiday in Geraldton

In April 1933, Leonard Hood, secretary of the Parents’ and Citizens’ Association at Meekatharra, wrote to the Geraldton Municipal Council expressing a desire to arrange a summer seaside holiday for the Meekatharra children.

Throughout the year, plans were made, and the Association held fundraising events. Finally, on the night of 27 December 1933, 74 children and nine adult supervisors boarded the train at Meekatharra bound for Geraldton. One newspaper described the scene at the railway station:

Long before the arrival of the express from Wiluna, the platform was thronged with happy and eager children. Two coaches were necessary to accommodate the party and in a surprisingly short time all had been billeted in their compartments. A loud din reigned as the train slowly drew out, the air being filled with the voices of cheering children and blasts from the whistle of the engine.

The Magnet Mirror and Murchison Reflector (Meekatharra, WA : 1928 – 1935); 5 January 1934; Page 3; Children’s Seaside Trip
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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 to Perth Road Record

In May 1933, Neil Rosman had his driver’s licence restored to him, years after it was cancelled when he had an accident in 1930. Any indications that he might lie low were short-lived.

On 24 July 1933, Neil, along with his friend Spencer Colliver, left Geraldton at 6:45 in the morning, driving a Standard Motor Company Little Twelve Roadster. They intended to prove to the public that British cars were suitable for driving on various roads, and, to monitor the time the journey took them, they carried with them a hermetically sealed watch.

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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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