Bubonic Plague in Geraldton

The sudden deaths of two people who were said to have been perfectly healthy sent rumours swirling. Bubonic plague was reported in Perth and Fremantle in January and February 1906. Had “the much-feared disease” made its way to the port town? The Geraldton Express was the first to ask the question.

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The Captain’s Boots

For about fifteen years Phillip Duffield worked as the ‘landing waiter’ for customs in Geraldton. His job was to monitor all the people who arrived at the port and ensure that they were not bringing contraband to the town.

Phillip took his job seriously. Such was his “surprising sagacity in diagnosing contraband and his incorruptible fervor in pursuing offenders” he soon became known to everyone as ‘Phil the Ferocious’.

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The Ghost of Francis Street

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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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Geraldton’s First Train Incident

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The opening of the railway in Geraldton circa 1879. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia.

The construction of the Geraldton to Northampton railway began in 1874 and while sections of the track were completed in the following years, it was not officially opened until 1879.

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Death at Lake Austin

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the following blog post may contain images and names of deceased persons.

On 26 November 1930 Hughie King departed Austin Downs Station (his place of employment) and headed southeast towards Lake Austin. Foxes were a nuisance in the area and, as part of his job, he went hunting to try and curb the pest.

It was the end of spring and the steady approach of summer was making itself known. The weather was hot. Lake Austin (a system of mostly water-less salt lakes) shimmered in the unforgiving sun. The grass was long in places and perhaps it was the heat which drew Hughie to a small gum tree at the southeast part of the lakes. Perhaps it was something else entirely; an indescribable intuitive feeling. He approached the tree and there, beneath the limited shade and partially covered by grass and sand, were the skeletal remains of two people. Understandably spooked by the grim vision before him, Hughie did not choose to hang around and immediately took off.

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The Oldest Swagman in the State

Like all good bushmen, he knew how to spin a yarn. As he ambled into towns carrying a billy and his matilda (swag) he almost always sought out a man of the press.

Paddy Redmonds me name, and I am the oldest swagman in W.A.

With attention firmly turned towards him, Paddy would launch into a story about his life, his work and his love of the open road.

Many’s the time I could have made me pile had I but stuck where I was but, shure, the love of the road would set me feet a-jigging, whether I felt like it or no.

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