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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Morawa Explosion

Anticipating the arrival of a farmer to pay them for their clearing job, a group of Italian men camped in the shelter shed adjoining the Morawa Railway Station. Just after dark, on 26 October 1927, they went out into the bush to cook their dinner. They returned to the shed at 8:30 pm, unrolled their blankets on the floor, and got ready for bed.

Fifteen minutes later, an explosion ripped through the town. Shocked residents ran out of their homes to see smoke billowing from the destroyed shelter shed and other parts of the railway buildings. Led by Dr. John Hough, Morawa residents sprang into action. They rushed across to the station, prevented a fire from taking hold, and cleared the debris to rescue the trapped men.

While they were doing this, they could hear groans and shrieks of pain from under the wreckage and, working strenuously, they were, in a short time, able to drag from underneath a number of dazed and semi-conscious Italians.

The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954); 27 October 1927; Page 17; Explosion at Morawa
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