Fowler versus Pollitt

When Tom Fowler (a well-known athlete of the Kalgoorlie and Day Dawn goldfields) heard about Geraldton’s champion athlete, James Pollitt, he decided to issue a challenge. Rumours started in early December 1908 that a running match was being organised between the pair. It wasn’t until January 1909 that the challenge was formalised, with an advertisement placed in the Geraldton Guardian.

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The Haunted Swing

Invented by Amariah Lake of New Jersey in 1893, the haunted swing was a Victorian era amusement ride. Participants entered a room and took a seat on the swing provided. When the ride got underway, the attendant gave the swing a push. As it moved, it appeared to rotate, creating an illusion that the people on the ride were upside down. In truth, the swing stayed in the same position, and it was the small room surrounding them that rotated.

The original patent for The Haunted Swing circa 1893. Courtesy of Espacenet.
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The Day Dawn Patriotic Knitting Club

In October 1915, during WWI, it was suggested by the Karrakatta Club in Perth that they adopt a Melbourne club’s idea and organise to send Christmas cheer to the soldiers overseas. They decided to utilise billies and aimed to include in them “something to eat, something to smoke, something to use and something to amuse.” Despite their limited time, the scheme was successful and very popular with the soldiers. They decided to continue it in the following year.

Distributing Christmas billies to the soldiers in Egypt circa 1915.

The idea of the Christmas billies reached the women living at Day Dawn, a small town several kilometres southwest of Cue. A few women had donated billies in 1915, but in early July 1916, a group of women decided to contribute on a larger scale. Along with fundraising for goods to place in the billies, the women started knitting. However, seeing as though there were some women and children who did not know how to knit, Mrs Mary Threadgold decided to establish the Day Dawn Patriotic Knitting Club.

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Geraldton’s Town Clock

The earliest reference in the newspapers calling for a town clock in Geraldton occurred in 1878. The Geraldton Express noted several townspeople had suggested the clock, and that they were willing to “contribute liberally” towards it. If the town council brought it up at the next meeting, those people would be happy to initiate proceedings to rectify a long-standing need in the town.

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A View to Matrimony

Matrimonial advertising was used by many people who wanted to marry. As Europeans immigrated to Western Australia, they found themselves living in a remote location with a limited social circle. Placing an ad in the newspaper was the answer to a difficult situation. It offered hope that they would find a partner to share their life. While it was frowned upon by some classes of society, ultimately, the possible benefit far outweighed the risks.

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Pushball in the West

Invented by Moses Crane in 1894 in Newton, Massachusetts, pushball first came to the attention of Western Australians with a small article printed in The Inquirer and Commercial News in 1896. Despite briefly referencing the sport, it was not reported on in any great depth until 1902 when it was described as a game “untrammelled by vexatious rules.

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Caught by His Prints

At 7:30 pm on 12 August 1906, the Bradbury family left their home on Thomas Street in West Perth and attended the Congregational Church service. Frank Bradbury (aged 12) was last to leave and shut the door behind him without locking it. At 9 pm the family returned to find the door wide open and the rooms and furniture ransacked. Missing from the premises was a silver chain and locket, a silver watch, a silver matchbox and one shilling and five pence.

Henry Plant in 1901. Courtesy of Prisoners of the Past and the State Records Office of Western Australia.

On the following afternoon Siegfried Bremer, a pawnbroker on Barrack Street in Perth, was working in his shop when he was approached by Henry Plant. Henry (giving a false name) had a silver chain and locket he wanted to sell. Siegfried asked the relevant questions and, finding the answers suspicious, decided to call the police.

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Breach of Promise

Thomas Mellersh arrived in the Swan River Colony on 19 August 1834 aboard the ‘James Pattison‘. He was the son of a banker and land-steward of Godalming in Surrey and quickly set himself up as a settler. Leaving the colony in 1838, he returned two years later and upon his return he made the acquaintance of 17 year old Jane Heal.

The couple were considered to be of the same social standing. Jane was the daughter of a Lieutenant in Her Majesty’s Navy however her father had died a few years after the family’s arrival in 1830. At only seven years of age she found herself fatherless and “in poor circumstances“. Her widowed mother and siblings fell further down the societal ladder however throughout the years Jane had “nevertheless retained an unsullied reputation.

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A Puzzling Case

Having worked hard as a teamster in the Government boring party near Mingenew, William Ernest Ellison was due for a holiday. Intending to return after the New Year, he left his portmanteau containing his work clothes and other possessions with Coorow storekeeper, Mr Todd, and on 15 September 1912, he travelled on the Midland railway line to Perth.

Grand Central Coffee Palace circa 1906

He arrived on the same day and took a room at the Grand Central Coffee Palace on Wellington Street. He was designated room 19 and a workmate named Charles Henry Spargo occupied the room across the hallway. Throughout his time in Perth, William was seen on the streets, at the Coffee Palace and around the racecourse, often in company with Spargo. He withdrew various amounts from his bank account on the 21st and 28th September and on the 1st, 5th, 19th and 22nd October. There was nothing unusual about these withdrawals and it was thought a large amount of the money was spent betting at the races.

William was originally from South Australia and kept in regular contact with his parents who remained there. He also had three brothers in Western Australia. On 24 October, a man named Cameron Arthur delivered him a message from his brother, Frank. In the message Frank asked him to go to Gunyidi and then to Nugadong for work. At the time William was seeking employment and was pleased to hear from him. He planned to leave on Saturday, 26 October 1912.

Despite agreeing to meet his brother, William never arrived. On 28 October his accommodation (paid a week in advance) ceased and the proprietor of the Coffee Palace simply assumed that he had left. Correspondence to his family stopped and 18 months passed by. During that time Spargo was tried, convicted and hanged for the murder of Gilbert Jones in Broome. The mangrove murder was the talk of the town and speculation was rife as to whether Spargo had killed other men. On 14 January 1914, George O’Hern of Watheroo contacted the Criminal Investigation Branch (C.I.B.) on the brothers’ behalf. William had vanished and they suspected foul play.

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The Elvira Mystery

Two years before the murder at Mount Magnet, the Elvira mine, located north east of Coolgardie and near the Red Bluff, had been sitting abandoned for over a year. On 9 June 1896, Joseph Sorensen lodged an application and was granted a lease over the site.

Red Bluff at Coolgardie circa 1901. Courtesy of State Library of Western Australia.

Work began immediately. Joseph started clearing the mine out and on 11 August he was working on the north shaft. Having sent up dozens of buckets during the course of the work, he moved a slab of wood and came across earth mixed with stones. He began picking it away and as he did so, a skull rolled out.

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