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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Youanmi Quarantines

As the influenza pandemic spread and cases increased in Western Australia, the Youanmi Local Board of Health held a meeting. On 12 June 1919, upon the advice of the Medical Officer, the board members decided to keep the town “free from an outbreak of the scourge.” Youanmi was to be protected, and all arrivals to the district had to undergo seven days quarantine. Furthermore, pickets were to be placed on the road to prevent people from entering.

Youanmi Hotel circa 1911
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Buttonholed

On 14 August 1939, about 200 influential businessmen in Perth received in the post a daffodil surrounded by ferns. Attached to the flower was a card with the words “Heralding the Spring and Happy Days” written on it. Each man embraced the gesture and assumed that a woman sent it.

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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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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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O’Driscoll’s Loss

As was the case for many people, it was the goldfields that drew John O’Driscoll to the shores of Western Australia. He was born in about 1865 in Loveland, Ohio, USA. The son of an Irish immigrant, he arrived in Australia in 1889. By 1899, he had moved west and established himself on the Murchison goldfields as a storekeeper.

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Always Faithful to the End

Warning: this story discusses suicide. If you are struggling and need help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au.

On 24 November 1929, His Excellency the Governor, Colonel Sir William Campion, officially unveiled Western Australia’s War Memorial in Kings Park. Built on a high point of the park, it overlooked the Swan River and the city of Perth. For most people, it was a place of remembrance. However, perhaps for some, it was a reminder of the pain they endured.

Eleven days later, at 8:30 am on 5 December, park ranger, Ernest Harwood, found a man’s body lying face down against the memorial. He looked to be about 28 years old and was five feet nine inches tall. He was sturdily built and neatly dressed in a navy blue serge suit. He was also wearing a white linen shirt and collar, white cotton singlet, light blue tie with purple spots, blue suspenders with white stripes, black shoes and socks, and a grey felt hat with a light-coloured band.

The man had a high forehead, full face, small nose, brown eyes, and was missing his top front teeth. He had brushed back his curly auburn hair. Police noted two identifying features: he was missing the tip of his right little finger, and there was a tattoo on the inside of his right forearm – a picture of a woman’s head and shoulders above an anchor.

The cause of death was evident. Clasped in his right hand was a six-chamber revolver with five bullets and a spent cartridge. A bullet wound on the right side of his temple indicated that he had taken his life.

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