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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Moore’s Escalator

As early as 1898 Western Australians were aware of the invention of the moving stairway (escalator) when The Daily News published a story about Bloomingdale’s (New York) installing it in their store. It allowed shoppers to go from floor to floor, from department to department without having to move and was “like the magic carpet of the Arabian Nights“.

Illustration of an escalator circa 1902.

London railway stations followed department stores and had escalators installed. Reports highlighted the advantages of such technology which included transporting a large number of people from one place to the other without having to wait (such as in the case of lifts). Despite reading about them in the newspapers, many Western Australians would not have the opportunity to see one until 1929.

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Police Court Habitué

…there are some who have the leisure and the inclination to make the police court their drama, their comedy, their pulpit.

Mirror (Perth, WA : 1921 – 1956); 31 May 1924; Page 3; Just “Ginger”
Ginger

Long retired and seeking something of interest to do, Ginger started attending the Perth Police Court. In contrast to other people who regularly sat in the public gallery and were regarded as “dead-beats, hoboes and beer sparers” he was considered “different from the usual type.” He was short, stocky, middle aged and sported a walrus moustache that “covers his mouth and sends out lobster-like tentacles…” He was going bald but what remained of his hair was red. No one knew his real name and thus the nickname, ‘Ginger’ stuck.

Whether indulging a morbid taste in amusement, or an interest in human nature, warped by circumstance or crime, “Ginger’s” unchanging expression does not reveal, but he has seen innumerable unfortunate citizens, and the dregs of humanity caught in the toils of the law, and has watched many faces turned from freedom towards the temporary oblivion of the prison.

The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954); 15 December 1924; Page 8; News and Notes
The Perth Police Court circa 1911
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Battle of the Bellmen

Courtesy of Libraries Tasmania

On 21 May 1886 Tommy Hopkins was walking down Hay Street, preparing to ring his bell and announce to the public that Messrs. E. Solomon and Co. had a sale.

Eyeing him as he traversed the streets, Billy Boy the Bellman was far from pleased. As town crier, Perth was his domain while Tommy had the run of Fremantle. Two bellmen in the city would never do.

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The Great Jansen

The Great Jansen (Harry August Jansen) was touring Australia for the first time and was scheduled to perform at His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth for two weeks. Opening on Saturday, 27 July 1912 he was described as a magician and illusionist and it was stated that his magic “eclipses anything hitherto attempted.

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The Drummer’s Death

The regular jazz drummer who played in the orchestra at the Empire Dance Hall couldn’t make it to the flannel dance held on 9 December 1932. A call was made to Edward Cassey asking if he could fill in. Despite having never played at the hall and not knowing its location, he said yes.

Edward Cassey
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Gus & June

While the personal ads in newspapers were most often utilised as a tool for people to seek love and make connections, they also appeared to have been used as a way to communicate clandestinely.

This is the story of Gus and June. From 1950 until 1951 messages between the couple were placed on an almost monthly basis in the personal column of The West Australian.

31 March 1950
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The Inimitable Mrs Tracey

From the 1870s onwards, Mrs Eliza Tracey was a serial litigant within the Western Australian Courts. Initially her husband, James, brought the cases but it is likely that he did so with the firm backing of his wife.

By the 1880s the Traceys had mutually separated and Mrs Tracey continued to pursue her own lawsuits. While she had the occasional success, for the most part, she barely won a case.

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