Mundaring Weir “Spy”

At infrequent intervals reports are made that Japanese – presumably spies – have been caught taking observations and making themselves unduly familiar with our fortifications.

The Morning Herald; 10 October 1907; Page 5.

Writing to the honorary minister, James Price, on 7 October 1907, Thomas McNulty advised that a Perth resident had heard from a clergyman that he had seen two Japanese men “taking observations with a theodolite at Mundaring Weir.” Initially, McNulty ignored the account. Hundreds of people visited the Weir and often brought cameras to take photos. It was possible the clergyman was mistaken after seeing the camera at a distance.

He later learned that a Japanese man lived in the area and worked as a cook at the Goldfields Hotel. The man was often seen taking photos around the Weir, and was occasionally accompanied by another Japanese man who lived in Perth. One of the Water Supply Department officers spoke to a resident who told them that the man “was no cook” and in his opinion, he was there to “get information about the Weir.

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The Phantom Buggy

Sergeant Hobson of the Western Australia Police Force started his shift at five in March 1917. As he rode his bicycle along Beaufort Street, the early morning light struggled to break through the heavy clouds.

Ka-lop, ka-lop, ka-lop, ka-lop. A fast-moving horse put him on alert. Ka-lop, ka-lop, ka-lop. Where was it coming from? Ka-lop, ka-lop. It was too early for a horse to be travelling that fast. He stopped cycling, placed his feet on the ground, and held onto the handlebars as he listened. The sound became louder as the horse approached.

He looked north. No horse. He looked south. No horse. Puzzled, he looked north again. A driverless horse and buggy flew past his line of sight, travelling on the wrong side of the road. “Bloody hell,” he swore as he scrambled back onto his bicycle.

A horse and buggy circa 1905. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call Number: 006595PD).
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Northam to Perth on a Tricycle

In March 1938, Alfred Williamson left Melbourne on a tricycle determined to ride to Sydney in 21 days. The story was widely reported and attracted national coverage in the newspapers. Reading about it in Western Australia was Roy Lunt. Months later, in June, he got into an argument with Ronald Fletcher about the ride. Ronald thought it was a “wonderful feat,” while Roy was of the opinion that he could easily do something similar. Arising from the dispute was a bet and a challenge. On 25 June 1938, he had to ride from Northam to Perth on a child’s tricycle.

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Waterloo Bridge Granite

Demolition starts on Waterloo Bridge (left) in 1934 while traffic uses a temporary iron bridge (right).

Structural issues with the Waterloo Bridge (which opened in 1817) resulted in the London County Council’s decision to demolish it in 1934. The granite used to construct it did not go to waste. A lot was used for paving or rubble, balustrades were turned into pedestals for bird baths or sundials, and larger pieces were offered to parts of the British Empire. New Zealand took a piece and turned it into a memorial for Paddy the Wanderer at Wellington. Canberra accepted two stones and displayed them under the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.

The two Waterloo Bridge granite stones at Canberra. Courtesy of Google.

In London at the time was James MacCallum Smith, who was part of the delegation petitioning the British Parliament for Western Australia’s secession. He had read about the demolition of the bridge and the subsequent interest of various people to obtain relics of it. As the bridge had “great historical interest,” he decided to try to obtain something for Western Australia.

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Escape to Shark Bay

In the afternoon, on Tuesday, 25 January 1859, the warders mustered in the convicts working in quarry gangs just outside Fremantle Prison’s walls. As they checked the numbers, they found that five men were missing from three different groups. John Williams, John Haynes, Henry Stevens, Peter Campbell, and Stephen Lacey were presumed to have absconded an hour before the warders noticed they were missing.

Fremantle Prison circa 1866. Courtesy of State Library New South Wales (Call Number: V5B / Frem / 4)

From Fremantle, the five men travelled east on foot to the Canning River and then waded in the river along the shore until they reached Point Walter. At Point Walter, they stole a boat and proceeded to row it west along the Swan River. Helping themselves to a keg of water from the convict station at North Fremantle, they then slipped across Fremantle Harbour undetected and rowed north.

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The Rottnest Monster

While on holiday at Rottnest, Lewis Timperley stumbled across a strange object washed up south of the channel, two miles from the settlement. The barrel-shaped creature was twelve feet long. It was four feet wide behind the ears and eight feet wide between the two flippers. The flippers themselves were about two feet long and 20 inches wide. In front and behind them were smaller, narrower flippers. The crescent-moon-shaped mouth had no teeth, and the body was covered in white hair that resembled wet wool. When cut, the cream-coloured flesh looked like tripe. Not long dead, it quickly drew the attention of people on the island.

News of the discovery soon spread among the inhabitants of the island, and there has been a steady pilgrimage to the spot where the monster is lying.

The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950); 19 September 1934; Page 5; Mysterious Sea Monster
The Rottnest Monster
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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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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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Geraldton to Perth Road Record

In May 1933, Neil Rosman had his driver’s licence restored to him, years after it was cancelled when he had an accident in 1930. Any indications that he might lie low were short-lived.

On 24 July 1933, Neil, along with his friend Spencer Colliver, left Geraldton at 6:45 in the morning, driving a Standard Motor Company Little Twelve Roadster. They intended to prove to the public that British cars were suitable for driving on various roads, and, to monitor the time the journey took them, they carried with them a hermetically sealed watch.

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Wreck of the Cochituate

At midnight, on 30 June 1861, a man arrived in Fremantle in a state of exhaustion and starvation. He was a Dutchman named John Barlish and was part of the crew on the barque ‘Cochituate,’ of Boston, U.S.A. The ship left Melbourne on 7 May, bound for Singapore, when it struck West Reef of the Abrolhos Islands at about 3 am on 14 June.

Houtman Abrolhos circa 1753. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call number: MAPR0000001).

The ship began to fill with water, and within an hour, started to break up. It became necessary for the Captain and the crew to abandon ship. They boarded the ship’s boats with some provisions; Captain Bangs, the second mate and three men in one boat, and the first mate (Mr Devries) and six men in the other.

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