Mount Farmer Mystery

27 September 1854
“…we buried [Charles Farmer] at sunset, sewn up in his blanket, with his saddle for a pillow, on to which we lowered him gently in a horse-rug. I read the beautiful service of our Church for the burial of the dead over him, after which we fired our guns, and retired in silence.”

T.D. was working for a contractor at Twin Peaks Station in the Murchison at the start of July 1907. He was repairing a fence with the help of an older bushman, who liked to yarn as he worked. As they went about their work, it was inevitable that talk would turn to gold. The bushman casually mentioned that there was “a rich thing that he knew of at a place called Mount Farmer.

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Geraldton’s Air Raid

On 19 February 1942, Japanese forces bombed Darwin. With the risk of danger increasing, men and women on the home front got to work. They constructed air raid shelters, prepared their homes, and carried out additional training. The Daily News reported, “Everywhere on the Home Front there is an atmosphere of industry and enthusiasm. Realisation of their danger has come at last to West Australians, and they are preparing in haste against it.

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Harry Waters and the Lightning Gang

Harry Waters

Harry Waters was broke. As he sat drinking in the billiard saloon of the Geraldton R.S.L., a criminal acquaintance appeared. James Henry Hawkins was in the same financial position. The two men sat together, nursed their drinks, and spoke of their lack of money and how they could rectify the situation. Waters had an idea. One he had been considering for some time. He suggested they join forces, travel to country towns, and rob the co-operative stores.

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Florrie Waters Saves the Day

As lighthouse keeper George Waters looked out across a calm ocean from Bathurst Point Lighthouse on 12 December 1912, he decided it would be the perfect day for fishing. Accompanied by his 18-year-old daughter, Florrie, they hopped into a small dinghy and began rowing out to sea.

Bathurst Point Lighthouse circa 1912
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Arthur Smith Goes Bush

A blue Chevrolet, found seemingly abandoned in the bush off the main road four miles north-east of Merredin, was a problem for the police to solve on 2 December 1953. Their first step was to investigate the number plate ‘71-724’. The car was registered to 44-year-old Arthur Smith, whose registered address was Hay Street in Perth.

Arthur was known to be a keen kangaroo hunter, so it was assumed he was in the bush shooting. Evidence of his work was apparent. There was ammunition in the vehicle, and on the back seat were dried rabbit and fox skins. Pegged outside on the ground was a kangaroo skin drying in the sun. Also in the car were loose items of clothing as well as several suitcases containing his papers and belongings. Ordinarily, police might have assumed that the owner had not gone far. The issue in this instance was that the car appeared to have been sitting in the same spot for months.

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Vivien Grant Carter

Vivien was born on 20 June 1891 in Blackburn, Lancashire in England. She was the fourth child of her parents, Richard and Lucy Carter. Richard was a draper by trade and emigrated to New Zealand in the 1880s, where he met and married his wife. They later returned to England in the early 1890s. Despite having emigrated once, he decided to do it again. In late July 1900, the Carter family boarded the ss Medic, and on 30 August, they arrived in Western Australia.

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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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