Wool-classing for Women

On 14 January 1930, the Minister for Agriculture, Harry Millington, announced that, in addition to the Rural Women’s Course, there were also plans to hold a short wool-classing course specifically for women. It was to be held at the Technical College in Perth, and would start on Monday, 10 March, and would end on Friday, 14 March.

The idea arose from a direct request from a woman to the Minister at the Lake Grace Show in 1929. The course was believed to be the first of its kind in Australia, and was to be run by Alfred Stewart, who was the wool-classing instructor at the Technical College.

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Down Under

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the following story may contain images and names of deceased persons.

I have something which Australia has been wanting for a long time, a contract with the W. and F. service, the largest film distributors in England, for six Australian pictures for screening in England.
[11 February 1926]

The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950); 11 February 1926; Page 8; Australian Films
Harry Southwell

Harry Southwell’s announcement while aboard the Commonwealth Mail Steamer ‘Esperance Bay‘ came as a surprise to Australians but was nevertheless excitedly received. An Australian film industry set to rival the Americans. He had further decided to base himself in Western Australia. Was Perth destined to become the new Hollywood?

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Night in a Graveyard

540 applicants responded to the advertisements placed in ‘The West Australian’ and ‘Call’ newspapers asking for someone “to sleep all night in a graveyard“. While some people sent joke responses, others were genuinely interested in meeting the requirements in order to receive the “high pay” of five pounds.

Man or woman (excluding spiritualists) could apply. The main condition was that they had to be chained to a “warm, comfortable” bed from 10:30 pm on 28 April 1920 until daylight on the following morning. They also had to spend the night alone (without even a dog for company) but were allowed to take a gun “to drive away any human disturbers.

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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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A Cabin Boy’s Adventure

Arriving in Bunbury on 28 February 1932, the King Lud began loading wheat and was one of many ships anchored at the jetty during (what was noted to be) an “unexpected busy period“.

SS King Lud circa 1931. Courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

It departed for Fremantle on 8 March and arrived on the following day. Upon their arrival, a report was made to the police stating that the cabin boy, Sidney James Chapman, had jumped ship and was missing.

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The Royal “Snub”

Prince Alfred
Duke of Edinburgh circa 1865.

In July 1867 the people of Western Australia were in a state of excitement. The Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert) was sailing his ship ‘Galatea’ around the world and was planning to visit the Australian Colonies (the very first member of the Royal Family to do so).

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Twelve Mile Dance

Dominating the top right advertising column of The Daily News, Billy Heaton and Clive Kerger boldly announced that they would be “Dancing to Fremantle for £100“. Both men represented rival theatres. Billy was backed by Union Theatres and was dancing at the Princess Theatre in Fremantle while Clive was representing Charles Sheridan’s Piccadilly Palais de Danse.

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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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