WA History

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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WA History

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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WA History

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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WA History

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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WA History

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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Historical Snippets

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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Historical Snippets, WA History

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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Historical Snippets, WA History

A Lady’s Journey to Geraldton

At 7:45 am, in Perth, Edith Bickerton boarded the train bound for Geraldton. A postal worker, and occasional writer for the Western Mail, she decided to record her story for the newspaper. Printed in February 1905, she called it: “Along the Midland Railway. Perth to Geraldton. A Lady’s Journey.

A train at Perth Railway Station circa 1905. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia.
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WA History

Married by Hoyts

Determined to help during the depression, ‘The Daily News’ established The Golden Apple Appeal as a way to raise money for single unemployed women, children of the unemployed, and orphanages. The Appeal involved selling apples (provided by Western Australian growers) in Perth. Each apple was wrapped in paper and cost one shilling. The paper had a number printed on it, which the buyer kept until the officials conducted a raffle. There were two prizes, and the people with the winning numbers could win either £50 or £100.

A stand during the Golden Apple Appeal.

The Appeal was popular, and interest only grew when Hoyts Theatres Ltd agreed to help. On the 18th and 19th July 1931, apple sales exceeded expectations, and funds raised totalled over £2,000. For the following weekend, the publicity manager of Hoyts, Bert Snelling, came up with a novel idea to generate further interest: an open-air wedding.

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Historical Snippets, WA History

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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