In April 1933, Leonard Hood, secretary of the Parents’ and Citizens’ Association at Meekatharra, wrote to the Geraldton Municipal Council expressing a desire to arrange a summer seaside holiday for the Meekatharra children.
Throughout the year, plans were made, and the Association held fundraising events. Finally, on the night of 27 December 1933, 74 children and nine adult supervisors boarded the train at Meekatharra bound for Geraldton. One newspaper described the scene at the railway station:
Long before the arrival of the express from Wiluna, the platform was thronged with happy and eager children. Two coaches were necessary to accommodate the party and in a surprisingly short time all had been billeted in their compartments. A loud din reigned as the train slowly drew out, the air being filled with the voices of cheering children and blasts from the whistle of the engine.
The Magnet Mirror and Murchison Reflector (Meekatharra, WA : 1928 – 1935); 5 January 1934; Page 3; Children’s Seaside Trip
As the influenza pandemic spread and cases increased in Western Australia, the Youanmi Local Board of Health held a meeting. On 12 June 1919, upon the advice of the Medical Officer, the board members decided to keep the town “free from an outbreak of the scourge.” Youanmi was to be protected, and all arrivals to the district had to undergo seven days quarantine. Furthermore, pickets were to be placed on the road to prevent people from entering.
We do not forget the marked neglect we experience in every respect from your Perth Government, including the slight we have had with the Electric Wire, but thank God if gold is abundant we shall very soon be free of your Perth Government neglect altogether, and have a separate Government of our own.
The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901); 17 August 1870; Page 1; Champion Bay
Perth newspapers seemed unconcerned by the claims made by a Champion Bay correspondent in August 1870. Talk in the community, however, continued. A little over a year later, in mid-September 1871, a writer mentioned the “separation scheme” but noted that the settlers did not mean anything by it. By the end of the month, the seriousness was apparent.
As was the case for many people, it was the goldfields that drew John O’Driscoll to the shores of Western Australia. He was born in about 1865 in Loveland, Ohio, USA. The son of an Irish immigrant, he arrived in Australia in 1889. By 1899, he had moved west and established himself on the Murchison goldfields as a storekeeper.
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.
Having completed a successful tour in South Australia, on 21 April 1868, Frederick William Auger Kohler, accompanied by his agent, Louis Peter, departed Adelaide for Fremantle. The brig ‘Emily Smith’ arrived a month later, on 19 May. Disembarking at Albany, Frederick, or, as he was professionally known, Professor Kohler, placed an advertisement in a newspaper announcing his imminent arrival.
Ironing clothes was the last straw. Employed as a housemaid at the Grand Hotel in Mount Magnet, Vera had had enough. Putting the ironing aside, she leaned over the ironing board and declared to her friend, “Hazel, I’m fed up; I want a change. I’m going to walk out.” Hazel exclaimed in response, “Me too!”
They later described what they were feeling as ‘the blues.’ To combat that feeling, in addition to leaving their place of employment, they decided to walk 595 km to Perth. Shaking hands on the plan, both agreed that it would add some much-needed excitement to their lives.
In 1950, Adrian Hayter, a journalist and adventurer from New Zealand, travelled to England and bought a 35ft motor-powered yawl named Sheila II. He intended to sail it from Europe to New Zealand via Gibraltar, Suez Canal, India, Indonesia and Australia.
On 10 January 1954, he departed Indonesia with six weeks supply of food and water. A letter sent from the British consul at Surabaya stated that his expected arrival date in Fremantle was the end of February. Months passed, and Adrian did not arrive. No one had seen him in Darwin, nor Fremantle. In mid-April, after missing his estimated Fremantle arrival date, all masters of ships sailing in the waters between Australia, Indonesia, and Singapore were asked to keep a lookout for him.
At 4:15 am on 11 March 1939, Tim Heggarty heard a noise in James Laurance’s shop at Bolgart. He lived in a home adjacent to the store with Mr and Mrs Coutts. He awoke John Coutts, and they both investigated, quietly walking to the rear of the building where they saw someone had forced a window open.
John entered through the window and into the office. He heard a person walk from the office into the store, and turning back to Tim, whispered to him to ask Mrs Coutts to wake James Laurance. Tim and John guarded the rear of the premises while James (armed with a stout jamwood stick) arrived at the front. He unlocked the door, walked in, and saw a figure dart out of the store into the street.
Anticipating the arrival of a farmer to pay them for their clearing job, a group of Italian men camped in the shelter shed adjoining the Morawa Railway Station. Just after dark, on 26 October 1927, they went out into the bush to cook their dinner. They returned to the shed at 8:30 pm, unrolled their blankets on the floor, and got ready for bed.
Fifteen minutes later, an explosion ripped through the town. Shocked residents ran out of their homes to see smoke billowing from the destroyed shelter shed and other parts of the railway buildings. Led by Dr. John Hough, Morawa residents sprang into action. They rushed across to the station, prevented a fire from taking hold, and cleared the debris to rescue the trapped men.
While they were doing this, they could hear groans and shrieks of pain from under the wreckage and, working strenuously, they were, in a short time, able to drag from underneath a number of dazed and semi-conscious Italians.
The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954); 27 October 1927; Page 17; Explosion at Morawa