A Postal Puzzle

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Bubonic Plague in Geraldton

The sudden deaths of two people who were said to have been perfectly healthy sent rumours swirling. Bubonic plague was reported in Perth and Fremantle in January and February 1906. Had “the much-feared disease” made its way to the port town? The Geraldton Express was the first to ask the question.

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The Inimitable Mrs Tracey

From the 1870s onwards, Mrs Eliza Tracey was a serial litigant within the Western Australian Courts. Initially her husband, James, brought the cases but it is likely that he did so with the firm backing of his wife.

By the 1880s the Traceys had mutually separated and Mrs Tracey continued to pursue her own lawsuits. While she had the occasional success, for the most part, she barely won a case.

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The Captain’s Boots

For about fifteen years Phillip Duffield worked as the ‘landing waiter’ for customs in Geraldton. His job was to monitor all the people who arrived at the port and ensure that they were not bringing contraband to the town.

Phillip took his job seriously. Such was his “surprising sagacity in diagnosing contraband and his incorruptible fervor in pursuing offenders” he soon became known to everyone as ‘Phil the Ferocious’.

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A Lonely Death

While searching for timber about two miles north of the Darlot Road and opposite the 19-mile well, Edward ‘Old Ned’ Ashbury and his mate, Mr Scott, stumbled across the skeletal remains of a man. They returned to Lawlers and, on 5 May 1901, Edward reported what they had found to Sergeant George Pilkington.

Map
The East Murchison Goldfields – where the remains were found. Lawlers is highlighted in red. Courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

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The Oriental Bank Robbery

Caution

The discovery of a robbery at the Oriental Bank in Melbourne spurred the Acting Manager, George Hamilton Traill, into action. A public notice was immediately placed with three Melbourne newspapers and went to print on 30 January 1867. They cautioned the public against transacting with any of the bills, which were specially endorsed to the Oriental Bank.

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The Cannington “Ghost”

In mid-November 1898 a ghost began haunting the Cannington cemetery at midnight on successive nights. The “ghost” was clearly a man and on 13 November concerned residents lodged a report with Perth police. They noted that he appeared to be wearing dark tights, was covered with a white cloth and had “large glaring eyes.

Practical jokers come and go, but the ghost joker seems to go on forever.

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Albany’s Gold

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King George Sound and Albany circa 1870s. Courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

On 5 February 1867, an Albany correspondent for The Inquirer and Commercial News wrote a letter with information many people in Western Australia had been waiting to hear for some time.

Gold has been found by a man named Butcher, a short distance from the town. It is in dust, and the Resident Magistrate has prevented any digging near the spot.

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The Mysterious Mr Brown

Bill BrownAt 12:40 am on 1 December 1928, a man aged in his 20s was found lying unconscious on a street in Perth. He had severe injuries to his head and was taken to Perth Hospital for treatment. Several days later a trepanning operation was performed and, while it was successful, it may have caused him to develop encephalitis. When the man eventually regained consciousness, he had lost all knowledge of his identity.

The operation, however, though it restored Brown to life, robbed him of some portion of his mental faculties and, from that day, he has been unable to remember any incident which took place before the operation. His life, up to that date, has been a blank to him ever since.

At the time of his admittance to hospital his address was recorded as the Horseshoe Coffee Palace in Perth. Also provided was the name of a friend who lived in Subiaco. Despite police efforts to locate the person, no one by that name was found. The man had no other relatives or friends and he remained in hospital, unidentified, for nearly a year. He was eventually dubbed, William Brown.

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Robbery at Day Dawn

Finally, after a busy day on Monday, 19 November 1906, the afternoon was quiet at the Day Dawn branch of the Western Australian Bank. The manager, Charles Jago, was the only person on the premises and was starting to close up when a man walked through the door at about 3 pm. He handed over a £10 note and asked for change. Charles turned away to get the change from the safe and when he turned back he found himself looking down the barrel of a revolver.

If you speak or move a step I’ll blow your —– light out.

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