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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Identification Made Easy

A hearing relating to a charge of assault came before the Criminal Court in Perth on 15 March 1906. No details were provided in the newspaper report but it nevertheless highlighted how a method of identification could be deemed inappropriate if carried out incorrectly.

A crime was committed, the victim made a complaint and an accusation was made against two men. When it became known, one of the men voluntarily reported to Fremantle Prison and agreed to participate in a police lineup. Dressed in ordinary clothes, he stood with a group of about 10 or 12 other men, all of whom were wearing prison uniforms.

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Gus & June

While the personal ads in newspapers were most often utilised as a tool for people to seek love and make connections, they also appeared to have been used as a way to communicate clandestinely.

This is the story of Gus and June. From 1950 until 1951 messages between the couple were placed on an almost monthly basis in the personal column of The West Australian.

31 March 1950
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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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Christmas in 1899

Hay Street in Perth circa 1899. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia.

[It matters little] …whether we make good cheer snugly within four walls and with closed windows, or beneath the verandah or spreading tree, or in the house with doors and windows open to the most welcome of guests, the breeze – Christmas is ever the same, the day when we give ourselves up to friendship, to merrymaking, to pleasure, and desire nothing better of Fate than that it shall “let every man be jolly.”

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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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Peace! Peace! Peace!

An extract from The Daily News (12 November 1918; Page 6) describing the scenes in Perth as the armistice and the end of the war was announced to an awaiting crowd.


In the City

Throughout the day the people had waited for its coming; waited with ever-growing expectancy. A few minutes after 6 p.m. the first message, received from Washington, via Montreal, was posted in front of “The Daily News” office. It was not official; but the crowd quickly began to gather, though the flood gates of joy were not then thrown ajar. A second message came an hour or more later – official from Vancouver. Still the crowd, now quickly swelling, refused to let go. But they were ready for any lead. A Salvation Army officer gave it. Climbing aloft, he called, “Are we downhearted?” The thunderous roar of the answering “No, No, No,” was followed by the cry, “Then sing ‘God Save the King.’” How it was sung!

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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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