Buried at Stockyard Gully

On 18 May 1886, drover, Harry Bower, collected siblings Amy and Sam from Irwin River and accompanied them overland to Fatfield Station. They arrived at Arrowsmith, dined at Warerdo, and continued south. Four miles on, the rocks at Stockyard Gully caves became visible. Before they reached them, Amy asked if there was any water in the area. Harry pointed to a clump of trees in the distance where they could get a drink, and Amy responded that she could wait until they got there.

As they approached the caves at sunset, Harry remembered there was a chance they could get some water inside. He said to Amy and Sam, “There is a drip down in that cave. I will go down and see if I can get you a drop of water.” He took with him a pannikin and entered the cave. Seventy yards in, he stopped and stared at what he thought was a dog lying on the ground. To the left, he could see something else. Cautious, he went back to the entrance to find something to light his way. Having dismounted from their horses, Amy and Sam stood at the entrance peering into the darkness. Turning back to the cave, Harry gazed at another object, assuming it was a log. As his eyes adjusted, he realised that what he was staring at was the remains of a man.

Stockyard Gully. Courtesy of Chris Lewis.
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Northam to Perth on a Tricycle

In March 1938, Alfred Williamson left Melbourne on a tricycle determined to ride to Sydney in 21 days. The story was widely reported and attracted national coverage in the newspapers. Reading about it in Western Australia was Roy Lunt. Months later, in June, he got into an argument with Ronald Fletcher about the ride. Ronald thought it was a “wonderful feat,” while Roy was of the opinion that he could easily do something similar. Arising from the dispute was a bet and a challenge. On 25 June 1938, he had to ride from Northam to Perth on a child’s tricycle.

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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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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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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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Isabella Duncan’s Memories

On 27 May 1933, Isabella Duncan turned 90. From family and friends in the state, she received messages of congratulations. Born in the north of England in 1843, Isabella arrived in Western Australia in 1851 with her parents, Francis and Mary Ann Pearson. She was eight years old. The family immigrated because Francis was offered a job to erect the smelting works at the Geraldine Mine on the Murchison River.

Mrs Duncan

The eldest of five children, Isabella could not remember much about her home town in England but could remember that before the family left, they travelled to London. For two weeks, they remained in London until they boarded the ship ‘Morning Star’ for Western Australia.

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Northam’s Bushmen’s Home

At the same time as the organisers of Geraldton’s Bushmen’s Club struggled to establish it, Northam’s Temperance Hall and Bushmen’s Home went from strength to strength. Fundraising began on 31 October 1876 in the form of a bazaar held at the Mechanics Hall. A variety of “useful and fancy articles” were available for sale. On the committee were seven women: Mrs Clifton, Miss Ranford, Mrs Monger, Mrs Jones, Mrs Throssell, Mrs Gregory, and Mrs Morrell.

Along with the bazaar, they also advertised a public tea meeting. Adults could attend by paying one shilling and six pence, while children’s admittance cost a shilling. Further enticing people, “foot races, quoit matches, and all kinds of rural sports” would take place.

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The Bushmen’s Club That Never Was

On 26 January 1876, The Inquirer and Commercial News reported that “Measures are being taken for establishing a Bushmen’s Home at Champion Bay…” According to one writer (perhaps with a biased view), labouring bushmen often lived without the good influence of society. Alienated in the bush for so long, they eventually left their employment and headed straight to the “nearest public house to spend every penny of their wages in drink.” They stated that bushmen, “fiercely excited or helplessly prostrated by drink,” could be seen in country taverns at all times of the year. They drank until they had no money left and then went back to the bush to seek more work.

A Bushmen’s Club was thought to help solve this problem. The purpose of it was to provide a place in town for bushmen to sleep and eat. They would also provide various forms of entertainment. With their existence stemming from the temperance movement, alcohol would not be available on the premises.

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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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Ernest Cavill Visits Geraldton

Ernest Cavill

On 5 December 1895, Ernest Cavill, the champion swimmer of Australia, arrived in Western Australia from Sydney. Before sailing to England to challenge Joseph Nuttall for the Championship of the World, he intended to stay in the west for a couple of months. During that time, if there was interest, he hoped to give exhibitions of diving, swimming, and various water feats.

Ernest began his stay in Perth; however, it was not long before a correspondent using the pseudonym ‘Dolphin’ wrote to the editor of Geraldton’s newspaper, Morning Post. They said:

It would be a good idea to get Mr. Ernest Cavill, the champion swimmer of Australia, who is now in Perth to visit Geraldton. It is not often we get the opportunity of seeing such a champion as Mr. Cavill perform in the water, and the benefit to our local swimmers by seeing the style and skill of the first swimmer in Australia would be very great.

Morning Post (Geraldton, WA : 1895 – 1896); 15 January 1896; Page 3; Correspondence
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