Mundaring Weir “Spy”

At infrequent intervals reports are made that Japanese – presumably spies – have been caught taking observations and making themselves unduly familiar with our fortifications.

The Morning Herald; 10 October 1907; Page 5.

Writing to the honorary minister, James Price, on 7 October 1907, Thomas McNulty advised that a Perth resident had heard from a clergyman that he had seen two Japanese men “taking observations with a theodolite at Mundaring Weir.” Initially, McNulty ignored the account. Hundreds of people visited the Weir and often brought cameras to take photos. It was possible the clergyman was mistaken after seeing the camera at a distance.

He later learned that a Japanese man lived in the area and worked as a cook at the Goldfields Hotel. The man was often seen taking photos around the Weir, and was occasionally accompanied by another Japanese man who lived in Perth. One of the Water Supply Department officers spoke to a resident who told them that the man “was no cook” and in his opinion, he was there to “get information about the Weir.

Continue reading “Mundaring Weir “Spy””

T’othersiders vs Gropers

According to ‘Veteran’, who wrote about the genesis of Australian football in Geraldton for the Geraldton Guardian, local youths had a football that they kicked around on the Recreation Ground. They occasionally fielded sides and held competitions, but it was not until the influx of the t’othersiders (people from the eastern states) in the 1890s that they established teams.

Perhaps meaning well, ‘Veteran’s’ words indicate they may have been a t’othersider themselves. Their story of the teams leaves out other clubs formed in the 1880s. Nevertheless, they were correct with regards to the t’othersiders. As people poured into Western Australia hoping to strike it rich on the goldfields, they soon played the game they loved and looked to establish a team.

Continue reading “T’othersiders vs Gropers”

The Countess of Bumbinoo

In 1894, a traveller to the Murchison goldfields would board a train at Geraldton headed for Mullewa. They were likely one of many passengers, from the well-dressed new chum to the experienced prospector, all with the same purpose in mind: gold. 

Continue reading “The Countess of Bumbinoo”

Egidio Dellavalle

Egidio Dellavalle was born on 29 June 1890 in Sondrio in northern Italy. When he was 23, he emigrated to Western Australia aboard the ss Orama. For eleven years, he worked as a labourer at Kalgoorlie before moving to Burracoppin. He was there for two years when, in 1926, he applied for naturalisation.

Aside from a return visit to Italy in 1929, he remained in Western Australia, working in country areas as a labourer and sleeper cutter. While we may never know most of the stories of his life, it seems he worked without a major incident for a decade. In April 1938, however, he became lost in the bush.

Continue reading “Egidio Dellavalle”

Valentine’s Dowerin Scam

Arriving in Dowerin on the morning of the show on 14 September 1927, Mr Valentine quickly endeared himself to locals. He attached himself to the party of James Macfarlane M.L.C. (claiming he was well-known to the man), which added to his legitimacy. Over the course of the day, he spun words together and wove stories. 

Dowerin circa 1928
Continue reading “Valentine’s Dowerin Scam”

A Grand Old Duel at York

The story of this duel is one that is veiled in mystery. The account survived, but the names of those involved did not. A writer used aliases in one newspaper article with the briefest of clues telling us who they were. A commission agent, a barrister, a publican, and a surveyor were sitting down for dinner at York in January 1887. What ensued was an argument.

…be seated Reader and now allow me to relate this stirring little drama with the characters to whom I have already introduced you.

The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1955); 29 January 1887; Page 2; Desperate Duel at York
Continue reading “A Grand Old Duel at York”

Spaldo & the Eastern Road Beer Thief

Henry Arthur Spalding (known as Spaldo) was born in Birmingham in England in 1850. In 1877, at the age of 26, he boarded the ship ‘Robert Morrison‘ and immigrated to Western Australia. After a few years living in Perth, he moved to Northampton and was appointed the first stationmaster for the new railway.

For the next six years, he was the town’s stationmaster, he ran the Post Office and Telegraph Office, and he was also the Clerk of Courts for the small local court that heard cases relating to small debts. In 1884, he added another title to his duties when he became the traffic manager for the Northern Railway. Said to be a “courteous and efficient officer,” it was thought that the appointment would give “much satisfaction” to everyone in the town.

A correspondent shared an example of his courtesy and thoughtfulness with the Victorian Express in 1886. The writer travelled on the northern line and, upon entering a carriage, found a book left in a rack. They assumed that someone had forgotten it and opened the copy of ‘Wilson’s Border Tales’ intending to read it to while away the time. Written on the first page was a note from Spaldo. No one had forgotten their book; he had placed it there for passengers so they could “beguile the tedium of the journey.

Continue reading “Spaldo & the Eastern Road Beer Thief”

A Difficult Journey Through the Murchison

Travelling in a 1913 Buick from Byro Station to Perth, Mr D’Arcy and Mr Nicholls found themselves in various predicaments in 1917. When they left, it had been raining heavily. The night before, 80 points fell, which greatly altered the dirt roads. Twenty miles out from the station, it began raining again.

Refusing to turn around, the men continued onwards. They reached Narryer and stopped to have some lunch. While there, they were told that 136 points had fallen during the day. After leaving, they found that statement to be true. The road was covered with water. There was no way of knowing where it was exactly, so they had to judge where they were going by the trees.

Continue reading “A Difficult Journey Through the Murchison”

How the Lighthouse Got its Stripes

The ‘Zephyr’ returned to Champion Bay in November 1870. They arrived in the evening, and without any light to guide their way, Captain Setten had to go through the “most anxious ordeal of heaving-to his ship till daylight…” On top of that, he dealt with a heavy southwest gale. He was one of many who pressed upon the need for a lighthouse at Point Moore.

Six years later, works were underway and halted in January 1877 until the arrival of the prefabricated iron tower from England. In June, the ‘Lady Louisa’ arrived at Champion Bay with all the materials on board. Men unloaded them from the ship and began construction. By mid-July, works halted again. An error was made during the construction of the lighthouse’s foundation and needed immediate rectification.

Continue reading “How the Lighthouse Got its Stripes”

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.
Continue reading “Buried at Stockyard Gully”