A Story from a Photo

Often when I’m researching using the archives, I’ll look for what I need, then I’ll look at all the other pages. The Western Australian Police Gazette at the State Library of Western Australia is one such fascinating resource. While most of it consists of text, there are also photos: people recently discharged from prison, unidentified deceased people, and occasionally missing people. It was the latter category that immediately caught my attention many months ago. In front of me was a photo of a young man, wearing a hat, crouched, with his hands resting on two dogs. His infectious smile expressed joy and happiness. Yet, in late January 1930, he went missing from his farm at Mollerin. What was his story?

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Wreck of the Cochituate

At midnight, on 30 June 1861, a man arrived in Fremantle in a state of exhaustion and starvation. He was a Dutchman named John Barlish and was part of the crew on the barque ‘Cochituate,’ of Boston, U.S.A. The ship left Melbourne on 7 May, bound for Singapore, when it struck West Reef of the Abrolhos Islands at about 3 am on 14 June.

Houtman Abrolhos circa 1753. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call number: MAPR0000001).

The ship began to fill with water, and within an hour, started to break up. It became necessary for the Captain and the crew to abandon ship. They boarded the ship’s boats with some provisions; Captain Bangs, the second mate and three men in one boat, and the first mate (Mr Devries) and six men in the other.

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Bolgart Robbery

Tim Heggarty (left) and John Coutts.

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.

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II – The Second Inquest

Part II – The Second Inquest follows on from Part I – The Death of Claude Cotton. Click the link below to read the first story.


The result was what most of Geraldton wanted. Knowing there would be a post mortem and a new inquest, letter writer ‘Groper’ turned their attention to Claude’s mother. She was elderly and was said to have been supported by Claude, who regularly sent her half his pay. Concerned at the inquiry being left solely in the hands of the police, they suggested the establishment of a fund to raise money to pay for a solicitor to represent her. ‘Groper’ gave ten shillings and, within three days, they received donations of about two pounds. With the money, they hired Arthur Altorfer to represent Emma Cotton.

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I – The Death of Claude Cotton

At 7:30 am, while lumpers loaded wheat onto the ss Millpool, Captain Arthur Eves gazed out across Champion Bay. As he looked down, he noticed something floating in the water. Unable to see what it was, he descended from the bridge to the forecastle. Using binoculars, he realised that what he was looking at was the body of a man. He sent a boat to retrieve it and subsequently identified it as Claude Cotton, a member of his crew.

The ss Millpool (left) at Geraldton circa 1922. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call Number: 028995PD).
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Madoonga Station U.F.O.

As we have been requested in our home State of Victoria to notify the Air Force of any “Flying Saucers” sighted we presume the case to be the same here.

John Morris, 29 April 1955 [NAA: A705, 114/1/197 Page 17 of 210]

The night was clear on Thursday, 28 April 1955. John Morris got up at about 11:15 pm and left his quarters at Madoonga Station near Cue. An orange blur in the distance caught his attention. He called out to his friend, Gary Martin, to look at it. Gary got out of bed and, by the time he got to where John was standing, it had stabilised. An object with orange lights was hovering in the sky. They believed that what they were looking at was a flying saucer.

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U.F.O. Files

January 1953 – Dalwallinu

While hunting foxes northeast of Dalwallinu, Richard Hunter and Keith McNamara noticed something in the sky. It was about 9:30 pm on 13 January 1953. The object resembled a large bright star surrounded by a white vaporous ring, and was travelling in a northerly direction. It passed over them, and after six or seven minutes, it veered southwest, then west. The two men watched it, alternately dimming and brightening, until it disappeared.

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The Padbury Street Ghost

Let us tell the story of the Haunted House.

The Daily News (Perth, WA :1882 – 1950); 9 February 1914; Page 8; A Haunted House

Located behind the Brisbane Hotel and running diagonally from Beaufort Street to Bulwer Street, Padbury Street was a quiet street unknown to many people in Perth. In February 1914, that was all to change.

Along the short street were many two-story houses, lived in by various residents. Two of the houses were empty and available for lease. Of those two, one (number 66) had only recently become vacant. The reason the family gave for leaving: they believed it was haunted.

It was averred that the occupiers had for some time past been hearing weird sounds in various parts of the building, for which they could not account.

The Daily News (Perth, WA :1882 – 1950); 9 February 1914; Page 8; A Haunted House
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Morawa Explosion

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
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A Cue Tragedy

At 9 pm on 23 May 1899, the sound of the bell ringing alarmed the people of Cue. Smoke billowing north-west of the town confirmed their fears: fire.

People rushed towards the origin, and, as they drew closer, many realised that the camp burning belonged to Charles Litchfield, who was the Government surveyor and draughtsman.

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