For six months, William McCracken worked hard as a labourer on Richard Jones’s farm near Yelbeni. He had left his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children, William (3), Robert (20 months), and Elizabeth (four weeks), behind in Perth. In early November, he returned to reunite the family, and on 10 November 1911, they left by train for the farm.
The journey to Yelbeni was long and slow. They arrived at the railway siding at 10 pm and then travelled by cart for nine miles. After a two-hour stopover at a neighbour’s place, they finally arrived at 2 am. In the morning, William went to the siding to pick up some goods. Robert was likewise up early and was outside playing at about 8 am.
Not quite two years old, Robert was chubby, had grey-blue eyes, light blonde hair and a birthmark on the left side of his mouth. He was wearing a brown velvet coat and boots and socks. He was not wearing pants, nor was he wearing a hat. Elizabeth called out to him. Concerned that he was not dressed appropriately for the hot sun, she ducked inside to fetch his hat. When she returned, he was gone.
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.
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