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.

Continue reading
Advertisements

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’.

Continue reading

A Lonely Death

While searching for timber about two miles north of the Darlot Road and opposite the 19-mile well, Edward ‘Old Ned’ Ashbury and his mate, Mr Scott, stumbled across the skeletal remains of a man. They returned to Lawlers and, on 5 May 1901, Edward reported what they had found to Sergeant George Pilkington.

Map
The East Murchison Goldfields – where the remains were found. Lawlers is highlighted in red. Courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

Continue reading

The Oriental Bank Robbery

Caution

The discovery of a robbery at the Oriental Bank in Melbourne spurred the Acting Manager, George Hamilton Traill, into action. A public notice was immediately placed with three Melbourne newspapers and went to print on 30 January 1867. They cautioned the public against transacting with any of the bills, which were specially endorsed to the Oriental Bank.

Continue reading

The Mysterious Mr Brown

Bill BrownAt 12:40 am on 1 December 1928, a man aged in his 20s was found lying unconscious on a street in Perth. He had severe injuries to his head and was taken to Perth Hospital for treatment. Several days later a trepanning operation was performed and, while it was successful, it may have caused him to develop encephalitis. When the man eventually regained consciousness, he had lost all knowledge of his identity.

The operation, however, though it restored Brown to life, robbed him of some portion of his mental faculties and, from that day, he has been unable to remember any incident which took place before the operation. His life, up to that date, has been a blank to him ever since.

At the time of his admittance to hospital his address was recorded as the Horseshoe Coffee Palace in Perth. Also provided was the name of a friend who lived in Subiaco. Despite police efforts to locate the person, no one by that name was found. The man had no other relatives or friends and he remained in hospital, unidentified, for nearly a year. He was eventually dubbed, William Brown.

Continue reading

The Ghost of Francis Street

BA1657
Geraldton circa 1880s. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia.

Have you seen the ghost! is the latest query under the verandah. Dark rumors have been for some time circulated, of a mysterious apparition which at uncanny hours, haunts the solitudes of Francis street.

According to the Victorian Express, in 1882 numerous Geraldtonians had indeed seen the spectre, dressed in black and walking along Francis Street in the middle of the night. While the reporter was no doubt taking a little creative liberty, they stated that when it was approached it vanished “…into thin air, with a mocking laugh, a flare of blue light, and a smell of sulfur.

Continue reading

Bushed – Australia’s Horror

On 21 January 1896 it was reported that the remains of a man were found lying alongside the overland telegraph line, about five miles from Coorow. Police Constable Simpson of Geraldton was sent to investigate and near the body he found a swag and a bible held open with two sticks. He could not find a waterbag and the absence of such an important item resulted in the assumption that the man died from dehydration.

While it was generally reported that the man was unknown, a piece of paper held the tiniest of clues; written on it was the name ‘R. Bell’. Despite the existence of the name there was not enough information to absolutely confirm his identity. With such a hopeless case, it was noted that the man was “another victim added to the long list of those who have perished in the dreary bush.

Continue reading

Gold in the Garden

Uninterested in the conversation inside their Grandfather’s house at Wembley, Don and Courtney decided to head outside to split some logs. Their Grandfather, John Dundas, directed them to an old hollow tree stump which he had removed some time ago. They got to work with their axe and wedges and while they did not chop it up completely, they did enough work to alter its shape.

The next morning, on Sunday, 13 July 1930, John went outside to stack the firewood. He looked over the old tree stump and noticed that there were some strange looking stones within it. He picked them up and was surprised by their weight. Clearly these were no ordinary stones. He then scraped off some of the dirt.

The gold glitter showed through. There was no doubt that they were solid gold.

Continue reading

III – The Final Part

This post follows on from I – Murder at Mount Magnet and II – A Suspect Emerges

Not much had changed in two years. The investigation into the Mount Magnet murder had ground to a halt. The police had not been able to identify the victim and they had not been able to identify the perpetrator. North of the town the Rose Pearl continued to sit abandoned save for a few old prospectors. It held fast to the truth surrounding the crime but still had one last secret to share.

At 5pm on 17 November 1902, Reuben Brooker and Charles Pollock were trying their luck prospecting in one of the old shafts known as the Black Swan. Reuben went down into the mine shaft and at the bottom (60 feet) began the task of removing earth which was blocking a drive. While doing so he came across a rotting chaff bag tied with a piece of lace. The ominous odour arising from the bag was enough to convince him to send it up to Charles.

Continue reading

II – A Suspect Emerges

This blog post follows on from Part I – Murder at Mount Magnet

While we are not privy to the inner workings of John Ward’s mind, it appears he had been doing a lot of thinking. He saw and heard something in early November 1898 and had been mulling on it ever since the dismembered body parts were found in the Rose Pearl. He probably always intended to keep what he knew to himself however during a visit to Pierce’s Miners Club at 10pm on 9 January 1899 (and likely after a few drinks) he soon loosened his tongue. In the presence of Mr Pierce, Mrs Pierce, Miss Pierce, a boy named Pierce, Donald Hay and Henry Baldwin, John Ward commenced talking about the Mount Magnet murder.

slwa_b4729707_1
Mount Magnet circa 1900. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia.

At 1am on Saturday, 5 November 1898 John Ward was in Mount Magnet and was at his camp near the Railway Station when he heard a noise. He went to his door and looked across the road to see two men fighting in front of a French brothel. One was going through the fence while the other was leaning against it. John then heard three groans and all was quiet.

His mate, Louis Maddalena, was sharing his camp. Louis became curious as to what was going on however John told him not to bother getting up as “it was usual to hear rows at that place.” They both went back to sleep and John stated that during the day he went across the road to the spot where the fight had taken place and saw blood both inside and outside the fence.

Continue reading