Fremantle Stuff > books and papers > Hitchcock 1919
Published in 12 parts in the Fremantle Times 21 March - 20 June 1919.
[Part 1 of the original publication, Fremantle Times, 21 March 1919]
I made my first acquaintance with Fremantle late on a summer’s afternoon in the year 1868. I did not obtain my first glimpse of the ‘Golden Gate’ from the deck of a palatial ocean liner, but from the top of a load of hay, whereon I had been perched since the grey dawn of morning. It was in these prosaic circumstances that I bade farewell to my country home, where I saw the light thirteen years previously. My first night in my new environment was spent under the roof of the old ‘Race Horse’ Hotel in Leake-street, which stood on portion of the site now occupied by the Princess Theatre. My ancestors for generations past had been farmers, but what was thought to be an easier life was mapped out for me and when the wagon left next morning on its homeward journey the forlorn country lad was left behind to commence life at the bottom of the ladder in the service of the founder of what is now one of Fremantle’s leading commercial houses. The lapse of half a century, however, has not seen his ascent of many rungs of the ladder, so that if his fond parents ever indulged in day dreams of his one day becoming a merchant prince they were doomed to disappointment. Probably it is not in the nature of things that the scion of a long line of farming progenitors should develop much aptitude for mercantile pursuits unless he happened to be an atavism of some remote ancestor whose leanings were in that direction. Be that as it may, I often think that my devoted parents unwittingly sacrificed the makings of a good farmer to the manufacture of an indifferent man of business. But I must not soliloquise. I started out to write of Fremantle as it was in 1869, thinking that late comers might be interested in an old timer’s reminiscences of the town as it presented itself in these far-off days.
We will start from Arthur’s Head (then known as the ‘Gaol Hill’) and work eastwards. The hill has been completely unclamophosed [metamorphosed?] since those days, though some of the old landmarks still remain. Among these is the ‘Round House’ over the tunnel on the right of which, looking east, resided the then Harbor Master, Lieutenant Croke, R.N., in the house (since enlarged) now occupied by Capt. Winzar, the present Harbor Master. Lieut Croke was a bluff and breezy Irishman, who had been a shipmate of H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh to whom he acted as host when that royal personage visited the port in H.M.S. Galatea, early in 1869. His tall and commanding figure was a familiar object in Fremantle streets, one of his eccentricities being the habit of wearing knee breeches and stockings, thus displaying his magnificent calves, of which he seemed to be inordinately proud. On the left of the Round House stood the Court House, which was presided over by Mr. J.G. Slade, a tall, thin gentleman of aristocratic mien, who had formerly held an official position under the Imperial Government at Labuan. He became Resident Magistrate at Fremantle in succession to Mr. Charles Symmons, whose only daughter married Mr. Pearce Clifton, R.[esident] M.[agistrate] of Bunbury and became the mother of the present holder of the Clifton baronetcy, Sir Robert Symmons Clifton of South Africa. She died in England about seven years ago. Further to the left (always looking east) the house still stands in which lived the Superintendent of Water Police, the late Mr. John F. Stone, who represented the Government on board the S.S. Georgette (Captain M. O’Grady), when that steamer carrying an old cannon and about 50 military pensioners armed with ‘Brown Bess’ rifles, and under the command of Major Finnerty, gave chase to the American whaler Catalpa, in which the Fenian convicts escaped to America in April, 1876.
In front of the Round House stood a post to which was affixed what was known as the ‘10 o’clock Bell’. Transportation to WA ceased in 1868. At that time a great number of convicts were at large on ticket-of-leave, and the bell was rung at 9.50 p.m. to warn them to be indoors by 10, otherwise they would be ‘shot in’ to the Round House. The fact, that 10 minutes was deemed sufficient time in which to get from one part of Fremantle to another is proof that the town did not at that time cover a very large area. It is said that the bell is now used as a church bell, which reminds me that at the time of which I speak High-street had a church at one end and a gaol at the other, St John’s Church of England being then situated in the centre of King’s Square, which comprised the block of land bounded on the south and west by Newman and William-street and on the north and east by Adelaide and Queen streets, the site of the old church being that portion of the extended High-street lying between the present church and Mr. John Twinem’s offices.
The mystery of how the church authorities acquired possession of King’s Square was a subject of much controversy, in bygone times. Both King’s and Queen’s Squares were originally set apart as breathing spaces for the public, but somehow it came about that a church was built in the centre of the former. Eventually it was decided to bisect both squares and run High-street through them. The Church of England, however, claimed and established ownership over King’s Square, and had to be bought out. The building of a new church was in contemplation, so the town bought from the church all that portion of the square south of the present church enclosure, utilizing part of it for the extension of High-street and as a site for the Town Hall, and selling the triangular portion east of the Town Hall, on which shops are now built. The town, through some jugglery, suffered a similar loss of territory in connection with the Park, which originally included the land on which the old Lunatic Asylum (now the Old Women’s Home) is built, and from thence down to Parry-street, the land between Quarry-street and the present Park land being sold to private people and built upon. How the Fremantle people lost ‘the Green’, where the Custom House and some privately-owned buildings now stand has already been narrated in your columns.
But to return to the ‘Gaol Hill’. Descending the steps from the Round House we will wend our way up the old time High-street taking the northern side first. The first buildings were the Police Station and constables’ quarters, located close to the tunnel and on both sides of the street. These were old fashioned structures, and in these days would be considered too primitive for even a bush township. The police of those days had ample work to do. About half the adult male population were either expirees or ticket-of-leave men over whom they had to exercise surveillance. ‘Are you bond or free?’ was the question every one was liable to be bailed up with if he ran against a policeman to whom he was unknown, and a refusal to answer meant being run in without more ado. The practice was continued long after any necessity for it existed.
An amusing incident arising from its operation once happened in Perth. A respected resident named J.K. Churchyard, proceeding home after 10 p.m, was met by a new policeman, who demanded his name. On receiving the reply ‘Churchyard’, the recruit looked dubious, but passed on. Next he met the late Mr. James Grave, and on asking his name was told 'Grave'. 'Grave', said the surprised policeman, 'and the last man I met said his name was "Churchyard"'. 'Merely a coincidence', Said Mr. Grave, 'I know Mr. Churchyard well'. Not quite reassured, the myrmidon of the law let it go at that, but a few minutes later met a well-known tradesman in the person of the late Mr. Edward Lord Barrington. The same question was put, and on receiving the reply ‘Lord Barrington’, the newly fledged John Hop could stand it no longer and exclaiming ‘Look here, my man, there may be Churchyards and Graves in this country, but there are no lords – you come along with me.' He marched Mr. Barrington off to the police station, where of course, matters were soon set right. It may be mentioned here that in the convict days it was customary, for every free man to wear a full beard and long hair. To be seen closely cropped or shaven would at once create the suspicion that one had just come out of gaol, hence a convict’s first care on attaining his liberty was to cultivate a flowing beard as soon as possible.
Proceeding on our way, the next building we come to was a large three-storied building at the corner of High and Cliff-streets, where the Union Bank now stands. It was then the residence of Commissary General Eichbaum, father of the late Lady Shenton. Subsequently it was occupied by the late Mrs Seubert as a boarding house, and here the writer lived during his halcyon days in the mid-seventies, being a fellow lodger for part of the time with the notorious De Rougemont. It was the best establishment of its kind at the time, and was the favorite resort of the North-West pearlers, as well as of shipmasters, who spent much of their time on shore owing to their ships lying out in the roadstead, the loading and unloading being done by the slow process of lightering. The pearlers used to flock from the North-West in large numbers during the off-season, and in the absence of steam communication with the Eastern States, they went no further than Fremantle, and being well supplied with money made things hum in the town during their stay. Alas! Those times are now gone. We have heard a lot about the ‘roaring 90’s’ of the golden era, but the ‘roaring 70’s’ of the pearling era would always do me. The pearlers of those days were a fine manly lot of fellows, and I have rarely seen their equals amongst the gold seekers.
On the opposite corner on which the Hotel Fremantle has since been built lived Dr Limon Oliver whose wife kept a ladies’ seminary while the doctor himself kept a little chemist’s shop about where the Tannatt Chambers now are. The doctor was a very genial old gentleman, and reputed to be very skilful in his profession. Up to the year 1868 when the Medical Registration Act came into force anyone who liked could practice as a doctor. The Act permitted all who had been practicing medicine to register whether they held a diploma or not, consequently every chemist in the place registered, and among them Dr. Oliver. I do not think there is now a single one of these pseudo-doctors left. Dr. Oliver however, was a really qualified man, having taken the degree of M.B. in an English University, but being transported to W.A. he lost the privileges attaching to that qualification.
[Part 2 of the original publication, Fremantle Times, 4 April 1919]
Next to the chemist’s shop was a small cottage occupied by a Customs tide-waiter named Moran, and from thence to the corner of Mouatt-street was vacant land carrying a luxuriant crop of castor oil trees. On the opposite corner of Mouatt-street on which the W.A. Bank is now erected was a general store kept by Mr Alex Francisco, senior, who was also postmaster. Mr. R. Hardman, the late Deputy P.M.G., was his clerk, and the late Mr. John Leighton, sen., was store assistant and postman. Later the latter position was filled by Mr. F. Douglas, then a youth, who afterwards went to sea, and was well known as master and owner of sailing vessels trading on the South-West coast. The first post office was conducted in Henry-street in a little vine-clad cottage at the rear of the offices now owned by Mr. James Mews, of Claremont. Some idea of the smallness of the business transacted may be gleaned from the fact that the address and date of receipt and delivery of every letter posted was recorded in a book. Imagine that being done nowadays! The next P.O. was in High-street, as before mentioned, whist the third was in the old Commissariat Buildings in Cliff-street; then a new one was built at the corner of Cliff and Croke-streets, and now houses the clerical staff of the Navy Department. Becoming too small for the port’s postal requirements, it gave place under Federation to the present handsome edifice in Market-street.
Next to Mr. Francisco’s store stood the ‘Crown and Thistle’ Hotel, conducted by the late Mr J.J. Harwood, sen., who also carried on the business of a builder and contractor, and built the Oddfellows’ and Masonic Halls and many other of the port’s principal building of days gone by. The old hotel has since been rebuilt and is now the Cleopatra; the land intervening between which and the corner of Henry-street was vacant and enclosed by a low stone wall. On the next corner of High and Henry streets (Saunders and Nathan’s) stood an old two-storied building, a bit back from the road, which had once been a hotel. At the time I speak of, it was occupied by a Mr. Thos. Buckingham who kept a butcher’s shop facing High-street, opposite the present Union Stores. Next to this was a little cottage, standing far back from the road, which was used as the first telegraph office (opened in 1869). The first telegraph operator was a Mr. Holman, and the late Mr. W.T. John was the first messenger. Mr. H.G. Stirling succeeded to the former position, and eventually became postmaster, a position which he relinquished in order to enter the ranks of journalism. He was succeeded by his brother, Mr. L.J. Stirling, now of York. A space of vacant land extended from where the Madrid Restaurant now stands to the corner of Packenham-street. From the next corner of Packenham-street, right up to the Market-street every block was built upon, some of the structures being of a very primitive type. On the Packenham-street corner was a retail store kept by Herbert Dixon, then a couple of small provision stores kept by W. Kett and T. Monaghan, then a wooden structure used as a greengrocer’s shop by G. Curedale. Next came the Albert Hotel on the site of which the Commercial Hotel now stands. The Albert Hotel was owned and kept by the late Captain John Thomas, who died a few years ago at the great age of 94. He used to trade to Batavia, Singapore, and Mauritius, first in a little cutter of 25 tons, and afterwards in a 100-ton schooner named the Empress. He it was who, after his retirement from the sea, taught most of our old-time coasting skippers all they knew of the art of navigation, and that was very little, as most of them used to find their way about by instinct or rule of thumb. In those go-as-you-please days certificates of competency were unheard of and anyone could be a shipmaster, doctor, or dentist without his qualifications being put to any test. There was consternation amongst the ancient mariners when certificates were first brought into vogue. Many of them, though they were splendid seamen, and had been sailing ships for years, could not pass even the very elementary examination then required until after several attempts, and some never succeeded in passing at all. Next to the Albert Hotel were several small wooden shops occupied respectively by W. Leach, bootmaker; Miss Leach, fancy goods; Theophilus Carter, watchmaker; E. Wellstead, cabinetmaker; D. B. Francisco, auctioneer; and Rankin and Watson, retailers. Then came a tiny little cottage having a neat flower garden in front and occupied by ‘Paddy’, the wheelbarrow man. Paddy was an eccentric character, the butt of all the small boys, and made a comfortable living by removing luggage, etc, with his barrow, the town not having yet reached the carrier’s cart stage. On the next allotment was a greengrocer’s shop and firewood yard kept by Mr. Weeden, adjoining which was the Era newspaper office. Fremantle could boast two newspapers in those days – the Herald and the Era – though it has since often been without even one. The Era was owned and published by a versatile gentleman named George Barrow. In the day time he worked as accountant for Mr. Lionel Samson, and in the night time on the production of his newspaper. It was a small affair printed in lithograph, and published once a week at the price of 6d. Barrow afterwards left the colony and obtained a Government appointment at £800 a year in Mauritius, but on its becoming known there that he was an ex-convict from W.A. he lost his position. Of his subsequent career I know nothing, but if ability and energy account for anything, I have no doubt that he found scope for his activities elsewhere. Next to the Era office was the National Bank, occupying portion of the block on which the National Hotel now stands. It was the only bank operating in Fremantle at that time, and its staff consisted of two – R.M. Sutherland, manager, and W.F. Samson, cashier – the latter being succeeded by A. F. Durlacher (now in England), who afterwards became a member of the firm of W.D. Moore and Co., whilst Mr. Samson (now deceased) became head of the firm of L. Samson and Son. On the corner of High and Market streets was a diminutive shop kept by A.M. Josephson, who commenced as an itinerant pedlar of haberdashery, etc., and afterwards made a lot of money in buying and selling pearls. Eventually he became a very wealthy man, and died in England some years ago. On the opposite corner of Market-street (now Healey’s Corner) was a saddler’s shop, kept by Ben Solomon, and next to it a cottage occupied by J.S. James. Then came a stretch of vacant land to the corner of Adelaide-street, where stood the baker’s shop of W. Chalkley, famous for his Eccles cakes.
Having now traversed the built-upon portion of the northern side of High-street we will cross over to the southern side and follow it down from William-street to the tunnel from whence we started on our peregrination. But first let us glance eastward for a moment. What is now the Park was covered by a dense growth of parrot bushes and scrub, and was the favorite resort of aborigines who at that period were to be seen in considerable numbers about Fremantle (or ‘Walyalup’ as they called it). As I said before, the old St John’s Church stood on what is now that part of High-street opposite the Town Hall Chambers. The only building then existing east of it in High-street still stands at the corner of High and Queen-streets, and in 1869 was occupied by a Mrs. Pulford as a girl’s school. In later years it was used as a Good Templars’ Lodge, and more recently by Mr. (now Sir) Henry Briggs, as a grammar school. It had originally been an hotel (the ‘Rose and Crown’), but some time in the sixties a renewal of its license was refused on the ground that it was too far out of town to be under the effective supervision of the police. This will give some idea of the extent of the settled portion of Fremantle at that time. As a matter of fact the population of the whole of W.A. in 1869 was only 22,733, made up of 14,539 males and 8,194 females. But to resume our survey of the southern side of High-street, starting from William-street, and going West.
[Part 3 of the original publication, Fremantle Times, 11 April]
The corner of William-street and High-street was a vacant block, save that right on the south-western boundary there was a row of small cottages known as the ‘Widow’s Home’. They were ramshackle tenements with no exits at the back, and the yard in front strewn with refuse of every description. They were occupied by widows and others too poor to pay more than a nominal rent. Why there should have been any widows when nearly two-thirds of the population were males this deponent knoweth not.
On the next allotment was an octagonal-shaped house of two stories kept by J. Leighton and subsequently by W. Stone as a boarding house, then vacant land to the corner of Market-street. On this corner (now Breckler’s) one Henry Gray, familiarly known as ‘Dapper Gray’, afterwards kept a greengrocer’s shop; the building was characteristic of the times, being constructed of stones without mortar and scarcely high enough for a man to stand up in without touching the roof. Crossing Market-street to the other corner we come to what was one of the most extensive buildings of the time, though it has long since had to make way for he more modern structures known as ‘Higham’s Buildings’. I refer to the store with residence attached of Mrs M. Higham. Here a large retail business was done with the pensioners and prison officials, with whom Mrs Higham was very popular. The pensioners, it may be remarked, were members of the enrolled force who were quartered in the large barracks in South-terrace (now the Base Hospital) and in smaller barracks where the Police Station now is. A contingent of these time-expired soldiers came out as guards over the prisoners in every convict establishment. Many of them were old veterans who had served in the Crimean war and Indian Mutiny, while others were comparatively young men who had been invalided home from India early in their military career. On the whole, they were a valuable addition to the population; numbers of them accumulated property, and many of their descendants are now to be found occupying prominent positions both in private and official life. In 1868-9 there was also stationed here a company of the 14th Regiment, which had been sent here from New Zealand, owing to fears being entertained by the authorities that the Fenian convicts would instigate a rising amongst the prisoners.
Next to Higham’s was the jeweller’s shop of a Russian Jew named Rosenberg. He was one of those implicated in the great Russian note forgery, for his complicity in which he was transported to this Colony. He amassed a fair amount of wealth here, and then foolishly returned to Russia, where it is said he was again punished under the laws of that country for the same office for which in England he had been sentenced to transportation, and was sent to Siberia, where he ended his days. Next door was a baker’s shop, kept by a Mr. Downs; and then a sailors’ boarding house, kept by James Freeman. Then came the pawnbroker’s shop of Mr. Alfred Davies, whose penny tokens were always accepted as current coin, and some of which may still be occasionally seen. On the next allotment standing back from the street, was a neat two-storied dwelling house, occupied by Mr. (now Major) G.B. Humble, who held the position of headmaster of the Government school from 1864 to 1889, and that of Town Clerk for many years afterwards, filling both offices concurrently for a lengthy period. He is still hale and active at the age of 80. Next came a space of vacant land with the usual accumulation of empty bottles, tins, and other rubbish; then the business premises of Mr D.K. Congdon, who combined the businesses of chemist and general storekeeper, the upstairs portion being used for residential purposes. In those days our business people did not have suburban residences as is now the vogue; there were no trains or trams by which to reach them, and land was not so valuable, so every business place had its residential portion either overhead or attached. Next to Mr. Congdon’s was Mr. W.S. Pearse’s private house, and adjoining it on the corner of High and Packenham-streets was the butcher’s shop of Messrs. W.S. and G. Pearse. On the opposite corner of Packenham-street where Mr. John Church’s establishment now stands, an auctioneer’s and commission agent’s business was conducted by Mr. T. Corrigan, whose brother Peter, though he drove a baker’s cart for a living, was a man of considerable culture, with whom few could hold their own in a debate on any subject from theology to the differential calculus. He and the late Dr Barnett - another intellectual giant - often crossed swords in the debating society, presided over by the Rev. G.J. Bostock. Of the original members of this society the whirligig of time has left but few survivors. Among them are Mr. Edwin Duffield, of Fremantle; Mr. D.W. Harwood of Perth; and Mr A. F. Durlacher (now in England). A list of all their names will be unearthed some day from beneath the foundation stone of the small hall erected for their meeting place at the rear of St. John’s Rectory. Next to Corrigan’s was a private boarding house, kept by a Mrs. Harford, widow of a shipmaster, who was lost at sea. Then came the tailor’s shop of the late Mr. George Cooper, at that time one of the keenest sports that ever wielded the willow or stalked the wild duck around the Jandakot lakes. From Cooper’s a space of vacant land now covered by the Union Stores buildings stretched down to the corner of Henry-street, on which stood Isaac Senior’s noted pie shop – a little wooden structure. Ah, those tasty gravy-laden pies! Perhaps my juvenile palate was keener than now, but methinks their like I have never tasted since. Senior, though a very old man, was the bandmaster and an enthusiastic musician who could extract sweet melody from the most nondescript kind of instruments imaginable. He lived to a great age and was one day found drowned in the river where he must have wandered in his dotage.
On the opposite corner to Senior’s on the site now occupied by the Hotel Orient stood the Emerald Isle Hotel, owned and kept by Mrs. Marmion. She was the mother of the late W.E. Marmion, ‘Fremantle’s foremost son’, whose all too brief life was devoted to promoting the welfare of his native town, which he represented in Parliament during practically the whole of his adult life, and at a stage of the Colony’s history when his outstanding abilities if employed in other channels would have enabled him to become one of the richest men in the State. He was the first Minister for Lands on the inauguration of Responsible Government and died in 1896. As a mark of esteem to his memory a monument was erected on the reserve near the junction of Adelaide and Quarry-streets.
Next to the Emerald Isle Hotel was a little shop where a tailor named John Cecil carried on business, then on the corner of Mouatt-street, but standing a little back from the road, was the Victoria Hotel, on the site of which the P. and O. Hotel now rears its stately proportions. The Victoria was kept by Mrs. Scott, the widow of a sea-captain, and was the favourite resort of deep-sea skippers who foregathered to drink their gin and bitters in the little parlour known as the ‘Cockpit’. This room was fitted up in true nautical fashion after an idea of old Captain Scott’s and seated among a company of old salts once could almost fancy oneself aboard an old time windjammer. On the death of Mrs. Scott the hostelry was taken over by the genial Patsy Hogan [Hagan], who had been her faithful servant for many years, under whose management the best traditions of the old inn were well maintained.
Crossing over to the next corner of Mouatt-street, on which Watson’s provision store now stands, we walk down to the corner of Cliff-street, now the site of the Bank of New South Wales. All this land was unbuilt on, and carried a crop of barley when I first saw it 50 years ago. On the opposite corner of Cliff-street, in a building since demolished to make room for the tramway workshops, was the office of the ‘Fremantle Herald’, which was then the Colony’s leading newspaper. It was ably conducted by the late Mr W. Beresford, formerly Anglican Dean of Cork, but, who late in life fell from grace so grievously that neither high office in the Church nor the prestige of a noble family could save him from ending his days in exile. His nephew, Lord Charles Beresford, however, when he visited the Colony as a midshipman under Prince Alfred (Duke of Edinburgh) in H.M.S. Galatea, in 1869, was not too proud to look up his erring relative. How his kindness towards the old ex-cleric was requitted will be known to those who have read Admiral Beresford’s recently published book of reminiscences.
The Herald was a power in the land in those days and had some able writers on its staff at different times, among whom may be mentioned Cole and Roe, the latter of whom had also been in holy orders in the old land. An incident in the early history of the Herald is worth recalling. In one of its earlier issues some miscreant, actuated no doubt by a desire to bring about the downfall of the paper, secured the insertion of some original poetry. As a metrical composition it was of a high order of merit, but both the editor and printer failed to notice that it was an acrostic, the first letters of the lines read downwards forming a sentence too torrid to reproduce in your decorous columns. This was detected by an early morning reader (the late Mr. D. B. Francisco), who, at once apprised the editor, whereupon that gentleman immediately took prompt measures to collect all the papers that had been issued. Few readers of the paper had noticed the sinister nature of the poem, and all sorts of conjectures were made as to why the paper was called in, some ascribing the editor’s action to a fear on his part that some criticisms of Governor Hampton’s method of dealing with the notorious bushranger Moondyne Joe by confining him in an iron cage might lead to trouble. Ultimately, however, the secret leaked out, and when it did there were some who would have given a pretty tall price for that particular issue of the Herald. I can vouch for the truth of the incident related as I myself saw the paper containing the objectionable lines, and they may no doubt still be seen in an early issue of the Herald if the file is still in existence. Many people in high places quailed before the pungent and fearless criticisms of the Herald, and one of these it was thought was responsible for ringing in the poetical contribution that might have landed the editor in gaol. The conductors, however, were shrewd men and were rarely caught napping. When Edmund Stirling and Arthur Shenton, editors respectively of the Inquirer and W.A. Times were imprisoned for libelling Judge Burt, the Herald hit that functionary just as hard, but it evaded the meshes of the law in this way. After a few words of caustic criticism it proceeded somewhat like this: ‘In view of the law of libel we leave our readers to surmise what further comments we would have made if we dared in the blank space below’, and left the remainder of the column blank.
We have now completed our survey of High-street of 50 years ago. Starting from the tunnel we have traversed the norhern side of its then extreme eastern limit, and returned by the southern side to the point from which we set out. If your readers are interested we shall next take a retrospective view of some of the leading features of the side streets, and recall some memories of those who inhabited them, always promising that anything calculated to wound the susceptibilities of the living descendants of a by-gone generation will be studiously avoided.
[Part 4 of the original publication, Fremantle Times, 17 April 1919]
Old time memories of Arthur’s Head revive recollections connected with incidents of the sea, one or two of which may be here related before we take final leave of the vicinity. On the summit of the hill was the old lighthouse, with the lightkeeper’s quarters at the foot, the lightkeeper being an old sailor named Peirl. Adjacent was the tall flag-staff around which the townsfolk used to forgather on Sunday mornings to gossip over the events of the week and to watch for the appearance of a sail on the distant horizon. No steamers visited these waters in those days, and the arrival of a deep-sea sailing ship was regarded as an event of some importance.
I can recall one memorable day in 1876 when an anxious and excited crowd assembled there in somewhat tragic circumstances. The occasion was the mysterious foundering of the cutter Gem (Captain Wilcox) in fine weather and within sight of the anchorage. The Gem was an English built vessel, over 40 years old, and of unusually large size for cutter rig. She was on a voyage from Dongarra to Fremantle with a load of wheat and was seen inside of Rottnest making for Fremantle before a light breeze with a full sail set. When the man at the signal station looked again a few minutes later she had vanished as completely as if she had been a phantom ship. Boats immediately put off to where she had been seen, and found the top of her mast sticking out of the water, but not a trace of a single one of the crew or passengers could be discovered, although the boats circled round the spot for the rest of the day. To this day the mystery has never been solved. The beaches were patrolled for some time afterwards, but no bodies ever floated ashore. The theory is that the wheat in the hold became swollen and burst the hull, and that the bodies of the crew and passengers were devoured by sharks, but that this could have happened in such a short space of time in waters where sharks were not numerous seem almost beyond the realms of possibility. Among the victims of the catastrophe was Mr. Joseph Johnston (only son of the Rev. Joseph Johnston), also Mr. Edward Kynge, an old and respected resident of Fremantle.
The mystery surrounded the sad occurrence caused some imaginative people to believe that all on board had been kidnapped and the cutter sent adrift outside Rottnest by some ship whose mission was to rescue the remaining Fenians in Fremantle prison. This, of course, was mere conjecture, and was never verified by after events. The mate of the Gem was a promising young navigator named William Garrard, who was only awaiting his 21st birthday to sit for his master’s certificate. Young Garrard’s father was lost with his own vessel, the cutter Albatross, some years before. He was a shipwright of Geraldton, where he built the schooner Lass of Geraldton, mention of which brings to mind another tragedy of the sea.
In February, 1867, the Lass of Geraldton, in charge of Captain Harry O’Grady, was proceeding from Fremantle to Bunbury in ballast, having on board a crew of five, and two passengers - Mr. George Shenton (father of the late Sir George Shenton) and a Mr. Teede. When off Mandurah, about seven miles from land, she was suddenly struck by a squall and capsized. All were drowned except Captain O’Grady and a seaman named Peter Thompson (alias Dandy), both of whom swam to the shore, which Captain O’Grady reached first, after being about five hours in the water. The Board of Inquiry which was afterwards held, exonerated Captain O’Grady from all blame, and complimented him upon his highly meritorious exertions to rescue Mr. Shenton, as testified to by the seaman Thompson. Captain O’Grady afterwards became master of various deep-sea ships trading to India, China and Mauritius, and died at Fremantle in 1898. Sometimes in the seventies, when in command of the barque Amur, he was the recipient of ₤100 donated to him by the underwriters in recognition of a masterstroke of seamanship by which his ship was saved from disaster. The Amur, with a number of other vessels was loading guano at the Lacepede Islands, when indications of one of those terrific cyclones which periodically occur in that region, became apparent. Captain O’Grady immediately got under weigh and boldly made for the open sea, where he weathered the storm whilst every one of the other vessels at the island was driven ashore and wrecked. Three of them (the Cingalese, Bessie and Mary Smith) were afterwards refloated and repaired by the veteran shipwright, Mr. Robert Howson, now living in retirement at Claremont. It has been said that Australians are not over fond of the sea, but certainly this gibe had no application in the case of the five O’Grady brothers, all of whom were seafarers, and four of whom (Henry, John, Michael, and Thomas) became master mariners. In this connection I might mention that the first West Australian to obtain a Board of Trade master’s certificate in London was Captain Charles H. Watson. When a young man Captain Watson, after passing for a local master’s certificate, shipped on board Mr. Padbury’s barque Bridgetown for London, jocularly remarking when saying good-bye to some friends, that he would be back again within seven years in command of a ship. He kept his word by returning within the specified time as master of the full-rigged ship Zephyr. Subsequently he held an important official position at one of the South Australian out-ports, and later returned to Fremantle, where for some years, he was manager of Randell, Knight and Co.’s lighterage business. If I remember rightly he was awarded the Royal Humane Society’s medal for gallantry in saving life at sea when chief officer of the ship Hesperides. Captain Watson still looks fit for the quarter-deck, though well past the allotted span.
We will now take a glance at the Cliff-street of 50 years ago. Starting from the Esplanade and proceeding north, the first building on our left was a pensioner’s guard room, where sentries were posted day and night; it now forms part of the Harbour Master’s offices. Next came the Commissariat buildings, which still stand. Their erection was commenced in 1853 by prison labour, and, after serving the purpose for which they were built in connection with the convict system, they were successively used as port office, Custom House and State Steamship offices; they are still used as offices for minor governmental departments
The convict system has been referred to so frequently in these notes that it maybe be well to mention that the class of men transported to this Colony bore no comparison to the desperadoes who were sent out to the New South Wales and Tasmania. Western Australia was made a penal settlement at its own request, and in the agreement made between the Home authorities and the Colonists it was expressly stipulated that no criminals of a reckless or dangerous class should be sent out, neither should any female offenders be transported to the Colony. The last condition was strictly carried out, but a proportion of the male prisoners proved “not up to specification,” and it was from these that he chain gangs were formed and recruited. The great bulk of the convicts, however, proved sincerely desirous of becoming good colonists, and succeeded. Among them were lawyers, doctors, teachers, ex-bankers, journalists, ex-clergymen, and others whose presence in the community tended to elevate rather than lower the ethical standard of the people. At one time records existed in the prison containing particulars of the crimes for which the convicts were tried and convicted in the old country. These particulars (sometimes maliciously amplified) of every ex-convicts crime and punishment became public property. On the inauguration of Responsible Government all these records were consigned to the flames. This was as it should be as the men who made good had expiated their misdeeds, and it would be unfair to them and their descendants that their antecedents should for ever be exposed to the scrutiny of every petty gaol official. Some of our pharisaical friends in the Eastern States lose no opportunity of reminding us of the stigma which rests upon us as a one-time convict colony, but if there is any stain upon our national record in this respect it is of no deeper dye than that which attaches to Tasmania and New South Wales of which latter colony Victoria then formed a part. As a matter of fact, we ourselves, transported our criminals to those places before we, in a time of stress, appealed to the Home Government to send convicts here. It should be remembered, too, that many men were sent here for very trivial offences, such as poaching, etc., that nowadays would be regarded as venial. Between 1843 and 1848 (which was before the convict era) about 150 boys were sent hither from the Parkhurst Reformatory. Most of them had merely been guilty of some boyish freak, and, having been taught useful trades, the great majority of them ultimately became some of the best and most estimable of our pioneer colonists.
[End of part three]
Mr. J. K. Hitchcock’s reminiscences, which have been appearing in these columns for some time past, have been followed with keen interest by our readers, particularly those who were resident here before the influx from the Eastern States following on the discovery of gold. In one of his recent articles Mr. Hitchcock made reference to the mysterious foundering of the cutter Gem, off Fremantle, in May, 1876. This vessel disappeared in a few minutes within sight of land, and not one of her crew was saved, although assistance was promptly forthcoming. ‘Hugh Kalyptus’ [Spencer John Skipper], writing in the Western Mail, refers to this incident, and he states that the crew were devoured by sharks.
‘From time immorial’” he writes, “Fremantle has been celebrated for its sharks especially of the man-eating variety. Upon one occasion, in the middle of May, 1876, the whole of the passengers and crew of the cutter Gem were demolished by a school of sharks, about midway between what is now Cottesloe Beach and Rottnest Island. The Gem was a wooden vessel, of about 120 tons, and at the time of foundering was on a voyage from Dongarra to Fremantle, laden with wheat, which, it was conjectured, became swollen, owing to the vessel’s leaky condition, which caused her planking to bulge to such an extent that she went under in calm weather at 8 o’clock in the morning of a typical bright May day. The look-out man at Arthur’s Head saw the Gem, with all her sails set, towing a dinghy, rapidly sink ; and as the water police lifeboat was on the scene of the wreck within half an hour of the little vessel’s disappearance, every possible expedition had been exercised to save the lives of those on board. But nobody was saved. With the exception of a tom-cat, belonging to old Mrs. McCann, a boardinghouse-keeper in Packenham-street, nothing alive came ashore belonging to the ill-fated Gem ; though the cat lived for many years afterward. By the occupants of the life boat the vessel’s hull could be plainly seen lying on the bottom of the ocean, with all sails set, the rope attached to dinghy and tied to the stern sheets of the cutter being partly cut through, indicating that some of those on board had vainly endeavoured to get themselves clear of the sinking vessel by that means before the dinghy was taken down by the undertow. The police reported that water in the vicinity of the wreck was literally alive with sharks, while traces of blood were plainly visible in all directions. A few days after the occurrence of the Gem disaster an immense shark was captured by a sailor who was fishing from the deck of an English trader that was at anchor in Gage Roads, the maw of the monster, on being opened, exposing the trunk of a man’s body, which was partially clothed, and in one of the pockets a watch was found, that had stopped at eight o’clock-the hour that the Gem was last seen.
Among the Gem’s passengers was Mr. Joseph Johnston, who was returning to Fremantle from a visit to his sister, Mrs. S. F. Moore who is now a resident of Claremont. Mr. Johnston was the only son of the founder of Johnston Memorial Church, Fremantle, and who for nearly forty years was one of the State’s most popular preachers. The Gem was under the command of Captain Wilcox, whose wife gave birth to twin girls within a few weeks of her husband’s tragic death. Mrs. Wilcox and one of her daughters were, up to a few months ago in business near Melbourne ; her other daughter being a Sister of Mercy in the Roman Catholic Church.
The holding of the pall by Captain Charles H. Watson at the funeral of his old friend, the late Lord Forrest, was an interesting link that connected events of the early seventies with present day occurrences, Captain Watson having occupied the position of chief officer of the schooner Adur, under Captain Waugh - the vessel that tended the brothers John and Alexander Forrest at Esperance and Eucla, during the first expedition that was made between Perth and Adelaide. The intrepid Eyre’s memorial triumph was achieved in 1840-41, between Adelaide and Albany. After the Adur’s return to Fremantle, young Watson decided to pursue a life on the ocean wave, his father having served with distinction, in the Royal Navy, before settling at their old home in Bazaar-terrace, as owner of the river trader Charon. The young Western Australian seaman, very early in life, attained the zenith of his ambition, by securing a master mariner’s certificate from the London Board of Trade, Captain Watson being the first native of the State to win that distinction-the second on the list of Western Australian sea captains to pass the Board of Trade’s critical examination being Mr. John Maxwell Ferguson now residing at Mt. Lawley, whose first command was that of his own schooner - the Airlie, which traded between China and Fremantle. Captain Watson’s first command was with the barque Zephyr, trading between London and Fremantle. Though Captain Watson is in his 76th year, he holds an important position in the fishing industry of Shark’s Bay, and during the pearling season on the Nor’-West coast he is frequently to be seen in charge of luggers between Fremantle and these Ports. During the Fremantle wharf strike of 1917 the old skipper filled various positions on the wharves as well as on the ocean. Upon one occasion in less than an hour’s notice, he filled the gap of boatswain on board the cattle steamer Moira, during one of that vessel’s trips to Derby for a much needed supply of cattle. One of Captain Watson’s sisters, Mrs. Henry Bell of Cottesloe Beach, claims Western Australia’s first V.C. - Major Bell, now at the front - as one of her sons.
[Part 4 of the original publication, 25 April 1919, p. 9 of the Fremantle Times]
But, to return to our theme. At the corner of Cliff and Dalgety-streets where Mr. Antoine’s office now is, was the Mechanics’ Institute. The librarian was a Mr. H. W. Young, who had been a solicitor in England. His position was practically honorary, and he was rarely in the institute owing to other engagements. Anyone wanting a book had merely to walk in, take it from the shelf, and enter it in a book kept on the table for that purpose. Next came the private residence of Mr. Lionel Samson, which is still standing, and is now occupied by Messrs. Calthorp Bros. as a warehouse. Adjoining was the warehouse and offices of L. Samson and Son, which have since been demolished and rebuilt. This is probably the oldest firm in the State, its founder having arrived and started business in 1829. He died in 1878, and was succeeded by his youngest son, W. F. Samson, who died in 1900. Like the genial J. H. Payne, who now guides the destinies of the firm, the original Samson wore a perennial smile upon his benign countenance, and had a cheery word for everyone. It is recorded in racing annals that at the first race meeting in the State, which took place near Fremantle on October 2. 1833, Mr. Samson ran a horse which he entered under the expressive, if not euphonious name, of “More in Sorrow than in Anger.” This little whimsicality was quite characteristic of the kindly old gentleman. Next to Samson’s, well back from the street, was a prehistoric looking tenement occupied by Mr. John Lewis as a drapery store and dwelling. Then came the residence of Mr. James Pearce, of the ‘Herald’, which still stands with the ancient pine tree in front. This is one of the oldest houses in Fremantle, and is now used as the tramways store. To what base uses, etc.
Crossing High-street and proceeding towards the river the first house on our left, where the Union Bank now stands was Mr. Eichbaum’s residence to which we have previously referred. Then we pass two old-fashioned cottages and come to the marine residence of the Shenton family, which stood where Dalgety’s Buildings now are. It had been built in the early days by a well-to-do settler whose name I forget. It had a portico with massive stone pillars, and from its style of architecture might easily have been mistaken for a church.
We have now completed our tour of the western side of Cliff-street, and will cross over to the eastern side and follow it down towards the Esplanade. The first buildings were a stone store and a two-storied wooden house adjoining. These were erected before 1835 as I have a copy of an old drawing of Fremantle made in that year by Mr. C. B. Wittenoom in which they are shown. Cliff Chambers now occupies their site. Next was the residence of Dr. Oliver, already mentioned, and then the intersection of High-street. The corner now occupied by the Bank of New South Wales was vacant land, and next to it was the offices and store of Mr. Robert King, one of our earliest merchants. Of these only the store (which was later occupied by the W.A. Bank) now remains. The private residences of Messrs. King, Vincent, Dr. Shipton and others occupied the remaining space down to the Pier Hotel corner, which was then unbuilt upon. The only other buildings in the Cliff-street of that day were the Water Police Station and quarters at the corner of Marine-terrace ; these were practically rebuilt in later times, but were used for their original purposes until the recent disbandment of the water police, or rather, their amalgamation with the land forces. The water police of those days were a fine body of men, selected with great care from an always overloaded list of applicants. Being mostly young seaman of an ambitious turn of mind many of them took advantage of the opportunities which their occupation afforded them to study the art of navigation. The sea carrying trade of the State at that time was carried on entirely by sailing vessels, and I can recall the names of the following who graduated from water police constables to master mariners : Patterson, of the Sea Ripple; Godfrey, of the Laughing Wave; Cornford, of the Bungaree; Reid, of the Belle of Bunbury; Owen, of the Dawn; Shepherd, of the Dolphin; and Davis, of the Dania; the first three were foreign-going vessels, and the others coasters. The superintendent of the water police was Mr. J. F. Stone, and the coxswain was Mr. William Brown. The latter built and conducted the Pier Hotel after his retirement from the force. With the opening of the river harbour in 1897 the glory of Cliff-street began to fade. The Customs House, Post Office and shipping offices moved nearer to the new centre of gravity, and the old street now lacks the business air that pervaded it in the eighties and early nineties.
At the time of which we write (1869) what is now Phillimore-street formed part of the old Recreation Ground, known as ‘The Green’, and only a few of the allotments in Mouatt-street were built upon. An old widow lady named Mrs. Agett resided in a fairly large bungalow house on the site now occupied by His Majesty’s Hotel. During the gold boom times this house underwent alterations and additions, and became Fremantle’s first café under the name of ’His Lordship’s Larder’. In course of time a hotel license was secured, and the old building gave place to the present modern structure.
Next to it was the station and quarters of the Harbour Master’s crew. This was a body of smartly uniformed and well disciplined men, whose duties were in connection with the shipping, which, at that time, was represented by sailing ships lying out in the open and exposed roadstead, none but the small coasting craft being to berth at the jetty.
In June, 1868, a sad event took place, when the then Harbour Master, Captain Harding, together with four of his crew, was drowned in an attempt to render assistance to a ship that was in difficulties during a heavy gale.
On portion of the site of Strelitz’s Buildings there stood an old two-storied house with gable ends, and next to it was a first-class boarding house conducted by Mr. John Henderson, under the sign of ‘Auld Reekie’.
The only other buildings in Mouatt-street were Stotter’s cottages, which still stand, and a small cottage which stood about midway between Croke and High-streets. Croke-street, from Cliff to Henry-streets was merely a footpath running through a field of barberry rushes. The only part then existing of J. and W. Bateman’s present extensive premises was a small stone store in which whaling gear and stocks of whale oil were kept.
The day of kerosene had only just dawned, and for lighting purposes many of the residents still used the odoriferous whale oil in the old-fashioned smoky lamps. In the days when this oil was practically the only illuminant available American whalers were constant frequenters of these waters in quest of it. Whaling was also a staple local industry in which, in his younger days, the later Mr. John Bateman, senr., was extensively engaged and employed many hands in exploiting the coast as far south as Albany and as far north as Port Gregory and the Rosemary Islands. Among those associated with him in this perilous but lucrative calling I recall the names of the following old identities: Bill Willis, John Tapper, Sam Law, Weston Reed (Johnathan), William Parr (Old Butty), Dick Burtinshaw, Bobby Prime, and Bill Hanretty (Long Bill). All these, with the exception of the last named, have long since ‘gone west’. Years after the whaling industry had petered out Hanretty was mate of the Pet, a large topsail schooner. When off Albany on a voyage from Adelaide to Fremantle, the ship was suddenly struck by a huge whale with such force that a hole was riven in her bows and she immediately began to founder. The crew at once took to the boats, and escaped, but the vessel went down so suddenly that Captain Peter Littlejohn, who had rushed down into the cabin to recover the ship’s papers, was engulfed with her and lost his life.
On his last whaling expedition the later Mr. John Bateman and the boats’ crews that were with him had also a narrow escape from a watery grave. They were returning from the southern whaling grounds in the schooner Star (Captain Shepherd) when she struck on the Murray Reef during a dark night and became a total wreck. The Star was a staunch vessel of 70 tons register, built by Mr. T. Mews, and fortunately held together until the boats could be launched, thus enabling all hands to reach the shore safely. It was near the same spot - the scene of many wrecks - that Mr. Bateman’s schooner Bungaree (Captain Cornford) was lost, fortunately without loss of life, when making for Fremantle on a voyage from Java. Another old whaling identity was John Kelly, who accompanied the expeditions in the capacity of cooper. Afterwards he qualified as master mariner and took a schooner up to Singapore where the vessel was sold ; then he became master of the Chinese-owned steamer which was lost with all hands in a typhoon.
[Part 6 of the original publication, Fremantle Times, 2 May 1919]
Before dismissing the subject of whaling I should mention that another old resident of Fremantle, who sought to woo fortune from the bosom of the misty deep, was Mr. J. J. Harwood, senior, whose whaling station was on Rous’ Head. There were few more enterprising citizens in Fremantle in the early days than Mr. Harwood, and his versatility was something to marvel at. No job was too big or too difficult and no enterprise too risky for him to tackle. One instance of his genius for turning his activities into new channels may be given. In 1857 the steamer Lady Stirling (the first to ply regularly between Perth and Fremantle) was brought out from England in sections ; Mr. Harwood undertook and carried out the work of her reconstruction, and so well did he perform his task that the boat regularly ran her daily trips between the port and capital until the opening of the railway in 1881, when, like Othello, she found her occupation gone.
As builders and contractors it may be truly said that none played a more conspicuous part in the town’s evolution from a village to a city than did the old firm of J. J. Harwood and Sons. During the transition stage their imprint was everywhere discernible in the improved architectural features of the new buildings that replaced the earlier structures.
We shall now carry our thoughts back to the Henry-street of half a century ago. On the block of land now covered by J. and W. Bateman’s offices and warehouses was the blacksmith’s shop of Henry Russ, whose residence stood just opposite W.D. Moore’s store. At the rear of the block was an old building in which Wm. Bain carried on a tinned fish factory on a small scale. Bain was thoroughly versed in the business, having learnt the art of fish preserving in one of the big Scottish factories, but, owing to the restricted market at that time for canned fish the venture did not prove a success.
Later on, when the opening of the goldfields created a market, Bain’s services were secured by Mr. C. Tuckey, whose Peel Inlet preserving works at Mandurah was a flourishing concern until rendered unprofitable through the partial depletion of the fishing grounds, which resulting in the yield of fish being scarcely equal to the increased metropolitan demand for the fresh article, thus leaving no surplus available for canning purposes.
The next building we come to was the town residence of Mr James Gallop, senior, ‘the Laird of Dalkeith’ – a fine old gentleman, and a true type of the sturdy pioneers who laid the foundations of this State in the early thirties. In a little cottage at the rear lived Ned Lane, an old man-o-war’s man who was a trusted servant of Mr. John Bateman.
Then we come to Mr. W. Holman’s residence and grocery shop, from which issued an ever present aroma of freshly roasted coffee. ‘Holman’s Coffee’ was a name to conjure with, and to this day the article sold under that brand is supposed to be the coffee par excellence. Reflected glory, perhaps, but there’s something in a name, Shakespeare not withstanding.
We now come to what was at one time the Roman Catholic Church and Presbytery, but at the time we write of the front part of the building was occupied by W. Stone, whose skill in brewing high quality ginger beer was only equalled by Holman’s domain of coffee. The other portions of the buildings had been converted into cottage tenements. We now pass a vacant grant and come to the business premises of Solomon and nephews, general storekeepers, the site of which is now occupied by the Colonial Sugar Co.’s buildings. After a few years in the West the nephews returned to their native ‘Crowland’, but ‘Uncle’ (the late Mr Elias Solomon) remained and became one of our most prominent merchants. He was elected to Parliament in 1892, and held the seat until 1900, when he was chosen as
FREMANTLE’S FIRST REPRESENTATIVE
in the Federal House of Representatives. He also filled the position of Mayor for a longer period than any other occupant of that office. We now come to the Emerald Isle Hotel, which we have previously noted.
Crossing High-street we pass the opposite corner which was vacant, and come to the residence of Mr T. W. Mews, senior, which stood well back from the street with a trellis of vines in front. It was here that the first post office was opened in 1835, Mrs. M. J. Bateman being the first post mistress. Mr. Mews arrived in the Colony with his parents by the ship Rockingham, in 1830, and could trace his pedigree back to Peter Mews, who was Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1672. On the next block was the residence of Captain Edward Back, who had held the position of pilot at Rottnest for a lengthy period in the early days. Captain Back came of seafaring stock, and was related to Admiral Sir George Back, the Arctic explorer. After his retirement from the pilot service Captain Back frequently acted as nominal master on vessels whose actual masters were for the time being, unable to comply with the new conditions under which no ship could clear from the port unless her master held a certificate of competency.
We have now come to the large three-storied building at present occupied by the Workers’ Club. This was built by a Mr Lodge for a hotel, but did not prove a financial success, being on too ambitious a scale for the times. At the time we speak of it was the private residence of Mr. W. D. Moore. The only other building on this side of the street and standing on the present site of Henry Wills and Co.’s warehouse, was a small cottage occupied by ‘Ducky’ Harwood (no relation to the Harwoods previously mentioned). He was paralysed in the legs and unable to walk, but eked out a livelihood by keeping the accounts and acting as adviser in general of the fishermen and other illiterate folk.
At that time quite a number of men (all Britishers) found employment in the fishing industry. Schnapper of prodigious size were plentiful and in the season large catches of them were made and dried for
EXPORT TO JAVA
and the Malay States. Safety Bay was their favourite habitat and about the month of November stacks of the dried fish resembling hay ricks might be seen on Penguin Island awaiting shipment. Messrs. Bateman used to purchase them at £12 per ton, and generally realized a handsome profit on their investment.
With ’Ducky’ Harwood lived an old man-o’-warsman known as ‘Happy Dick’, who claimed to have served under Nelson. He was seldom sober, and was a familiar figure in the streets flourishing a stick and commanding all and sundry to ‘Vast heaving’.
Another old nautical character who enlivened Fremantle with his eccentricities was known as ‘Steady-on-the-Brake’, so called because of his habit of reiterating that expression when steering an erratic course along the street after imbibing too freely. He was the proud possessor of a Board of Trade master’s certificate, which he would sometimes proffer as security for the price of a drink. If the greasy bit of parchment had ever served him for its legitimate purpose it must have been in the dim and distant past.
Passing over to the eastern side of the street and following it towards Marine-terrace, the first houses we come to were the residences of Peter Gibbons and Alfred Lee, both Commissariat officers ; next was the residence of James Storey, shipwright, and further on a little shop where Jimmy Brown sold smoked fish and other comestibles. Then came W. Capewell’s bootmaker’s shop, and next to it a small cottage occupied by Dick Pitts, a fisherman. We are now at the corner of High-street where stood a two-storied residence that had once been a hotel, as previously noted. At a later period this was occupied by Mr. Henry Albert, whose bakery and butcher’s shop was opposite the pre-cut Union Stores.
Mention of bakery reminds me of a custom which prevailed in those days amongst the poorer classes of sending their Sunday joint and potatoes to the bakers to be roasted, the charge for which was 2d. All the dinners were put into a huge oven together, and when they came out there were often squabbles amongst the children waiting to receive them, as to their ownership of some particular dish, and a smart boy could often get away with a better dinner then the one he brought. At that time the hotel bars opened from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sundays, and while the children were bringing home the dinner from the bakers the father would wend his way to the pub with a large sized jug to fetch the dinner beer. Sometimes he would meet a friend there, and the dinner would probably be cold by the time he reached home carrying more beer internally than the jug contained.
Proceeding south we pass the Union Stores corner which we have already referred to. (These corners are awkward to deal with without repeating oneself as we noted them when describing High-street and now encounter them again when describing the intersecting streets.) Much below the level of the street on what is not the Henry-street frontage of the Union Stores stood an old cottage in which
‘MICK THE BARBER’
carried on business. Mick was an old man and was never at his best till about mid-day; by that time he would have absorbed enough rum to steady his hand, but he would be a rash man who went to him for an early morning shave.
[Part 7 of the original publication, Fremantle Times, 9 May 1919]
The next building, which is still standing, was the residence of Mr. Walter Bateman, one of the principals of the firm of J. and W. Bateman. He was a bachelor, and was Fremantle’s first representative in the semi-elective Legislative Council which came into being in 1868. The firm’s office was in the same building, the warehouse being at the back, and the clerical staff numbered only two, namely, W. Lee and C. Calvert.
The firm was established under its present name in 1860, but its genesis really dates back to 1830, when the great-grandfather of the present heads of the firm arrived from England and engaged in business. Until steam displaced sailing vessels they were the Colony’s principal sea-carriers, both in the casting and foreign trades. They also did a large business in exporting sandalwood, horses, timber, dried fish, etc., and in importing tea, sugar, rice and other Eastern products in their own vessels. Later their business expanded into that of general merchants doing business with all parts of the world, and they gradually reduced their shipowning interests to zero.
There was a touch of aestheticism in the nomenclature of their ships, the following being the poetical names of some of them: Sea Ripple, Laughing Wave, Twinkling Star, Flying Foam, Sea Spray, Wild Wave, etc. Messrs. Bateman never insured their vessels, though the elements did not always treat them kindly. Among those they lost were the Favourite (Captain Lakey), wrecked near Jurien Bay; Flying Foam (Captain Reeves), foundered between Geraldton and Fremantle; Twinkling Star (Captain Long), struck a reef west of Garden Island; Star (Captain Shepherd) and Bungaree (Captain Cornford), wrecked on the Murray Reef; Bessie (Captain Shaw), burnt in Batavia harbour; and Thistle (Captain Williams), lost between Bunbury and Capetown. In the cases of Flying Foam, Twinkling Star and Thistle all on board were lost. Other small vessels of their’s engaged in the pearling industry were lost in the great cyclone of 1876.
The land between the building we last mentioned and Mr. W.D. Moore’s establishment was not built upon. The building in which Mr. Moore first started business in 1862 stood well back from the street, and is now incorporated in the later erections, the first portion of which was built in 1869.
His indoor staff at that time consisted of C. B. Teede and a boy (the latter being your humble servant), whilst a veritable live wire in the person of Tommy Hopkins constituted the outdoor staff. From that small beginning the business has developed into its present proud position in the commercial world.
Tommy Hopkins was also the town campanologist, a functionary who was indispensable in the days when daily papers were non-existent. This was a side-line by which Tommy added considerably to his not too ample weekly stipend. Every lunch hour and evening his stentorian voice and sonorous bell could be heard announcing an auction sale, meeting, or other fixture, his fee being 2s. 6d. a time, which in the absence of competition he subsequently raised to 3s. 6d. At election times the candidate who could command a monopoly of Tommy’s services was on the right track to victory. On gala days, too he was in great request as he was in his element when filling the role of master of ceremonies at sports on ‘The Green’, when climbing the greasy pole, catching the greasy pig, and other pristine forms of amusement were always features of the programme.
Mr. Moore’s was mainly a country trade, but he was always keen on fostering local industries of any kind. One of his maritime adventures was a whaling speculation in conjunction with Dr. Attfield. They purchased the brig Geo. H. Peake, and had her fully equipped in Boston, but the result of her first voyage was so disastrous that they became discouraged and sold her.
Ill-luck seems to have attended Mr. Moore in his shipping ventures, the Swan, Rose and Rosette, owned by him, having all been wrecked. In the early part of her career the Rose, which was built by Mr. Robert Wrightson, was commanded by Captain J. M. Ferguson, afterwards head of the firm of J. M. Ferguson Ltd., and it was by her that the Colony’s supply of tea was brought down once a year from Foo-Choo. She was lost in the China Seas while in charge of Captain Andrew Reid, who had been mate under Captain Ferguson. Captain Owston’s brig Eliza Blanche then took her place in the tea trade, but was afterwards superseded by Bateman’s Laughing Wave.
Next to Moore’s was a wooden cottage tenanted by a painter named W. Goff. Where Watson Bros. warehouse is now was vacant land covered by a dense growth of barberry bushes, and then came the still existing building in which the shipping agency business of Mr. Geo. Shenton was carried on under the management of Mr. Geo. Thompson, afterwards of the firm of Thompson, Sendey and Co.
This completes our survey of Henry-street, and we shall next have a look at Marine-terrace before retracing our steps to Packenham-street.
The old Customs House buildings were situated on land fronting on Marine-terrace, Collie and Packenham-streets, part of which is now occupied by the Trades Hall. Only the old bonded warehouse now remains, the buildings which comprised the Collector’s residence, Customs and Landing Waiters’ offices, having been pulled down. Mr. L.W. Clifton was Collector of Customs, and in 1869 he had an office staff of only two consisting of Mr. E.T. Troode, as Chief Clerk, and an elderly gentleman named Solomon (who was afterwards succeeded by Mr. Alex Francisco, jnr.) as assistant. The Landing Waiters’ office was staffed by Mr. W. Hayes as Chief Landing Waiter, and Mr. W. T. McNee as assistant. There were also three or four tide-waiters whose duties were to go on board the ships when they arrived in Gage Roads and remain there until completion of the discharge of cargo, which they had to tally into the lighters, sending a list of each lighter’s load ashore by the lighterman and so that the goods could be tallied out of the lighters by the landing waiters. Mr. Wm. Duffield, as warehouse-keeper, and an assistant named Freeman, completed the personnel of the Customs staff of that period. Contrast this small number with the army of officials now employed in the Department, and we have a fair idea of the vast increase in the business of the port as compared with fifty years ago. Mr. Clifton retired from the service in 1891, and Mr. Troode some years later, the former having held office over thirty years, and the latter for thirty-seven years. Their sons, Mr. Maxwell Clifton and Mr. E.S.P. Troode, both hold prominent positions on the present staff, and are following in their fathers’ footsteps in long and honourable service the one having joined the Department in 1889, and the other in 1883, thus placing thirty and thirty-six years to their credit respectively. Yet I doubt whether either of them would feel flattered if told he was within measurable distance of the bowl-playing stage.
What was known as the ‘Old Establishment’ consisted of a promiscuous collection of buildings fronting on Marine-terrace, Collie and Essex-streets, and extending half way up to Essex-lane. The only part now remaining is used as a warehouse, and extends from the Esplanade Hotel to the corner of Essex-street. It was here that the first batches of convicts were housed though the place was not originally built for a prison, but was altered and enlarged to adapt it to that purpose. It did not belong to the Government but was rented from Captain Scott, to whom it reverted when the new prison was built by the convicts themselves. The numerous out-buildings at the rear of the main building were then converted into tenements, which were little more than hovels, and what was known as the ‘Old Establishment Yard’ became the slum quarters of Fremantle of that day, then tenants being mostly ticket-of-leave men and their consorts-the demi-monde-always to be found in a sea port town. To reside in the ‘Old Establishment Yard’ was to be branded as outside the pale, but in the present year of grace the respectability of the locality is, of course, beyond reproach.
On the opposite corner of Essex-street stood, and still stands, the flat-roofed building that was the residence of Mr. Lucius A Manning, a gentleman of independent means who made occasional incursions into the business arena as a pastime. In the yard next to this building was the skeleton of a 90-ton schooner which had been on the stocks for years, work on her having been suspended owing to a dispute between the owner (Mr. Manning) and the builder. It was not until years later that she was finally completed and launched under the name of the Azelia. She had the distinction of having made the longest passage on record (89 days) from Cossack. Her skipper, on this occasion, was an old man named John Christie, who had an unenviable reputation for making long voyages, having previously taken over 90 days on the trip from Batavia in Bateman’s schooner Bungaree, one of the swiftest vessels then sailing out of the port. In each instance the ship’s company had been reduced to starvation rations long before reaching port. This recalls two remarkable performances of the barque Amur; once, when in charge of Captain John Waldron, she took 90 odd days to come from Adelaide, and again, when in charge of Captain John Brown, she occupied a similar time in coming from Wyndham. No wonder her owners left her to her fate when she drifted ashore near Rockingham.
The next building we come to was the blacksmith’s shop of Mr. T. Cook, whose residence still stands on the corner of Norfolk-street. Mr. Cook was a specialist in ship’s ironwork, and his son still carries on the business in the same building, the antiquity of which is betrayed by its shingled roof.
From Norfolk-street down to Russell-street the blocks fronting on Marine-terrace were all vacant (a veritable sandrift with occasional clumps of barberry rushes) save that a small building stood near the foot of Arundel-street, where there was a jetty, from which water used to be loaded into lighters for the shipping, the water being conveyed by pipes from the prison. At the southern corner of Russell-street was a cottage occupied by James Read. At this point the sea gradually encroached to such an extent that this and an adjacent cottage ultimately fell victims to its inroads, and were given Government grants in compensation.
[Part 8 of the original publication, Fremantle Times, 16 May 1919]
The stretch of beach between Norfolk and Arundel-streets is where most of the shipbuilding was done in the early days. This was an industry of considerable importance before the advent of steam, the principal builders being W. Jackson, R. Wrightson. J. Storey, R. Howson, T. Mews, and F. Jones. Nearly all the coasting craft and many of the foreign-going vessels were locally built, and among those launched within my recollection, the following may be noted: Laughing Wave, Rose, Janet, Iris, Pat, Mary Herbert, Ariel, Azelia, Mary, Rosette, Star, Electra, Myra, Ione, Ivy, Planet, Dawn, Harriet, and Start.
Seven or eight of these were overseas traders, the others being coasters. Many other smaller vessels were built for the coasting and pearling trades, but those mentioned ranged from 50 to 250 tons register ; in these days they would be considered small, but fifty years ago some of the English traders were only 300 tons register, and a 1,000-ton ship would be deemed a mammoth.
The streets south of Norfolk-street could only boast a few houses scattered like oases in a wilderness of sand, the only building of any pretensions in that area being the residence of Messrs. John Tapper, Ross Hunt, W. Hayes, John Snook, and G. Ralston. Norfolk-street itself has probably changed less during the past half-century than any other street in Fremantle. The house nearest to the beach on the southern side of the street was the residence of Mr. John Bateman, which occupied part of the site on which a terrace of cottages has since been built. Then came two rows of cottages owned by Mr. R. Hicks, and further on, the cottages owned by Captain Owston, all of which are still standing, as are also a small shop and some cottages between them and the Oddfellows’ Hotel. On the site of this hotel were a number of small dilapidated cottages, built several feet below the level of the road, which a present-day health inspector would condemn as untenable. On the opposite side of the street, at the corner of Norfolk-lane, the building still stands which was the residence and grocery store of Mr. W. Jose. From thence down to the corner of Marine-terrace there were only the two houses, which still survive, and that were occupied by Mr. Wedge and Mr. John Johnson, the former of which was afterwards the residence of Mr. Joseph Doonan, one time Superintendent of the Prison.
In later years Captain Owston, who resided in this street, became one of Fremantle’s wealthiest men, and I may here relate a little adventure in quest of gold in which he was concerned. In 1864 a convict named Wildman, who was serving a sentence of fifteen years in Fremantle Prison, impressed the authorities with a plausible storey to the effect that he knew where there were some rich deposits of gold in the vicinity of Camden Harbour, and he offered to point out the locality provided he was granted a free pardon. His story was that eight years previously, while mate of a ship bound from Europe to Java, the vessel put into Camden Harbour owing to an accident to her rudder, and that whilst there he had picked up several nuggets of gold, which he afterwards sold to a bullion merchant in Liverpool for ₤416. He would not divulge the precise locality of his alleged find, but volunteered to act as guide to any party going in search of it, on the condition stated. The Government granted the condition, and agreed to contribute £150 towards the expenses of an expedition. Some of those who were disposed to act on Wildman’s report caused inquiries to be made in Liverpool as whether such a parcel of gold had ever been sold to a merchant there, and the reply was such as to confirm the convict’s statement. The outcome of this was that a syndicate was formed and a party (which included Wildman) proceeded to Camden Harbour in the New Perseverance, of which Captain Owston was master and owner. She was a new schooner, built by himself at Preston Point, for he was a shipwright as well as master mariner. On reaching their destination the party experienced some trouble with their convict guide, who turned sulky and obstinately refused to reveal the locality of his alleged discovery. He was there upon put in irons and the party were compelled to prosecute the search on their own account, but me with no luck. The whole affair was probably a hoax conceived by Wildman in the hope of gaining his freedom. It, however, led to disastrous results for Captain Owston for on the return voyage the New Perseverance put into Nicol Bay (now Cossack) and was there wrecked. She was driven so far on the land by a tidal wave that it was impossible to refloat her, and it is said that her stranded hull was subsequently utilized as a tap room by the enterprising individual who secured the first license for the sale of liquor in Cossack.
Captain Owston next became master and part owner of the brig Eliza Blanche and on his retirement from the sea joined Mr. W.S. Pearse in establishing the firm of Pearse and Owston, ship-owners and importers of Eastern produce. The firm owned the barques Bonnie Lassie and Cingalese, the brig Eliza Blanche, and the schooners Mary Smith and Macquarie in the overseas trade, besides several smaller vessels in the coasting trade. Many predicted that the fine pile of buildings which Captain Owston erected in High-street (extending from Watson’s corner down to the Bank of New South Wales) would prove a ‘white elephant’, being too far in advance of the times, but events have justified the old mariner’s faith in the country.
Essex and Collie-streets have also lagged behind in the march of progress, though in a lesser degree than Norfolk-street. In Essex-street the cottages on each side of the star Hotel (which replaced an older building) were there fifty years ago, as were also the adjacent buildings, which then comprised the ‘Port Flour Mill’ and the residence of its proprietor, Mr. T. W. Oakley. The principal modern improvement on this side of the street is Instone and Co.’s fine factory and offices, which have been erected on what was then vacant ground. On the opposite side of the street Mr. John Brown carried on a bakery business in the premises now owned and occupied by Mr. James Back, the cottages castward of which were not then built.
In Collie-street there are only two or three buildings more than fifty years old. On the portion that was formerly the ‘Old Establishment Yard’ frontage there are now some substantial buildings whilst on the other side of the street the most imposing of the new structures is the Trades Hall. The opening of the river harbour adversely affected these streets as business centres, whilst the institution of a tramway system to the suburbs caused them to be neglected for residential purposes. But their time will come.
Many of the blocks fronting on Packenham-street were not built upon at the time of which we write, and with one exception the buildings which then existed have disappeared or been incorporated with newer structures.
Starting from Collie-street, the first building on the right was the shop of a one- legged shoemaker named W. Hurst. In those days shoemakers’ shops were fairly numerous, as boots were all handmade and none were imported, and as numbers of convicts were taught the trade whilst in prison, they could start in business on their own account upon their release, as practically no capital was required. This shop, together with an adjoining shop and residence which were afterwards erected by Mr. John Henderson, was in later years converted into a colonial wine and beer house under the sign of the ‘Welsh Harp’, which was kept by Mr. E. Tonkin, and the site of which is no occupied by the Oceanic Hotel. Between this and Nairn-street the only building was a cottage occupied by Mr. Charles Hanham, a coasting skipper. This vivacious old shellback arrived in the colony as one of the crew of H.M.S. Fly, in the very early days, fell in love with a local girl, and conveniently missed his passage when his ship sailed.
From Nairn-street to Bannister-street there were no buildings, the land being practically a swamp. At a later date, however, part of it became the site of the Diamond Flour Mill, which was erected by Mr. W. D. Moore, in conjunction with Mr. W. E. Marmion. At this mill Mr. David Forrest (brother of Lord Forrest) was the engineer, having been taught the business by his father, who owned and conducted a flour mill at Bunbury. The Diamond mill was destroyed by fire, but was re-erected in 1876, when it was appropriately re-named the Phoenix, having risen from the ashes of its predecessor. From the corner of Bannister-street and extending half-way up to High-street was a stock-yard, and next to it, on the corner of High-street, stood the butcher’s shop of W. S. and G. Pearse. On the opposite corner of High-street was the shop and residence of Mr. Herbert Dixon, who owned all the frontage from there down to the corner of Leake- street. Next to Mr. Dixon’s residence was a barber’s shop, kept by an ancient and voluble Irishman who rejoiced in the sobriquet of ‘Doctor’. Although himself as bald as a billiard ball, he professed to be the discoverer of an infallible specific for promoting the growth of hair. In his cups he would confidentially impart the information that the active ingredients in his wonderful preparation was extracted from fresh cow manure gathered in the early morning before the dew thereon had evaporated. My unscientific mind could never comprehend why any peculiar virtue should exist in the combination of dew drops and the other substance, but I proffer all I know of ‘Doctor’s’ formula for the benefit of any budding chemist who may essay to rediscover his secret, which seems to have perished with him. Perhaps his theory was that what stimulates the growth of plants should have a similar fertilizing effect upon a bald pate. For a long time ‘Doctor’ and ‘Mick the Barber’ were the only exponents of their art in the town, but later on, one Henry Blake, popularly known as ‘Slasher’, opened a more up-to-date establishment in High-street, and secure most of the better class custom. ‘Slasher’ also conducted a billiard saloon, which was well patronized. At that time bagatelle was the favourite pastime of the proletariat, and every hotel kept tables in the bar or adjacent roofs, where votaries of the game would congregate and play for drinks.
[Part 9 of the original publication, Fremantle Times, 23 May 1919]
Next door to ‘Doctor’s’ a Mr. Isaac Myers plied his calling as a tailor. This avocation, like shoemaking and many other crafts, was usually a ‘one-man’ business in those days. The remaining space down to Leake-street was occupied by a sailors’ boarding house and some cottage tenements. The corner of Leake-street, on which the Terminus Hotel now stands, was a vegetable garden, and between it and ‘Manning’s Folly’ was the baker’s shop of Mr. T. Davey. The building at the corner of Leake and Short-streets was known as ‘Manning’s Folly’ because of the peculiarities of its architecture and the immense amount of money that had been spent upon its erection and exterior embellishment, its glass facades giving it the appearance of a huge hot- house. It was built by Mr. C. A. Manning, who had been a West Indian merchant, but at the time we speak of it was the residence of Mr. Wallace Bickly, a one-time prominent local merchant and legislator. In the gold boom days the building underwent extensive alterations, and was occupied by Messrs. Tolley and Co., wine and spirit merchants. Its glory has departed, and to-day it is used as a warehouse.
Crossing to the other side of Packenham-street, and following it back to Collie- street, the first house on our right faced the river and was the residence of W. Weckes, printer of the ‘Herald’. Passing over a stretch of ground covered by the ubiquitous castor oil tree, we come to the residence of Mrs. McCann, which stood nearly opposite the present Terminus Hotel. In front was a magnificent fig tree, and in the verandah a talking cockatoo. When the tempting fruit attracted the attention of the passing small boy and impelled him to commit the sin which Eve succumbed to with such disastrous consequences, his depredations would be cut short by the cockatoo’s ejaculating in a voice almost human, ‘Stealing figs. Mrs. McCann!’ This brought the old lady out instanter, and woe to the youthful marauder if she arrived on the scene in time to cut off his retreat.
Between Mrs. McCann’s and High-street there were four houses, occupied respectively by W. Duffield, T. W. Mews, junr., Thomas Farmer, and a family named Burkett. Passing the two High-street corner, which we have previously noted, we come to the livery stables of Mr. A. D. Letch, the site of which is now occupied by one of Church and Co.’s hardware departments. Mr. Letch was a storekeeper, of Perth, and proprietor of the coaches which ran daily between the City and Port, his only competitor in the passenger service being the steamer Lady Stirling, which ran once a day between the two places. The fare was 2s. each way, or 2d. per mile, which may be considered cheap when compared with the tariffs of the present day cabby.
At Cottesloe, where the Albion Hotel now stands, was the Half-Way House, kept by Mr. Thomas Briggs, where thirsty passengers could alight and obtain refreshments.
From Letch’s stables the land was vacant until we arrive opposite Bannister-street. Between these cottages and Col-cottages, built end-ways to the street, and extending half way back to Henry-street. Between these cottages and Collie-street there were no buildings except a little wooden cottage opposite the end of Nairn-street.
Lest our narrative becomes wearisome, we must deal as briefly as possible with the side streets which run parallel with High-street from Packenham to Market-streets.
None of the frontage on the southern side of Nairn-street was built upon, and on the northern side the only buildings were the residence of Captain James Cobb and Moore’s cottages, the latter of which are still standing. Bannister-street had a number of small cottages on each side, the only two-storied buildings being the residence of Mrs. Geo. Dixon and Mr. Geo. Armstrong. The last mentioned house afterwards underwent
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some structural alterations and became the Stanley beer house, which, in more recent times, was entirely rebuilt, and is now the Duke of York Hotel. Mr. Geo. Armstrong belonged to an old Western Australian family, being one of the five sons of Captain Armstrong, a Waterloo veteran, who arrived in the colony by the ship Gilmore, in 1829, whilst his mother was a daughter of Neil Gow, the celebrated Scottish violinist and musical composer. I do not know whether the mantle of the famous musician has fallen upon any of his Australian descendants, but certainly the military instinct which distinguished the Armstrong who fought under Wellington, seems to have been transmitted to succeeding generations, for it is said that the names of no fewer than fifty of the clan are recorded upon various rolls of honour throughout the State. Among its Fremantle representatives in the great war were Lieutenant Herbert Bateman and Corporal William Bateman, and Privates Vernon Bateman and Ken Pearse, of whom the two first named made the supreme sacrifice on the field of honour.
On the north side of Bannister-street a narrow passage between some recently demolished cottages gave access to a yard which was known as Soapsuds Alley, so named because the female denizens of the two-roomed tenements in the courtyard did the laborious work which nowadays is mostly relegated to the Chinaman or performed by mechanical means in a steam laundry. In those pre-union days a labourer’s pay was only 4s. 6d. a day, and even carpenters and other mechanics did not receive more than 6s. per day-and ten hour’ day at that-so that unless the wife supplemented her husband’s meager earnings by taking in the washing of her more opulent neighbours the family cupboard would often be as bare as ‘Old Mother Hubbard’s’ is said to have been on a certain occasion. It is a marvel how the working man of fifty years ago managed to subsist and rear a family on the beggarly pittance he then received, for even after making every allowance for the cheaper rent, meat and firewood, and cutting out the little luxuries which we of to-day look upon as necessaries it must have been a hard struggle to make both ends meet.
In Leake-street the principal building was the old Race Horse Hotel, which stood just opposite where Mannering and Co.’s printery now is. The other buildings consisted of a number of cottages on each side of the street, which were built in the very early days. As time went on these tenements fell into a state of disrepair and consequently attracted only an inferior class of tenant, so that eventually the reputation of the locality stood little higher than that of the Old Establishment Yard, where vice and squalor were rampant. As a matter of fact, it is not so many years since a band of larrikins inhabiting this quarter earned an unenviable notoriety for their misdeeds, and were known far and wide as the ‘Leake-street Push.’ All but one of these old cottages have now disappeared from the landscape and the solitary survivor presents a striking contrast to the big brick building which now overshadows it.
Of the half dozen small cottages which stood in Short-street, not one now remains, whilst the residences of Mr. Joseph Bobin and Mr. James Willis, together with some other cottages which fronted on what is now Phillimore-street, have all crumbled beneath the juggernaut of progress, having been demolished when the Government resumed the land for some purpose which it remains for futurity to disclose.
What used to known as ‘Willis’ Point’ was a triangular shaped promontory whose base extended from near the site of the present Railway Station to spot almost opposite St. John’s Rectory, the land tapering off to a point which reached to within a stone’s throw of the northern shore of the river, thus leaving only a narrow deep-water channel for boats to pass through. In the centre of the promontory was a miniature rush fringed lake, where wild ducks often paid the penalty of their temerity in approaching too close to the haunts of man. That portion of the land which jutted out beyond the limits of the present wharf was dredged away in the process of constructing the river harbour, and the soil was used for reclaiming the shallow bay to the westward of the point, the river beach having been originally some distance south of the present railway enclosure. The contour of this portion of the river as it was known to old residents was consequently quite different to that which meets the eye of the late comer.
And now for a glance at the Market-street of days gone by. Starting from the Railway Station the first house we come to on our right stood about midway between Phillimore-street and Short-street, and was the residence of Mr. William Thomas, who was a brother of Captain John and Joseph Thomas, the latter of whom went down with his vessel when on a voyage from Singapore.
About half way between Short and Leake-streets was the residence of ‘Granny’ Adams, a grand old nurse who was present in a professional capacity when many now grey-headed Fremantle-ites were ushered into this vale of tears. ‘Granny’ was the widow of William Adams who fought and was wounded at Waterloo, and who emigrated to this State in 1830. A popular legend credits Bill Adams with having won the battle of Waterloo, but the modest old soldier himself never claimed to have administered the knock-out blow to the great Napoleon. He merely ‘did his bit’ on that memorable day in June, 1815, in the same way that many of his numerous descendants have done theirs on both sea and land in the great struggle just ended.
On the corner of Leake-street, now covered by the Princess Buildings, were some small cottages, and on the opposite corner was the residence of Mr. E.F. Duffield, whose furniture factory came between it and the retail store and residence of his father, Mr. J. H. Duffield. On the National Hotel corner there was a small shop kept by A. M. Josephson. Crossing High-street we pass M. Higham and Son’s establishment, which we previously noted, and come to some cottages owned by Mr. John Sainsbury, one of which he occupied himself. Mr. Sainsbury was a retired carpenter and builder and was familiarly known as ‘Norval’, because of his partiality for reciting Homer’s poem in which occur the words, ‘My name is Norval; on the Grampian Hills my father feeds his flocks’.
On the other side of Market-street, between its junction with South-terrace and the corner of High-street, was vacant land. On the other corner of High-street was a saddler’s shop, which was afterwards occupied by a dealer of the ‘Johnny-all-sorts’ type named Thomas Walker. This eccentric individual was constantly engaged in litigation, which he would resort to on the slightest provocation. On one occasion the result of a law-suit involved him in heavy loss, and thereafter he displayed over his door a huge signboard on which was painted in large letters: ‘Here lives Thomas Walker who was robbed of his money in the Supreme Court on the _____ day of ____ 187___’. The old fellow turned religious after that, and gave as his reason for doing so that he wanted to get to Heaven which was the only place he knew of where there would be neither lawyers nor Scotch doctor. I never heard what his particular grievance against the latter was.
From the shop just mentioned down to Bay-street the Market-street frontage was destitute of buildings.
[Part 10 of the original publication, Fremantle Times, 30 May 1919]
Retracing our steps to South-terrace, we will follow that thoroughfare from where it begins at Market-street to where it ends at Mandurah-road. On our right the frontage all the way from Market to Norfolk-street comprised Government reserves intersected by Collie and Essex-streets, and enclosed by thick stone walls about seven or eight feet high. It seems a waste of labour to have enclosed them with these massive walls, and one wonders why the prisoners who built them were not more profitably employed. Later on the Government parted with two of these reserves, but retained the third, on which the Technical School buildings now stand.
Between Norfolk and Suffolk-streets there were some small cottages, but the remainder of the frontage down to Howard-street was vacant. Crossing to the other side and returning towards Market-street, the only buildings between Alma-street and the Oval gate were the old Government House and the Pensioners barracks, both of which are still standing.
After ceasing to be used as a vice regal marine residence the old Government House was successively occupied by Dr. Mayhew (Government Medical Officer), Mr. L. W. Clifton (Collector of Customs), and Mr. W. E. Marmion. In the centre of the spacious grounds at the back was another large building which now forms part of the Public Hospital, but was then used as a dept of invalid and convalescent prisoners.
Behind the barracks was the ‘Barracks Green” which is now included in the Oval. This was used as a parade ground for the pensioners and volunteers and it was here that Captain (afterwards Colonel), Finnerty and Sergeant-Major Latimer used to put the young recruits of the volunteer force through their facings often at daylight in the morning and at other times by moonlight. The old Colonel expected them to attain to the same proficiency at the Imperial Army veterans in the barracks, who had been drilling all their lives, and who maneuvered with the precision of clockwork. The enthusiasm of the old-time volunteers may be gauged from the fact that they had to find their own uniforms which, with their accoutrements, they had to keep immaculately clean ; the slightest delinquency in this respect would result in the culprit receiving the stern order on parade to ‘Fall out, you’re dirty!’
The commanding officer in my volunteer days was Captain R.M. Sutherland, the other commissioned officers being Lieutenants G. B. Humble and Michael Samson. Among the non-commissioned officers were some old Crimea and Indian Mutiny campaigners, notably Sergeants Quinn and Lindsay, and Corporal Craig, whose strictures in the matter of discipline and efficiency tended to make the old volunteer force almost the equal of regulars.
On completing twelve years service each volunteer was entitled to the grant of a town allotment of fifty acres of country land, but I believe that a monetary equivalent was afterwards substituted. I myself did not qualify for the bonus, as I discarded the red coat in 1876, when my military ardour had cooled under the influence of another and stronger attraction. Perhaps the red coat itself contributed to this denouement by first attraction.
Between the Barracks and Henderson-street were two cottages occupied by prison officials. On portion of the block now occupied by the Freemasons’ Hotel was the original hotel of that name, which was kept by Mr. James Herbert, senior, and afterwards by his son, the late Mr. James Herbert, who subsequently built and conducted the Federal Hotel in William-street. After retiring from the hotel business Mr. Herbert, senior, owned the schooner Mary Herbert (Captain McKenzie) which traded between Fremantle and Tasmania. She was lost with all on board when on a voyage from Hobart, Mr. Herbert himself being a passenger.
From the Freemasons Hotel to Market-street there were only two cottages, but afterwards a man named Riverton, alias ‘Velvet Ned’, erected a wooden building nearly opposite Collie-street, in which he carried on a grocery business. This man some years before, whilst on ticket-of-leave, found his way to South Australia, where, upon being recognized, he was arrested and repatriated to this State to pay the penalty for his offence. How he got away from Fremantle and landed in Adelaide without being detected was always a mystery, in view of the strict precautious which were taken at both places to prevent convicts from passing from one colony to the other. At that time no male person from Western Australia would be permitted to land in any of the Eastern States unless he could produce a document signed by the Collector of Customs here certifying that ‘he was not and never had been a prisoner of the Crown’. ‘Velvet Ned’ always stoutly averred that he walked overland, but few believed him, as it seemed an impossible feat, although one other convict is said to have accomplished it.
The William-street of fifty years ago could boast but few buildings. The Town Hall was not completed and opened until 1887, and prior to that the recently demolished Oddfellows’ Hall was used for all the purposes which a civic building is usually intended to serve. The Oddfellows were an extremely popular institution in those days, and their annual processions on the 18th of August, followed by a banquet in the evening, was always looked forward to as an event of some importance. At that time amusements were few, and in the long intervals between the visits of professional entertainers some really good amateur dramatic performances used to be given in the old hall.
Among those who were prominent in these laudable efforts to relieve the dull monotony of a community which enjoyed but few relaxations, were Messrs. James Pearce, Barry Wood, B. and S. Solomon, Michael Samson, D. Hancock (grandfather of North Fremantle’s Town Clerk) Mr. and Mrs. Morris, and many others whose names escape my recollection at the moment.
Spelling ‘Bees' with prizes for the winners, were also much in vogue, and amongst those who distinguished themselves in these contests the most consistent prize- winners were Messrs. G. McIntosh, Thomas Haley, and G. F. Payne, whose orthographical achievements few could equal. I myself used to shape tolerably well when my luck was in, and I did not strike an unfamiliar word as I remember doing in one occasion, when a specially valuable prize was being competed for. The word that tripped me was ‘hautboy’ (pronounced ‘ho-boy’ and my protestations that it was a French word were of no avail, for I was confronted with it in an English dictionary and had to suffer the indignity of being told before a large audience to ‘stand down’.
Another form of amusement was the propounding of conundrums on local topics, and supplying the solutions, prizes being given for those which were adjudged the best. I will give two or three as samples of what used to pass for wit and humour amongst us old “Gropers” in the days of our giddy youth:- ‘Why is the new lighthouse like an ancient monarch’s crown?’ Answer: ‘Because it’s the brightest ornament on Arthur’s Head’. ‘Why will Marmion’s new building always be an uncomfortable place to live in?’ Answer: ‘Because there will always be a noise next door’. (The point of this was that a Mr. Annois kept a tobacconist’s shop next door.) ‘Why are Dave Harwood’s whiskers like the houses at Rockingham?’ Answer: ‘Because they are few and far between’. At that time Mr. David Harwood’s hirsute facial adornment was only in an incipient stage of development, and had not been touched by a razor, as shaving was not then the fashion. This conundrum ought certainly to have been disqualified as being too personal, and perhaps the Editor will censor this paragraph for the same reason, but if Mr. Harwood chances to read it I am sure it will only excite the same good-humoured smile that suffused his countenance when the joke was perpetrated upon him before a large gathering in days of yore.
On the corner of William and Henderson-streets still stands, though in a state of senile decay, the commodious premises in which a large general business was carried on by Mr. Edward Newman, under the style of T. and H. Carter and Co., that being the original name of the firm when it was first established in the very early days. One of its founders, a very old gentleman named William Bartram, was associated with Mr. Newman in the business, but took only a passive interest in its affairs, a very sad event having a cast a gloom over his declining years. This was the loss of his wife, who, in coming from England to rejoin her husband, was drowned through the wreck of the ship Eglington on the coast north of Fremantle.
Mr. Newman was a man of brilliant intellect, and he, with Mr. W. D. Moore, was elected as one of Fremantle’s two representatives in the first wholly elective Parliament, which was inaugurated in 1870. He was an extremely able debater and speedily made his mark as a legislator, and but for his untimely death in 1872, which resulted from being thrown from his horse when journeying to Pinjarrah, he would undoubtedly have played a prominent part in the political destinies of both State and Commonwealth. Mr. Newman’s office staff consisted of Mr. B. C. Wood, Mr. Frank Pearse, Mr. Edward Newman, junior, and Mr. Brewster McKenzie. Mr. Phillip Webster was in charge of the drapery branch, whilst the grocery department was under the care of Mr. John Snook, who had as assistants Mr. John Loane and Mr. John Jarvis. All of these, with the exception of Mr. Frank Pearse and Mr. Edward Newman, have crossed the ‘Great Divide’. Mr. Pearse started on his own account at Dongarrah, where he accumulated much wealth, and is now enjoying his well-earned leisure in his stately ‘Hillcrest’ mansion at North Fremantle, in which village he first saw the light. “Ted” Newman chased the elusive dollar, per medium of the pearling industry, subsequently becoming one of the partners in the auctioneering firm of Smith and Newman. Later he engaged in estate agency business, auditing, etc., and many distracted taxpayers are glad to avail themselves of his expert knowledge of those brain-fagging regulations with which officialdom has encumbered the otherwise simple Federal and State Taxation Acts.
On the death of Mr. E. Newman, sen., the business of T. and H. Carter and Co. was carried on for some years by Mr. B. C. Wood (Fremantle’s first Mayor), who eventually wound it up, and in 1888 removed to Perth, where he established himself in business and was elected to represent West Perth in Parliament. He held the seat for a number of years, and was for some time Minister for Railways and Public Works.
[Part 11 of the original publication, Fremantle Times, 13 June 1919]
On the opposite corner of William-street old Tom Press kept his dairy and delivered milk to customers every morning by carrying it in tow pails suspended Chinaman fashion from a yoke over his shoulders. He had as competitors several old pensioners who trudged all the way from North Fremantle carrying their cans full of milk in a similar way, their wives sometimes doing the rounds when the old men had other work to do.
The only other building in William-street was the two-storied house still standing opposite Detmold’s, in which resided Mr.Allpike, who held an important position on the official staff of the prison.
In Henderson-street the links connecting the present with the past are the terraces of two-storied buildings occupying nearly the whole length of the southern side, which were the warders’ quarters, and the old tenements between the Freemasons Hotel and William-street whose exit from the stage is about due.
From Henderson-street an avenue leads up to the prison under the shadow of whose western walls were the residences of some of the higher officials of the institution, including Mr. H. Maxwell Lefroy (Superintendent), Mr. J.G. Broomhall (Clerk of Works), Dr. Attfield (Medical Officer), and Rev. W. Alderson (Chaplain). At that time the prison was capable of accommodating over 1,000 prisoners, and so varied was the work negotiated there that up to 1870 all the Government printing was done there.
Having now traversed the whole of what may be termed the Fremantle proper of half a century ago, we shall take a glance at those portions of it which were then regarded as the outskirts of the town.
Adelaide-terrace, at that time, was but sparsely built upon. Starting from High- street, the land on our right as Queen-street, comprised what was known as King’s Square, in the centre of which stood the old Anglican Church, as previously noted. This square was afterwards bisected by running High-street through it, the church retaining the northern portion on which the new church now stands, and selling the southern portion to the civic authorities, who used part of it as a site for the Town Hall.
Between Queen-street and the Congregational manse were the residences of Mr. D.B. Francisco senr., Comptroller of Stores in the Prison, and Mr. J. H. White, a commissariat official.
The Congregational manse was occupied by the Rev. Joseph Johnston, who held his pastorate for nearly forty years, and so endeared himself to all classes of the community that his name became household word throughout the State, and though dead his memory still lives in the affections of the people. Mr. Johnston’s earlier years were devoted to missionary work in Tahiti, where his son and daughter were born. On returning to England he was selected to minister to the members of his denomination in Fremantle, who, until then, had been without a resident pastor, and he arrived in the Colony by the ship Sabrina, in March, 1853. The old Congregational church, now used as a Sunday School, was then in course of erection, but owing to the exodus of population to Victoria, attracted thither by the gold discoveries, work on it was suspended through lack of funds. Nothing daunted by this depressing state of affairs. Mr. Johnston got to work with characteristic zeal, and with such good effect that soon after his arrival a contract was let to Mr. J. J. Harwood for the completion of the building, and it was finished and opened for service on June 4, 1854.
In 1855-6 the emigration to the Eastern Colonies still continued, but Mr. Johnston laboured on until in 1858 the church was found too small for the numbers attending the services, and the accommodation had to be increased by the erection of a gallery.
The manse, which has since been enlarged, was built in 1862, and the new church (the Johnston Memorial) was erected in 1876, the tragic year in which its pastor lost his only son by the foundering of the ill-fated Gem. Previous to this his only daughter, who now resides at Claremont, had become the wife of Mr. S. F. Moore, then of Dongarra.
Mr. Johnston always took a keen interest in the welfare of the young men of the town, and for their benefit established a Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Society, which had a large membership. A similar society existed in Perth, under the presidency of the Rev. J.W. Mouland (Wesleyan), and debates between selected members of the two bodies were often arranged. Among those of the Perth society who occasionally came to Fremantle to try conclusions with the budding orators of the Port were Mr. (now Sir) Walter James, Mr. (now Dr.) Athelstan Saw, Messrs. Fred and John Glaskin, John Veryard, and others.
It is a reflection upon his fellow ministers of the day that no biographer of such a useful and self-sacrificing life as Mr. Johnston’s has ever been published, although the Revs. E. T. Dunstan and B. C. Matthews promised to undertake its compilation.
After passing the Congregational church there were no other buildings on that side of Adelaide-terrace until one came to what is now the third house from Point-street. This belonged to Captain W. D. Jackson, a bluff old sailor who came to the Colony in the early fifties as master of the barque Nepaulese Ambassador. Deciding to settle in the Colony he accepted the appointment of Port Pilot in succession to Captain Back, which position he held for a lengthy period, and only relinquished when advancing years compelled his retirement.
Next to Captain Jackson’s house were some cottages, built well back from the road. These belonged to Mr. John Gray, who resided in one of them. Mr. Gray was one of the survivors of the gallant ‘Six Hundred’, who made the famous charge at Balaclava, and whom Tennyson has immortalized in his noble poem ‘The Charge of the light Brigade’. Another of this heroic band, who was a familiar figure in Fremantle in the early days, was Mr. Henry Naylor, whose face bore evidence of the deadly conflict, being deeply scarred through wounds inflicted by a Russian saber.
It is our proud boast that the valiant deeds of these heroes of a past generation have more than once been equaled by Australia’s sons on the heights of Gallipoli and on the gory fields of France and Flanders, there by demonstrating that the offshoots of the grand old Anglo-Saxon race have not degenerated under these sunny southern skies.
The convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph, which comes next was built more than fifty years ago, but it has since been considerably enlarged, and another storey added. In those days there were no facilities in Fremantle other than those afforded by this institution, for the higher education of young ladies, and many of the leading Protestant families availed themselves of its advantages. Not a few grandmothers and great- grandmothers of the present day are indebted to the highly cultured sisters for their early training and education, and cherish grateful memories of the self-sacrificing labours of the good Sisters Julia, Lucy, Zoe and Emily of the Order of St. Joseph.
We next come the old Roman Catholic Church, which still stands, but has been superseded by the larger and more ornate edifice which has been erected in recent years. The old Presbytery will be known to all as it has only recently been pulled down, and a fine modern structure erected in its place. At the time I speak of the priest in charge of the parish was the genial, broadminded and scholarly Father John O’Reilly, who afterwards became Roman Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide.
[Part 12, final part of the original publication, Fremantle Times, 20 June 1919]
A portion of the basement of the old Presbytery was used as a boys school, Mr. J. A. Lucas being the headmaster; he was succeeded by Mr. Frank O’ Callaghan, who, in turn, was succeeded by Mr. J. F. Whitely, now Deputy Commissioner of Federal Taxation.
Crossing to the other side of Adelaide-terrace and following it back to High-street, the first habitation we come to was that of ‘Old Elijah’, which stood nearly opposite the Presbytery. It was a mere hut surrounded by a bush fence, but everything about it was kept scrupulously neat and tidy.
Like Bill Adams, ‘Old Elijah’ was a Waterloo veteran, but in his composition there was none of the bonhomie that distinguished most old soldiers. He was dour and taciturn, and the terror of small boys who had a wholesome dread of approaching too close to his domicile lest they should be charged with some imaginary breach of the decalogue and threatened with chastisement. It may have been that the old fellow’s irascibility was due to the idiosyncrasies of old age, a condition which is apt to overtake all of us if we live long enough.
We next come to the old Government School, which now forms the central portion of the present extensive State school buildings. At that time Mr G. B. Humble was the headmaster, and Mr. W. R. P. Smith second master. Both of these gentlemen are still on deck, the former residing in Fremantle and the latter in Busselton. They have both outlived the vast majority of those who were their pupils fifty years ago, and neither of the two hale old octogenarians shows any signs of capitulating to the Grim Reaper for many years to come.
Next to the school was a cottage in which lived an old pensioner named Church and his wife, the like of whose well-kept flower and vegetable garden, over which a tame seagull kept guard, is now rarely seen.
From Point-street down to where the office and residence of the District Registrar now stands there were no buildings. When the foundations for the last named building were being excavated a human skeleton was unearthed, supposed to be that of an aboriginal. This came into the possession of Dr. Barnett, who utilized if for demonstrative purposes when giving lectures on anatomy and kindred subjects to the members of the Young Men’s Society and Literary Institute.
At the extreme rear of the next allotment was a long lean-to building (now in course of demolition) in which resided Mr. Philip Webster. This gentleman was a great lover of flowers, in the cultivation of which he spent all his spare time, with the result that the space between his house and the street presented a panorama of multiflorous loveliness.
Next came the premises of Mr. John Chester, who conducted the business of a carrier and also had interest in the pearling industry. Mr. Chester was one of the members of Fremantle’s first Town Council which was created in 1871, the civic affairs of the town having been previously administered by a Town Trust.
It may interest your readers to know the names of the other councilors. They were: Chairman, W. S. Pearse; Councillors, George Pearse, G. A. Davies, Herbert Dixon, W. Jose, W. Hayes, Lucius A. Manning, W. E. Marmion, and D. B. Francisco; Clerk, Geo. Thompson. All these old civic fathers having faithfully served their day and generation have now gone to their rest.
It was not until 1929 that the town attained to the dignity of a fully-fledged municipality, with a Mayor at its head, Mr. B. C. Wood being the first to don the robes of that office.
Next to Mr. Chester’s was a row of small cottages owned by Mr. Thomas Harwood, then a tinsmith’s and a baker’s shop, occupied respectively by James Povey and Ben Summerfield. Next was the two-storied residence of Mr. D.B. Francisco (nephew of the one of that name previously mentioned), and between that and the corner of High-street was the residence of a Mr. Clark, who was Mr. J. J. Harwood’s foreman of works.
The Cantonment-street of fifty years ago need not detain us long. Entering it from Market-street, and traversing the right hand side, there were two or three old cottages between the corner and what is now the site of the Commercial Travellers’ Club, then came the two-storied house which was the residence of the Lloyd family, and which has recently been pulled down to make way for new buildings.
From thence to Point-street there were only three or four small cottages.
Between Point-street and Edward-street were ‘Fiddler’s Cottages’, which are still standing, a vacant allotment, and the school grounds taking up the rest of the frontage.
On the left hand side of the street, starting from Market-street, the first building was the old Wesley Chapel, which was built on a little knoll, and with the additions since made, is now used as a Sunday School. This church was built as far back as 1840, when the foundation stone was laid by Governor Hutt. At the time we speak of it was not used as a place of worship having been closed upon the departure of the Rev. Simpson, in 1867, and not re-opened until the arrival of the Rev. Vivian Roberts in the early eighties. In the interval it served as a meeting place for the Good Templars and Sons of Temperance. The former was a very strong body in those days the young people of the town being attracted to it by the brightness of its meetings and the opportunities it afforded them of displaying their musical and histrionic talents at the frequent social gatherings which took place under its auspices. There were two lodges in the town, the second one having been established as a protest against the exclusiveness of the first in blackballing the very class whose reformation was supposed to be the ‘raison d’etre’ of its existence.
There were a few houses between the Wesleyan church and Point-street, one of them being the residence of Captain T. E. Shaw who sailed ships out of the port for more than thirty years. He came here as master of the English-owned brig Sea Nymph in 1867, and his vessel becoming a wreck through being driven ashore from Gage Roads during heavy gale, he accepted the command of J. and W. Bateman’s new brig Laughing Wave, which had then just been launched. In this vessel he was engaged in the China trade for many years, afterwards transferring to the barquentine Iris, which was built by Mr. Robert Howson for the same owners. On retiring from the sea he took up the position of marine superintendent for Messrs. Bateman, which he held until failing health necessitated a cessation of his activities.
Captain Shaw was a keen business man whose services were highly valued by his employers, who entrusted him with much business in foreign parts that is usually outside the scope of a shipmaster’s duties. If his love of the sea had not been so strong, he might have become a prominent figure in the commercial world.
In this street also lived the gravedigger, an Italian who went by the name of ‘Johnnie Ga-Ga’. He had also constituted himself caretaker of the cemetery and gathered considerable revenue from his self-appointed office by going round once a month to the relatives of deceased persons and collecting a fee for his alleged services in attending to the graves. On one occasion he invoked the aid of the police under the following circumstances. On the tombstone of an old Scotchman named Abercrombie, still to be seen near the dividing wall between the Protestant and Catholic portions of the old cemetery is a verse, the last two lines of which read:
As I am now, so you will be,
Prepare yourself to follow me.
Under this some sacrilegious wag had painted in bold letters the lines:-
To follow you I’m not content,
I hae me doots which way you went.
‘Johnnie’ wanted the police to find and punish the irreverent wretch who perpetrated this, but I am not aware whether they ever made any serious move in that direction.
Between Point-street and Edward-street the only building on this side of the thoroughfare was the Rectory, which was occupied by the Rev. G.J. Bostock, a most estimable clergyman, who laboured with much acceptance in the Anglican fold. Like the Rev. J. Johnston he conducted a Young Men’s Society, which provided intellectual pabulum of a very high order for the young men of his flock, essays, lectures and debates being the instruments of mental culture most favoured. How is it we hear so little of similar institutions nowadays? Are the parsons too apathetic or are the pleasure-loving propensities of the young men responsible?
And now, having in imagination conducted your readers through the main part of what constituted the Fremantle of half a century ago, and, incidentally, introduced them to many of the old-time residents, I will bring these somewhat rambling memoirs to a close. Failing the appearance of a local chronicler gifted with a more facile pen than mine – such as Perth possesses in the person of my old friend ‘Hugh Kalyptus’ – I have essayed to place on record in a crude way a few incidents of those old times which are now gradually fading from living memory, and if my ruminations have awakened echoes of childhood’s happy days in the breasts of any who have perused them, my time will not have been wasted. Much more could have been written, but no doubt, your readers have by this time had a surfeit of the meanderings of an old-timer through misty vistas of the past.
Those of us who are in the sere and yellow leaf are perhaps too prone to dwell overmuch in the shadows of ‘what has been’, but to those of the younger generation the question of ‘what is to’ is of more vital importance of this juncture, and demands all the thought they can bestow upon the perplexing problems it presents for solution. Nevertheless, a little looking backward will remind them of the difficulties their forebears met and surmounted when blazing the trail and inspire them with courage to face the future with the same resolute spirit as that which animated those who have gone before.
The past fifty years have seen many innovations and kaleidoscopic changes. Prior to that we had in this State no sea-going steamers, no railways, no telegraph, no telephone, no gas or electric light, no trams, no holidays, no old-age pensions, no maternity bonuses, no picture shows, and no free education.
On the other hand we had no adulterated foods, no epidemics, practically no rates and taxes, no ‘red-raggers’, no paid politicians, no strikes, and no unemployed. Also during that period we have seen the coming and going, among other things of the crinoline, the chignon, the Dolly Varden and pork-pie hats, the Grecian bend, the bustle, and tight-lacing, but let no one smile at these little vanities of a bygone era, for they were not one whit less deserving of ridicule than are some of the feminine fads and fashions of the present day.
With all their drawbacks, lack of luxuries, and limited means of enjoyment, the old days, when everybody knew everybody, were not without their charm, and I firmly believe that the little community of fifty years ago was richer than we are to-day in the two essentials which humanity is ever striving for - health and happiness - to neither of which does a plethora of wealth always contribute.
The good old times! the grand old times!
They may be thought too slow,
But give to me the good old days
Of fifty years ago!
That is the conclusion of the the Hitchcock article(s). I don't know where this next paragraph was published.
‘Old Timer’ : I must disagree with Mr. Hitchcock when he says that old ‘Benny’ Sommerfield and his lollie shop was along Adelaide-street, nearly on the site where Mr. F. E. Temple’s auctioneering office is situated. ‘Benny’ Sommerfield’s shop was in William-street where the Federal Hotel now is. Old ‘Benny’ was a particular favourite of all the children, and incidentally a great friend of our family. I am glad Mr. Hitchcock has seen fit to place on record a few remarks of early Fremantle, and he receives the thanks of many old residents for the kindly remembrance of older times.
Part 1: 21 March 1919
Part 2: 4 April 1919
Part 3: 11 April 1919
Part 4: 17 April 1919
Part 5: 25 April 1919
Part 6: 2 May 1919
Part 7: 9 May 1919
Part 8: 16 May 1919
Part 9: 23 May 1919
Part 10: 30 May 1919
Hugh Kalyptus (S.J. Skipper) article about the loss of the Gem: 6 June 1919
Part 11: 13 June 1919
Part 12: 20 June 1919
This was sent to me as a PDF by Maggie Wilson, to whom many thanks.
See also: Reece, Bob 2012, 'Fremantle's first historian: Joseph Keane Hitchcock', Fremantle Studies, 7: 33-50.
J.K. Hitchcock page
Garry Gillard | New: 22 March, 2019 | Now: 23 August, 2020