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Cover of David Hough's book, photo courtesy of Bill Campbell, who has a copy for sale in his shop in High Street.
Austen: A quarter past one on a wintry Saturday afternoon in Edwardian times. The rain has lifted and shoppers scurry from Wellington Street into the Perth railway station. Office workers too are homeward bound, happy for the half day off.
The man in the dark suit and bowler, with rolled brolly and folded newspaper, could be in any of a hundred cities in the Empire. A dozen or more cabs await custom, some of the horses munching in their bags. A solitary motor car leaves the eastern end of the station forecourt.
As horse-drawn drays trundle along the street, the pavement under the verandah of Boan Brothers’ emporium is chock-a-block with people. The large balconied building next door holds a range of businesses, from a tailor’s shop to a coffee palace.
Harry and Ernest Boan came from Melbourne, arriving in Perth in 1895 by way of Broken Hill and the Kalgoorlie goldfields. Harry purchased some marshy but moderately priced land opposite the station, which the railways developed slowly between 1881 and 1898. Here Boans’ general store has prospered — Harry runs it while his brother manages a business back in Victoria. Boans’ new building with its long, stylish facade was erected in 1905.
The names Wellington Street and Waterloo Street (at an angle off the east end of Wellington) were deemed appropriate because the Duke of Wellington, a victor at the battle of Waterloo, was the British Prime Minister when the Swan River was colonised.
Horseshoe Bridge, which carries William Street from Wellington Street and over the railway, links the different worlds on either side of the tracks. The bridge’s swerving roadway, its stucco and brick classicism, and not least the cast-iron swans, lend appeal.
My father at the head of the now motorised taxi rank at Perth Railway Station in the 1930s. Bairds is visible. Boans is not, but would be directly behind Dad's car. Click/tap for larger size.
Austen Tom 1988, The Streets of Old Perth, St George's Books, Bell Publishing Group, Perth.
Garry Gillard | New: 12 January, 2021 | Now: 9 May, 2022