On this day …….. 31st of July 1900

Australia was under British rule from the time the First Fleet landed, in 1788, until 1901. Numerous politicians and influential Australians through the years had pushed for federation of the colonies, and self-government. After not being accepted by the states the first time, the amended Commonwealth Constitution was given Royal Assent on 9 July 1900. Western Australia held back from agreeing to join the federation, as Premier and former explorer John Forrest wanted to ensure the economic security of the state, given its distance from the more highly populated eastern states. Western Australia itself was divided over the decision to join, as the people of Albany pushed to be included as part of South Australia, rather than aligning themselves with Perth and Fremantle. Despite this, Forrest’s 31 July 1900 referendum on whether the Western Australians wished to join the rest of the commonwealth was resoundly accepted throughout the state. Even in Albany, 914 voted “yes” and 67 voted “no”.


Another Irish convict-turned-bushranger was ‘Bold Jack’ John Donohoe. He arrived in Sydney from Dublin as an 18-year-old in January 1825 to serve a life sentence on a settler’s farm in Parramatta. Donohoe escaped with two other convicts and together they formed a gang known as ‘The Strippers’ – named after their technique for taking everything from wealthy settlers. All three were eventually captured and sentenced to death. Donohoe escaped while being transported to the jailhouse. Eventually, he formed another gang of brazen bushrangers known as ‘The Wild Colonial Boys’. His bushranging days came to an end in a showdown with a contingent of soldiers and police on 1 September 1830. It was said that he shouted “come on” to the officers before dying from a shot fired by Trooper Michael Muggleston. “Bushranging was very common in the convict era,” says historian Hamish Maxwell-Stewart. “Australia was a prison without walls.”


On this day …….. 25th of July 1851

From the mid 1800s, writings about strange ape-like creatures in Australia abounded. One of these was a diary entry from the Connondale region of southeast Queendland, written on the 25th of July 1851, which stated:
“They are short, stout and of very muscular appearance. They are covered in thick black hair…Their hair and beards are long…They are completely naked…the stench of their body is unbearable…great hunters of the forests and jungles…They come and go without being seen. They can hide in the undergrowth in such a manner that one can be touched or struck without their person being visible. I am to wonder if these are the same people…who take people away when they dare enter the forests and jungles…the women made grunt-like expression during contact…the child hung to its mother on the breast in the manner of an ape. These were the Woningityan/Won-ingee-tyan – the shadow men creatures of the jungles and forests…”


On this day …….. 24th of July 1936

The world’s first ever “talking clock”, whereby people could ring a telephone number to find out what the time was, commenced operations in Paris in 1933. Australia received its first talking clock on the 24th of July 1936 in Sydney, serviced from the General Post Office. Previously, people wishing to know the time had to connect their call through to a young woman employed specifically for the purpose of announcing the time to callers. Coincidentally, in England, the talking clock started at Holborn Telephone Exchange also on the 24th of July 1936.


A man named Sydney Darnley of Sydney, Australia, built a scale model of the Sydney Town Hall using 74,000 seashells.


On this day …….. 19th of July 1911

Sir George Reid, High Commissioner for, Australia, (4th Prime Minister of Australia) and members of his family, had a sensational experience this afternoon. As a result of a motor car collision Sir George sustained painful injuries, and his son aid daughter are suffering from shock. Sir George Reid and his family wire spending the week-end at the Grenville Hotel, at Ranisgate, in Kent, and some of the party went out this afternoon for a motor ride. When at the intersection of Gladstone and Ramsgate roads, Broad stairs, about two miles from Rams gate, their car was struck broadside on by another car. Sir George Reid’s car was dashed against a tram standard. The impact was so violent that the High Commissioner’s car was smashed to pieces, and the tramway post, which carried the electric wires, was cracked in two places. Fortunately the post did not fall. Sir George Reid and his son and daughter were picked np in a ‘dazed condition. Miss Reid appeared to be seriously injured, and was taken to a nursing home. It was there found that she was suffering very severely from shock. She is now progressing as well as can be expected. It was at first thought that Sir George Reid and his son were merely suffering from shock, and they returned to their hotel. It was then found that one of the High Commissioner’s arms was broken in two places. A report received late to-night stated that Sir George Reid was progressing favourably.


On This Day ….. 14th July 1967

In the early years of settlement in Australia, there was no official postal service. Early letters and packages were carried out by boat along the Parramatta River, and sending letters was a luxury largely restricted to officers and their families. After the arrival of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, Australia’s first postmaster was appointed, and the first official post office was opened. Over the next ninety years, each of the colonies of Australia instituted its own postal service. After Federation, Australia’s various post and communication services were all centralised under the name of the Postmaster-General’s Department (PMG) which became effective in March 1901. The PMG controlled all postal services in Australia, and later also controlled the telecommunications services. Postal services in Australia underwent a range of improvements as new technology was introduced. In 1930, in a world-first innovation, mechanical mail handling was introduced at the Sydney Mail Exchange. By 1962, the first automatic postal station had been installed in Melbourne. A system needed to be implemented that would assist with the introduction of machines for sorting letters. On 14 July 1967, 4 digit numeric postcodes were introduced for every suburb and mail delivery area in Australia. At the same time, an extensive $6 million mail exchange opened in Sydney, with the new electronic equipment attracting interest from around the world. By the following year, postcodes were being used on 75% of mail in Australia.

ON THIS DAY – July 13, 1956

Both the Crown Prosecutor and the defence council challenged statements by a Crown witness yesterday at the murder trial of John Alfred Somerville in the Criminal Court. He was charged following the death of an Englishman, George Neville Eastham, 27 at Crimea Street, St Kilda, on July 13 last year. Because Eastham’s death resulted from an alleged stabbing following an argument over the prospects of the Australian and English sides in the Test matches, the fatality was dubbed the “Test match murder”. Somerville, a clerk, also of Crimea Street, St Kilda, pleaded not guilty. He is being defended by Mr F. Galbally.


A Crown witness, William Frank Paull, 30, a clerk, who at the time lived at the same address, yesterday refused to answer certain questions and also denied statements allegedly made by him to the police. In the absence of the jury, the Crown Prosecutor (Mr. W. Irvine) made an application to have Paull treated as a hostile witness but Mr Justice Barry declined to grant the application. When the jury was returned and Paull was further examined by Mr. Irvine regarding certain statements. Mr. Justice Barry told the witness that if he felt he might incriminate himself by answering he should remain silent. During cross-examination by Mr. Galbally, Paull admitted he had been in custody at Pentridge because police thought he might abscond. He also admitted he had recently sold his car and changed his name and address. In Custody He was brought into court from custody and returned into custody at the conclusion of the hearing yesterday. During cross-examination Mr. Galbally said: “I put it to you that you stabbed Eastham yourself”. Judge Barry: You need not answer that question Mr Galbally (to Paull): Do you prefer not to answer or will you say : “Yes it’s the truth?” Witness remained silent. The Crown alleged that on the night of July 13, last year, Somerville and Paull were in a room they shared in the boarding house in Crimea Street, St. Kilda. Eastham had entered the room and he and Somerville began to argue about the Test match prospects. According to the Crown, Somerville said to Eastham: “You are like the rest of the Pommies and I haven’t any time for you” Eastham then struck Somerville on the nose, knocking him down. He then left and went to his own room. The prosecution alleges that while Paull was away getting some water, Somerville armed himself with a small vegetable knife and went to Eastham’s room. Later Paull allegedly saw the two men struggling on a bed in Eastham’s room. He went in and pulled Eastham off the bed and took Somerville back to their room. Collapsed Paull had told the police that he saw Eastham crawl out of his room and collapse. He went to him and saw that he was bleeding from the chest. He then called a doctor. In a statement, the Crown alleged, Somerville said that after he had been punched in the nose: “I went wild, went to the kitchen and got a small knife. I then went to Neville’s room to have it out with him. I had the knife and there was a struggle. After that I don’t know what happened.” The trial will continue this morning.


On this day …….. 10th of July 1852

The city of Sydney is Australia’s largest city, though it is not the country’s Capital city. Originally known as Sydney Town, it was established in 1788 at Sydney Cove by Captain Arthur Phillip, who led the First Fleet from Britain. He named it after the British Home Secretary, Thomas Townshend, Lord Sydney, in recognition of Sydney’s role in issuing the charter authorising Phillip to establish a colony. The state capital of New South Wales, Sydney boasts a current population of around 4.3 million. It is built along the shores of Port Jackson, one of the world’s most spectacular natural harbours. Sydney began to develop a sense of order and prominence under Major-General Lachlan Macquarie, who served as Governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821. Macquarie was instrumental in the social, economic and architectural development of the colony, commissioning the construction of roads, bridges, wharves, churches and public buildings. He founded new towns such as Richmond, Windsor, Pitt Town, Castlereagh and Wilberforce (known as the “Macquarie Towns”), as well as Liverpool. He was also the greatest sponsor of exploration the colony had yet seen. Following Macquarie’s tenure, Sydney continued to grow and prosper. It was first incorporated as a city on the 10th of July 1852, earning it the title of Australia’s “first city”.


On this day …….. 10th of July 1936

The Thylacine was a dasyurid, or carnivorous marsupial, living in Australia up until the twentieth century. It is believed that the Thylacine existed on the Australian mainland until the introduction of the dingo thousands of years ago. Although the Thylacine was often called the Tasmanian Tiger or Tasmanian Wolf, it was neither of these. Its body was similar in shape to that of the placental wolf, but it was a marsupial, putting it in an entirely different class. It stood 58-60cm tall, with a body and tail length of up to 180cm. When Europeans settled in Tasmania, the Thylacine’s fate was sealed. Farmers shot the creatures, fearing them as a threat to livestock, while hunters prized them as trophies; these acts were supported by the government of the time which offered a bounty of one pound for every dead adult Thylacine and ten shillings for each dead Thylacine joey. This bounty system, introduced in 1830, was not terminated until 1909. By this time, the Thylacine was very rare, and being sought for zoos worldwide. Australian authorities were slow to protect native wildlife, with the result that many species became extinct or on the verge of extinction. In a last attempt to protect the remaining specimens, Tasmania named the Thylacine a protected animal. On the 10th of July 1936, the governor of Tasmania, Sir Ernest Clark, announced that “… in exercise of the powers and authority conferred upon me by the Animals and Birds’ Protection Act, 1928, do, by this proclamation, transfer Native Tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) from Schedule 3, Part 1, to Schedule 2, Part 1, of that Act …”. The last known specimen of the Thylacine died in the Hobart Zoo in September that same year. The last captive animals were exhibited in zoos, where their needs were not understood, and the Thylacines in Hobart died from exposure. Despite numerous apparent “sightings” over the years, not one of these has ever been confirmed, and in 1986, the Thylacine was officially classified as Extinct.


On this day …….. 7th of July 1835

William Buckley was born in Marton, Cheshire, England in 1780. He arrived in Australia as a convict, and was a member of the first party of Europeans to attempt the first settlement at Sorrento, on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. On 27 December 1803, soon after his arrival, he escaped from custody. Despite the friendliness of the local indigenous Wathaurong people, Buckley was concerned they might turn hostile, and initially chose to try to survive on his own. However, he soon realised his inability to fend for himself in the harsh bushland, and he sought out the Wathaurong again. On his way, he happened upon a spear stuck in the grave of a recently deceased member of the tribe; the Aborigines, finding him with the spear, believed he was their tribal member returned from the dead, and greeted his appearance with feasting and a corroboree. Buckley spent the next 32 years living among the indigenous Wathaurong people. Bridging the cultural gap between Europeans and Aborigines, he gained many valuable bush skills and was a crucial factor in reconciliation in those early days. To keep the peace between the two races, Buckley gave himself up to free settler John Batman’s landing party on 7 July 1835. Ultimately, Buckley was pardoned and became a respected civil servant. The Australian saying “Buckley’s chance” means to have a very slim chance, and was spawned by his amazing story of survival in the bush.


On This Day…… 4th July 1857

The Buckland riot was an anti-Chinese race riot that occurred on 4 July 1857, in the goldfields of the Buckland Valley, North East Victoria, Australia, near present-day Porepunkah. At the time approximately 2000 Chinese and 700 European migrants were living in the Buckland area. Anti-Chinese sentiment was widespread during the Victorian gold rush. This resentment manifested on the 4th July 1857 when around 100 European rioters attacked Chinese settlements. The rioters had just left a public meeting at the Buckland Hotel where the riot ringleaders decided they would attempt to expel all the Chinese in the Buckland Valley. Contemporaneous newspaper reports claim that the riot was “led by Americans ‘inflamed by liquor'”. During the riot Chinese miners were beaten and robbed then driven across the Buckland River. At least three Chinese miners died reportedly of ill-health and entire encampments and a recently constructed Joss house were destroyed. Police arrested thirteen European accused rioters, however the empaneled juries acquitted all of major offences “amid the cheers of bystanders”. The verdicts of the juries were later criticized in the press. One of the police involved in the arrests was Robert O’Hara Burke, later of the infamous Burke and Wills expedition.

Aftermath – The Chinese miners were invited to return to the Buckland Valley, however only fifty did so. The Buckland Riot has been compared to the Eureka Stockade uprising in size and intensity, but is not remembered such. A commemorative monument was unveiled in July 2007 to mark the 150th anniversary of the riot.