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On this day …….. 7th of August 1948

Bricks and masonry weighing between three and four tons crashed to the footpath early this morning when lightning struck the gable end of -the two-storey Bunbury Convent School building in, Wellington-street, extremely high winds helping to dislodge the structure. Because of the danger caused by fallen electric wires and poles municipal council employees were called out at 2 a.m. to make temporary repairs. The damage was estimated at about £200.

 

Nurse Alice Mitchell from Western Australia was charged with the unlawfully killing of Ethel Booth in 1907. Mitchell become Perth’s notorious baby-farmer, and possible Australia worst Serial Killer with police believing that she killed 37 babies.

Alice Mitchell, a nurse and midwife, had been registered since 1903 with the Perth Local Board of Health to take charge of infants. Babies were boarded at her premises in Edward Street East Perth while their mothers worked to support themselves and pay for their children’s care. The case came to light after Mitchell was reported by a constable on duty in the neighbourhood when she casually mentioned during a conversation that she had a child lying ill in her house but could not afford a doctor. The police called Dr Davey to attend a 10 month old child who was in “an exceedingly emaciated condition”, and while at the house Dr Davey noticed a baby, Ethel Booth, who was in a similar condition. Both children were taken to Perth Public Hospital but little Ethel was too far gone and died the next day. At Ethel’s inquest her mother Elizabeth testified she gave birth to Ethel at the House of Mercy, a maternity home for unmarried mothers, and stayed to look after her baby for a further two months. Elizabeth then 16 resumed her occupation as a maid, for which she earned 15s a week, and relinquished her child into Mitchell’s care after agreeing to pay 10s. per week as well as any doctor’s fees. Elizabeth loved her daughter and had become increasingly concerned when Mitchell, with various excuses, had repeatedly prevented Elizabeth from visiting her baby.
As part of her conditions of registration Alice Mitchell was required to keep a register of infants placed in her care but there were no entries after 16 December 1904. Evidence given at the inquest revealed that the female Inspector for the Perth Road Board was apparently friendly with Mrs. Mitchell, and would chat at the door, but never went inside to visit the children or inspect the register. Dr Officer visited regularly, charging five shillings for each child seen, and had examined baby Ethel three days after her arrival, declaring she was in a very healthy condition. At the murder trial Edward Officer, while admitting he had signed 22 death certificates of babies dying at Alice Mitchell’s house, denied “that death was in any way assisted or was due to other than natural causes”. In further evidence the local Anglican priest, the Reverend Robert John Craig, testified going to Mitchell’s house to baptise a dying nine month old child, Harry Turvey. Craig noted that the baby was very thin and had an offensive smell. Just over a week after little Harry’s death, Craig was sent for again and complained that the children he saw were very smelly and criticised Mitchell’s ability to keep the children clean. Nevertheless he clearly did not feel the need to report the matter. Seemingly, no one in authority picked up on Mitchell’s treatment of the infants she had been paid to look after, and as the trial progressed, revelations emerged that over the six years she had been fostering babies, at least 35 had died in suspicious circumstances. As well as ‘baby-farming’ Alice Mitchell also ran a boarding house and another witness, Carl Roux, testified that he stayed there for a month late in 1906 and that Mitchell always had several fostered infants who apparently all slept in the same room as she. Roux said that he had overheard Mitchell’s adult daughter complain to her mother of the dirty state in which the house and the children were kept adding, ‘’Those people in the front room [Roux and his wife], know just as well as I do that you kill the babies.” Despite this, Roux did not feel obliged to alert anyone else. He also told the court that before the trial Mitchell told him that that if she fell, Dr Officer would have to fall too. The trial concluded on 13 April 1907 and the jury, after less than an hour, found Mitchell only guilty of manslaughter. The Judge in passing sentence of five years hard labour remarked that the jury concluded that Mitchell had no intention of killing baby Booth, but that her death was caused by criminal negligence. He told Mitchell; “… you have been, like many other women who carry on the same business, perfectly callous to the sufferings of these children who were entrusted to your care. All that can be said in your favour is that you are a woman getting on in life, and, therefore, whatever term of imprisonment I may pass upon you will affect you much more severely than it would a younger woman”. Alice Mitchell was lucky, for in a similar case in Victoria where a woman was convicted of the deaths of infants in her care, she was executed. No blame was attached to Dr Officer and no others were charged with neglect of their official responsibilities. The two inspectors were the only ones to suffer any sort of fallout from the case when the Perth Road Board decided to dispense with their services. It was difficult for people to accept that such cruelty could occur unnoticed in their small Perth community. Public outcry over the Mitchell case brought into focus the need not only to protect vulnerable children, but to ensure that all mothers and their infants were healthy and had access. to good medical, midwifery and obstetric care. Some very influential women took up the cause and the formation in 1909 of the Women’s Service Guild, led by women who had been active in other women’s organisations, crystallised the momentum for the establishment of what was to become the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women.

 

Saint Nicholas Church original site was approximately 2km north of Henton Cottage on Old Coast Road.
An interesting reminder of the early days is the historic Church of Saint Nicholas.

Built by James Narroway in 1840’s circa as a small workman’s hut where he lived with his wife Sarah. Later in 1848, it was used for a church and on the festival of Saint Nicholas in 1993, the church became a parish in it’s own right then converted to a Congressional Chapel by John Allnutt (whose home can be seen nearby) prior to 1860’s and dedicated to the Church of England in 1915. Made of Jarrah and measuring only 3.8 × 6.7m, it claims the distinction of being the smallest church in Western Australia. It was the only building then available for settlers to use as a place of worship.

On this day …….. 11th of July 1979

After the Skylab space station accidentally crashed into Western Australia during re-entry on this date in 1979, the Shire of Esperance fined NASA $400 for littering. The fine was finally paid in April 2009, when Californian radio host Scott Barley raised the funds from his Highway Radio listeners.

 

On this day …….. 1st of July 1978

The Northern Territory is a federal territory of Australia, bordered by the states of Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia. From 1825 to 1863, the Northern Territory was part of New South Wales. In 1863, as a result of the successful 1862 expedition of John McDouall Stuart to find an overland route through the desert from Adelaide to the north, control of the Northern Territory was handed to South Australia. On the 1st of January 1911, the Northern Territory was separated from South Australia and transferred to Commonwealth control. This meant that the laws governing people of the Northern Territory were dictated by the authorities in Canberra, in a society vastly different from their own. Over the ensuing decades, the Northern Territory took small steps towards attaining self-government. The Territory was allowed to make its own legislature in 1947. In 1974, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam announced that self-government would soon be granted, and a Legislative Assembly made up of 19 members was formed. However, a major catalyst to the granting of self-governance was the tragedy of Cyclone Tracy, which devastated most of the city of Darwin at Christmas in 1974. The cyclone and subsequent response highlighted problems with the arrangement of having a federal minister responsible for the Territory from Canberra, thousands of kilometres away. The Northern Territory was granted self-government on the 1st of July 1978. Around 6000 people gathered at the Cenotaph in Darwin. The inaugural ministry was sworn in, followed by a guard of honour and the first official raising of the new Territorian flag by Flight Sergeant Gordon Mcloughlin. The Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser, stated, “Today’s historic occasion symbolises the strength and the spirit of men and women of the Territory, a spirit that has endured suffering, withstood hardships and overcome many times of adversity.” Most state responsibilities came under the purview of the Northern Territory government. Exceptions included matters relating to Aboriginal land, uranium mining, national parks and some industrial relations. Of major significance was the fact that citizens were now permitted to own freehold land. This was a tremendous boost to the economy, as it allowed for major construction works of new tourism and entertainment facilities such as accommodation and casinos, and educational institutions such as universities, to go ahead without waiting for approval from Canberra bureaucrats. Territory Day continues to be celebrated on the 1st of July every year. It is the only day when fireworks are permitted to be lit by the public.

On this day …….. 1st of June 1850

The Swan River colony, established on Australia’s western coast in 1829, was begun as a free settlement. Captain Charles Fremantle declared the Swan River Colony for Britain on 2 May 1829. The first ships with free settlers to arrive were the Parmelia on June 1 and HMS Sulphur on June 8. Three merchant ships arrived 4-6 weeks later: the Calista on August 5, the St Leonard on August 6 and the Marquis of Anglesey on August 23. Although the population spread out in search of good land, mainly settling around the southwestern coastline at Bunbury, Augusta and Albany, the two original separate townsites of the colony developed slowly into the port city of Fremantle and the Western Australian capital city of Perth. For the first fifteen years, the people of the colony were generally opposed to accepting convicts, although the idea was occasionally debated, especially by those who sought to employ convict labour for building projects. Serious lobbying for Western Australia to become a penal colony began in 1845 when the York Agricultural Society petitioned the Legislative Council to bring convicts out from England on the grounds that the colony’s economy was on the brink of collapse due to an extreme shortage of labour. Whilst later examination of the circumstances proves that there was no such shortage of labour in the colony, the petition found its way to the British Colonial Office, which in turn agreed to send out a small number of convicts to Swan River. The first group of convicts to populate Fremantle arrived on 1 June 1850. Between 1850 and 1868, ultimately 9721 convicts were transported to Western Australia. The last convict ship to Western Australia, the Hougoumont, left Britain in 1867 and arrived in Western Australia on 10 January 1868.

On This Day ……. 31st May 1943

Station 6ML, which was the first commercial station established in ‘Western Australia, went off the air on the completion of its programme on this night in 1943. The suspension has been caused by war difficulties.

On this day …….. 21st of April 1970

The Hutt River Province Principality is a large farming property about 595 km north of Perth, Western Australia, and is about 75 square km in size. It was founded on 21 April 1970 by farmer Leonard George Casley when he and his family and associates proclaimed their secession from Western Australia. The year 1969 saw the climax of a long-running dispute between Casley and the Western Australian government over what Casley believed to be unreasonable wheat quotas which would spell ruin for his farm, family and business. Casley resorted to an apparent provision in British common law which he felt allowed him to secede and declare independence from the Commonwealth of Australia. Casley was elected administrator of the new “sovereign state” by his family and later became the self-styled His Royal Highness Prince Leonard of Hutt. Exports of the principality include wildflowers, agricultural produce, stamps and coins, while tourism is also important to its economy. Although actual residents are very few, it claims to have a world-wide citizenship of 13,000. Neither Australia nor any other nation has acknowledged recognition of the Province publicly.

 

On This Day……… 9th April 1950

Smoke rising from a smouldering doily in a Kalgoorlie Hotel, Western Australia, on the 9th April 1950 solved a month long mystery. Doilies were being continually replaced in one room because of burn marks, and the rooms long term occupant, a male non smoker, was nevertheless admonished for carelessly leaving lit cigarettes on the table top, causing damage. He protested his innocence and blamed the hotel staff for being careless with cigarettes while making the bed. They too protested their innocence. The mystery however was solved when the boarder happened to look up from his news paper and saw the doily smoking. He was able to prove that the scorch marks were caused by sun’s rays been magnified though a water carafe.

 

 

ON THIS DAY…… 12th November 2012

It’s a holy war!

An 80-year-old Catholic priest bit off another priest’s ear and socked him in the face over a parking spot in Perth Australia. Father Thomas Henry Byrne appeared in court on this day in 2012, after he allegedly started the violent brawl when 81-year-old Father Thomas Joseph Cameron Smith wouldn’t give up his parking space. After a brief scuffle, Byrne reportedly told Smith to pick up an item on the ground. The item was Smith’s ear, though it took him a while to figure out what it was. Smith wrapped the flesh in a tea towel and drove to a local hospital, where staffed phoned him an ambulance. He was taken to surgery, while cops went to arrest Byrne on a charge of grievous bodily harm. Byrne had a black eye when he showed up in court, according to the Independent. An East Perth magistrate ordered that Byrne not go within 30 feet of Smith, who lives in the same apartment complex.

On this day …….. 31st of October 1914

A total of 21 men were taken ashore on this day in 1914, for refusing to be vaccinated on board the liner, Orvieto for Pox. Another 35 sick men, aboard were suffering from syphilis reported War correspondent Charles Bean’s when arriving in Albany Western Australia on this day in October 1914.

 

On this day …….. 31st of October 1923

Marble Bar is a tiny town in the Pilbara region of north-western Western Australia. The discovery of gold in 1890 by Francis Jenkins led to the establishment of a town, which was officially gazetted in 1893. The town derives its name from a nearby jasper formation which was mistaken by early settlers for a bar of marble. This rock formation is also known as the Marble Bar, and the nearby Marble Bar Pool is a popular picnic and swimming area for both tourists and the people of the township. During the goldrushes, Marble Bar had over 5000 residents, but its population now is closer to 400. It is still a productive area, being mined for gold, tin, silver, lead, zinc, copper and jade deposits. Known for its excessive temperatures, Marble Bar achieved a new heat record in 1923-24. Beginning on 31 October 1923, the town experienced a heatwave which continued for 160 consecutive days, where the maximum temperature was 37.8 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher. The last day of the heatwave was 7 April 1924.