Drunk in the spirit

CockmanWe’ve all been there. Had a few too many at the Sunday Session and then barged into a church and made a complete tit of ourselves in front of the whole congregation.

You haven’t? Just me and James Cockman then.

Above is Cockman House in Wanneroo. You don’t really need a reason to visit, but I’ll give you one anyway: to pay homage to the drunk colossus who maddened Perth Chapel.

James was born in London in 1809, and arrived in Perth just a few months after the start of the Colony.

A giant who weighed 140kg, he was renowned for his enormous strength. He worked as a labourer on some of the grandest buildings in Perth, including St George’s Cathedral, Government House and the Barracks.

James found himself in trouble with Perth’s governing classes when he was a little worse for wear and staggered into Perth Chapel one Sunday evening in April 1838. I like to imagine him singing loudly as he tripped down the aisle before abusing the preacher.

In any case, his raucous behaviour didn’t go down well, and he was forced to issue an abject apology:

I, the Undersigned, having on Sunday evening last entered the Perth Chapel in a state of intoxication and interrupted the Service, and thereby made myself liable to a very heavy penalty, hereby offer this public apology for my conduct, and likewise pledge myself never again to cause any interruption or disturbance, the Proprietors of the said Chapel having kindly consented to withdraw the proceedings they had entered into against me.

It seems unlikely that this was written by James himself since this public confession was signed with a simple ‘X’, showing he was completely illiterate. More probable is that it was written by a worshiper and James was forced to make his mark at the bottom to escape prosecution.

Although James was not the only person who had upset the congregation recently, the leading members of the colony declared he would be the very last to escape trial.

In the 1850s, he took his wife and seven children up to Lake Joondalup where he built Cockman House. When you visit, remember to have a drink at The Wanneroo Tavern in his memory.