An unreliable history of Perth


Commemorating the centenary of the founding of Perth, you might imagine people were serious in 1929. You would be wrong:

Forsooth on the 12th day of August in the year of grace one thousand eight hundred and one less than thirty, many good citizens gathered together unto themselves and said, “We must have a city.”

Forthwith they repaired to Governor Stirling, whom they found on his back on the floor of his coach-house endeavouring to repair the differential of his coach and pair.

“We good citizens and true wish to have a city,” they told him.

“The devil you do,” spluttered Stirling as he rose to his feet and adjusted his knee breeches. “Then a city you shall have.”

For the next few days there was great to-do in the new colony. Several good ladies immediately commenced making clothes for the natives in case they desired to attend and drink the King’s health and beer.

At last the great day dawned. The settlers cleaned up their huts and photographers adjusted their easels and paint pots. They came from far and near and further than that and flags flapped and skirts trailed in the dust as the colonists assembled round the Union Jack.

There was a rousing cheer for Governor Stirling as he began to speak: “This city we are founding today,” he said, “is destined to be the capital of a State of great potentialities and possibilities.” (Cheers from the bystanders and groans of “We’ve heard that one before” in the language of the blacks). “Here we will build a city that will one day be great. Along the track where Mrs Jones’ goat goes to call for the paper every morning we will make a street and call it Hay Street.

“Down here we will make Murray Street. From here Harry Boan will sell his third floor specials. Down further we will have Wellington Street, called after the Great Duke. The railway will be right next door. An ideal site this, ladies and gentlemen, for an advertising sign or a fruit barrow, think you not? And let’s have a market here! And a hotel or two.

“Come with me in imagination up this hill to the West. One day people will be able to travel there in trams or Government cars where we now ride in imagination. Here I beg you to tread quietly lest you waken those who will one day sleep there. Here will ambition be born and die, characters be made and lost; this will be Parliament—not the cemetery.

“Out yonder far beyond Harry Boan’s duckpond and Perry’s lane and Ginger’s hansom cab stand we will have a place for the dead. And on festival days and sundry Saturday afternoons the crowds will foregather. And behold their lamentations will be loud and their tears many when they see the dead. This my friends our children and grandchildren will call Ascot.

And forthwith the guests had afternoon tea while the settlers who had not been invited sat on one side and snarled and the natives threw boomerangs at the big sign that had just been erected on the site of the new city: “Eat Bullpup’s biscuits to prevent ingrowing toenails.”

Two men who were unemployed attempted to secure afternoon tea but the police—both of them—turned them away.