Subiaco’s tuba war


Q: What is the range of a tuba? A: Twenty metres if you’ve got a good arm.

Ever had a neighbour play loud music? That one song they currently adore, over and over again. Then you will sympathise with William Cooke, a Subi resident in 1902.

His neighbour was Edward Jewell, house painter and enthusiastic musician. Unfortunately, every time Edward came back from band practice, he would pass William’s house playing his instrument. And what an instrument. A ‘Monster Double B Flat’ tuba, the largest and loudest member of the brass family.

Hearing the same song each evening, ‘Johnny, Get Your Hair Cut’, drove William insane.

After a number of heated arguments, William wrote to the army for help. Although military assistance was not forthcoming, this didn’t stop him painting on the side of his house, in letters large enough to be seen 100 metres away:

Loony Jewell is going to lose his trumpet. Major Campbell is going to take it from him.

This did not calm matters in Subiaco. Edward retaliated by putting up an enormous wooden hand with a finger pointing straight at his neighbour’s property with the words ‘Lunatic at large’ on it.

Surprisingly, things settled down for a while until Edward spent one summer’s evening in his backyard practising the recent No. 1 hit, ‘Goodbye Dolly Gray’ (Collingwood fans may recognise this ditty):

William suddenly appeared, brandishing a large and heavy axe, shouting, “Where is that bastard Jewell? I’ll kill him!” He swung blow after blow at Edward’s head, forcing the terrified musician to use his instrument as a shield.

“You bastard! I’m going to murder you!” shouted William as he pursued Edward across the garden.

The victim scrambled through the fence and fled to the police station. William turned to the astonished Charlotte Jewell and said: “If I catch your ––––– ––––– of a husband, I will murder him.” The police intervened long before this threat was carried out.

The jury, sympathetic to someone with a noisy neighbour, found William guilty only of assault, dismissing a charge of attempted murder. The judge was also compassionate, refusing to jail the axe-wielder.

So, next time you hear Taylor Swift coming through your walls at one in the morning, you know what to do.