Fowl play

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Chickens in this story may be more alive than the ones pictured above

A little-known fact about the Dodgy Perth team is that we spend our days talking to town planners. Those who have dealt with this subspecies before will know they spend their office hours measuring your plans with a ruler and sadly shaking their heads when your setback from the side boundary is not in compliance with the R-Codes. (Look at us, using all the technical planning language.)

Yet it turns out there is a good reason for these rules, as we will demonstrate with a bizarre court case from April 1838, long before there were any planning regulations in Perth.

Frederick Turner and Charles Farmer were neighbours on St George’s Terrace. Turner had built his house right on the boundary, with his bedroom window overlooking Farmer’s land and residence. This evidently annoyed the latter, who happened to keep poultry in his backyard to feed his family, and probably make a little extra cash on the side.

These birds had a habit of wandering into Turner’s garden and pecking at his hay, messing it all up, so (at least according to Turner) his pony wouldn’t eat it. Now we are no experts on either ponies or chickens, but the allegation the fowl had destroyed eight tons of hay, none of which was then suitable for a pony, seems a little exaggerated. But, like we say, this office has no proficiency in creatures either two or four legged.

Rather than try to resolve the issue like good neighbours, Turner responded by employing George Embleton to put up a six-foot fence between the properties. The same George Embleton after whom the suburb is named, at least according to Landgate. Who have no reason to lie to us. Do they?

Farmer responded that if his bloody neighbour put up the fence, he would respond by building an enormous chicken coop right next to Turner’s bedroom window. He also complained that a tiny length of roof shingles was overhanging his land and demanded Embleton get a saw and shorten them all.

It probably didn’t calm matters down when Turner and Embleton decided one day to round up a few stray chickens in the backyard, tie their legs together with string and toss them in the pony’s stable. That probably didn’t help at all.

So, Farmer made good on his promise, and built a giant fowl (foul?) house right against Turner’s residence, blocking out all the light and ensuring that if he ever opened his window, all he would smell was chickens and more chickens.

This is why it went to the civil court.

The Commissioner, W. Mackie, was less than impressed by both sides. There not being any local regulations, he was forced back onto English law which said if you build up to the boundary your neighbour is entitled to do the same. And you can’t claim loss of light or air unless your house has been standing for more than twenty years.

But, he continued, it was clear that Farmer was an awful person too, who only built the coop to annoy his neighbour, not because it was the best place to put it. So, because of the health issues involved he demanded the shed be relocated. Even so, because both were to blame the Commissioner would award only a token one shilling for damages.

It turns out that planning regulations make for good neighbours. Probably. Unless your neighbour is an awful person anyway, in which case no rules are going to help you. Probably.

Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1841

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United Service Tavern shortly before demolition

As New Year’s Eve rapidly approaches, the Dodgy Perth team will be undertaking their usual ritual of preloading followed by a night out in a pub with live music, followed by drunkenly trying to get a snog at midnight. Naturally, the venue will not be the Brass Monkey, but you probably guessed that already. (Please note that Dodgy Perth does not condone excessive consumption of alcohol. If you do, it means less for us.)

Which made us wonder which Perth hotel threw the first ever NYE party. And we believe the answer is the United Service Tavern, pictured above. Sadly, this long-standing pub on St George’s Terrace was demolished around 1970 and was replaced by a fairly ugly building.

The original tavern was opened in 1835 by James Dobbins, formerly a private in the 63rd Regiment, who had arrived on the Sulphur accompanying the first wave of colonists in 1829. Keen to attract his former military colleagues to sink a couple of pints, James called the pub United Service Tavern and painted large pictures of Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington on the front. That what was passed for equal opportunities in the 1830s: both army and navy were welcome.

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The original United Service Tavern, pictured here in the 1860s

In 1840, the tavern was taken over by Henry Cole, known locally as King Cole, because apparently that was funny in the 19th century. And it was Henry who seems to have organised the first ever NYE public event in the Swan River Colony for 31 December 1841. Gentlemen’s tickets were 10 shillings each, while ladies only had to pay 7s 6d. Presumably because they would eat and drink less than the blokes, rather than a tacky stunt to get more females into the bar. Maybe.

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We object to gendered pricing policies. Even from 1841.

Later the building came into the hands of Henry Strickland and Stephen Chipper, before being leased by John Giles who added a new front to the original building. It was this frontage, and the 1835 hotel behind it, which were demolished in 1970, including original stables and outbuildings.

So, if you’re heading out tonight to a historic venue, remember to be thankful not everything has been knocked down. Yet.

Is the Hartog Plate a hoax?

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Close-up of the Hartog Plate

The Dodgy Perth team loves a good conspiracy. So we were delighted to find one about the upcoming 400th anniversary of Dirk Hartog’s trip to Western Australia, and the famous Hartog Plate which will be on show at the Maritime Museum.

This is the mother of all conspiracy theories: the Hartog Plate is fraudulent. Before you accuse us of having gone loopy, versions of this theory were promoted by an expert on European discoveries, George Collingridge, and by our very own leading historian, James Battye.

According to this version, the Hartog Plate was faked by Willem de Vlamingh in 1697 to ‘prove’ the Dutch had landed in WA first. If Hartog ever landed, there is no evidence of it. The British were sniffing around WA, and de Vlamingh was under orders to find proof of prior Dutch landing, by whatever means necessary.

Is there anything to back this up? It’s important to realise that there are no independent accounts of Hartog’s explorations other than the mysterious plate and a 1627 Dutch map labelling us as ‘Eendracht Land’ after Hartog’s ship.

When de Vlamingh visited Hartog Island in 1697, he said he removed the old plate, fixing another in its place. The Vlamingh Plate copies Hartog’s on the top with a new addition by de Vlamingh below. In the ship’s journal, published in Amsterdam in 1704, the key entries read:

On the 1st of February, early in the morning, our little boat went to the coast to fish… Our chief pilot, with De Vlamingh’s boat, again went into the gulf, and our skipper went on shore to fix up a commemorative tablet.

On the 3rd de Vlamingh’s chief pilot returned on board. He reported that he had explored 18 leagues, and that it was an island. He brought with him a tin plate, which in the lapse of time had fallen from a post to which it had been attached, and on which was cut the name of the captain, Dirck Hartog… who arrived here in 1616, on the 25th October…

How could the first commemoration, fixed up on 1st February, contain words only discovered two days later? They can’t have been added after, because they would be below de Vlamingh’s message. Did he rip the first draft down and put up a new one? Or did he have a copy of Hartog’s inscription before he arrived in WA? If so, where could he have got it from, since it was never published?

Or did de Vlamingh just make the whole thing up to prove prior claim over the Brits? All very mysterious. As is the subsequent history of the Hartog Plate, which only arrived in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in 1875, where it now resides.

Dodgy Perth is sure all of this can be cleared up by someone answering the following questions:

  1. Is Hartog’s Plate capable of being dated as to whether it is early or late 17th century?
  2. Other than taking de Vlamingh’s word for it, what other evidence is there that Hartog ever landed in WA?
  3. How can Hartog’s words on the Vlamingh Plate be explained, if the original wasn’t found until two days later?

We look forward to hearing some answers when the 400th anniversary of Hartog’s voyage is celebrated next month.

My oath!

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William Street mosque, complete with traditional Islamic bullnose verandah

Bloody Muslims, coming over here with their history of centuries of trading with Western Australia before Europeans arrived, having been an accepted part of local society since the birth of the colony, and demanding to be treated with the respect the law has always shown them.

Wait, that last one can’t be right can it? Well, yes it can.

The earliest reference to someone swearing on the Quran is from 1833 when Sumud Alli did so to testify against his racist attacker, the appalling John Velvick. The newspaper report didn’t make anything of this oath, other than to mention it in the same way it noticed anyone else who was sworn in, so the journalist didn’t think this was very unusual. By the way, Velvick got his comeuppance at the hands of the law and later met his death at the hands of Yagan.

By the early 20th century, the Supreme Court respected Islamic tradition by ensuring its copy of the Quran was first wrapped in canvas and then covered in colourful silk handkerchiefs. This way, it could be handled by court officials and still be considered acceptable to Muslim witnesses taking the oath.

And in 1918 the Supreme Court was even willing to allow a case between two Muslims to be adjourned so it could be settled using customary processes. A dispute over who owed what for a sale of camels was resolved when the defendant went to the William Street Mosque, washed himself in the presence of his Imam, put on clean clothes and then swore on a certain passage of the Quran. The judge accepted this and was happy with the outcome.

What’s with these people demanding the respect we used to accord them all the time?

When the UK said no to #Wexit

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Behold the glorious flag of our independent WA

Western Australia was always the one that really didn’t want to go to the club after midnight, it just wanted to go home to bed. But everyone else insisted they’d have a great time. So WA went and hated every minute of it. And it never stopped complaining about the steep cover charge and the price of the drinks.

We’d only gained independence (of a sort) in 1890, so it’s not surprising that a mere decade later no one really wanted to give it up to be controlled by the Eastern States. WA dragged its heels and muttered a bit about not really wanting to join the party. Which is why the Australian Constitution doesn’t mention WA at the start, only in passing later on:

and also, if Her Majesty is satisfied that the people of Western Australia have agreed thereto…

Well, we didn’t want to agree to nothing, but the goldfields got grumpy and announced that if WA didn’t join Australia then they’d secede and none of the lovely gold money would be coming Perth’s way. In the end, the bullies won and we were dragged kicking and screaming to a nightclub we knew we’d dislike.

When the Depression hit hard in the early 1930s, WA decided enough was enough. All of our hard-earned money was going to support the Eastern States and very little of it was flowing back west. (Doesn’t this sound very familiar?) Or, as the great William Lathlain so eloquently put it:

Thirty years ago we all boarded the good ship Commonwealth for a lifelong voyage, with the full assurance that there would be only one class for all passengers. During the voyage we found, to our great surprise, that there were four classes. Victoria and New South Wales had secured all the saloon cabins; South Australia and Queensland the second class; little Tasmania was put in the steerage; while Western Australia is compelled to work her passage in the forecastle.

At the referendum for #Wexit in 1933, WA voted by a majority of two to one to separate from the Commonwealth. Only the tyrant overlords out east rudely told us we weren’t going anywhere.

So the following year a petition was presented to the King, the House of Lords and the House of Commons asking England to set us free from our oppressors and let us live rich, contented lives in the State of Excitement. It took until 1935 before England got back to us, and they used legal trickery to decide that the petition was “not proper to be received”. In other words, you made your bed, now lie in it.

Strangely, though, 1935 was a year marked by buoyant trading conditions and decreased unemployment. Everyone in WA got happier and the idea of #Wexit was gradually forgotten by most people. Until the 1970s, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Where the streets have no name

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They appear to have accidentally built Perth on a load of lakes

Well, they do have names. And stories behind them. As we start to get things together for the Dictionary of Perth website, it’s fairly evident that one thing that fascinates people is the origin of street names. Having a story to go with your road makes it just a little bit more magical.

The first complete record of street names in the city was made on 12 February 1838, when an official map was issued. Perth was less than ten years old and there were very few decent roads in existence.

So, without further ado, we’ll get the ball rolling with the people behind some of the larger streets in Perth.

Aberdeen Street

Received its name in honour of George Hamilton Gordon, Earl of Aberdeen and Prime Minister of England in 1831.

Newcastle Street

The Duke of Newcastle, Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1852 to 1854. An old street named Ellen Street after Lady Ellen Stirling, wife of the Governor, extended from Lake Street to Stirling Street is now part of Newcastle Street. In the early days, the road east of Stirling Street was called Mangles Street, after Ellen’s maiden name.

Beaufort Street

Named after Irishman Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort, who in 1829 was the Admiralty’s chief map-maker.

One of his groupies was John Septimus Roe, who first planned Perth, and who not only named Beaufort Street after him but also Francis Street in Northbridge.

In an earlier version of this post we claimed it was named after Lord Charles Henry Somerset, second son of Henry, 5th Duke of Beaufort. This turns out to be a 19th century urban myth.

Goderich Street

Originally extended towards town as far as Barrack Street. It was named after Viscount Goderich, Prime Minister of England in 1827-28 and Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1830-1833.

Murray Street

Named after Sir George Murray, Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1828 to 1830.

James Street

Honours the Christian name of Sir James Stirling

Mount’s Bay Road

Shown on the 1838 map as Morgan Street, it took its name from J. Morgan, Resident Magistrate of Perth in 1832, and who was tasked with making this road.

Pier Street

Originally extended from Perth’s first landing stage northwards through the present grounds of Government House.

Stirling Street

The surname of the State’s first Governor

St. George’s Terrace

In honour of the patron saint of England.

William Street

Originally King William-street, after William IV. During the years the ‘King’ was dropped and when this was done, King Street came into being.

Hay Street

Named after Robert William Hay, Permanent Under-Secretary for Colonies when Perth started. East of Barrack Street, Hay Street was once known as Howick Street, after Lord Howick, an official in the Colonial Office.

Lord Street

Lord Howick, Lord Wellington and Lord Goderich having given their names to three parallel streets, Lord Street probably received its name from its close connection with the three thoroughfares.

Adelaide Terrace

Named after Queen Adelaide, wife of William IV.

Barrack Street

The first barracks in the State were erected near the corner of Barrack Street and St. George’s Terrace.

Wellington Street

With the victories of Nelson and Wellington still fresh memories, many street names show how patriotic the early settlers were. Nelson Crescent, Horatio Street, Nile Street (after a famous campaign), Waterloo Crescent, and Trafalgar Road. Bronte Street is so called because Lord Nelson was Duke of Bronte.

West Perth streets

In 1877-78, Col. R. T. Goldsworthy, Colonial Secretary of the State, who served during the First War of Independence in India (then called the Indian Mutiny) fixed the names of several Perth streets after this event. Colin Street after Sir Colin Campbell, Delhi Street, Havelock Street after General Sir Henry Havelock and Outram Street after General Sir James Outram.

No one cares about ‘Straya Day

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Captain Phillips somewhere on the other side of the country

On TV this year, cricket legend Adam Gilchrist encouraged everyone to celebrate Australia Day in their own way. And so he might. After all, it’s never been clear to anyone what the 26th January is actually for.

Sure we all know it represents the founding of New South Wales. But what are we, on the other side of the country, meant to do in response to that?

Some young ladies like to put on small and cheap patriotic bikinis from Red Dot [no objections here from the Dodgy Perth offices], some young men like to drape themselves in the flag, get pissed, and shout “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, Oi, Oi!” [many objections]. Most people have a BBQ and listen to JJJ.

What we learn from the past is that they had no idea how to celebrate it either. For starters, they couldn’t even agree on a name. Some states called it Australia Day, others used the term Foundation Day or Anniversary Day. It was only in 1936 the Commonwealth Government ordered everyone to use the words Australia Day. But even this didn’t make it any clearer.

In the 1910s it was a day for kids and the place to be was South Beach. There were pony rides, fruit, swings, toys, swimming and running races, and a greasy pole in the pool. But by the 1930s no one was organising anything except a rowing regatta on the Swan. Which didn’t seem very patriotic to anyone, really.

Enter the Australian Natives Association (ANA). While they might sound as if they had something to do with Aboriginal rights, they couldn’t be further away. The ANA were the leading jingoistic mob, always demanding more be done to keep Australia white and British. There is still an ANA rowing club at Bayswater, but we imagine they’ve dropped their appalling racism by now.

It was pressure from the ANA and a bucket-load of nationalistic speeches from them about celebrating White Australia that forced the government’s hand in 1936 to make the day ‘Australia Day’ for everyone.

But no one cared. Each year the Perth newspapers tried really hard to educate the public about the arrival of Captain Phillip on Sydney Cove and why they should be celebrating this historic event. But no one cared. Even during World War II, when patriotic sentiment was at its height, the City of Perth forgot to put out the national flags on 26th January until the ANA shouted at them.

Australia Day has long been a holiday for Western Australians. And that’s all its ever been. Our only tradition has been to take the day off and enjoy it. We’re not particularly interested in Captain Phillip, just JJJ. And there are no objections here from the Dodgy Perth offices.