The secret life of Hepburn Tindale

Tindale

A not very good picture of Hepburn, but the best we could find

Today we go down a rabbit hole. It starts with what we thought was a cute story about (possibly) the first Christian in Perth to convert to Islam and ends with lies at the inquiry into the Forrest River Massacre. If that’s not a rabbit hole, we don’t know what is.

But first, the story we originally thought we were going to tell.

In 1935, Hepburn Joseph Tindale underwent a ceremony at the William Street Mosque to formally convert to Islam. An old Guildford Grammar School boy, he had studied at Oxford University, before taking a degree in theology, working in South Africa, and then coming here as a freelance journalist for Sydney’s Bulletin.

Taking the new name Sadig Akber, he spoke about how all people needed to unite under one God, and this would eliminate war and racism. Which we thought was rather inspirational, even if it’s not a solution to world problems that particularly appeals to us.

So needing to know more about Hepburn’s spiritual journey, we looked him up in the archives. Which is where the Forrest River Massacre comes in, because he was one of the key witnesses during the inquiry in 1927. Only there he held a Masters in Anthropology from Oxford, was a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and, as one of the leading experts on Aboriginal life, he was currently writing articles about them for the Manchester Guardian.

Which is a completely different story to the one he told eight years later.

As it happens, Hepburn was the cousin of Norman Tindale, whose anthropology is still considered masterful today. You’ve probably seen his map of Aboriginal language groups prior to European settlement. But Hepburn was not an expert on anything. In fact, he had no degree from Oxford, no Fellowship from the Royal Geographical Society, and had never written for the Guardian. To be fair, he had gone to Oxford in 1923 but left the same year with no qualifications.

But the inquiry didn’t know this and took him at face value as an expert on Aboriginal life in the Kimberley. Norman Tindale would have been. Hepburn Tindale was not. His testimony on how Aborigines lit fires and their cremation practices made it very difficult for the inquiry to prove beyond all reasonable doubt there had been a massacre.

So, it appears we have a Walter Mitty character, desperate to appear important in the eyes of others, and willing to do anything to be noticed. And the poor worshippers at the Mosque may have been the unknowing witnesses of yet another one of his fantasies. Certainly, we can’t find any more references to a ‘Sadig Akber’ after 1935, but the secretary of the Morowa Road Board in the 1940s was an ‘H. J. Tindale’. Could this be where our man finally ended up?

The Bayswater treasure hunt

Accurate map of Bayswater

Accurate map of Bayswater

We have received another e-mail from an African princess who needs our help. Being good people in the Dodgy Perth offices we thought it greedy to accept her offer of $2bn for our aid. So we’ll pray for their safety and promised to keep an eye on the newspapers.

Which reminded us of the time there was £32,000 buried in Bayswater, or Busselton, or Greenbushes. Depending on which version of the letter you got.

In 1915 the scam was known as the ‘Spanish Prisoner Swindle’. A letter would arrive from Guzman Penalto, explaining he had once lived in Western Australia but was now being held prisoner in Spain. Fortunately, he had buried a fortune between two pieces of crystal shortly before leaving these shores.

If the recipient of the letter would be so kind as to forward £398 in the enclosed envelope, a priest will be able to get to Perth from Spain, dig up the buried notes and they could be split between Penalto and his Australian saviour.

Couldn’t be easier, could it? Unfortunately, Penalto was under the impression that Bayswater was hundreds of kilometres from Perth, which hinted either he had never been here, or prison had upset his memory.

Since the Dodgy Perth offices are based in Bayswater and we refuse to share the money, we have spent each evening with a spade turning up each and every inch of grass in the suburb. There’s some way to go yet, but we will not be discouraged.

Dancing, fighting and knickers

Unity Theatre, 1930

Unity Theatre, 1930

In the words of the most influential musicians of the last century, the Spice Girls, “make it last forever, friendship never ends”. Today Dodgy Perth tells the heart-warming story of a friendship that knew no boundaries.

Although once again known as Trades Hall, the Beaufort Street building operated as the Unity Theatre in the 1930s. It was at a dance held there in 1933 that our tale begins.

It should be obvious that two men are not allowed to dance together when partners of the fair sex are available. Not a rule enforced at Connections Nightclub last time Dodgy Perth was there!

But because two young fellows showed scant regard for feminine charms, they decided to dance with each other that Wednesday night.

It must be said that Robert Sleeth and Norman Tindale—aged 20 and 22—had consumed more than a couple of drinks. Perhaps that was the reason for their unorthodox dancefloor moves. Or maybe they just liked grooving with each other.

Whichever, the MC, George Greenway, was having none of it. He told them to dance with the ladies or get off the floor. They resisted, and George told them to sit down and shut up, and began to escort them over to the chairs.

At this point the inebriated Robert took a swing at the MC, knocking him down, breaking his glasses, and causing his nose and face to bleed.

Dances being full of testosterone-fuelled young men, this was all the invitation that a bystander, Norman Mitchell, needed to weigh in. For trying to be a hero, Norm was also punched to the floor, losing blood in the process.

As he got to his feet, other onlookers held him back as he tried to retaliate.

At this point all hell broke loose and the cops were summoned.

PC Trekardo was first on the scene where he found Sleeth and Tindale outside, with their coats off shouting through the door challenging someone to come out and “fight it out like a man”. Boys, eh?

At this point Mitchell, still profusely bleeding, charged through the exit screaming “You punched me” and bravely tried to attack our BFFs. Trekardo arrested all three of them.

Mitchell got off with a caution, while Sleeth and Tindale got two months hard labour in exchange for their Unity Theatre antics.

The next time our besties come to our attention is seven years later. This time they broke into a house at 226 Roe Street, stealing cash, a pair of lady’s pyjamas, a set of lady’s underclothing and a pair of lady’s scanties. All belonging to Gladys Foley.

In case you don’t know, the kind of ladies who worked at that end of Roe Street would probably have owned very attractive scanties and been earning good money for taking them off.

This time our BFFs avoided jail and ended up with a simple fine.

Dancing together, fighting together, and stealing panties together. The kind of things great friendships are made from.

Moondyne Joe and the slut

Moondyne_JoeHow has Dodgy Perth been going this long and not done a single Moondyne Joe story? Well, we are about to put that right.

But we are mainly writing this because it lets us tag this story with the word ‘slut’ and see what kind of traffic that brings.

In April 1888, Joseph Poole was charged with having unlawful possession of a kangaroo slut, called Bessie, which was of enormous value, being worth £7.

Wait. What?

Well, in the 1880s ‘bitch’ was too rude a word to use in public, so the politically correct term for a female dog was ‘slut’. Seriously. As for the kangaroo bit, it referred to a greyhound.

Kangaroo_GreyhoundAnyway, said slut was said to be the property of James Nicholls. One Saturday, he saw a woman standing outside the Criterion Hotel holding a couple of dogs. James recognised Bessie and demanded she hand her over.

The woman refused and told James she had bought her from Moondyne Joe for £5. Which was odd, because James had also bought Bessie from Joe.

Now the story gets a little tangled. When Moondyne Joe had been penniless a few months earlier, James had lent him some money and agreed to buy Bessie. It is unclear how the dog ended up back in Joe’s hands.

In any case, Bessie was sold again, this time to Thomas Edwards, for another £5, but somehow made her way into Joseph Poole’s care. And from there she ended up in the hands of the unnamed woman outside the Criterion Hotel. But by some chain of events it was poor Joseph who ended up in court.

Confused? We certainly are.

So Joseph Johns (aka Moondyne Joe) was summoned to explain what was going on. He admitted selling the dog to Thomas, but strenuously denied having previously sold her to James. In fact, Joe claimed he was the victim here, since James was simply trying to appropriate Bessie in exchange for the money he was owed.

The magistrate was not convinced. To him it was clear that Moondyne Joe was a crook (what a surprise!) and he had obviously sold the same dog twice.

The slut belonged to James and he should get her back immediately.

If there’s a moral here at all, it’s probably that it’s safer not to do business with bushrangers.

Like Aversion

Kalgoorlie Racecourse

Kalgoorlie Racecourse

Thousands of fashionably dressed men and women cheered as they battled down the straight for the finish at Kalgoorlie. Yet only a few days later, the winning horse had his head smashed in and his carcase set alight near Gingin.

A hoof from the poor animal was hung in the criminal museum at Perth Police Station for many years. It should be clear 1918 was an unusual year for racing in Western Australia.

The hoof was from Aversion, a horse at the centre of one of the most remarkable stories in the history of the Australian turf.

Now forgotten, Aversion was a first-class performer on the metropolitan courses. He won several big races and was at the top of his form when he was disqualified for a year. As far as the public knew, Aversion had been sent to a paddock for semi-retirement.

The 1918 Goldfields racing season was massive. Perth horses were drifting into town to prepare for the big races. Shortly before the event, an unknown horse named Loch Var was nominated for a third-class handicap. The paperwork submitted with his application showed he was a mediocre performer, and the handicapper treated him leniently.

On the day of the race, it was pouring. Loch Var was brought into the saddling paddock. Although heavily rugged, several commentators noted he looked strong and might do well for himself in the future.

Strange news started filtering through the course. Loch Var, an unknown newcomer, was being backed off the boards. The cash was pouring in, and no matter how the bookmakers lowered the odds, there were still takers. Any price was good enough.

Then they were off! Straight to the lead went Loch Var, and it was no race. In the pouring rain he opened a bigger and bigger gap. But what most people failed to notice in the excitement was the effect of the water on his steaming body. The horse’s white blaze had shifted its position, and a white fetlock was now practically washed off.

There was only one subject of conversation that night. There had been a gigantic swindle! Loch Var was the disqualified Aversion, and should have carried at least twenty kilograms more than he did.

Loch Var’s owners put him straight on a train back to Perth. They did not wait to collect the stake, and did not need to. They had got all they wanted from the books.

But the police were moving. However, moments before they caught up with the criminals, the horse was taken to a paddock at Gingin, his head clubbed and the body set on fire.

The gang was prosecuted, and banned from all racecourses for life.

What remains of Aversion now? Dodgy Perth would love to know if the hoof still exists in a forgotten box in the police archives. Anyone know?

Bang bang, I shot you down

Door to Churchill Avenue house, showing bullet hole

Door to Churchill Avenue house, showing location of two bullet holes

IN the early hours of Saturday, 14 August 1937, Stanley Hussey was opening the door to his home at 28 Churchill Avenue, Subiaco. The stillness of the night was shattered by the sound of a revolver. Hussey staggered, shot twice.

In the flash of the explosions he recognised his assailant, then he stumbled to his next door neighbour.

With blood dripping from his wounds he frantically pressed the doorbell. “I am shot!” cried Stanley, as he was hurried into the house.

The police were called, but less than an hour later Dora Simons, Hussey’s sister-in-law, attempted to take her own life on the lawn of a nearby flat.

She was found with a gaping wound in the mouth. A .44 calibre revolver was nearby, and her false teeth had been smashed into tiny pieces by the force of the explosion.

Dora was, to put it mildly, a fruitcake. She had been stalking Stanley and his wife for so long the couple had resorted to seeing a lawyer to get her to keep away.

The trouble seems to be that Dora was obsessed with the idea that Stanley fancied her, and had made repeated advances. This didn’t seem very probable at the time, and still doesn’t seem likely now. These advances were just in her head.

Tried for attempted murder, Dora claimed she thought the gun was only loaded with blanks. After seeing she had shot Stanley, and afraid he was dead, she tried to take her own life. What she was doing in Stanley’s house was never quite explained to the jury.

Bizarrely, the jury decided she was not guilty of attempted murder, only of common assault, and she was immediately released from custody.

She didn’t learn from this, however, and continued to stalk and harass Stanley and his family, until she was finally jailed two years later.

The house where this all took place, 28 Churchill Avenue, is still very much there, looking little changed from 1937. We wonder if the current occupants know the story.

Duel purpose

duelling“The horrid and murderous system of duelling has found its way to this Colony under the hypocritical name of honour.” So said Joseph Hardey, who built Tranby House on the Maylands Peninsula.

Hardey referred to the only duel in Western Australian history—that between George French Johnson and William Nairne Clark.

George, a Fremantle merchant, had been at loggerheads with William, a solicitor, for some time. Heated insults were often exchanged between the pair.

Matters came to a head on Thursday, 16 August 1832. William once again approached George and insulted him in front of several witnesses. At the time George said nothing, but simply walked away.

But the next day William was informed George wished to settle the argument in a duel. The challenge was accepted and the place was fixed at the back of house near Cantonment Hill, Fremantle.

At the appointed hour next evening, the two duellists selected their pistols, went to opposite parts of the yard and, standing side-on, fired when the signal was given.

George fell instantly, with a gaping wound in his thigh. A doctor was hurried to the scene and the wounded man taken to hospital. But just twenty-four hours later he died.

William was immediately arrested and tried for murder. Strangely, and despite the rigid laws governing duelling, he was found not guilty.