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.

What was the Rain Baby doing in Lincoln Street?


In June 1932, Stewart Cecil Hobbs, then aged 28, was discovered in a lane off Lincoln Street dressed only in an overcoat and a pair of shoes.

It was 9.15pm and raining heavily. Hobbs told the arresting officer, one Constable Weaver, that he was simply having a shower.

On being asked where his clothes were, Stewart pointed to a neatly folded pile under a nearby tree.

During the subsequent trial, the media christened him the ‘Rain Baby’.

In his defence, Stewart said he was unemployed and had been declined a chance to get to the Blackboy Hill Unemployment Camp to work for the dole.

The magistrate ordered him to pay costs, and ensured that he was found a place at Blackboy immediately.

Sometime it pays to have an unusual shower.

Fremantle’s ex-parrot


Pining for the fjords

The Dodgy Perth office has never lost a pet galah, so we can’t imagine the pain it must cause when something like that happens. But Freo resident Reginald Freeman knew what it was like in January 1930.

Reg placed adverts in the newspaper, but still his pink and grey galah was missing. Then one day he was passing Emma Matthews’ house in Fremantle and he heard a squawk he recognised. Banging on the door he demanded Emma return his property. But Emma was made of sterner stuff than that. She had owned this particular bird for eighteen months, so it was definitely hers.

After repeatedly harassing Emma at home, the affair ended up at Fremantle Police Court.

The court asked Reg how he knew this galah was his. Which was a fair question. He said he could identify the bird because it had been trained to say “Puss Puss” and “I want a drink”.

The court ordered the parrot be brought forth and it was placed on the magistrate’s bench. However, despite Reg’s best efforts, the stubborn bird refused to talk. He tried over and over again to get it to say “Puss Puss”, but the bird just sat there in silence.

In a final attempt to persuade the magistrate, Reg picked up a tin of water and placed it in front of the bird. The galah kicked it over. That, said Reg, was proof it was his bird. What other bird would kick over its water? “Your evidence is rotten,” he screamed at poor Emma.

The bemused magistrate was not convinced. “I have seen plenty of birds do that”, he said.

Emma got to keep her galah.

Drop-in prophets

I foresee you liking the following snapshot of Perth history

I foresee you liking the following snapshot of Perth history

Madams Zona, Mora and Carlotta were fortune-tellers working in the CBD in 1907. Unfortunately for them, back then being a psychic was illegal. So when a young undercover policeman, Constable Smith, was sent to visit, it was never going to end well.

Constable Smith first entered Madam Mora’s premises in Wellington Street. The plain-clothed bachelor pretended to have a wife who had abandoned him at Coolgardie. He asked the psychic if she could locate this imaginary woman. Mora picked up her cards and told Smith to divide it into three piles.

Using her ‘psychic’ abilities, she read the cards, announcing “You will find your wife shortly.” The cards also revealed a dark man who was connected with Smith’s troubles, and this stranger would try to kill the copper.

Smith paid Zora half-a-crown, and she warned him to say nothing about his visit. Strangely, her clairvoyance did not extend to noticing he was an undercover law enforcement official.

Madam Carlotta was a palmist. In exchange for Smith’s money she also revealed the non-existent wife would soon show up. Not only that, but he would have four children. Even more excitingly, Smith was soon to become an engineer, who would gain fame through an amazing invention.

The final visit to Madam Zona also promised a happy reunion for the policeman. And still the psychics didn’t discover their immediate destiny was to be a trip to court. There, they were spared jail on condition they agreed to cease telling fortunes.

Dodgy Perth does not know what happened to Zona, but Madam Carlotta—known to her friends as Ethel Daley—was unable to give up her trade, and was prosecuted again a few years after.

Mora’s future, though, turned her card skills in a surprising direction. She became an illusionist, regularly appearing at the Melrose Theatre in Murray Street. She also became renowned as a debunker, exposing spiritualist scams and teaching people about gambling tricks.

Now who would have seen that coming?

Murder on the dancefloor

Audrey Jacob, 1925

Audrey Jacob, 1925

Hundreds set out to have a good time at Government House Ballroom on the night of 23 August 1925. Young men and women dressed to the nines to party in aid of St John of God Hospital.

At half past one in the morning, few dancers observed a tall, slim girl with short dark hair, dressed in a blue silk evening frock. She crossed to an attractive young couple in the centre of the floor and spoke with the tall well-built young man, handsome and smartly dressed in evening suit. He turned and said something to her as the orchestra started up.

Suddenly above the wail of the saxophone and the drums came a loud noise. The music and dancing ceased and all eyes turned on the man as he staggered and fell to the floor with a heavy thump.

Cyril Gidley was arrogant, cruel and violent. Dodgy Perth will spend no time mourning his loss. Instead we turn our attention to the attractive 20-year-old art student whose life was never to be the same again. Audrey Jacob.

Audrey had been engaged to a naval officer, Claude Arundel, when Gidley had come on the scene around twelve months before his death. After much persuasion, she broke off her engagement and agreed to marry the new man in her life.

But one night, on the way to Gidley’s lodgings, they quarrelled because she had received a letter from her former fiancé. Gidley became enraged.

He picked her up and carried her to his room.

“I struggled, and tried to get away,” sobbed Audrey. “Sometimes he would let me get as far as the door, and then pull me back. He seemed to be enjoying the joke. He was very cruel by nature.”

When she was exhausted he grabbed the art student by the throat and hissed the single word “Yes” at her.

The next day Audrey’s mother found her crying, and noticing the bruises on her neck, guessed what had happened.

On the fateful night in August 1925, a girlfriend persuaded Audrey to attend the ball at Government House. They went dressed as Pierrot and Pierrette.

It was then that she noticed Gidley dancing with another girl. She approached him, questioned what he was doing, but he told her to mind her own business and leave him alone.

Audrey ran from the ballroom and returned to her lodgings on the corner of St George’s Terrace and Howard Street. Sobbing for half an hour, she started to undress, before noticing a loaded revolver in her drawer.

Deciding to end it all, she put on her blue evening dress, and walked to the foreshore. But here she began to consider what would happen to her immortal soul if she used the gun on herself. Instead, she went to the Roman Catholic Cathedral, and there, at midnight, knelt in the grass and recited the Rosary.

A strange calm came over her, and she decided to return home. But passing the ballroom, she noticed that the party was still going on. She made the decision to make a final effort to speak to the man she loved.

Making her way through the dancers, with the revolver still wrapped in her handkerchief, she touched him on the shoulder. He turned, and simply said “Excuse me, I am dancing with my fiancée.”

The room span and something snapped. In this dazed condition, Audrey raised her hand to her head—and then she heard a shot and saw Gidley fall.

After deliberating for an hour and a quarter the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. Audrey rose from her seat, and her mother rushed into the dock. No attempt was made to stop an outburst of applause from the crowded gallery.

It was always going to be impossible to resume life in Perth, and Audrey married an American industrialist, Roger Sinclair, and left for New York early in 1926.

For Perth, though, this was not the end of their fascination and for several years rumours continued to fly that Audrey was stranded penniless in South Africa, or that her husband had turned out to be a bigamist.

None of these stories were true, of course, and the last we know of Audrey Campbell Jacob is that she arrived in Boston on 2 May 1926 on board the Celtic. After that, Perth never heard from her again.

Who ya gonna call?


And they say the media doesn’t turn kids into criminals.

In 1938 one of the most popular radio shows was a serial about haunted houses.

In the Bicton area, every young boy aged between nine and twelve would sit glued to the wireless to hear the latest episode.

So, when a rumour spread that an empty house on Canning Highway in Palmyra was haunted, it was going to be impossible to keep them away. Especially when the boys were told that there was a reward of £5 for the first person to capture the spirit.


The haunted house on Canning Highway

Around 25 of the little horrors got together, determined to become WA’s first ghostbusters.

And that many eager boys, all determined to ensnare a phantom, found the house was locked. This minor detail was not going to stand in their way.

Windows were broken, and the front door was forced open.

One poor unfortunate found himself pushed right through the French windows by the surging kids behind.

Of course, that’s not exactly what they said to the investigating police officer.

In fact, they said that they had just touched the door and it had fallen off its hinges. And when one lad had merely laid a finger on a window it had broken all by itself.

Kids, eh?

Once inside, they discovered… the ghost.

No really, they did.

Okay, it turned out to be one of their gang with a white sheet over his head, and who presumably had been the ringleader in stirring up the whole escapade in the first place.

But it was a bit like a spectre.

All the ghostbusters were too young to charge with criminal damage, but they still cost their parents a pretty penny to put the damage right.

We blame the media.

You know what gets my goat?


Who are you calling a hillbilly?

Animal rights activists, look away now. Dodgy Perth presents a horrible tale of goat cruelty from 1905. The scene is Hare Street, Kalgoorlie, around 5 o’clock in the afternoon.

An elderly man, Owen O’Neill, drives his cart up to Edward Chidlow’s house and screams out that the occupant is “a EXPLETIVE DELETED murderer” and “a EXPLETIVE DELETED convict”. The old gentleman dares Edward to come out and settle this like a real man.

Receiving no response, Owen slowly pulls away, continuing to yell abuse.

What could have caused such drama? As it turns out, the death of Owen’s beloved goat.

He had owned a milch goat which much appreciated in Kal. One small girl had been so sick she could consume nothing but a little goat’s milk. Now the goat was dead, and the little girl cried all the time.

Did we forget to mention how the goat died? Edward had lured it from Owen’s premises, shot it, and cut its throat.

The heartbroken Owen walked up to the murderer and asked: “Did you kill this goat?” Edward calmly, and somewhat harshly, replied with a simple “Yes.”

After that, every time he encountered the old man, Edward put his fingers to his nose and baa-a-aa at him like his poor deceased goat.

Of course the whole thing ended up in court. Owen was found guilty of using abusive language in a public place and heavily fined, with the threat of one month’s hard labour if he failed to pay.

The goat murderer, of course, walked free. Justice? It ain’t what it used to be.

Fraudster, bigamist… those are his good points

Dr David Stewart in 1938

Dr David Stewart in 1938

We at Dodgy Perth take pride in being just a little bit dodgy ourselves. (But only when no one is looking.)

However, we have a long way to go to catch up with Perth’s dodgiest man: ‘Doctor’ David Stewart, the man with more wives than Henry VIII.

David joined WA’s Department of Agriculture in September 1932, to become their head veterinarian. His praises were quickly sung by the newspapers. He was a genius, a war hero, a “real man’s man”, and Perth was very lucky to have him here.

Around six months into his post he was made to resign. Despite his protestations of innocence, he had been moonlighting as a medical doctor (with forged certificates) calling himself Dr Russell. Apparently faking medical qualifications was not the done thing in the 1930s.

Oh. And his vet degrees were faked too. As were all his references.

Even while working for the Dept of Ag, he had been defrauding a number of local businesses of various goods. And sold all the furniture from the house he was renting.

At the trial, David got two years for forging his certificates.

But this was only a tiny fraction of ‘Doctor’ David Stewart’s life. He was also a bigamist. If bigamist is a big enough word for someone with at least seven wives. (He claimed to not be able to remember how many!)

A few quick dates in the court life of an astoundingly complex character:

  • April 1923: Ipswich, QLD, married a minor
  • April 1923: Brisbane, obtained property under false pretences
  • September 1923: Brisbane, larceny
  • July 1924: Melbourne, larceny to obtain a car
  • December 1924: Melbourne, bigamy
  • July 1933: Perth, forged medical diplomas; got two years, but was released after serving three months
  • March 1938: Melbourne, bigamy

Such was the mess of his life, and the fact that he married and worked under at least nine aliases, no one was able to say how many wives he had or what other crimes he might be wanted for.

We take our hat off to Perth’s dodgiest man.

Albany Bell: swindler or crook?

001720dThere is a tendency in Western Australia to assume that if someone is famous, they must have done something good in their lives. So whatever else Alan Bond may have done, no matter who he screwed over, at least he painted a red dingo sign.

Only he didn’t. Just another part of the Bond self-myth-making process.

So look at the building above, which is on Guildford Road. You probably know it as the Albany Bell Castle, and might know its links with the chain of Albany Bell Tea Rooms.

And here is Mr Albany Bell (1871-1957):

80x105mmIf you read the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry on him, you will find that he was an upstanding Christian gentleman ruined by misused power of the evil unions.

Even the normally ever-reliable Richard Offen tells how Bell was wonderful philanthropist to his employees, who must all have loved him.

What a saintly man.

Bollocks, was he!

Albany Bell was a crook who tried to rip off each and every employee he ever had, and when he was finally brought to book dumped his café chain in a fit of pique.

He illegally refused sick pay to waitresses working in his tea rooms who were forced to take a day off due to illness. He also declined to pay the overtime for the staff he forced to work extra hours to fill in for their absent colleagues.

120x165mmIt was only after the waitresses had finally had enough and became militant (not to mention the intervention of a union and the threat of court action), that he finally promised to make good a fraction of the money he had cheated out of them.

And this is before we get into the fact that he adulterated the milk he sold, just to increase his profits.

Just the kind of gentleman who deserves celebrating then. Especially by the Style Council, who wax lyrical in their history of the Castle about Albany Bell’s spiritual values and his “Christianising the natives”.

Thank goodness Dodgy Perth is here to put the record straight on this hypocritical cheat.

Don’t mess with dog lovers

Forget the fact that World War was imminent. In August 1939 only one subject preoccupied the good people of Perth: stray dogs.

It all kicked off with a short letter from a Subiaco truckie who signed himself ‘Anti-Pest’:

Is there no authority to control dogs on roads? As a truck driver I am continuously harassed by the pests which infest suburban streets, and I never miss an opportunity of running over and destroying a stray. What about other drivers joining me in a clean-up?

You can image the howls of outrage from the canine fans. And boy, did they howl.

Anti-Pest was described as a ‘cruel devil’ and a ‘dirty brute’. A Mt Lawley correspondent threatened to simply put him in Karrakatta. While a Perth writer was more specific, offering to attach the truckie’s neck to a tree with a stout rope.

Another dog lover was a little more forgiving, simply promising to “playfully” run over Anti-Pest with his own truck a few times.

Although one truckie meekly tried to offer some support to his colleague, the message came through loud and clear: don’t mess with the crazy dog ladies.