Fighting the British, one arch at a time


All arches are created equal

Some buildings are revolutionary. Literally. Like kick-out-the-Brits type revolutionary. And you probably wouldn’t think that a humble church hall in Claremont would be the place to start looking for this. But you should.

If you travel down Stirling Highway, probably cursing the traffic as you crawl along, you’ll notice Congregational Hall at Claremont, which was built in 1896. The church, on the right in the picture above, was erected a decade later. While it might not seem much to look at now, the hall was part of a movement to rid ourselves of British influence.

When people in the 1890s started talking about Federation and a new country, architects were not going to be left out of this exciting new movement. Henry Stirling Trigg was the first qualified architect to be born in Western Australia so, unsurprisingly, he wanted to contribute. But if English architecture was to be abandoned, where was he going to look for new ideas? He needed a country that had also broken free from the motherland and formed its own identity. Naturally, he thought of the good old U. S. of A.

The Americans call the style the ‘Richardsonian’, but we decided it was sexier to described the architecture as being ‘American Romanesque’. The easiest way to spot it is to look for rounded arches and, quite often, rustication, which is where you cut back the edges of the stone leaving a perfectly regular block with a rough surface in the middle.

The entrance to Congregational Hall and the windows above are good examples of the American Romanesque at work. Even better is the very fine Trinity Church on St George’s Terrace, also by Henry Stirling Trigg and opened in 1893. Although it’s in brick not stone, this is American Romanesque at its finest.


Or nearly its finest, because there was an even better building which we have now lost. On the corner of St George’s Terrace and Howard Street used to be Surrey Chambers. Designed by Edward Herbert Dean Smith in 1903, this was one of the greatest buildings ever to be put up in Perth. Just look at those rounded arches. And, if you feel like being depressed, go and look at what’s replaced it.


So, there you have it. An imported style of architecture specifically intended to be not-British for a new nation which saw itself coming into being. Next time you see these rounded arches, you’ll know that it wasn’t just a fashionable design, it was a political statement.

Dry hair: our proposal to save traditional marriage


This is what we must stop. And soon.

Something is endangering the very foundation of marriage. And we at Dodgy Perth are taking a stand. We would like, no we insist on, a plebiscite to defend the very core of traditional holy matrimony.

What can this awful thing be, you ask? Is it mixed-race marriages? Is it a Roman Catholic marrying an Anglican? Or is it The Gays demanding the right to be as miserable as their heterosexual counterparts? Nope. None of those. It is much, much worse. We refer, of course, to the horror of mixed bathing.

As Western Australia left behind the values of the 19th century, the question of whether men and women should be allowed to enter the same stretch of water at the same time became the most pressing issue of the hour.

Take Kalgoorlie, for example. In 1912 the council had to decide whether to allow ‘family bathing’ in the local pool. The experiment had been tried at Claremont, they were told, but it required the local police and three private security guards to be on patrol at all times, otherwise who knows what might happen? Kalgoorlie wisely decided to delay any decisions on the matter

And they were right to do so. As the newspapers explained the following year, bathing suits have a bad effect on the male libido and marriage rates plummet as a consequence.

In times gone by, men were entranced by the sight of girls daintily and modestly attired, and affection sprang from a kind of worship of something which charmed. Are bare necks, bare arms and bare legs, with ugly skull caps, a bewitching spectacle? What effect has the ungraceful ‘flopping’ of the feminine figure on the male emotions? The desire to harpoon it rather than embrace it is probably one result.

The debate raged on for years, but by 1920 science had definitively settled the question. Marriage rates were dropping because the mere sight of the bathing female kills all possibility of reproduction: “The spectacle of a girl in a dripping bathing costume, with wet hair hanging over her eyes, and looking like a bedraggled Skye terrier, has been responsible for many a man taking an oath of celibacy”.

So there you have it. This is the line which must be drawn. Marriage must be protected from change. And mixed bathing is change. Demand the plebiscite now.


A wagyl’s revenge

Matt Benson-Parry, Wagyl & Dewi (2007)

Matt Benson-Parry, Wagyl & Dewi (2007)

The last time Dodgy Perth was in Claremont was to see a band at the Claremont Hotel. But next time we’ll be making a short pilgrimage to see a verified home of a wagyl.

Some white folk have an impression that wagyls (there were many of them—not to be confused with The Wagyl) were well-meaning creative spirits who just happened to look like big snakes. Not even close.

Wagyls were extremely dangerous and their presence alone at a place could make it winnaitch (taboo). And such was the case at Karbomunup Hill in Claremont, roughly where Osborne and Bindaring Parades meet.

Once on this hill, according to legend, some children broke an important food law, and the wagyl living there became so boogur (angry) it came out of the hill and swallowed all the men, women and children of the place. All except one woman, who was gobbelguttuk (pregnant).

A peculiar shaped stone on or near the shore at Claremont was supposed to have actually been the gobbelguttuk woman. The stone and the hill were ever after winnaitch. Just to go there was to risk death.

In 1894, when the Osborne Hotel was built on Karbomunup Hill, the owner announced a corroboree as one of the opening-day attractions. Naturally, no local Aborigine would take part, so some North West folk were recruited instead.

A much retold story says that two of the North Westerners fell down while dancing, and although taken to the white man’s hospital they soon died. Locals said that had been wagyl bom—wagyl struck.

Definitely worth a trip out to Claremont to see if the wagyl is still active.

Child soldiers

Private Leslie Shaw, 1940

Private Leslie Shaw, 1940

To the media,

Please stop assuming that all young Australians who run away to join ISIS have been brainwashed. Teenagers (in particular boys) have always sought adventure overseas, and have rarely understood the full implications of what they were getting themselves into.

Also, dear journalists, stop with the overuse of the word ‘radicalised’. It’s not a thing.

So, today Dodgy Perth presents the story of Captain Leslie Shaw, who signed up to be an Anzac at the age of just thirteen.

Born a Kiwi, Leslie served as a sapper in the First Field Company, New Zealand Engineers. He was present at the landing on Gallipoli and also at the Suvla attack.

After Gallipoli he went to the trenches in France, taking part in the Battle of Messines and the Third Battle of Ypres, in 1917.

Then, at the ripe age of 17 years, tiring of a foot-slogger’s existence, and anxious to join the Air Force, he disclosed his real age and was discharged from the Amy. This after some years on active service.

After the war Leslie served with the Air Force in India, before retiring to take up a tea plantation.

Bored of tea, he joined the flying service in New Guinea, being one of the first to fly in that service.

Finally ‘retiring’ to Perth, he became a broadcaster with radio station 6AM, and his talks on aviation became one of its most popular shows.

But even then, Leslie wasn’t finished. When WWII broke out, he was still young enough to enlist as a private, again in the Army, and undertook his basic training at Claremont.

Do you really believe that at the age of thirteen Leslie could have fully understood what he was getting himself into at Gallipoli and in the French trenches? Of course not. He wanted adventure, and he wanted to serve his country.

Dodgy Perth does not mean to equate joining ISIS with being an Anzac. One of these organisations is evidently not a good thing.

However, sometimes boys will be boys, and it doesn’t always require them to be ‘radicalised’ before they seek thrills and escapades in foreign lands.

It’s only gossip if you repeat it

The Sunday Times used to run a column with all the town’s gossip, but few identifying details.

Anyone who was the subject would know who they were, as would their friends and neighbours, but the newspaper trod carefully to enable maximum humiliation with minimum chance of a libel suit.

So, although I have no idea who the subjects were, Dodgy Perth still presents the gossip from the week ending 20 November 1927:

We hear…

That South Perth is the forcing ground for a scandal that will probably wreck several homes.
That a chance word from a mere baby set a social blaze that will take a lot of extinguishing.
That as the little boy had been allowed to see far too much it was the family’s fault.
That if the rumpus gets to the ears of their farmer relative he will make out a new will.

That a married couple from North Perth caused hearty smiles in a tram leaving the Esplanade for home.
That as it was a hot evening, pa and ma reclined on the grass to await the arrival of a picnic launch.
That when they entered the tram, all hands grew merry over the grass-seeds on the coat of pa.
That by the time they arrived at their destination half a hundred passengers had loud laughs.

That a much advertised wedding-to-be may not be if a certain bundle of letters comes to light.
That the owner of the said epistles has been keeping them for many a long year since his jilt.
That an attempt to steal them resulted in the burglar being caught and made to confess.
That as they have also been well photographed, the denouement may be sudden and sulphurous.

That the practice of a Claremont wife of slandering her decent husband recoiled upon her last week.
That as he devotedly gives her all he can in the way of motors and theatres, a pretty lady visitor heard him libelled.
That she discovered that the wife did it to prevent the visitor from falling in love with him.
That in one case the lady visitor fell in love with hubby out of sheer pity for his misery.

That why White City is being saved from slaughter is a mystery no reasonable citizen can fathom.
That this accursed gambling hell has incited many boys and girls to become hooligans and jazz-flappers.
That the type of brawler it breeds is exemplified by the weedy wasters who nightly enter it.
That as bottled beer and pinky is always planted for the closing hour, the subsequent capers would shock a savage.

That a cheeky swain in a northern township bas been given the key of the street over the piracy of several poems.
That for a long time he has been giving the retired farmer’s daughter verses allegedly composed by him.
That he has laboriously copied them from several volumes of poetry by Lord Byron and Bobbie Burns.
That when the schoolmaster relative came along and exposed the fraud the cavalier called no more.