Welcome to the asylum

straight jacket

Have you ever wondered what makes people go insane? Wonder no more. We provide the evidence from the combined admissions to both Fremantle Asylum and Whitby Falls in 1902 (Graylands not yet having been constructed).

It has to be said that the Dodgy Perth team seem a very high risk group. Although we will decline to mention which of the following categories apply.

Mls Fmls Ttl
Lonely life 5
Love affairs (including seduction) 3 3
Mental anxiety (business) 5 5
Mental anxiety (domestic) 1 6 7
Overwork 2 4 6
Religious excitement 5 1 6
Shock 1 1
Accident 1 1
Change of life 2 2
Congenital 3 3
Epilepsy 4 1 5
Heredity 2 2
Intemperance (alcohol) 15 2 17
Intemperance (opium) 4 4
Masturbation 8 8
Puerperal state 4 4
Privation 7 7
Previous attacks 2 2 4
Senility 3 2 5
Sunstroke 3 1 4
Venereal disease 7 7
Unknown 8 2 10
TOTAL 85 31 116

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.

The war over the memorial


As state war memorials go, WA’s is pitiful. The first meeting to kick off the project—in February 1924—was a sign it was always going to be a calamity.

The Premier, Sir James Mitchell, chaired a meeting of mayors and architects. The intention was to discuss a location for the Memorial.

Architect Michael Cavanagh proposed that the Government should subsidise any memorial, but Sir James sneered at the suggestion. It was for local government and the people to fund it, he said.

The Mayor of Subiaco, Roland Robinson, told a sad story of how the residents of Subiaco had failed to donate enough money to build their memorial, so the council had to subsidise it. He was very sceptical that anyone would give for a state monument.

Robert Bracks, Mayor of North Fremantle, agreed. No one would give to a Perth-based erection. In any case, King’s Park was an awful idea for a proposed location, since it was in danger of becoming nothing more than a “glorified cemetery.” Shouting broke out and the Premier had to repeatedly bang on the table to restore order.

The Mayor of Fremantle seconded his neighbour, and declared there could only be one realistic location for a state memorial: Monument Hill in (ahem) Fremantle. He was never going to put his money into the city of Perth. And would the Premier like to have a look at Freo’s plans for a memorial? The Premier did not care to do so.

William Berryman, a former Subiaco mayor, had no interest in monuments. We need hospitals he said, not pointless memorials. This made Michael Cavanagh cross, and he mocked the erection of “maternity hospitals” to commemorate the dead. A row then broke out between the architect and the Colonial Secretary, who apparently did like maternity hospitals.

South Perth’s William Reid also wanted to boycott a monument in Perth. Somewhat imaginatively he proposed a war museum, with an inner shrine containing the body of an unknown Australian soldier. Or perhaps the money could be used for a ‘Hall of Industry’, where the State’s products could be exhibited.

No one listened to the dissenting voices and it was decided that King’s Park would be the location, with no Government money made available.

The subsequent outcome was predictable from the start.

h/t Museum of Perth

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.

Breakfast and bigamy

Fire station

The scene of our drama

In late 1924 Amy Coall showed up at Perth Fire Station on Murray Street. Unable to locate her husband, turning up at his place of work was a last resort. It was rumoured Joseph had married another woman, and Amy had to know the truth.

As it turned out, he had tried to be a bigamist. But his mum had stopped him.

But let’s return to the previous year. Amy and Joseph were lovers, and she was six months pregnant when they married in December 1923. The newlyweds moved into 9 May Street, Bayswater.

From the start, though, things were not right. Joseph spent two nights a week away, allegedly back at his parents’ house in Victoria Park, because he said his mum needed help looking after his father.

Their child was born in March, and the relationship rumbled on, with Joseph’s odd disappearances continuing. One Monday in August, Joseph left for work at the Fire Station and did not return for a week. When Amy questioned him, he simply shrugged it off, saying it had been a long shift.

Shortly after this Amy discovered guests had been invited to the wedding of Joseph Coall and Doreen Caple, followed by a wedding breakfast in Fremantle.

When Amy turned up at the Fire Station, Joseph admitted everything. And, by the way, his new lover was pregnant with his child. But he wasn’t actually a bigamist. His mother got cold feet at the last minute, and rushed over to Doreen’s family and told the truth.

Bizarrely, no one could bear to disappoint the invited guests, so the bogus wedding breakfast went ahead as planned, with none of the assembled party any the wiser.

You won’t be surprised to discover Amy got herself a divorce shortly afterwards.

Fremantle sensual stew… and it’s not a recipe

NewportBack at the time of Federation, neither the Court Hotel nor Connections Nightclub were welcoming gay men. Since it was illegal to be homosexual, no one was supposed to be welcoming gay men.

So if you were gay in 1901, where could you meet other people on the scene?

Turns out the answer is a billiard room in a Fremantle hotel. Dodgy Perth strongly suspects that it was the Newport, then known as the Club Hotel. (Check out the Newport’s Thursday music nights. Coming up next week is Boom Bap Pow as the Divinyls. Which Dodgy Perth is definitely not going to miss.)

Some of WA’s finest citizens were known to go to this billiard room. The kind of elite who could afford the finest clothes, diamond rings, gold watches, and “even eye-glasses”.

It seems that the landlord of the Newport simply let out the room, and turned a blind eye to whatever went on. The local policemen were slipped a few pound notes every now and again and, strange to say, never saw a need to investigate the billiard room’s clientele.

It is even suggested that at least one police inspector and a local magistrate liked to play billiards from time to time.

In fact, had you attended before midnight, all you would have seen were some respectable citizens enjoying a game or two, while sipping a few beers.

But, come midnight, if you were a stranger and seemed likely to be gay, you would have been asked to stay on for “a little game on the quiet.”

After this, we cannot say for certain what occurred, but it must have been good because The Sunday Times described it as a “carrion filth heap of depravity”, a “foul Fremantle sensual stew”, and a “den of disgusting depravity”. Which sounds like a great night out.

So, when Dodgy Perth is at the Newport next Thursday, we will raise a glass (or two) to a generation whose love might not be able to speak its name, but could still find time for a game of after-midnight billiards.

An unfortunate marriage


Early Perth, looking all black and white

Keziah Lockyer was not a woman to meddle with. She had arrived in Perth with hubby Paul and their many children in early 1830. Keziah had to finance the trip herself, since Paul was broke and, it turns out, feckless.

The worthless husband immediately abandoned his family and took up his favourite hobby: drinking. Mostly in the Sailor Jim Inn at Fremantle.

For the next two years he kept up the boozing and saw nothing of his family. Worse, his grog was bought by selling the few clothes the family owned. Eventually, Paul cruelly announced he no longer needed to be troubled by a wife and children at all.

Keziah’s daughter Eliza struck lucky when she married William Nairne Clark, a lawyer and journalist, while Keziah sought comfort in the bed of her employer, William Temple Graham. These two men had once been friends, but had fallen out. Unfortunately, Clark befriended his drunken father-in-law and the two schemed to embarrass their mutual enemies.

In March 1838, they placed an advert in the paper:


Paul Lockyer hereby intimates, that he will not be responsible for any debts contracted by his wife, Keziah Lockyer, who resides with Mr W. T. Graham.

How they must have chuckled. But they had underestimated Keziah. She got mad. And she got even.

The following week, a large advert declared: “Paul Lockyer ought to have stated that I have not resided with him since 1832, previous to which he deserted me and my children, as is well known”.

Paul is well aware I never had any debts for which he was troubled; he would do well to think of his own.

Paul is requested to pay the cash borrowed from me since he deserted me; also the doctor’s bill for the cure of his dislocated shoulder (got in a drunken brawl) under which he lay thirty weeks at Mr Graham’s expense.

Dodgy Perth wish we could say her story ends well. It doesn’t. Her employer-lover sought his own revenge by seducing Eliza, the wife of his mortal enemy. Naturally, this did not go down well with Keziah. While Graham was sneakily at Eliza’s house, Keziah arrived in a fury. “You old villain,” she screamed, “you have had enough of me, and now you want to make a whore of my daughter.”

Unfortunately, Keziah had now embarrassed one of Perth’s leading citizens, so was told to leave on the first available ship and never return. On 6 May 1839, Keziah arrived in Tasmania to begin a new life, and vanishes from our view.

A fare fight


In the 1910s and ’20s, the bus service between Perth and Fremantle was like going to the Colosseum to watch gladiators in action.

A number of bus companies were competing for the available passengers. Besides being able to steer a bus, drivers had to be tacticians with nerves of steel. There was no timetable, just cutthroat competition.

Buses would race like mad, sometimes two abreast, in order to arrive first at a bus stop. It was not unknown for two drivers disputing who was where first to leave their seats and swing wild punches at each other.

At the start of the run—Short Street, Fremantle—drivers fought to get a good position from the off. Often they would take the bus down at 3 a.m. and get a few hours’ sleep on one of the benches. If a driver were not awake on time, however, he would find himself out of position before he had started.

But one thing could bring the bus companies together: the threat of an independent driver trying muscle in on their turf. The companies, while despising each other, were always willing to gang up on an outsider.

One entrepreneur took up a position on the Short Street rank, and was unsurprised to find it quite busy. The bus in front was practically touching his engine, while the one behind him, from a different company, was even closer.

However, this wouldn’t matter since all he had to do was wait until the vehicle in front filled up and left the rank, and then it would be his turn.

However, things did not turn out that way. He remained jammed for hours, until he agreed to leave and never return.

The two companies had agreed to tie up one bus each for the day, simply to eliminate a potential rival.

How lucky we are to live in Perth in 2015 where it is unimaginable that a duopoly could to conspire to price groceries and petrol to squeeze out rivals. Unimaginable, I say.