The Highgate Rain Baby

No, it wasn't there in 1932, but it's still a great tower

No, it wasn’t there in 1932, but it’s still a great tower

There are some things you don’t expect to find in Lincoln Street. A large tower to stop the sewerage smelling, yes. A weirdo dressed only in an overcoat and a pair of shoes, no.

Late one evening in June 1932, 28-year-old Stewart H. carefully folded his clothes and placed them under a tree. It was raining heavily. He told the arresting officer, Constable Weaver, he was simply having a shower. #YOLO

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

Eighteen years later, Stewart was arrested in Roberts Road, Subiaco, dressed in women’s clothing and with powder and rouge on his face.

The clothing he was wearing was produced in Court. It consisted, as the newspapers carefully detailed, of a woman’s overcoat, dress, brassiere—packed with linen—a scarf, and women’s shoes. He was carrying a handbag and umbrella. Worst of all, according to the media, Stewart was wearing nothing under the dress.

“There seems to be something queer about you,” observed the magistrate.

Four years later in Kewdale, Stewart was charged with “alarming women and children” by lurking while dressed in women’s clothing. He had fled before the police arrived, but had already been recognised.

As the police explained in court, when they turned up at his East Cannington home he was wearing only blue swimming trunks and a dressing gown. This time he got fourteen days.

North Perth. Subiaco. Kewdale. Cannington. At least Stewart’s hobby got him out of the house.

Peace, love and barbies

Fazal Din and camel, 1904

Smoked camel anyone?

As every Australian knows, all it takes is a barbeque to shatter cultural barriers. Usually.

For what may have been the earliest multicultural festival in Perth, in May 1897 adverts in the local rags announced the ‘Mohammedan Christmas’, Bakreed.*

A camel would be sacrificed at the home of Ahmed Khan, on Vincent Street, Highgate. A camel selected from Ahmed’s personal herd as being the very best.

To make it tempting for the non-Muslims, free camel burgers were on offer for anyone who showed up.

Some fifty members of Perth’s Muslim community arrived, together with the media and a number of interested onlookers.

At 10 o’clock in the morning, Ahmed and his comrades started to pray in Arabic. After the traditional prayers, Mr Khan exclaimed Bismillah, followed by Allahu Akbar as he drew the knife across the hapless camel’s neck. Then the knife was ritually inserted into the beast in three places.

With the formal proceedings out of the way, an experienced butcher cut up the carcase so the barbeque could get going.

Unfortunately for Mr Khan, the westerners turned up their noses at the free barbie, preferring just to watch their Muslim neighbours tuck in. Was it the lack of beer? Or the lack of tomato sauce? Either way, not one unbeliever was willing to try something new.

One journalist was repeatedly pressed to give the burgers a go, but he announced he was “sufficiently bigoted in his tastes” and would not eat anything but the traditional cow. Rudely, after the ceremony, the hack went straight to a restaurant to get a steak.

Despite this clash of tastes, multiculturalism was alive and well 120 years ago, and no one was holding government inquiries into halal labelling.

*Bakri-Id (Eid-al-Adha), to be celebrated in September this year.