History and tragedy


1002 Beaufort Street, next to Mille Café

This is a story about a double tragedy. When we started the research we had no idea it would lead to such a gloomy tale. But that’s the thing about doing history, you simply have to go where the records take you.

Just round the corner from the Dodgy Perth offices is a pair of shops on Beaufort Street. They have been empty for years, but renovations have recently started. Wanting to know more about them, and eager to try out the new office camera, we started with the above photograph.

First port of call is always the Post Office Directories, where we found that in 1946 1002A Beaufort Street was a deli run by Archibald Stubbs and 1002B was the Colreavy Bros butchers. Having got this far we turn to the newspaper archives in Trove to see who these Colreavy brothers were.

And this is where it turns heartbreaking.

Leo and James Colreavy ran two shops, one in the city and the other on Beaufort Street. In March 1947 they went swimming up at Trigg Island. There was a single sign on the beach near the infamous Blue Hole, a permanent rip, which read “Warning. Bathing 50 yards either side of this sign dangerous”. Unfortunately, the brothers misunderstood. They thought it meant it would be dangerous if you went more than 50 yards either side of the sign.

Leo, aged 29 and married with two children, and his single older brother James, aged 31, left their clothes on a rock and dived into the water in their bathers.

Before long two men holidaying in a shed on the beach heard a woman call out “Save them!”

Andrew Aitken and Arthur Samuels launched their 14-foot dinghy, but were driven back by the surf breaking over the rocks. They could see the two swimmers all the time, but they were being carried out beyond the line of surf.

Forced back to the beach, Aitken and Samuels ran along the beach following the helpless swimmers. Using a rope Samuels made an attempt to wade out but failed. An ex-member of the Scarborough Surf Life Saving Club, Keith Mouritz, then took the rope and tied it around his waist. A strong swimmer, he managed to grasp one of the unconscious men, who started to sink just as he reached him. In the meantime, a fisherman in a small boat dragged the second man from the water.

Ambulances were called and artificial resuscitation applied but it was all too late. Both men died at the scene.

The only good outcome of the tragedy was that the coroner ruled more and better signs needed to go up near Blue Hole to prevent more deaths.

And this is just one of the many stories such a building has to offer. Why not pick a place near you and see what turns up?