Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Elliston: A Cursed Town?

Elliston: A Cursed Town?

The coastal township of Elliston, located some 650km's from Adelaide, on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula is a small beach-front town known for whale, sea lion and dolphin spotting on the tranquil waters of Waterloo Bay.
Elliston also features the largest mural in the southern hemisphere, covering 500 square meters. The mural was painted by local artists and community members.

The area was first described by Matthew Flinders in his ship log in 1802 - and subsequently explored further.
The area was further explored in 1840 by Edward Eyre on a journey to Western Australia. The township didn't acquire its name until 1878 when Governor Jervois noted it on a regional map.
The township in the late 1800's was a small, mainly fishing community, surrounded by farming land. Many small Aboriginal tribes also called this area home, and camped on the outskirts of the small town as they moved between ancient tribal sites, little did they know they would play such a large part in this communities dark disturbing future...
In 1836, of the settlers who came to South Australia, some made their way onto the Eyre Peninsula to the vast fertile soils. Some of the European settlers decided the land in the area we now call Elliston was sufficient for settlement, farming and fishing. So they made plans to start their small community.

A tribe of about two hundred Aboriginal people lived on the outskirts of Elliston. Two young Aboriginal hunters went about the business of bringing food back to the tribe, on their journey they came across a farm where sheep were being kept. Upon their arrival at the farm, the farmer who owned the property arrived home, and took note of the two Aboriginal hunters. On the next day, after the usual counting of heads of sheep, the farmer noted four sheep had gone missing. He linked the missing sheep to the two Aboriginal hunters he had seen the day before and reported the missing sheep and the two hunters to the local police.
A local policeman descended upon the camp of the closest Aboriginal mob and began asking who stole the sheep from the farmer the day before.. The Elders replied that no one had taken any sheep . The policeman was suspicious and asked . “Who went out hunting yesterday?”
The tribe named the two men, knowing they had done no wrong, and told the policeman they came back with wombat and kangaroo. The officer suspected the Aboriginal elders were protecting their hunters by lying about the sheep. He arrested the two hunters, who spoke no English and kept them in the gaol.
Weeks later a judge was sent from Adelaide for the trial of the two hunters, which was held in a large barn in Elliston. The Aboriginal hunters mob stood outside in the dark, watching through holes in the walls and through tiny windows, and listened as their hunters were accused. The hunters, who spoke no English, professed their innocence in their native tongue. The hunters told the judge they hunted wombat and kangaroo, but the judge couldn’t understand them and said, “Hang them! Give them an example. Show them what will happen if they steal again!”

The townsfolk took the two Aboriginal hunters and hung them that night in the center of town. The two bodies were left swaying all the next day as a warning to the Aboriginal people. The Tribe wept and mourned their lost family members and the next night cut them down and took them away to bury them in their own tribal custom. Whilst some of the tribe cut the young men down, others sneaked through the town to the building where the Judge was sleeping, they coaxed him from his slumber with a "whoobu-whoobie" ( An Aboriginal device that can sound like a horse neighing, or a dog growling) and knocked him unconscious.
They then hung the white judge from the very spot he had hung the Aboriginal hunters.

On the next morning, when the townsfolk found the judge hanging, the town banded together and formed a posse. The local policeman rounded up horsemen from farms and told the local farmers of the Judges demise. The posse rode to the Aboriginal camp and herded the tribe, men women and children, together, any that tried to escape were shot, whipped or beat with sticks. The posse herded the tribe to the local cliffs and forced them off the side to their deaths.
Only four Aboriginals from the tribe survived the brutal justice of the townsfolk. three teenagers, one girl, two boys and a baby. The baby survived by its mother taking the full impact of the fall. The teenagers that survived lay quiet and still, waiting for some time as the white men at the top of the cliff looked for survivors to kill. Eventually the posse moved on and the children made their escape down the beach towards Streaky Bay.
The news of the massacre spread swiftly amongst the Aboriginal tribes and they began to flee the area towards Talewan, and the Gawler Ranges, not wanting to suffer a similar fate at the hands of the merciless white folk of Elliston
History repeats, and within ten years, the townsfolk of Elliston, repeated their horrible massacre of more local Aboriginal tribes near the local "sweep holes", for very similar reasons to the first massacre. After the second massacre, No Aboriginal people have ever lived in Elliston.

It was well documented that when a farmer killed his sheep in the town, the Aboriginal tribes would collect the guts whatever was left and use it for their own purposes, if there was no food from their own local resources around.
The only evidence the Police had against the two hunters was tracks in the scrub.
It wasn't until many years later that the Aboriginal men were proven to be innocent, two white men admitted to stealing the sheep to start their own farm in a near-by town. The two Aboriginal men were hung for no reason, and a whole innocent tribe was put to death for the death of one man, who had not given a fair trial to a fellow human being.

Local legends persist, and amongst Mobs in the area, the place is considered cursed. It is said that amongst the cliffs where the Aboriginal Mob fell to their deaths, that at times, their voices, screams and cries can be heard. Reports of phantoms have also been made near the cliffs and near the sweep holes.

Iris Burgoyne: The Mirning - We are the whales - publshed by Magabala books
Black armband Blogspot
Elliston Community Website
Across the bar to Waterloo bay: Elliston 1878 - 1978. - Compiled by the Elliston book commitee
A special Thank you to Andrew Brown who reminded me of this story!

Original story written Dec 6. 2011
Edited 31/1/2012 © 2013 -Allen Tiller

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

War Tunnels

War Tunnels

A brand new train and train-line, with a newly completed viaduct and brand new tunnels in Belair in the newly founded colony of South Australia was quite the achievement. Although, the colony did not expect to see men standing around in the fields near Blackwood, wondering why their new shiny train could not make it up the steep incline, and so it was in 1833 when 200 of Adelaide's most proper gentleman were invited on the first trip of Adelaide’s new train line into the Adelaide Hills (As reported in the Observer March 17th 1833)

World War One broke out and the old “sleeps hill” line became a very important part of our War Communications and transport between States. Armed military guards were posted at either ends of the tunnels to stop any espionage attempts.
When the war ended in 1919, a new line was installed, and the railway lines were removed from the old tunnels (the last train ran through there on august 11th 1919). Instead the tunnels now served as a picnic and exploration area to many local people.

In 1932, an enterprising young man came up with the idea of using the tunnels to grow mushrooms. He removed the gravel floor and brought in tons of fresh dirt, and planted his first crop, looking to a bright future of all year round fresh mushrooms for South Australia.
However it wasn’t to be, as unforeseen causes saw his business take many blows. Firstly, an endless supply of unwanted brown snakes found their way into the warm dank tunnels. Then mould and fungus disease obliterated his crop...and to top it all off vandals broke in a destroyed what little he had left.
His mushroom dream finally ended after and outbreak of the fungus “Chatomium” spread throuhg his crop, a disease brought to South Australia from infected mushrooms from Herefordshire, England.
In 1938 – the old tunnels now stood empty once again.
In 1942, the Japanese bombed Darwin, and an outbreak of paranoid hysteria captured the South Australian governments minds. They decided the old Sleeps hills tunnels would be the perfect place to hide the States treasures and important documents.
Plans wee made, and the shorter of the two tunnels was soon overhauled with ventilation shafts, electric lighting, and thick brick walls at either end with heavy iron doors.
A Jarrah platform running 700ft and 18 inches high was installed running the full legth of the tunnel. Next the tunnel was divided in half down its width and dived into sections. A small hand cart was then used to place the States Treasures into their new homes.
Armed troops stood guard as endless trucks of treasures arrived to be unloaded and hidden from the Japanese Threat. War records on microfilm, Government X-rays, taxation documents and other Government papers were stored inside the tunnels alongside some of our most valuable art collections.
The Government spent a lot of money on this new storage facility, that housed not only our state treasure and documents, but also a Travelling painting of King George the VI, which happened to be in Australia at the time. Elaborate fire safe guards were installed and the facility was constantly monitored by the military for dampness, mould and pests.
The other tunnel played a lesser role and became storage for an arsenal of weapons and ammunition, it too was heavily guarded by our military.
The war ended, but this did not stop the military from using the 1st tunnel for the following few years.

There has long been rumour and innuendo that some of our treasures never made it back out of tunnel 1, but I am assured by a source I spoke to recently that everything was accounted for and returned to its proper place after the threat of war diminished.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Gawler -“Flying Saucer”

Gawler -“Flying Saucer”

In 1954 Gawler experienced its first publicly reported “Flying Saucer” report. On Wednesday the 20th of January 1954 Mrs J Tait was at her home south of the Gawler Racecourse. At about 11:20am she witnessed and Unidentified Flying Object flying at incredible height and speed over the foothills to the South East.
Mrs Tait was not alone, her daughter, Rotha and Rotha's school friends, Shirley Struck were also present. The incredible noise the object was making had made them come outside to see what all the fuss was about.
The object, which at first resembled a feather, soon too on the shape of a saucer. It sped through the air at “great height and speed” and was “pure white”. It remained in the air for a very brief amount of time before it shot off at incredible speed in a south westerly direction.
15 minutes later a jet plane flew across the sky heading in the same direction as the UFO.
The RAAF was contacted and they stated they had indeed sent a jet aircraft off at the time stated. The Jet was doing around 600MPH at 10, 000 feet.
Another witness, Mrs W.C. Harrington of Gawler South also the flying object.

When presented with the RAAF's opinion of it being a jet, Mrs Tait Stated that she is perfectly sure that the first object did not resemble and aircraft in the slightest. The first object was round and second object was easily identifiable as a jet air-plane

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Grisly Gawler - Part IV - Circus Strikers brawl

Grisly Gawler - Part IV

Circus Strikers Brawl

In 1931 after a successful string of shows in Angaston, Wirths Circus was on its way to Gawler via train to set up at the Circus at the Gawler Racecourse. Following close behind in a rented truck from Tanunda,. Were a group of men who had gone on strike during the Angaston leg of shows, wanting more money and better conditions.
The Tanunda Police had phoned ahead and warned the Gawler Police of the approaching truck and the state of anger and excitement of the men on board.
The truck rolled into Gawler and the men drove up and down the main street calling out obscenities about the circus and its owners. Constable Philips of the Gawler Police, intercepted the truck at Tramways bridge and ordered the men out. The men verbally abused the officer as they unloaded.
Police Sergeant Hansberry and Mounted Constable Hodgson were called to assist and it didnt take long until violence erupted with some of the men striking at the Police Officers. The men did not account for the Officers being more than willing reciprocate, striking back with their batons, knocking at least four men to the ground unconscious and causing extensive injuries with their batons. Blood was split and bones were cracking under the extreme willingness of the Officers to end the violence these men had started.
The Police eventually rounded up four of the most violent and abusive men and took them to the local station to charge them with Drunkenness, Indecent Language and Resisting Arrest.
Later in the day, several of the striking men from Angaston, turned up to the new Circus site at Gawler Racecourse, ready to cause a ruckus as to why their strike conditions were not being met. Mrs Wirth, refused to discuss the terms with the men and told them to leave the site.
Police continued patrols well into the night to stop any further trouble.
Unemployed men from Adelaide, who were on the Government listings, were brought down to fill the void the strikers had left, and to work for the Circus.
The men arrested were found guilty and duly fined. The other men did not return to cause any more problems that evening, due to the sudden rise in police visibility....

Perhaps a riot was stopped shot on that particular occasion!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Happy 2nd Birthday The Haunts of Adelaide

Happy 2nd Birthday
The Haunts of Adelaide

Tomorrow The Haunts of Adelaide turns 2!
 Many thanks to all our readers that have found us and stayed with us over those two years, as we have delved into some of South Australia's, Ghosts, Crimes and Eccentricities...

We appreciate your support and encouragement.

We would also like to thank
The National Library of Australia
The Library of South Australia
The PANDORA Archives
The Bunyip
The Kapunda Herald
The Advertiser
and all the Historians and Genealogists who have helped along the way

Below is some of our artwork from the past 2 years

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Grisly Gawler - Part III - Death in Custody

Grisly Gawler - Part III
Death in Custody

Life was hard in the late 1800's, but, just like now, there was no excuse for crime, and if you were caught, you'd sit in a police cell until it was your time to be judged and sentenced.
In Gawler, you would visit the police cells on Cowan street. In it's day, long before the modern Police Station we see now, there stood a stone building ( as shown in photo's below)
Much like now, back in the day there were rules and regulations Police had to follow whilst they had prisoners in custody, but those rules and regulations didn’t take in to account the human factor. If someone really wants something bad enough, they will find a way to do it, and with that, there were quite a few deaths in custody in the Gawler Police station in the late 1800's.
I am going to touch on one briefly in this article.

In 1872, a man by the Surname Docherty had been arrested in front of his own home for suspicion of stealing horse saddle three months earlier. The arrest was made by Sergeant Woodcock at 5am on
the 16th of October 1872 . He took the defendant back to the Gawler Police station on cowman street and placed him in the cells.
Precautions were taken to make sure the prisoner had no weapons upon his body and he was left alone in the cells, checked upon on a regular basis by the station officers, as was customary.
He was last seen alive at 9pm Saturday night when his dinner was brought to him by Constable Farrell.
Docherty had been totally sober and of no nuisance to the Police officers, not complaining about his situation nor offering any objection to his treatment.
He was found hanging from his belt the following morning by constable Farrell, who called on Sergeant Woodcock to come and assist in cutting down the man .
Docherty had climbed up on his night bucket, and slipped his belt loop through the top rails above the doorway, then fastened the belt,. He then made a makeshift noose, and hung himself.
Due to the extreme summer heat at the time, it was decided to make an inquest into Docherty's death that same day. His friends and Wife were called to the courthouse to offer witness statements as to the mental condition of the man. His wife told officers as of late, her husband, who was usually a quiet man who took no alcohol, had become much keen to drink, and was often out drinking and doing things in the scrub, but she was not aware of what, as he did not say.
The Police had to make a report and report Mr Docherty's suicide as 'The deceased, being of weak intellect, committed suicide in a fit of temporary insanity”!

There were many more reported suicides and attempted suicides in the Gawler Police Station, as well as many other Stations around Australia. In the era, for most people, being arrested was a much more serious thing than it is now. People liked to keep good reputations intact, and being arrested, or worse, gaoled, was the kind of thing that could cost not only livelihoods, but also social status and Church Status in serious jeopardy. Often people once released would move on to new areas to try and wash those old stains from their past.

The link below shows statistics for deaths in custody across Australia in the last few years: http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/mr/1-20/20/08_prison.html

The following link shows statistics for crimes over various decades.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Grisly Gawler - Part II - Fatal Tiger Attack

Grisly Gawler – Part II


On the 17th of June 1898, the Bunyip Newspaper in Gawler, South Australia reported a “sensational incident” that occurred at a circus event held in Gawler South, by travelling Circus “Harmston”.
The newspaper reported that on Saturday the 11th of June, the Harmston Circus had put on a great show, but at its closing act “Gomez” the Tiger trainer, otherwise known by his real name, John Issac, entered the tiger cage to put the Tigers through the finale escapes of the Circus event.
As Gomez finished the act and turned his back on the tiger to leave, it pounced on the South African trainer, and sunk its teeth into his neck just under the back of his head. The tiger carried Gomez over the division of the gate, possibly with the intention of pulling its prey to pieces and feasting on his meat.
The crowd, not knowing if this was part of the act or not, reacted slowly to the Tigers act, but soon blood was spotted by the crowd, and they realised this was not part of the act.
Fear and confusion reigned, and the crows ran for the exits, some jumping over the wall surrounding the seating to make a hastier escape. Whilst this was happening, a group of circus attendants began to beat the tiger with sticks to try and free Gomez, who was still caught within the animals jaws.
The attendants beat the tiger off and Gomez stood and walked out the door, but was soon overcome by his extensive injuries, and collapsed. He was immediately taken to Dr Dawes surgery where the good Doctor did all he could to stop the bleeding and ease the man's pain.
On Monday. Gomez had recovered enough to be taken to the Adelaide Hospital, but by Tuesday his condition worsened, and at 5pm on Tuesday the 14th of June 1898 he passed away.

Mr Love, the sole lessee of the show, offered his condolences for Gomez, and talked of him being a man of excellent character and kindness.
However, when questioned upon the safety aspect of how the Tiger act was run, he lay much of the blame on the head of the young, now dead, Tiger Trainer.
He stated that Gomez had not taken the necessary precautions which had been put in place by the circus, and had gone into the cage with only a small whip, which only antagonised the Tiger. Staff outside had metal forks and a pistol if anything occurred, and they had seen to the Tiger being beaten off the trainer.
Love pointed out one thing, that above all other things took the blame away from himself and the Circus, Gomez had not lit the fire which sat above the gate – in his words “an unprecedented act”. He stated “ the animal was cunning enough to see that it had the advantage. The brute was well used to Isaac's attentions, for he had been its regular warder for the past twenty months, and had performed with it as many as nine times a week”

An inquest was opened into the death of John “Gomez” Issacs, and it was noted by Dr Morris of Adelaide Hospital, that he entered the hospital on the Monday in a very fearful state, and also in a severe state of shock, his injuries included a two inch puncture wound on the left side with two smaller punctures also on that side, and two puncture wounds on the right side of his neck. He had lost all movement in his left arm. The wounds had already become inflamed, which the Doctor stated, was akin to being poisoned and his breathing was considerably affected by the strain.
A post-mortem examination was done and it was found one of the wounds had penetrated his spine, breaking the vertebrates, and the base of his spine was inflamed as well as the membranes of his spinal cord.

The Tiger:
“Duke” was the Tiger's name, an 8 year old native of Japan, who was sired by “Bromo” and “Kitty”, two tigers that had found a home with the Mikado.
Duke was a twin, his brother remained with the Mikado in Japan and became an attraction at the Royal Gardens at Uno Park Tokyo.
Duke was five years old when he was trained to appear in public, and in his three years as a circus Tiger, he had had five trainers. His first a Mexican, second a Chinaman and his third an Australia. The second and third men were both mauled by two jungle tigers, and were subsequently replaced.
The fourth trainer, a Singapore native, was recently training Duke, when the Tiger attacked and broke his jaw, through a “sever crushing”. Gomez, the fifth trainer, had only just stepped into the job, and believe it or not, the previous trainer from Singapore, was one of the first to rush into the cage to try and save Gomez from Duke!

Duke was not euthanised, he continued on with the Circus...and another trainer...