Tuesday 2 July 2024

Port River Sunfish

 Port River Sunfish

 In 1903, the Adelaide Observer reported that Mr Seymour Bagot and a small party of young men were fishing in the Port River. (The Observer, in 1908, reported the incident happened at Schnapper Point).[1] Bagot noticed a fish floating lazily on the surface of the water with a fin protruding, he described it as looking ‘like a shark.’
Bagot reported the incident to the journalist stating,

‘I picked up my gun and fired at it twice in quick succession. It immediately dived, and I headed the launch for the shore. For a time, I lost sight of the queer fish, but it found us shortly afterwards and nearly capsized the boat. Our propellor struck it once of twice; and then I shot again, and this time managed to hit it in a vital part. The chase and kill were more exciting than any shark could possibly have given.’[2]

 The fish was 7 feet 2 inches (2.1 meters) in length; 9 feet 2 inches (2.8 meters) in girth, and length round, 18 feet (5.4 meters).  Each of its two fins measured 3 feet 1 inch (0.94 meters). The distance from the top fin to the bottom was 9 feet 6 inches (2.92 meters). The fish weighed 15 cwt (762 kg).[3]

The fish an Ocean Sunfish (also known as a Mola mola) can weigh between 250 to 2000Kg. They can grow to at least 3.3 meters and as large as 4 meters in size. According to the Australian museum, there are five species of Sunfish found in Australian waters; the Hoodwinker Sunfish - Mola tecta, the Giant Sunfish - Mola alexandrini, the Ocean Sunfish - Mola mola, Slender Sunfish - Ranzania laevis, and the Point-tailed Sunfish, Masturus lanceolatus.[4]

The fish was donated to the South Australian Museum. The Register newspaper reported in December 1903 that,

 ‘Very shortly the enormous sunfish captured in the Port River by Mr. Seymour Bagot, will be added to the collection. This example and a mute swan (one of a number given to the Botanical Gardens by the late Queen Victoria) are now receiving the finishing touches.’[5]

The sunfish caught be Seymour Bagot was on display in the South Australian for many years. Although it doesn’t mention Bagot’s Sunfish, this article, written by Dan Monceaux for the Marine Life Society of South Australia Inc., records modern captures of the Sun fish in South Australia:

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2024

[1] 'GENERAL NEWS.', Observer, (26 September 1908), p. 35.

[2] 'A SEA MONSTER.', Adelaide Observer, (18 July 1903), p. 24.

[3] 'A SEA MONSTER.', The Capricornian, (25 July 1903), p. 46.

[4] Kerryn Parkinson, Ocean Sunfish, Mola mola (Linnaeus, 1758), Australian Museum, (2021),

[5] 'ADDITIONS TO THE MUSEUM.', The Register, (22 December 1903), p. 4.

Wednesday 26 June 2024

Gawler National Trust Heritage Museum


Gawler National Trust Heritage Museum

In the past year, I have held 3 presentations at the Gawler Heritage Museum, raising close to $2000 for the museum. Many people still don’t seem to know Gawler has a museum in Murray Street, so I thought I might share a ghost story to see if it generates some interest and gets some people visiting…

This building started as Gawler’s Telegraph Station and was built in 1860. Pre-internet and telephones, A wire signal was installed that allowed a tapped, morse code message to be sent to Gawler from Adelaide or Port Adelaide when the mail arrived.
Eventually, the Post office moved next door and this building became the Gawler School of Mines and the Gawler Adult Education Centre. From 1915 until 1953 it was the Commonwealth Government Electoral Office. In 1966, the building was transferred to the National Trust. It is now Gawler’s National Trust Museum.


The building is allegedly haunted by twin girls who sit on chairs on
the upper level. A witness claimed to have walked into the room and saw the little girls sitting there,
talking to each other. They did not seem to notice the living lady, and vanished before her eyes, as she
stared at them in shock!

Another ghostly occurrence is linked to the old piano upstairs, during a paranormal investigation, the piano was heard to tap out a few notes – perhaps this was a ghost playing a tune…or typing our morse code…

Tuesday 4 June 2024

Cold Case: Darren Jason Shannon

 Cold Case: Darren Jason Shannon


On Saturday 9 June 1973, 11-month-old Darren Jason Shannon was abducted by his father. Darren, known as Jason by his mother, was at his grandparents’ house at Blackdown Road Elizabeth West (now Davoren Park) when his father John ‘Barry’ Shannon, a man with a long history of mental illness abducted him. 24 hours later, John Shannon died in a head-on car crash near Roseworthy. Jason was not found in the car, or nearby, and his whereabouts to this day, remain a mystery.

Jason’s mother, Michelle, recollected in the Sunday Mail, in 2016 the day of her son's abduction. She recalled that Barry had come to the house twice that day, which was unusual, but other than that, there was nothing out of the ordinary, not suspicious about his behaviour.
 The couple had split up, and Michelle had moved back to her parents’ home. She had received custody of Jason, but Barry had received visitation rights.[1]

On the evening of the abduction, Barry came to the house. He snatched Jason from the loungeroom, and Michelle's dad, Alfred chased after him. Barry was too quick, escaping into his car and speeding off. The family eventually left Adelaide and returned to England.[2]

Jason Shannon Cold Case - Car Crash Scene (Wolseley 1300 Mk II)

Police investigations concluded that Barry could not have driven far in the two hours between the abduction and car crash. They estimated the farthest he could have travelled was Clare or Port Wakefield from Elizabeth, then back through Roseworthy. They also concluded from examining soil samples in his car and shoes that Barry had not walked in dirt or mud, or been involved in digging. The soil samples confirmed the dirt from his parents’ and former in-law’s homes but nowhere else.

 A grave was interfered with in 2005 at Church of Christ cemetery Kapunda – but no conclusive connection between the two cases has been established.[3] Police believe that Barry either disposed of his son’s body somewhere before the crash or gave him to someone else to raise in secret.[4]

Anyone with information that could assist police investigating the disappearance of baby Jason is asked to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or report online at  - callers can remain anonymous.

[1] Debbie Schipp, ‘Cold case: Four decades on, what happened to baby Jason?’, The Advertiser, (August 2016),

[2] Nigel Hunt, ‘Police reveal second theory in unsolved 1973 baby abduction case,’ Sunday Mail, (31 July 2016).

[3] Nigel Hunt, ‘Police reveal second theory in unsolved 1973 baby abduction case,’ Sunday Mail, (31 July 2016).

[4] Case Profile – Darren ‘Jason’ Shannon, Crime Stoppers, (10 June 2022),

Wednesday 29 May 2024



For the size of the city Adelaide has been comparatively free from the "fire demon" for a very long time. The hot weather of the past week has however brought with it a larger number of fires than has ever occurred during a like period since the colony has existed.

The subject of our illustration was the largest fire we have ever had here. It began soon after 9 o'clock on the evening of February 5th, and before it was got under (at about 11 o'clock) no fewer than three shops and premises were completely gutted. The names of the persons whose premises were entirely destroyed were L. Veroli (insured), Mr. Barry (not insured), Mr. Haylock (not insured). Besides these the adjoining premises of Messrs. Jamieson, Lyons, and the E.S. & A.C. Bank, were all considerably damaged both by fire and water.
  We believe that fully £10,000 worth of damage was done. The thoroughfare was completely blockaded for several hours by a mass of people, and there could not have been less than 10,000 persons present. A great part of the salvage goods were stolen, whilst the furniture and personal effects were more damaged by being tumbled about the streets than by any other cause.

Mr. Richard Vaughan is the proprietor of the whole of the buildings, but we believe he will not lose anything, being fully insured. At the inquest nothing was elicited to show how the fire originated, and we suppose it will therefore for ever remain a mystery.

Besides the large fire, there has been several others during the past few days, at the King of Hanover stables, at Kent Town, in Hindley-street, and lastly at the Adelaide Photographic Company's in King William-street. Altogether, Adelaide has had enough fires to last a long time, and we sincerely hope it will be a long time ere we have to chronicle so disastrous a fire as is depicted on our front page. It is from a sketch taken on the spot.


'Our Illustrations', The Illustrated Adelaide News, (1 February 1879), p. 3.,

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Loveday – Part 4 – Camp 10

 Loveday – Part 4 – Camp 10

The Loveday Internment Camp complex was the largest construction of its type in Australia, and the only purpose-built World War II internment facility in South Australia. It comprised a garrison barracks and administration building, camps 9, 10 and 14; a piggery and other farming facilities, and included three woodcutting camps at Katarapko, Woolenook Bend and Moorook West.[1] Other Internment facilities were a temporary facility at Keswick Army Barracks in 1939/40. Gladstone Gaol was used for Italian detainees, who worked forestry jobs at Wirrabara and Bundaleer. There was also a temporary internment camp at Sandy Creek that housed Italian detainees who worked on farms in the Adelaide Hills. Before this, the camp had been constructed to house American troops. A section of fence from this camp still exists on Williamstown Road.[2]

Camp 10, accepted detainees from, June 1941 until January 1944, when all detainees were transferred to camp 14. At the end of the war, most of the structures at the camp were sold and relocated, however, the camp 10 cell block remains in situ. The cell block was built originally as a two-cell facility but was later expanded to six cells. Detainees housed here were for crimes inside the camps, such as espionage, physical violence against other inmates, disobedience, and escape attempts. Australian soldiers with the 25/23 Garrison Battalion, due for court-martial hearings also spent time in these buildings. (One, who worked in the mail room, was accused of opening Red Cross packages sent to detainees and stealing their cigarettes.)[3] These three detained Australian soldiers inscribed their names on the cell’s walls.[4]

Camp 10 was officially closed on 9 January 1944. It was then converted to a Detail Issue Depot (DID). DIDs were used for storing and distributing basic supplies to the various camps.[5] The camp was closed in 1946, and individual campsites were sold as properties. In 1947, the piggeries and 43 acres of land were sold to ex-servicemen.[6]

In 1989, The General Headquarters site at Loveday Internment Camp Complex was entered into the South Australian Heritage Register. In 1991, an archaeological survey was conducted at the location. The Loveday Internment Camp Committee is investigating the potential of turning the former cell block into a tourist attraction.[7]


Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2024

[1] Camp 10 Detention Cell Block – Loveday Internment Camp Complex., Department of Environment and Water, (2020), p. 14.
[2] Ibid., pp. 2-3.
[3] 'Prisoners' Camp Allegations', News, (28 April 1944), p. 3.
[4] Camp 10 Detention Cell Block – Loveday Internment Camp Complex., Department of Environment and Water, (2020), p. 19-20.
[5] The Details Issue Depot, Australian War Memorial, (2023),
[6] 'Loveday Camp Closing', The Advertiser, (21 January 1947), p. 2.
[7] Loveday Internment Camp, Berri Barmera Council, (March 2023),

Tuesday 30 April 2024

Loveday – Part 3: Tunnel

Loveday – Part 3: Tunnel
Barmera, South Australia. 1943-03-11/17. Detention cells of the 10th Australian prisoner of war and internment camp, loveday group. (Australian War Memorial)

Loveday internment camp had many escape attempts, the most notable being a tunnel dug from under a tent near a permitter fence, which came out on the other side of the barbwire fence, hidden by a bush.
The tunnel was deep enough underground that trucks passing over the top on the road did not collapse it. To get around the large amounts of dirt being pulled from the tunnel excavation, prisoners asked for permission to make a mud brick hut, which was granted. Surprisingly, no officers questioned where the dirt was coming from.

Internees used kitchen knives to dig the tunnels, and handkerchiefs to cart the dirt from the tunnel. The dirt that wasn’t used for mud bricks was spread around the camp day and night, without soldiers guarding the camp realising.

On 30 April 1942 three internees reported to a guard that they believed there would be a mass escape that evening. The three men were removed from the camp for their own safety. An inspection of the entirety of Camp 10 revealed the tunnel. It was believed that within a few hours of the report to the guard, the tunnel would have been big enough for the escape of hundreds of detainees. Soldiers filled the tunnel with water and collapsed it to prevent escapes and seal the exit route.[1]

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2024

[1] Max Scholz, ‘As I Remember: The Loveday Interment Camp,’ (Barmera, 2004), pp. 32-33. ; 'Last Prisoners Have Left Loveday', Murray Pioneer, (23 January 1947), p. 1.

Thursday 25 April 2024

'The Soldiers' Farewell. South Australians off to the War. Monday's Parade

'The Soldiers' Farewell. South Australians off to the War. Monday's Parade.'

Farewell parade of the first contingent of South Australian soldiers for the First World War
SLSA [B 30437]

According to a newspaper article entitled .' in The Register, Adelaide (Tuesday, September 11, 1914. Page.9),
"The parade was a triumph of faith, hope and loyalty - faith in the strength of British arms, hope of a speedy peace, and loyalty which can never give enough for King and country. The city was transformed. North Terrace and King William Street presented a picture of seething humanity which will not readily be forgotten. For fully two hours before the parade trains and trams were pouring people into the city. There was no open roadway to be seen from Victoria square to the Adelaide Railway Station. The (parade) route was in a northerly direction from West terrace to North terrace, thence to Pultney street along Rundle, King William, and Grote streets, passing the Queen's statue".

A military band leading South Australian soldiers as they make a farewell march along King William Street, Adelaide before going overseas in World War I; large crowds line the roadside on both sides
SLSA: [PRG 280/1/3/339]