Gold Rush Railway

The story of Northam versus York in the race to be the pathway to Yilgarn and beyond began after a speech by Governor Sir William Robinson January 22nd 1890. It has been an interest of mine as Northam is where the family called home.
There wasn’t much in it with the line through Northam estimated to cost £216445 and from York £216992, both including rolling stock.


York Station built in 1885 care of Battye Library 5204B/22

Possibly the favourable factor in CY O’Connor’s recommendation in his selection of Northam was the distance to Southern Cross from Fremantle was 15 miles longer via a route through York. A spur line from Spencers Brook to Northam was already in place and was running at a loss to the government so there would be a saving there.


An A Class at Spencers Brook travelling to York c1890 care of Battye Library 28662P.

Various deputations and representations were made to Premier, Sir John Forrest from Newcastle, Northam, York and Beverley but it was The Premier’s view that the shortest course would be taken.


Public Records Office showing routes proposed ACC1590 Item 14410/03


Gold had been found in the Kimberley’s but in small quantities so a discovery in Goomalling was of great interest to those the had the fever. North of Southern Cross, in the Yilgarn Shire and Central Yilgarn (Craton), there was exploration for gold during the late 1880s and 1890s thought to be first discovered in 1887.

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Northam Station seen here in 1929 thanks to Edward James Rigg Collection.

In less than two short years, tenders were called for the construction of the railway September 1st, 1892. The Northam to Southern Cross railway opened at 175 miles in length on the 1st of July, 1894. By now, Paddy Hannan had already found gold at Kalgoorlie June 17th, 1893 requiring a further extension of the Eastern line.

Northam 108

Northam station in all her glory, a busy stop sadly bypassed for a faster route in 1966. Very fond memories of playing here in the 1970s.

The Southern Cross to Kalgoorlie line of 138 miles was completed 1st of January, 1897 as Kalgoorlie population approached 2000.


Inspiration thanks to Allan Tilley who researched and produced To Greenhills And Beyond, 1998.


The Spaceship

The Futuro House: Spaceship Living On Earth (1965)

Introduced at the Finnexpo fair in 1968, the Futuro concept was created by architect Matti Suuronen, to be plonked on a block of land ideally as a home away from home.

 01_futuro_sur-768x645. © Matti Suuronen, Espoo City Museum 

Its walls are made of fiberglass-reinforced polyester shells with a sandwich layer of polyurethane foam providing insulation. In order to make assembly and dismantling easier, the house was manufactured in 16 arc segments which could be assembled on site in the space of only two days. A total of 16 double-glazed windows afford a panoramic view right round. There are unfortunately no records of how many FUTURO houses were sold in total. At a conservative estimate there were originally around 70 of them, of which around 60 are still in existence today.

Judy Carroll (11)

With thanks to Judy Carrol.


Interior specifications varied as each one could be purchased either as just a shell, or with various modular interior elements. The most commonly accepted interior specification is of an entrance hall, bathroom, kitchenette, living area with open fireplace and six seat-bed’s, and a bedroom/dressing room.


The unit we refer to at Lost Perth was placed atop an ornamental lake situated at the corner of Apsley Road and Burren Gate and those considering purchasing a block of land in the new subdivision of Burrendah could climb a small set of steps and walk into the Spaceship. A land sales office sat beyond the Futuro for those with queries about the area.

Cathrine Cornish Prins (3)

When no longer required, the spaceship was placed at the corner of Karel Avenue and Leach Highway for many years where so many of us remember it so well.


With thanks to slwa_b3116765_1

The Futuro was launched in 1969 and began to be licensed around the world.
However, with the oil crisis of 1973, the manufacturing costs of the Futuro House tripled and put an end to its hopes of mass production.

The demise of The Leach Highway Spaceship saw the council and Main Roads WA not come to an agreement so the craft was dismantled and given to The Barking Gecko Theatre but with no use it was taken to Maida Vale to with a dream of being reassembled as a dance studio but this never happened and it sits ruined in the bush.

DSCF2614 - Copy - Copy

Can it be resurrected?

A Crooked Road

One accepts a curve in a road today but the most prominent one we may wonder about is where St Georges Terrace meets Adelaide Terrace.

Looking at the image from 1859 which shows Roe’s structure to the left and a shed to the other with the road alignment already having a dog leg in it. I heard it is due to Matilda Roe’s fondness for gardening and it spilling from it’s plot or maybe the chook shed?

You will know Matilda’s hubby John Septimus Roe who set out much of Perth serving the colony as Chief Surveyor for 40 years until the death of his beloved who he married before the ship set sail from England to colonise WA in 1829 having some 13 children.

Roe had a huge impact on WA and arguably the most significant legacy left by Roe was the setting aside of Kings Park. As early as December 1830, Roe responded to a request to cut timber below Mount Eliza with: “Mr. Mews to be informed that the neighbourhood of Mt. Eliza is reserved for public purposes”. Although it is widely accepted that Roe’s successors Malcolm Fraser and John Forrest were most instrumental in the establishment of Kings Park, Roe was clearly responsible for the initial setting aside of the park.14034895_1137695616301491_6102551704382703730_n

The Night Caller

I spoke with Police historian Peter Skehan yesterday whilst repairing his fence and although we have spoken in the past of Eric  Edgar Cooke, I didn’t raise the topic this time although it crossed my mind. Today I see a photo of Rookwood Street Mt Pleasant shared by Denice Weaver from the 1950s where the police finally captured him after laying in wait after discovering his firearm previously.
The first person executed in Western Australia was 15-year-old John Gavin. Gavin confessed to the murder of a Pinjarra lad George Pollard and was held in the Round House until he was hanged on 6 April 1844. His body was buried south of the Round House. It is now thought Pollard’s mother may have been the murderer.
Since then,there have been many murderers, none however, managed to change a city through their acts… not like Cooke did.
Perth, situated in Western Australia was known in the 1960’s as a quiet place. People rarely locked their doors, or their cars and everyone was willing to give everyone else a hand where need be. That was until the “Reign Of Terror” hit Perth and with it came Eric Edgar Cooke, the serial killer that killed anywhere, anytime and anyone.
Born in 1931, Cooke was born different facially. His father automatically took no passion towards his son and that was made worse when Cooke was the oldest of two sisters. He was operated on as a small child that left his speech not quite right but his parents were assured that he could do other things and was not mentally disabled, despite his trouble in sounding out particular words. His parents blamed him all his life for being different. Rather than encouraging her boy that was already getting picked on in school, the parents beat him, and beat him hard.
His father was a man of tradition, he did as his father did. Went to work, worked hard and for long hours then came home drunk and took it out on his family. Cooke got used to this way of life, he knew no other way. Eric was beaten with his fathers fists and belt, his sisters and mother were beaten too but not to the extent of the boys beatings.
Cooke grew up a shy child, quiet with little friends. His mother was beaten for taking care of him and his father continued to beat him for years to come. He seemed likable to those who did give him the chance and for a small while there, he looked like he would turn out alright. But the anger in him grew, resentment grew, and he felt that society, his parents, God, everyone had let him down and he grew violent and bitter at the thought of them all. He explained his killings later on as “I just wanted to hurt somebody” and with the childhood he had, it seemed almost inevitable that he felt that way.
Cooke started working at 14, but found he gave his money to his mother to feed and clothe herself and his sisters. His father wasted a lot of his money on alcohol and left little for the family. Cooke started stealing after a little while, his constant lack of cash left him little choice to survive. Cooke spent less and less time at home, to keep from his fathers fists. He would break into homes, steal, watch through windows and peep at women doing their night time rituals or even sleeping with their husbands.
He got more confident as things were so easy in a city where everyone trusted one another, they left their doors open while watching tv so he would sneak in and steal money from their purses while they were home. He was also tiny and could hide well, this got him out of a lot of surprises as people came home or heard a noise from the other room.
By 18 he was getting bored, if he found nothing to steal he would vandalize the house or set fires in it. He was caught in 1949 and finger prints linked him to so many more. He only got 3 years in jail as Cooke gave the judge his story about stealing for family and for survival.
When out of jail Cooke found a home in religion where people accepted him and warmed to him. But he was soon found stealing from the church and was let off with a warning.
By 1953 he was married and started working as a truck driver. He later had 7 children and lived with them in a home with his wife. While playing happy husbands, he was still stealing on weekends. This allowed him to dress well and feed his family well. His wife was loving and honest, she never questioned his time on his own, she knew he was different and knew of his father and his past.
AT 1955 he was caught for stealing a car and was sentenced to two years hard labour. As soon as he was out, he bought gloves so they cant fingerprint him anymore and he started his full blown career into robbing houses and peeping into others at night.
1959 was when the rampage began. Sneaking into a divorcee’s house in the middle of the night, he searched for valuables but found none. Then he went to her room but she wasn’t asleep. She fought with him for some time and he eventually stabbed her to death with a small knife he carried with him for ’emergencies’
By 1960 he was in jail again for other offences and known for stealing underwear from clothes lines and pleasuring himself with them. He was still very likable to police and they still considered him harmless. Perth gradually grew worse in robberies, women being abused, women being attacked and underwear going missing. Police thought it was a group of peeping toms when all along it was just one man. One harmless looking man.
1963 he moved up in his crime wave to multiple murder. He fired a gun at a parked car and shot all the occupants. He then shot at another car but they managed to get away and finally he entered an open door to a flat nearby. He was unsatisfied with his last attempts and was wanting to really hurt someone. He ended up shooting at 29 year old man, who was left paralyzed for life after the ordeal.
After he shot the 29 year old, he fled to another town and did some robberies there. Then he got the taste again and wanted to hurt someone else. He found a 19 year old boy sleeping in bed, he shot him in the head and killed him instantly. He then knocked on the door over the street and killed a 54 year old man that answered. By 3am he was ready to go home.
All police knew was that the bullets came from the same gun. Descriptions from witnesses were poor.
3 weeks later… Cooke was at it again. He broke into another apartment and strangled a 24 year old Social worker. She was then abused while she was dead. Police thought the crimes were so different and didn’t even relate them to the previous shootings.
Cooke didn’t strike again for 6 months. An 18 year old student was shot in a home she was babysitting in with a different gun that he shot the others with. But Police were sure it was the same guy. But clues were needed to catch the guy, that was obvious.
A lot of pressure was put onto police then and they began the long process of going over all the clues with a fine tooth comb. They fingerprinted the whole area and were determined to compare it to every man in Perth if they had to.
The police investigation included fingerprinting more than 30,000 males over the age of 12, as well as locating and test-firing more than 60,000 .22 rifles. After a rifle was found hidden in a Geraldton Wax bush on Rookwood Street, Mount Pleasant, in August 1963, ballistic tests proved the gun to have been used in the murder of Shirley McLeod. Police returned to the location and tied a similar rifle, rendered inoperable, to the bush with fishing line and constructed a hide in which they waited in case someone returned for it. Cooke was apprehended when he returned to collect the weapon seventeen days later.
They handcuffed him immediately and he was in for some serious questioning. His very honest wife confirmed that he wasn’t home on the nights that the policed asked and eventually Cooke confessed, with little choice at that.
He confessed to over 250 break ins and had valuables for all. He remembered the tiniest details even from robberies so long ago and he admitted to more car thefts and also knew tiny details that linked him to each. He admitted to abusing women while in their beds and even to one where the young girl thought she fell out of bed and hit her head when it was really him, hitting her with something, and then scared off because of the noise. He also confessed to many hit and runs, aiming for them and then speeding off without a trace.

Eric Cooke Narrows Bridge
In 1964 Cooke was hung for his crimes. Although the death penalty is not a method of punishment now in Australia, it was back then. Cooke was actually the LAST MAN to be hung in Perth, the laws changed after his death…someone had to be the unlucky last didn’t they?
Nowadays mothers warn their children to lock the door at night and close their windows in case “Cookie comes” its an expression that is used a lot and is the left overs of what one single man managed to do to a city.


A Children’s Fancy Dress Ball

Our tale begins at the Fremantle Town Hall as it opened on the 22nd June, 1887, to coincide with the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. A grand opening ceremony was held, followed by a day of sport and a grand ball in the evening. On the following evening there was a children’s fancy dress ball, which was marred by the murder of Councillor Snook by William Conroy, landlord of the Victoria Hotel.

William Conroy (1857 – 18 November 1887) was the last person executed at the Perth Gaol. Conroy was convicted of murdering Fremantle Town Councillor John Snook.
Conroy had immigrated from Ireland about ten years earlier, and before going to Fremantle was the licensee of the Victoria Hotel, located at the corner of James Street and Melbourne Road in Perth. On 6 September 1886 Conroy became the first publican of the new National Hotel on High Street in Fremantle
On 23 June 1887 Conroy went to the Fremantle Town Hall where there was a children’s ball in progress. He demanded entrance, as he was a licensee of the National Hotel, but was told by Snook that only ladies and children were to be admitted. He persisted in his demands and finally the door was slammed on him. Conroy later gained admittance to the Town Hall. When Snook left the supper room, Conroy followed him, drew a revolver from his pocket, shot Snook and put the gun back in his pocket. Conroy was arrested immediately. Snook died three months later. The trial took place at Perth and he was sentenced to death on 7 October 1887. After he was sentenced a petition was raised and signed by approximately 1500 people, including all members of the jury who had at the time of passing the verdict asked the judge to be lenient. This was then given to Governor Broome. A further call to the governor for clemency occurred during a public meeting attend by 1,000 people at the Perth Town Hall. Governor Broome then reviewed the case with two judges and medical people who had previously been part of Conroy’s trial, but the governor decided to let the law take it course. Conroy was hanged at Perth Gaol at 8 a.m. on 18 November 1887. The execution however was not swift as when Conroy was hanged the initial fall failed to break his neck and it took approximately 15 minutes for him to die of strangulation. Conroy was buried at Fremantle Cemetery.
Conroy was the last person to be hanged at Perth Gaol.


Thanks go to Debbie Miles for the name William Conroy which I followed up on, Mrs D Croft and Edward James Rigg for the images.