Friday, April 10, 2009


Saturday, 18 April 2009 is World Heritage Day
In the week leading up to this event a series of story telling sessions will be held at historic sites around the City of Perth.
On Thursday 16 April, 2009 at 12 noon, I will be telling stories in the undercroft of the Perth Town Hall.

Yesterday I had a call from a reporter for the 'Wanneroo Times'. She asked me what I would be doing at the Perth Town Hall next Thursday.

"Telling stories," I said.

"Oh, reading stories?"

"No TELLING stories - without a book in sight. Telling stories connected to the Town Hall."

"Where do you get the stories from?"

"Research," I said. " I look behind statements in official records made in passing and try to uncover (or recreate) a story.
For example: There's 'Poor George.'
In 1870 the city employed one staff member - George Lazenby. He was Town Clerk, Inspector of Weights and Measures, Accounts Clerk, Supervisor or Works, Caretaker and clerk of the Markets - and more! In addition George was the daily winder of the Town Hall Clock. Once, accused of being lazy by someone on Council, George resigned in a huff and a member of council was sent to placate him with the offer of 100 pounds per year plus an extra 16 pounds for winding the clock."

My research connected to the Town Hall has taken me in many directions. From my own first memories of the Town Hall, I set about discovering -
  • why the City came to be named Perth;
  • the romantic story behind the Stirlings - 'How James met Ellen';
  • tales of the adventurer and explorer, Ernest Giles who in 1875 used the undercroft of the Town Hall as a camel stable;
  • the role of South Australian pasturalist and philanthropist, Thomas Elder (of Elder Smith Company fame) in exploring inland Australia and finding the way west;
  • the scary story of Camel Lake; and,
  • the origin of a mysterious indelible marks behind the town hall clock left by Moondyne Joe.

To add to these tales, I've created some jingles and verses to punctuate the tellings.

Here are three:

Hickory, Dickory Dock
George Lazenby ran up the clock.
He wound up the spring and he moved the hands round.
He did it all for sixteen pounds.
[And slid to the ground like a rock.]
Hickory, Dickory Dock
(c) mk 2009

Perth! Perth! Glorious Perth!
How many places have this name on earth?
There’re two each in Canada, US and the Aus
One in South Africa, Guyana - and because
our city fathers were Scots to the core
and the name is deep-rooted
in Scotland’s far shore.
(c) mk 2009

Camel’s Lament

A parody on the poem of the same name by Charles E. Carryl

Exploring’s no perk. It is it difficult work
with horses no good in the sand
Till Thomas Elder decided to sell da
darn creatures on hand
It be camels we’re needing. I think I’ll start breeding.
ANYWHERE does for he!

Old Thomas saw camels the very best mammals
For a traveling across sandy plains.
He imported, I hear, a fine herd and cameleer (named Saleh),
these ships of the desert, to train.
For without any question
A camel’s digestion
Works fine with less water you see

So when Ernest Giles approached him with guiles
And begged him to help with the costs
of crossing the land to the west over sand
Thomas Elder insisted, ‘No hoss.’
Take these odd-looking mammals
For they’re very fine camels
Just bring them back safely to me!
They may be all lumpy and bumpy and humpy
Their shape rather odd in design --
But that dome on their back holds a veritable sack
Of water that’s sweeter than wine.
Though a hoss may be sleek
And it nature quite meek
A camel’s SHAPE does it for me.
(c) mk 2009

What a way to enjoy history!