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    South Australia - Miscellany

    Flags and Patriotic Songs


    (Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning's A Colonial Experience)

    Editorial note: In this extract Mr Manning uses the voice of his fictional narrator of A Colonial Experience, which provides an imagined perspective from circa 1910.

    South Australian Heraldry and Flags

    The heraldic badge of South Australia is, as every school-child knows, a yellow disc, containing the unhappy-looking misrepresentation of a piping shrike, alias native (Murray) magpie, standing with outstretched legs on a red and green perch. The whole seems to be a mimicry of that scraggy fowl, the German eagle. It may be conveniently and appropriately designated 'the magpie and stump', a name which is also attractive from its association with Pickwick. It has many faults, but few admirers.

    The present emblem replaced, a few years ago, the old one wherein Britannia advanced in a dignified way towards a bronze-coloured Aborigine, who was sitting down disrespectfully and holding an un-Australian spear in his hand, while a kangaroo in the distance seemed doubtful whether it was more prudent to stay or jump away.

    In September 1901 'a flag which may be adopted for this State' was flown from a flagpole on the members' stand at the Jubilee Oval. Some time previously the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr Chamberlain, wrote to the Governor-General of the Commonwealth asking that suggested designs of flags for the different States should be forwarded for approval. Lord Hopetoun communicated with our Governor, Lord Tennyson and, at His Excellency' suggestion, Mr H.P. Gill, Director of the School of Design, was requested to prepare a flag and that which was exhibited at the oval was his work.

    It was blue, with the Union Jack in the top corner, while to the right was an orange yellow sun with a magpie outspread in the centre. The 'new' flag was subsequently forwarded to Lord Hopetoun for onward transmission to England for approval.

    The First Australian Flag

    Under a symptom of republicanism, the Register of 14 September 1839 published the following:

    Of further interest is an 1851 report in which a local reporter observed:

    It is interesting to note that the latter flag was similar in design and colour to the modern-day flag of the Commonwealth of Australia!

    Selecting the Federal Flag

    The flag chosen by the 'experts', who included the naval commandants of the various States, contained three elements, of which the only new feature was a six-pointed star, having one ray each for the States of the Commonwealth. The Union Jack and the Southern Cross completed a design which, on the whole, was regarded, generally, as effective and appropriate.

    The three elements of which it consists affirm:

    From an heraldic point of view the device is strictly correct, because the six-pointed star is par excellence, the star being recognised by ancient heraldry. Further, there will be no insuperable reason why, in the event of New Zealand being admitted at some future time as a member of the Commonwealth, another ray should not be added to the emblem. In the course of their deliberations the selection board considered over 30,000 designs 'from the extremely ridiculous to the most elaborate and pretty.'

    In a peaceful land it is impossible that a flag can carry quite the same significance to the people as it conveys to a soldier who has followed it through many a field battle. Few Australians are able to understand, fully, the line of Rudyard Kipling's expressing Tommy Atkins's regard for 'The bloomin' old rag overhead' and the universality of the songs that are played to it.

    The Australian flag was introduced officially into schools on 14 May 1901 and at Norwood it was quite a gala event. Not having a flagpole, and with the consent of the Board of Advice, the school accepted the offer of the directors of the new recreation ground and hoisted the flag on the flagstaff at the Norwood Oval.

    Headed by a guard of honour and accompanied by the band, about 1,200 scholars marched to the ground, the unusual spectacle attracting the attention of local people, a large number who followed and witnessed the ceremony.

    Punctually to time a senior girl and boy raised the flag, the guard presented arms and the scholars gave three hearty cheers for the King and sang the national anthem under the direction of Mr W.J. Gunn. The Song of Australia, to the accompaniment of much cheering for our native land, closed the proceedings. The usual half-holiday followed and, of course, much enthusiasm prevailed.

    General Notes

    "The First Australian Flag" is in the Register,
    3 July 1922, page 8g.

    "New Colonial Flag" is in the Observer, 24 May 1851, page 5e:

    "Prize Poetry", including references to the Song of Australia, is discussed in the Register,
    24, 25, 26 and 31 October 1859, pages 2g, 3e, 3a and 3a.
    "A South Australian Poet", Mr Chandler, is in the Express,
    28 September 1886, page 3e,
    "The Poetry and Poets of Australia" on
    4 May 1888, page 3e.
    "A Local Poetess" is in the Express,
    28 November 1895, page 3f.
    "A South Australian Poet [C.H. Souter]", is in the Observer,
    9 September 1911, page 6a.
    "Encouraging Poets [in SA]" is in the Register,
    26 July 1913, page 14f.
    Also see South Australia - Entertainment and the Arts - Miscellany.

    "Australia", a song by Mrs Carleton, is in the Register,
    24 September 1860, page 3e,
    "Mrs C.J. Carleton - Songstress of Australia" is reported on
    9 September 1922, page 4f; also see
    4 May 1928, page 13f,
    5 January 1895, page 12a.
    "Australia's National Song" is in the Observer,
    3 May 1913, page 48c.

    Mrs C.J. Carleton - Songstress of Australia

    Caroline Carleton, the daughter of William Baynes, the head of a well-known Yorkshire family, was born in London and came to South Australia with her husband, Charles James Carleton, in the Prince Regent in 1839. Sorrow met the young couple on the voyage for their two children died and with this shadow upon their lives they landed in South Australia.

    Mr Carleton practised as a medical officer in the new city and later at the Kapunda mines. He bought up land, no doubt at inflated prices, and opened a chemist's shop; things flourished, children came and hope and courage grew stronger. Then came a severe economic downturn and the general state of the colony in the early 1840s found them with liabilities on every hand and very little with which to meet them, save the spirit and determination to 'hang on' at any cost.

    When the position of Superintendent of Cemeteries was given to Mr Carleton, it was his wife, the gifted, delicately nurtured girl, who made it possible for the position to be held in his name, by doing the clerical work which he, in time a complete invalid, was quite unable to do.

    In 1859 she won the prize awarded by the Gawler Institute for a poem which, set to the music of Carl Linger, is sung today in our schools and other public places. Another poem written by her prior to 1860 is entitled 'Australia - A Song':

    As time went on the two elder girls, desirous of helping the family, became governesses, while Mr Carleton, oppressed by thoughts of leaving his wife and little ones unprovided for, died in July 1861. The clergymen of Adelaide petitioned the government to allow this capable, brave woman to keep in her own name the position she had filled - this was refused, although had Mrs Carleton's son, then a boy of seven, been old enough for the position to be held in his name, the mother might have continued to support her family by continuing the work.

    She then commenced teaching and continued until the effects of long and many anxieties, and the amount of mental and physical work done in so fine a spirit, began to show itself. Rising from a sick bed she caught a chill, from which she never quite recovered. Unable to teach any longer she went to Wallaroo where her daughter had opened a school, and it was there she died at Matta House on 10 July 1874, to be remembered by those who knew her, not only as a clever and courageous, but also as a kind and courteous, gentlewoman.

    "Colonial Heraldry" is in the Observer, 30 September 1865, page 6h.

    The "unfurling of the flag" at Border Town School is reported in the Observer,
    1 September 1900, page 16a,
    "The Australian Flag - The Selected Design" on
    7 September 1901, pages 32b-35d. Also see
    3 September 1901, page 4e,
    7 September 1901, page 4c.

    "Hoisting the Union Jack" is in the Register,
    14, 15, 16 and 17 May 1901, pages 4e, 7g, 6e and 3g.

    "The Commonwealth Flag" is in the Register,
    16 October 1902, page 4d.

    "A New [State] Flag" is in the Observer,
    21 September 1901, page 30e; also see
    21 May 1910, page 46a.

    "The Australian Flag" is in the Register,
    9 May 1898, page 4g,
    25 October 1902, page 26c,
    "Altering the Flag" on
    13 May 1916, page 33e.

    "3ems" is in the Register,
    11 June 1898, page 6e,
    "Favourite Hymns and Anthems" on
    31 July 1903, page 4c,
    "National Anthems" on
    10 August 1903, page 5h,
    "Our Australian Anthem" on
    27 June 1922, page 5d.

    National Anthems

    (Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning's A Colonial Experience)

    The songs of a nation reflect the national character and of none of them is this more strictly true than the words and tune adopted as the national anthem of any people. 'Let me make the songs of a nation and I care not who makes its laws' may be and extreme way of presenting the fact that the favourite current modes of expressing the national ideals are powerful factors in directing the stream of history; yet the belief that songs are to a large extent indicative of the temperament of the people is founded on solid demonstrable truths.

    An ingenious and resourceful writer in one of the magazines has adduced curious examples showing that the national anthem of the British Empire was first adopted in England as a strictly partisan Jacobite song and that the King, upon whom the divine blessing is invoked, was none other than the pretender 'over the water'.

    Governor Robinson of South Australia wrote stirring, if not widely popular, music to Mr Francis Hart's 'Unfurl the Flag' and the sentiments of the poet were similar to those in 'The Star-Spangled Banner':

    The generally accepted national anthem of South Australia is the song written by Mrs Caroline Carleton and set to music by Carl Linger. In the 1890s it was sung in Sydney during the session of the Federal convention and, prior to federation, it occupied a prominent place as a patriotic song and its martial stream was heard on all important occasions. The verses are given for the benefit of those who have not yet committed the words to memory:

    In the absence of something better it is hoped that South Australia's patriotic song will be adopted by the whole of Australia - not of course as its national anthem for there is only but one for the Empire - but as an expression of patriotic Australian feeling.

    Perhaps the objection may be urged against it that it sings rather of the land than of the people who inhabit it; yet it goes with a swing and lends itself admirably to choral rendering. Certainly the sentiment of union is so strong in Australia that, sooner or later, it must express itself in some popularly recognised federal song or national anthem to accompany the never to be superseded 'God Save the King!'

    To some critics it does not contain the forces which incite enthusiasm and lacks the capacity to stir the hearts and fire the enthusiasm of all true Australians. Somnolent pictures of vineyards, mineral wealth and hillside homesteads are excellent, no doubt, but they fail to inspire patriotic fervour.

    Herbert Spencer was wont to gauge the intellectual standard of conversation in trams and trains by the extent to which the talkers generalised. If his rule is a good one the 'Song of Australia' is deficient, for it consists almost entirely of particulars, the ideal being approached in one verse, and that tritely.

    It must be admitted that the words and music, as such, are good; but neither is good for national song purposes and, when brought together and rendered publicly, their unfitness for each other is added to their other demerits. The numerous verses must, for purposes of performance, be reduced to two or three at most and, when this is accomplished, the shallowness of the pretty lines is the more exposed, while the music is palpably inappropriate.

    The latter reflects, to musicians, the melodic form of the anthem of another country, and the musical reiteration of the word Australia (the one word whose dignity should be carefully guarded) reduces it to the level of the humorous in many minds. For myself, 'Advance Australia Fair' is, distinctly, a superior work for adoption as our national song. I understand the scholarly minds of some school teachers have seen fit to teach this song and they, no doubt, have very good reasons for so doing.

    "Patriotic Songs" is in the Register,
    3 February 1900, page 5a,
    "A New Patriotic Song" on
    17 April 1900, page 4f.

    "Unfurl the Flag" is in the Register,
    30 August 1900, page 4f.
    Also see Bordertown.

    "Australian National Song" is in the Observer,
    3 May 1913, page 48c.
    "Wanted, A National Song" is in the Register,
    28 June 1913, page 14e,
    25 and 29 November 1913, pages 6d and 18c,
    2, 5 and 19 December 1913, pages 9f, 6g and 6g.

    "Hands Off Our National Song" is in The Mail,
    27 May 1922, page 2d.

    "An Old Patriotic Song", by John Alexander of One Tree Hill, is in the Register,
    25 August 1917, page 10g.

    A Patriotic Song

    (Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning, A Colonial Experience)

    The following poem was composed by John Alexander, a one- time resident of One Tree Hill, but later of Wasleys and Gawler. It was written on an old census form in the 1870s, when he was a clerk at the Munno Para Council. What inspired it I do not know, but it may have something to do with the 'Russian Scare':

    In respect of the Union Jack a correspondent to the Advertiser on 8 October 1925, page 22e says:

    "The Flag Trouble" is in the Advertiser,
    25 May 1927, page 12e,
    1 June 1927, page 12e,
    "Australia and the Union Jack" in The Mail,
    28 April 1934, page 1.
    Also see South Australia - World War I - Comment on the War.

    Miscellany - Choose again

    Fortune Telling, Spiritualism

    A Spiritualistic Seance - An Evening With the Spirits

    (Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning's A Colonial Experience)

    Editorial note: In this extract Mr Manning uses the voice of his fictional narrator of A Colonial Experience, which provides an imagined perspective from circa 1910.

    I had an eventful evening with the spirits many years ago and I never think of that night and the humorous happenings without a hearty laugh. My attention was drawn to a modest advertisement which read: 'Rechabite Hall, Grote Street - Mrs H. Millar holds seance, back hall, upstairs, tonight, 8, one shilling.'

    Arriving at the landing upstairs I ran into the arms of several rosy-cheeked maidens who were putting down dances on a programme with the young men standing around. The waltz 'Love's Dreamland' was being played and all was merry as a marriage bell.

    Here were spirits, but they were lively human ones and I was in quest of the disembodied article. I interrogated a blushing girl and she pointed to a door leading off the landing. I opened it, but there was a green baize door inside again and it was fastened. I knocked three times and from what I heard later those inside thought it was a spirit rapping.

    At last the door was opened, but I was informed that the circle was complete and that I would have to sit on the outside. I paid my shilling and sat down. The room was dimly lighted, the people present were sitting in a circle, and the only thing that broke the silence was the ticking of a clock on the wall. At the head of the circle sat Mrs Millar.

    She advised those present to join hands and sing a hymn for the purpose of concentration. Somebody in a cracked and squeaky voice started 'Nearer to my God to Thee'; the singing lasted for a couple of minutes and as the mutilated tune died away faint giggles were heard. That was ominous.

    Then the medium explained, with reference to the hymn, 'that darkness only reigns over you by your own wish and will. Everything is bright. If you go the right way to work you can get spiritual knowledge, peace of mind and rest of soul.' Then she went on to say that, by sympathy, they could help those who had passed away. They were not dead and they wanted to manifest themselves by signs and tokens.

    'Be quiet a little while and see whether they will come', said the medium, sitting with closed eyes on a chair and going through suppressed convulsions as though she had swallowed a mouthful of sea water. The ticking of the clock alone broke the silence. Then, hark! What was that? A rapping at the baize door - a plucky bettor would have laid 10 to 1 on spirits.

    As the others were all engaged on the business of concentration and magnetic influence, I went to let in the weary knocker. One of the lady helpers rather disconcerted the magnetic circle by calling out to me, 'Don't let any one in except a little short, stout man.' It was a lady and I admitted her.

    When I got back to my seat one of the women was holding the medium's hands and asking a departed friend, 'How are you over there?' A good-natured looking man was growing purple in the face trying to suppress his laughter. The lively strains of a good old athletic polka from the next room seemed to upset the magnetic influence. Several spirits were named but all were 'unrecognised', to use the word of a gentleman sitting by the medium's side.

    However, success was at hand when the medium exclaimed, 'A spirit with back bent is walking up and down the room. She says there is nothing wrong with her now.'

    The following exchange then occurred:

    Then the medium explained that a spirit was present giving the name of Jessie Wilson:

    Nobody came forward to recognise the wounded hero.

    The lady helper grew angry and asked those near her how they could expect a message if they did not keep quiet.

    Then a mystical-looking lady with glasses took the medium's hand and conversed with a spirit. A young fellow, on for a lark, followed soon afterwards and had a chat with his grandmother. The chief topic of conversation seemed to be about socks, both woollen and cotton, which provoked no end of fun. Then ensued a lively discussion between a lady-helper and a young girl who seemed disgusted with the proceedings.

    People started to depart, but the medium was not to be denied:

    The medium shook her head as though the spirit was past being helped and the irrepressible gentleman recommended 'a brandy and soda.' The people were getting impatient, so she thanked them for their kind attention and they left, murmuring at their experiences, while Mrs Millar led the singing of 'Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow'.

    General Notes

    Witchcraft is discussed in the Observer,
    10 December 1851, page 1b (supp.).

    "Table Moving" is discussed in the Observer,
    22 October 1853, page 5e.

    "A Night With the Spirits" is in the Chronicle,
    4 November 1876, page 14a.
    "Clairvoyance in Adelaide" is in the Observer,
    8 January 1887, page 42a; also see
    11 and 25 June 1887, pages 41c and 33c,
    "Mystics in Adelaide - Among the Fortune Tellers" in the Advertiser,
    31 July 1902, page 5g.

    "A Private Seance With Professor Baldwin" is in the Registe,
    12 and 14 April 1879, pages 6a and 5f.

    "An Interview With a Clairvoyant" is in the Register,
    24 November 1884, page 6g; also see
    7 January 1887, page 3f.

    "The Spiritualistic Excitement" is in the Register,
    20, 22 and 24 December 1884, pages 5a-6h, 5a-6g and 6g.

    "Spiritualism Self-Exposed" is in the Register,
    13 January 1886, pages 6e-h,
    "Smiting the Spirits" on
    25 January 1886, page 6d.

    Thought-Reading Seances at the town hall are reported in the Register,
    22, 23, 24, 25 and 26 March 1886, pages 4f, 6c, 3g-7g and 6b, Express,
    22, 23 and 26 March 1886, pages 3c, 3e and 4a.

    "Hypnotism and Fraud" is in the Observer,
    30 December 1899, page 25b.

    Mesmerism is discussed in the Register,
    20 May 1887, page 6b,
    24 June 1887, page 6g,
    1 May 1888, page 7c and
    clairvoyance on
    3 October 1889, page 5c.

    "A Fortune Teller in Trouble" is in the Register,
    25 July 1889, page 4h,
    22 and 24 August 1889, pages 4f and 5a.

    Information on the Adelaide Spiritualistic Association is in the Register,
    8 September 1892, page 2f (supp.); also see
    4 April 1895, page 3d.

    "False and True Palmistry" is in the Register,
    18 November 1893, page 4g.

    "Fortune-Telling" is in the Observer,
    24 August 1889, page 25c,
    "Spiritual Seances" on
    30 June 1928, page 50d,
    "Fortune Telling [in Adelaide]" in the Register,
    21 May 1901, page 6d,
    "Mystics in Adelaide - Among the Fortune Tellers" in the Express,
    31 July 1902, page 2d,
    "An Adelaide Seance" on
    19 April 1907, page 4d,
    "Hypnotism and Magnetism" on
    12 March 1909, page 3h,
    "Fortune Telling and Amusement" in the Observer,
    12 November 1921, page 33e.

    "Faith-Healing and Fanaticism" is in the Register,
    7 December 1895, pages 5a-5e-11g.

    "Mind-Healing and Miracles" is in the Register,
    6 May 1898, page 4g.

    "A Peculiar Case of Healing" is in the Register,
    10 and 12 August 1898, pages 6a and 6f.

    "Stargazing Fortune Tellers" is in the Register,
    29 April 1901, page 4d.

    "An Evening With the Spirits" is in the Register,
    29 August 1901, page 5d.

    "Hint for Spiritualists" is in the Register,
    1 March 1904, page 4f.

    "A Student of the Occult [Miss S. Ware]" is in the Register,
    9 December 1905, page 7g.

    "In Mental Realms - An Adelaide Experiment" is in the Register,
    5 July 1906, page 6g,
    21 July 1906, page 13d.

    "Among the Spirits" is in the Register,
    11 November 1907, page 4f.

    "Is Telepathy True?" is in the Register,
    5 October 1911, page 6d.

    "The Occult on Trial" is in the Register,
    23 June 1917, pages 6d-10d.

    "Spooks at Gawler" is in the Register,
    9 and 19 February 1918, pages 6d and 3e,
    23 March 1918, page 8f.

    "Spooks and Spirit-Rapping in Adelaide [in the 1860s]" is in the Register,
    12 February 1918, page 4e; also see
    19 February 1918, page 5e.

    "Crude Nonsense - Alleged Subtle Craft" is in the Register,
    16 and 26 February 1918, pages 7f and 6f.

    "Spiritualism" is in the Register,
    18 October 1919, page 6d,
    2 October 1920, page 8d.

    "Fortune Teller Fined" is in the Register,
    29 January 1921, page 8e.

    "Spirit Raps and Writing" is in the Register,
    9 April 1921, page 8c.

    "Is It Fortune Telling? - Police Woman's Future Predicted" is in the Register,
    16 July 1921, page 9e.

    "Fortune Telling and Amusement" is in the Register,
    10 and 14 November 1921, pages 7a and 6e.

    "Famous Clairvoyant - Mr Paul in Adelaide" is in the Register,
    11 March 1922, page 9d.

    "Spiritual Healing" is in the Register,
    24 October 1927, page 11c.

    "An Evening With a Spiritualist Recalled" is in the Observer,
    30 June 1928, page 50d.

    Miscellany - Choose again


    Also see Adelaide - Buildings - Freemason's Hall.

    "Freemasonry in South Australia" is in the Register,
    17 and 18 April 1884, pages 5h and 4d-5f-h,
    26 July 1884, page 7b,
    19 April 1884, page 30a;
    for its early history see
    25 October 1884, page 32a,
    31 October 1925, page 17e.

    "A Masonic Jubilee" is in the Register,
    7 and 23 October 1884, pages 5c and 6h,
    11 October 1884, pages 34e.

    "Alfred Masonic Hall" is in the Register,
    29 October 1884, page 6h; also see
    20 March 1885, page 5d.

    An obituary of J.H.H. Vockins is in the Register,
    9 April 1888, page 5b,
    of Joseph Hanton on
    13 March 1893, page 5d.

    "Aborigines as Freemasons" is in the Register,
    18 November 1890, page 5c.

    "Masonic Celebrations" is the subject of an editorial in the Register,
    31 October 1889, pages 4f-6a,
    26 June 1895, page 4d,
    "Freemasonry" in the Register on
    21 April 1909, page 4b.

    "A Unique Record - Friendship Masonic Lodge" is in the Advertiser on
    25 October 1909, page 7h; also see
    3 December 1909, page 8f,
    3 December 1909, page 6h.

    An obituary of J.H. Cunningham, a long-time member of the freemasons' lodge, is in the Observer,
    25 September 1909, page 38a,
    23 October 1909, page 52a,
    of James Hume, grandmaster, on
    15 June 1912, page 41a,
    of J.R. Robertson on
    21 January 1928, page 56c.

    Biographical details of E.B. Grundy are in the Observer,
    29 April 1916, page 43a; also see
    26 April 1919, page 19b,
    of Owen Fox in the Register,
    11 February 1928, page 9d.

    Historical information on freemasonry in SA is in the Register,
    10 April 1919, page 4c.

    "Freemasonry - History in This State" is in The News,
    20 October 1924, page 6e; also see
    6 December 1924, page 9e,
    18 and 25 April 1925, pages 11 and 17a,
    4 July 1925, page 18c.

    "New Masonic Temple" is in the Register,
    20 April 1927, page 9g.

    Miscellany - Choose again


    Also see Adelaide - Miscellany and Obituaries.

    Ghosts, Spirits and Seances

    (Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning's A Colonial Experience)


    Editorial note: In this extract Mr Manning uses the voice of his fictional narrator of A Colonial Experience, which provides an imagined perspective from circa 1910.

    A ghost 'census' was undertaken in England recently in the same practical matter of fact way as if the researchers were ascertaining the temperature, or the rainfall, or the number of births in a given period. In the process 17,000 living persons were asked about their experiences with 'spooks' when the following question was put:

    The enquiry was undertaken by 223 women and 187 men, whom we might call 'Ghost Census Enumerators', nine-tenths of whom were educated persons, while the witnesses were, generally, of the same class. The great majority professed to have seen apparitions, namely, 1,120, while 388 heard voices and 144 were actually touched by ghosts. Of these realistic phantasms, 520 were recognised.

    There were 16 angels and religious ghosts, 33 grotesque and horrible apparitions and, in 27 cases, the spectral form was that of an animal. Of the visual apparitions 460 were seen within the last ten years, 423 were seen while the observer was awake, in bed or immediately after waking up, and indoors and 201 were out of doors. The great ghost-seeing age was determined as between 20 and 29. Many persons refused to relate their experiences and among the census enumerators 21 per cent had experiences of their own.

    Do you, the reader, place any faith in the imaginative stories of the novelists, who tell of sheeted figures waiting eerily in a graveyard at the dead of night; of ghouls who knock their skeleton hands upon the coffins of the newly-dead, bidding them rise and join in the Dance of Death under the cold, grey moon; of foul bat-like shapes which linger in the evil darkness to suck the warm blood of the living? Or do you prefer to treat them as mere fantasies, written solely for amusement?

    From the earliest times haunted houses have been a popular subject with writers. Particularly, this was true of the Victorian era, which has just ended, and stories of desolate ruined mansions, where strange blue lights flickered in the broken windows and soft padding footsteps trod the uncarpeted stairs, have thrilled a generation, many of whom have now gone to the spirit world itself.

    Haunted houses do not exist entirely in the mind of the novelist, as several local cases go to prove. Even so young a city as Adelaide has the houses that are alleged to be tenanted by creatures of another world. Some of these buildings are still standing away from the streets of the town itself and cynics may well argue that their isolated position, coupled with the vivid imagination of late tenants, are responsible for their unenviable reputation. This may be in some cases, but the majority are not so easily explained.

    During my 60-odd years sojourn in South Australia the reported 'sighting' of ghosts and sundry spirits across the length and breadth of the land has occupied my attention and I narrate hereunder some of my 'favourite' ghost stories.

    Graham's Ghost

    'Graham's Castle', as it was popularly known, was Adelaide's second haunted house; its builder was J.B. Graham. He set up business in Adelaide and did so well he was one of the lucky few who were in a position to invest in the original Burra mine, from which he made a fortune.

    He built his 'castle' at Prospect, but did not live in it for long. His mother, marrying for a second time, he returned to Europe in the early 1850s, accompanied by his wife. The very appearance of the place was sufficient to invest it with a ghostly aura, but there was something more to the haunting than mere rumours as proved by the statement of reliable eye-witnesses.

    A prominent stockbroker lived in this ill-omened house for some years and told of the strange happenings within its solemn walls. Weird rumblings, hollow knocking on the walls, sighs and wails soon convinced the servants that the house was haunted and none of them ever stayed long. However, the occupier of the house placed no credence in the stories until an uncanny experience of his own caused him to readjust his views.

    One night, just after sunset, he saw the figure of a woman standing on the landing of the stairs. Thinking it was his mother he ran up to greet her, but when he reached the landing the figure had disappeared. Returning to the ground floor he told his servants who said it was impossible for him to have sen his mother, who was out driving. Yet he swears to this day that he saw a figure and can even describe the colour of the dress.

    Some time later the family moved to Mitcham. Years passed and the rats and vermin became the only tenants of the place. Its ghostly reputation became known far and wide and few persons would venture near the place after dark. A sidelight on the terror inspired by the Castle's ghost in the neighbourhood was unearthed by the wreckers in the late 1880s. Hidden in the grounds was an illicit still. Today, Castle and Graham Streets perpetuate the memory of one of Adelaide's famous hauntings.

    A Night With the Spirits in 1876

    In November 1876 a few Adelaide spiritualists announced their intention of welcoming the arrival of medium from the old country. The party was small, scoffers not being invited, and well-behaved disbelievers only admitted in two instances. The total number of chairs occupied at the meeting, which took place in a drawing room in North Adelaide, amounted to 18.

    The table from which the raps emanated was an ordinary one and stood out of the reach of all present. There was not the slightest attempt to darken the room. The gas was lit as usual and no further preparations made for the party than the necessary arrangement of chairs and the removal of a table cloth, etc.

    After some few minutes silence, proceedings were opened by the spirit of Colonel Light being announced. He replied to questions put to him about Victoria Square and other places and rather startled the two disbelievers by giving them information on private matters, which they asserted could only be known to themselves. After this the Colonel's spirit seemed to be more interested about the future of Adelaide than anything else.

    He assured the company that in five years the colony would receive a blow from which recovery would be slow as to almost escape observation. Giving the account of the coming troubles, he said: 'I see that before another twelve months have passed the drainage of Adelaide will be brought forward as a matter of pressing necessity.

    'There are matters which suffer from being brought forward and allowed to drop and the drainage scheme is one of these. Again and again the matter has been talked about; but as neither the present Ministry, nor the late one entertain the slightest idea of carrying out any system... the next few years will see no steps taken to mend matters...

    'This state of things will at last culminate in an epidemic. That epidemic will be yellow jack and it will last as many months as it takes hours to seize and kill a strong man. It will be especially bad at the Port and Bowden. Sweeping across Adelaide it will attack the suburbs and find its way to Glenelg. Two out of every three adults in the before-mentioned places will be swept into eternity.

    'Business will be suspended, bodies left unburied, shipping at a standstill, foreign and colonial ports will be closed to us, and our wool and wheat shut out from all the markets of the world. Then a fire will sweep up the east side of King William Street to Hindmarsh Square. As soon as people can escape from the colony they will endeavour to do so. Those who remain will set to work to build a proper drainage system...'

    The spirit of Colonel Light promised to give further information, if required, the next time the same company assembled. One of the members, not feeling well, and the hour being late, the seance terminated. It should be added that the raps, which proceeded from the centre table, were, throughout, clear and decisive; and, as if to prognosticate the coming ruin the table, at the close of the proceedings apparently rising by itself, fell with a crash.

    The newspaper report covering this seance was written by 'A Very Special Reporter' and I suspect it was no more than a spoof aimed at galvanising the government of the day into undertaking a deep drainage programme in Adelaide!

    discovered a simple but effective method of raising ghosts.'17

    Woodside's Ghost

    Some of the residents of Woodside will remember the ghost scare in the Inverbrackie Road, just outside the township, in 1891, and how the ghost eventually got it in the neck, or more correctly speaking, in the legs. Mr Pulleine, a resident of the day, told me this story: 'In March 1891, I was collecting statistics in the Hundred of Onkaparinga, and in the course of my duties had to call on Tom Meddal, who lived near Nairne, and who described himself as bootmaker and "Poet Laureate of the Hills". He was a very interesting old man to converse with.

    'Tom used to do his shopping at Woodside and occasionally went there on Saturdays. Having completed his business, he would spend a few hours with friends and start on his long walk home towards midnight. Tom was told of the risk he took for many people had been held up by a ghost at Inverbrackie and advised him not to make his usual trips to Woodside. Tom agreed that it would be dangerous, but he intended to risk it.

    'The ghost had an intelligence service and got the tip that Tom was in Woodside and would be late in returning. Passing the late Tom Hutchens's house, Tom descried a white figure, but did not flinch. As he came nearer a stentorian voice called, "Prepare to meet your doom." In answer, Tom fired five shots into the apparition from his revolver and picked up the white sheet. The ghost had flown.'

    Sergeant Keating of the police force was in charge at Woodside at the time and his wife gave me some details of the confrontation and subsequent court case: 'Thomas Meddal, described as a shoemaker and poet, told the court that... he was startled by a figure in white coming out of the Wesleyan cemetery. On it approaching him, it uttered the words, "Thomas Meddal, I claim you."

    'He struck at it with a stick and a scuffle ensued, during which a sheet was dragged off the "ghost" and Meddal identified the defendant, who paid into court a sum of money for his joke.'


    As I reach the end of my ghost stories it is apparent that practical joking of an almost criminal character seems to be prevalent in the country districts. For a week or so reports have been current of people at Mount Gambier being frightened by someone dressed up in a white sheet playing the ghost.

    The spook has appeared mostly to women and children and so far no complaints against his ghostship have been made officially to the police, but having heard the doings of the ghost in a good many quarters, Mounted Constable Pearce made a reconnoitring expedition.

    Along highways and byways he went, but no ghost did he see. It was reported that the ghost was seen somewhere in the west end on the same night MC Pearce made his tour. He was armed and prepared to deal summarily with the offending apparition. According to a report in the local newspaper the foot constables are itching to get within fighting distance.

    While on the subject of ghosts the same paper recorded the following incident: 'The report of a revolver or gun being fired in the premises of Mr McArthur's butcher shop or Mrs Cornelius's Temperance Hotel, awoke the residents in the neighbourhood and caused some excitement about midnight... 'Constables Pascoe and Riley, who were on duty at that hour, were on the scene quickly, but nothing could be found to account for the shot.'

    At the same time reports were freely circulated at Port Pirie to the effect that some individual, disguised by means of a dark mantle, had been causing a scare among the more susceptible residents 'of Port Pirie West and the island.'


    What is the mystery behind some of these strange visitations? No one can say with certainty, for even Shakespeare admitted the gloom around 'tenantless graves and sheeted dead that quake and quiver in the Roman streets.' When one considers how devious this path called Life, and how dimly we can trace it for all our lamps of science, and how from the darkness that girds it round, strange and terrible possibilities loom black and fearful, then it is a brave and thoughtful adventurer who will wander from the beaten track.

    General Notes

    "Ghost Stories" is in the Register,
    16, 17, 18 and 20 December 1862,. pages 3a, 2h, 3b and 3b.

    "The Ghost Story" is in the Chronicle,
    22 June 1867, page 1b (supp.),
    "Something Like a Ghost" at Strathalbyn is in the Observer,
    15 July 1871, page 6a
    (also see Register,
    25 February 1921, page 3e) and
    "A Ghost Story" from Kapunda on
    22 July 1876, page 7d.

    "A Night With the Spirits" in Adelaide is in the Chronicle,
    4 November 1876, page 14.

    "A [South-East] Ghost Story" is in the Observer,
    22 March 1879, page 14c; also see
    10 March 1879, page 2d.

    "The Ghostly Digger" at Inglewood is in the Observer,
    25 December 1880, page 1086c.

    "Haunted Houses and Haunted Men" is in the Chronicle,
    29 August 1885, page 12e,
    "Thought-Reading Seance at Town Hall" on
    27 March 1886, pages 8c-23e.

    A lengthy account of a "ghost" in the Yanyarrie district and a startling denouement are in the Register, 29 April 1887, page 5c,
    4 and 9 May 1887, pages 5c and 5e; also see
    19 May 1887, page 6e,
    7, 9, 15, 16 and 27 June 1887, pages 7e, 4h, 3h, 7g and 3h,
    11 and 19 July 1887, pages 7e and 7h and
    19, 24 and 28 May 1887, pages 6f, 3e and 6f,
    1 and 29 June 1887, pages 7f and 7d.
    Also see Place Names - Cradock.
    A cartoon titled "The Country Ghost" is in The Lantern,
    7 May 1887, page 21.

    The Boolcunda Creek ghost is reported upon in the Advertiser,
    6 May 1887, page 7e.

    "A Ghost Yarn" about the Jubilee Exhibition is in the Express,
    30 November 1887, page 5b.

    A Yorketown ghost is discussed in the Chronicle,
    23 June 1888, page 23d.

    "An Adelaide Ghost Story" is in the Advertiser,
    30 December 1891, page 6d,
    "A Census of Ghosts" on
    29 October 1894, page 4h; also see
    3 January 1895, page 7a.

    "A Ghost at Glenelg" is in the Advertiser,
    17 June 1895, page 4h.

    A sighting of the Woodside ghost is reported in the Advertiser,
    29 May 1896, page 5d; also see
    16, 18 and 19 June 1936, pages 19b, 17a and 25b.

    "Ghosts!" in the vicinities of Mount Gambier and Port Pirie are discussed in the Express,
    6 August 1900, page 2g.

    "A Ghost at Hindmarsh" is in the Express,
    4 February 1903, page 2c.

    A "Pinery Ghost" is reported in the Advertiser,
    13 June 1904, page 8c,
    15 July 1904, page 4f.

    "Ghosts, or What? [at North Adelaide]" is in the Register,
    18 October 1904, page 3d.

    "A Mysterious Apparition [at Woodville]" is in the Register,
    14, 18 and 23 June 1906, pages 4d, 6f and 6g.

    "Ghostly Adventure at Burra" is in the Register,
    28 July 1906, page 4e.

    A ghost "captured" at Parkside is discussed in the Express,
    8 November 1906, page 4b.

    "Haunted Dwellings - Modern Ideas" is in the Register,
    14 April 1914, page 10c.

    "Spooks at Gawler" is in the Register,
    9 and 19 February 1918, pages 6d and 3e,
    23 March 1918, page 8f.

    "Ghosts and Skeletons" is in the Register,
    25 February 1921, page 3e.

    A "Ghost Story" from Morchard is in the Register,
    30 June 1924, page 12c and
    from Alberton in the Advertiser,
    19 May 1926, page 10a.

    "A Ghost Story [at Encounter Bay]" is in the Observer,
    10 March 1928, page 56c.

    "Ghost Scare in Hills" is in the Register,
    13 May 1929, page 2e.

    "Ghosts of Early Adelaide" is in the Advertiser,
    17 October 1929, page 19f,
    "Grey Lady of North Adelaide" in the Observer,
    26 October 1929, page 18e,
    "Weird Hauntings of Early Adelaide" in The Mail,
    28 December 1929, page 20.

    Information on "Adelaide's Haunted Homes" is in the Advertiser,
    23 December 1933, page 9a.

    A "Springfield Ghost" is reported in the Advertiser,
    22 June 1936, page 17b.

    "Ghost Hunt at Mount Gambier" is in The News,
    23 June 1937, page 9c.

    Miscellany - Choose again