Shay Gap was a mining town east of Port Hedland. It was space age back in the day and revolutionary. That’s just what mining companies did to keep their workforce local.
The Port Hedland Lock Hospital was built to house Aboriginal people suspected — often wrongly — of having venereal diseases 100 years ago, after an isolated island hospital scheme was shut down.
Reference: ABC News, 7 June 2019
Dr Pervan has investigated the history of the Port Hedland site and hoped to begin formal excavations later in the year.
“We’ve still got evidence of the nursing quarters left on the location, so this is made of wood and corrugated iron buildings,” she said.
“But then there’s other archaeological evidence of timber frames, metal compressed fibre all scattered across the site, which would have been part of the hospital quarters.
“There’s also evidence of a burial ground on the site and we know that people who were sent to the lock hospitals are still buried in the location.”
Location of Port Hedland Lock Hospital:
Where is the SS Koombana?
The steamship SS Koombana was a steel-screw steamer of some 4,000 tonnes and was operated by the Adelaide Steamship Company on charter to the WA Government as a State Ship.
The SS Koombana made her inaugural voyage to Port Hedland arriving on 10 April 1909 and serviced the Port Hedland community for three years.
On 20 March 1912 the ship sailed out of Port Hedland on route to Broome, encountered a cyclone and was lost with all 146 passengers and crew aboard. It had been rumoured that she was carrying a bounty of gold and a mysterious black pearl called the ‘Roseate Pearl’ that was thought to be cursed.
No records of gold or the pearl were listed on the ship’s manifest.
Despite several attempts and intensive investigation the wreck of the SS Koombana has never been located. However….
Researcher and book author Hugh Edwards has been researching the history of SS Koombana and has provided Julie Matheson with some further information:
In the early 1900s Australians were appalled to read in their newspapers that three of the newest and most luxurious passenger steamers on their coast had gone to the bottom of the sea. All lost in a period of only three years.
Of a total of 515 passengers and crew aboard them none had survived the fatal accidents.
‘NO SURVIVORS !’ was the grim report.
Lost with all hands were the SS Waratah, July 27 1909; the SS Yongala, March 24, 1911; and the SS Koombana, March 20th 2012.
At the enquiry the owners, the Adelaide Steamship Company, did their best to limit the scope of evidence due to their concerns about possible claims against them. They succeeded in escaping without censure in circumstances which might raise eyebrows today.
However, despite the ‘White-wash’, as described by Walter Barker, editor of the Port Hedland Advocate newspaper, there was controversy outside the Courtroom at the time. There was strong opinion that due to increases in the height of upperworks for first class cabins and facilities, the vessels (Koombana and Yongala) were top heavy. It was said that they were bound sooner or later to have problems in extreme storm conditions.
KOOMBANA: COURT OF INQUIRY CONCLUSION:
‘The Court found that the stability and seaworthiness of the SS Koombana were unassailable and that the competency and carefulness of the master Captain Allen was beyond question. After being lost sight of at sea on the 20th of March, 1912, her fate passes beyond human knowledge and remains a Mystery of the Sea’.
The Roseate Pearl
There are also some interesting associated legends in the case of Koombana, including the story of the far-famed Roseate Pearl.
That is an intriguing issue which has caught the imaginations of historians and novelists in the years since, among them the excellent book Koombana Days by Annie Boyd.
It is said that that the pearl went aboard Koombana at Port Hedland with prominent Broome pearl buyer Abraham de Vahl Davis in March, 1912. He was said to have paid 23,000 pounds for it. A fabulous amount of money for the time.
The most famous South Sea Pearl in Western Australian history became a legend, including the fact that three men were hanged in Fremantle Gaol because of it.
Is the Pearl still in a jar, or some other kind of container, in the Chub Safe deep down in the wreck of the Koombana?
We know that the first skipper to cross the bar, which later caused so many problems, and sail on the Mystery into the anchorage of Port Hedland was Peter Headland. He dropped anchor there in the sheltered water in 1863.
Port Hedland was named after Captain Peter Headland in 1896 although the spelling was incorrect as it was spelt Hedlund.
Note from Hugh Edwards: The MMA pilot said to have seen the outline of a wreck which may be SS Koombana was George Meadows and the date of his supposed sighting was 1973. One of the previous searches organised from Port Hedland under the title SS Koombana Search Group had Ted Graham as one of the leaders.
Enquiries: Hugh Edwards 08 9384 4766 or e: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is from The West on the misspelling of Captain Peter Hedlund’s name, courtesy of The West, 13 June 2020
A mistaken caption on a century-old football team photograph has helped link a pioneering Swedish sailor responsible for the naming of Port Hedland with Des Headland, the AFL’s only Aboriginal No.1 draft pick.
Headland is one of football’s most prominent Aboriginal voices as chairman of the Indigenous Players Alliance.
As his two former teams — Brisbane and Fremantle — return to action at the Gabba today, he is intrigued that his Noongar and Yamatji pedigree is mingled with Swedish ancestry.
“All our family had blond hair as kids and now we know why,” he said.
Headland is the great-great great-grandson of Peter Hedlund, right, who inspired the name of the Pilbara port and has hundreds of descendants — white and black — spread across WA. Headland’s great-grandfather William — Peter Hedlund’s grandson — was just two when he was taken from his Aboriginal mother at Shark Bay and placed at New Norcia mission where he grew up and became a country football star.
A photograph of William Headland ran in the WA Football 101 series in April where it was used mistakenly to identify George Blurton, the winner of the short-lived Cookson Medal as the best player in the WAFL in 1915.
Blurton was a brilliant footballer at Midland Junction, the second Aboriginal player to appear in the WAFL after Jimmy Melbourne, and later a key member of the successful Wanderers team that played at Moora.
The identification error had been perpetuated over more than a century, including in early 20th century newspapers and Alan East’s history The Sandover Medal Men, until Des Headland’s father, also Des, spotted it in The West Australian.
“It is a great story but the photo you have of George is not him,” Des Sr said.
“The photo you have in the paper is my grandfather William Headland.”
The photograph, top, was of the 1913 New Norcia team, including a 21-year-old William Headland.
It is a striking image, not least because the footballers were Aboriginal while the trainers and assistants were predominantly white.
The Headlands were not aware of the Shark Bay link until Des, around the time he moved to the Dockers after winning the 2002 premiership with Brisbane, discovered his lineage while on holiday in the area.
“I was walking down the street in Denham when I was approached by some people who said ‘did you know your mob is up here?’,” he said.
“I thought they meant my Noongar mob from Perth but they were talking about the local Yamatjis.
“I didn’t know anything about William being taken from Shark Bay but I have found out a fair bit about the family since then.”
Those family links go back nearly a century and a half.
Peter Hedlund, a stern blue-eyed Swede from Baltic port Hudiksvall whose features are clearly evident in the photo of William Headland, migrated to WA in the 1850s where he became a successful explorer, pearler and seafarer who carried cargo to the early north-west settlers.
In 1863, he ran his lugger Mystery ashore as he searched for a suitable port for the growing Pilbara pastoral industry.
Thirty years later, the new town at the site was named in his honour – though the spelling had changed — as Port Hedland.
Hedlund had died a violent death by then, killed by his Aboriginal crew near Roebuck Bay in 1881 before they scuttled the Mystery, but not before he had nine children with his wife Ellen Adams.
Their second son Joseph had two children — Daisy and William with his wife Mary McQuay in Shark Bay. When he died at 30, the two youngsters were taken from their mother and sent to New Norcia where they grew up and had nothing more to do with their Shark Bay family.
An 1899 New Norcia census signed by Bishop Salvado identified the pair as half-caste children and estimated their ages at seven or eight.
Another girl on the census, 14-year-old Agnes Williams, later started a family line that would include Headland on his maternal side as well as fellow AFL stars Derek Kickett, Dale Kickett, Lance Franklin, Paddy Ryder and Jeff Garlett.
Doug Headland, who was drafted by the Dockers in 1994 but never played a match, is another cousin.
William Headland was a country star as was his son Hubert who won a premiership with Three Springs in 1948.
Hubert, above, was 15 when he put his age up to enlist in the army alongside his brothers during World War II, but returned to have 18 children, including Des Sr.
One of Port Hedland’s favourite pubs was the Hedland Hotel (the Heddy or the Top Pub) now known as the Ibis Styles Hotel overlooking the ocean on Sutherland Street.
We are chasing information about the Heddy:
- The year it was built?
- Who built the pub?
- Pub attractions?
- Any fond memories?
So far facebook page Port Hedland’s Remember When has delivered:
The pub was built around circa 1968
It was a location for a wedding reception in 1981
Purple Haze Band is now called The Haze and Rob Christian has dedicated a website page to its history. The drummer, Nige, Nigel Ridgway, has written a book called A Different Drummer. He mentions towns Purple Haze played in earlier days, and he would have mentioned Hedland in passing.
Formerly managed by the Pickering family
A place for union meetings including a visit by Bill Shorten in October 2002
Sponsor of the Rovers Football Club and Hawkes Rugby League
Dress-up nights in the 1970s
If you have any photos to share, please let us know.
Julie Matheson, editor
On the vacant land between Moore Street and Wilson Street there once stood the Port Hedland Railway Station.
According to local stories the train took residents and workers from Port Hedland to Marble Bar and back by rail on the Spinifex Express route from 1911.
The station closed in 1952.
The steam train engine G118 was retired to the historic railway station of Kalamunda in the Historic Village complex.
Story by Graham Williams
As a first year electrical apprentice I was sent to Port Hedland in 1960 to carry out the electrical work on a large group of new State houses being built by George Thompson. I was left by myself to do the work, lived at the Esplanade hotel, and really looked after by a couple of the site carpenters. George Thompson built the houses in the old main incoming street Anderson I think, also some in Sutherland St overlooking the beach where we built a fish trap of fence posts and wire fencing. We would wait for the tide to go out and then nearly always had a choice of the fish to eat, caught turtles and other things as well.
I remember the painting contractor Jimmy Nicolakis from Geraldton rowed a dingy over to Finucane Island and came back with the greatest array of large and coloured sea shells. I added lights and bases to some of them and gave them away as presents.
After completing the State houses, we upgraded St Cecilia’s Convent and Father O’ Sullivan presbytery before he left for Good. By the way because I had spare time on the job I did the mail run into town each day and got some small items for the carpenters from Elder Smith. One day the police sergeant asked me would I give him a lift back to the station. There he said come in Graham, what for I asked……so I can give you a drivers license….was his reply.
One day I met the Bill and Flo Kane’s family from Kingsmill Street, Port Hedland.
In my spare time I was allowed to help Bill refuel the aircraft at the Port Hedland Airport so got to know one of the best men of the Pilbara. Bill Kane owned and trained RED WARRIOR, the best horse to race in Port Hedland, ref. Ron Solly.
I remember Bill well because once a month an old Aboriginal mate of his would walk in from the De Grey for his pension payment. Before leaving he would go to see Bill, do a little garden weeding and be handed a large meat and salad sandwich with one only large bottle of Swan Lager. Bill would sit by his side under the shade of a tree and it was so clear how much they meant to each other. Bill must have told him I was a new migrant so the next thing was an invitation to attend a corroboree going to be held on the De Grey River bed to bring a young man into adulthood. What an great invitation this turned out to be. We sat a good distance away from the actual scene but could clearly see and hear all the ceremony. This night made me realise what a great gift we have in having such wonderful people alongside us.
I have just read Jack McPhee’s life story and learned how cruel and uncaring our early government institutions were to all these people especially in the Pilbara. The best any white person can do is to give our Aboriginal brothers and sisters a big smile and a handshake when possible.
Written on 23 May 2017
Contact details supplied.
21 to 23 October 2016
Where: Port Hedland, Western Australia
Why: Port Hedland was named after Captain Peter Hedland in October 1896. It is one of the oldest towns in the Pilbara rich in history, mineral exports, diversity of people, Aboriginal culture and rock carvings. This year the town is putting on events to celebrate it’s gazettal and history. Click here for information on its history.
Where to stay: Located in the oldest part of the town, The Esplanade Hotel is offering accommodation for $155 per night including a a la carte breakfast. Click here to book.
What’s on: Something for everyone.
Friday 21 October: Quiz Night at The Esplanade including dinner and drinks package. Part of the proceeds will go to the Port Hedland Historical Society to update the historical building of Dalgety House. Click here:
Sat 22 October:
- Morning: history tour of Port Hedland
- Afternoon: Wedge Street food and festival, story telling and pictures, fictional story winners announced
- Evening: Black Rock Stakes, Live music, street market food and fireworks
Sunday 23 October: Free time and departure.
Planning your visit:
Write a fictional story. Entries close 9 September 2016 for Port Hedland’s fictional writing competition, please click here:
Enter a team in the Black Rock Stakes. It’s a reformatted version of the Goldsworthy to Port Hedland famous wheelbarrow race. Teams will run from Cooke Point Recreation Club along our beautiful foreshore, ending at the West End Markets on Glass Lane in the historic part of town. To join a team email the committee: email@example.com
Book Airfares: Qantas flies direct to Port Hedland from Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne. Click here to make a booking.
Book accommodation: The Esplanade has a special room rate of $155 per night including breakfast. Click here to make a booking.
For more information, please contact us at Port Hedland Now:
Although Port Hedland continues to be the engine room of the Western Australian economy, the busiest port in Australia and the biggest minerals exporter, its economy is suffering.
House prices have dropped by 50% and rents significantly more than that. The tonnage through the Port Authority is still at record highs, but this has not saved the town from the boom bust cycle.
After experiencing three booms in the 1970s, 1990s and 20tens, it would be fair to say that Port Hedland’s prosperity is driven by construction booms, not export tonnage through the port. Tonnage does not offer more jobs and employment security. Jobs are lost after each construction boom due to advances in technology and efficiencies.
Port Hedland’s economy can be secured with a diverse range of products and services. The next boom will probably be in agriculture. The port is well positioned for this and to host cruise ships and the tourism that comes from that.
In the meantime, Port Hedland is offering some bargain properties at the right price in readiness for the next boom.
After reading this article in the North West Telegraph on ‘tourism black hole’ and comments on Facebook that Port Hedland has nothing to offer except the port and Dalgety Museum, I thought it warranted my opinion on the subject.
In my view it should be compulsory for every Australian to visit Port Hedland, the financial heart beat of the Australian economy.
All Australians need to see for themselves how the Port Hedland community wants to co-exist with heavy industry, and how heavy industry can do better to make sure families can live in the West End of Port Hedland.
The West End offers tourists and families fishing, boating, Aboriginal heritage, historic homes, lessons on how to build cyclone proof buildings, the biggest ships in the biggest port of Australia, tours of ship loaders, the longest trains, and importantly how very old Aboriginal rock art is protected and co-exists right near heavy industry.
There are lots to do and see in Port Hedland, especially the West End. Port Hedland is a must see for all Australians and tourists.
Mining and families can co-exist in the West End with the willingness of heavy industry and tourism.