The SS Koombana?


 SS Koombana in Port Hedland 1901

Built by Alexander Stephens and Sons in Glasgow the SS Koombana was launched in 1908. Owned by the Adelaide Steamship Company, the ship was built for passengers and cargo for service along the Western Australian coast. Named the SS Koombana after influential Robert Forrest’s Koombana Flour Mill near Bunbury, the luxury vessel was considered ‘as luxurious as the Titanic’…’the last word in seagoing opulence’, with gilt ceilings and plush purple upholstery ( “The Great Nor’West. Marble Bar and its Railway”. Western Mail. 1 May 1909). However its last journey ended tragically with loss of 150 souls, the ship was never found. The SS Koombana was reported missing on the 26th of March 1912. The Geraldton Guardian reported, ‘Up to time of going to press this evening, no word had been received of the s.s. Koombana. It is thought that on the first approach of the storm she headed south-west from Port Hedland, and consequently be very much overdue before reaching Broome’ (Geraldton Guardian, 1912, p.3).

Recently however a mapping team made a surprise discovery off Western Australia’s coast when their equipment uncovered a large structure that appeared to be a ship (pictured). The research vessel and its crew of research scientists had uncovered a shipwreck ( ).

SS koombana wreck

The question is could this be that ship? The State Records Office may hold the answer,

The site of the wreck of the SS Koombana has never been located. But the file on the Court of Marine Inquiry into the loss of the ship contains strong clues to its final position. Captain Rantzan, the master of one of the search ships, the Una, reporting to the Chief Harbour Master at Fremantle on 16 April 1912, states that at “19.7 S. and Longitude 118.53 E.” he had found wreckage which “seemed to come from the bottom” of the sea, indicating to him “that the ship was lost at about this point.” Ominously, in the next sentence he states that “at this particular place there were a large number of Sharks to be seen.”( )

Only time will tell!


Playing deck billiards on the SS Koombana




Mystery Object


Who can guess what this mystery object was used for? A clue is one of the objects screws into the other and at the bottom M.A is inscribed.

Studio photographs taken in Bunbury pre-1960s wanted for scanning!

Jo-anne Goff from Customer service aged4 2

Can you guess who this cute baby is? I’ll give you a clue she works for the City of Bunbury! Below is a gorgeous photo of her mum and dad. These photos were taken at the Restella Studio of Bunbury that was located on Wellington Street where the cake shop is now.

The Museum is currently looking for professional photos taken prior to the 1960s for an up coming exhibition that celebrates Bunbury’s professional photographers… after all they were the people that recorded our history! So if you have any old family photos the Museum would love to have them in the collection (we just scan them, we don’t take them). Don’t be shy, contact us!

Wedding Bruce & Jean Winwood (nee Scott)
Married 27 March 1950 at St Davids Church, South Bunbury.
Restella Studio Bunbury


70 Years of Yachting History in Bunbury

MUS.2016.86.10It is 1948 in Bunbury and life is good! Pictured are a Bunbury boating crew enjoying themselves in the glorious sun (South West Times Annual 1948). This boating party may have been spectators to witness the first Ocean Yacht race to Bunbury from Fremantle. The West Australian reported on the 24th of February 1948,

Raced and handicapped under conditions similar to those governing competitors in the Sydney to Hobart ocean race, 17 keel cruisers will compete in the Fremantle – Bunbury ocean yacht race which will start between midnight tonight and 6am tomorrow.

“Argosy” of Bunbury owned by Ted Luck came in first place.

The ocean race is about to celebrate its 70th Birthday this year on Friday 23rd of February 2018. Celebrating its platinum jubilee the yachts will race 170 nautical miles of blue water. Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club and Koombana Bay Sailing Club partner to host this event.  ocean yacht race

(image courtesy of the Western Mail Thurs 4th of March 1948).



Christmas revisited

victoria street final South view

It is hard to believe that Christmas is here again! Half of this composite image of Victoria Street was a photograph taken by me in December of 2014 when I hadn’t been a resident of Bunbury for that long.

The other part of this photo was taken on Armistice day in 1918 on Victoria Street. Some of the buildings remain, such as the Wellington Hotel on the right (the balcony can just be seen) and the Rose is hidden behind one of the trees, along with Bon Marche and Boulters.

The original image has such an interesting story behind it. The photograph belonged to Jay Sivell’s grandfather who happened to be on the Monkbarns, a ship that was docked in port on the day victory was declared over the enemies in World War One. Jay is an author and blogger who is currently writing a book about her grandfather’s adventures and consequent tragic demise at sea. Her story is a compelling tale of the high seas and also offers an interesting insight to the end of World War One and the declaration of victory in Bunbury. Below is an excerpt of her story;

Dorothy Rumble had gone to the Lyric that evening, with her sister Phyl and two friends, to see the Hollywood heartthrob Douglas Fairbanks in The Man from Painted Post. Halfway through the film, she remembered, at 9.30pm, the screen suddenly went blank.

A disappointed murmur had rippled through the crowd, and then a hastily written message appeared on the screen:

The film was forgotten. Everyone stampeded out into Victoria Street, where firecrackers were going off – left over from Guy Fawkes’ night the previous week. “People linked arms and danced down the street. One or two motor cars – there were not many in Bunbury – were trying to drive through the crowd. They joined in the fun and started honking their horns. Others jumped on the running boards for the ride. Kerosene tins became instantaneous drums,” records her son (Sivell, Jay taken from Lost at Sea – A Sailor’s Life – 40. Armistice day in Bunbury).


A Remarkable Convict: James Hislop

James Hislop

James John Henry Hislop 

It is not known exactly what crime Mr James Hislop was convicted and transported for during 1851 on the Pyrenees bound for Western Australia from England… Some say it was forgery, others say it was grand larceny; however the ship’s record failed to correctly record the criminal offence.  Whatever Hislop was charged with he was sentenced to seven years and upon arrival in the state was granted a ticket of leave. He soon found a bride, an Irish immigrant named Bridget Mulqueen whom he had twelve children with, and thus the Hislop clan of Bunbury began.

Hislop was a well-educated man and he became Bunbury’s first school master. The Kalgoorlie Sun noted on October the 24th 1909, ‘Mr. Hislop was a native of Scotland and at one time was said to be the only man in the state who knew Greek’ (Sun 1909 p.1). He taught John Forrest and Alexander Forrest among other well-known Bunbury residents. In an obituary dated the 28th of October 1909 the Bunbury Herald wrote of Hislop’s kindly deeds, ‘The deceased gentleman at all times assisted any of the illiterate residents with his ready pen, and it is estimated that during his long life he wrote over 1000 letters for the old immigrants to send to their people in the old country’ (Bunbury Herald 1909 p.3). Among his many other talents he was also one of the earliest Councillors.

(Photo courtesy of the WA State Library)

Are you an L.E Man?

Rural Motors Bunbury - Copy

In 1930 the Daily News reported on the ‘new’ Rural Motors Company located on Stephen Street, Bunbury. The Daily described the Ford Agency, ‘The new building makes a handsome addition to the street and is designed to allow cars to run in off the road to fill up with petrol’ (Daily News 15 November 1930 p.6). However according to a new theory printed in the Sunday Times edition April 5 1936 it might be a good idea if you didn’t drive at all! The Sunday Times asks, ‘ Are you an L.E Man? – A New Criterion for Grading Drivers… If you have low ears hide them: for if a new theory is right you are a dangerous driver… An L.E man, according to this hypothesis is reckless and pays little heed to traffic rules. The location of the ears seems to be regarded as a regular danger barometer. High ears for instance indicate a cautious driver’. Well you learn something everyday!

Image courtesy of the South West Times Museum Collection.

Restella Photographic Studio

First Mayoral Ball Lyric Theatre

On the topic of photography… the beautifully etched window below still remains on Wellington Street, Bunbury (where the cake shop is now). A former Bunbury photographic studio it began with a man named George Cox. George started the business after serving in the first World War. The studio was taken over in 1951 by Wesley Meyer (the Museum had the pleasure of listening to his daughter Wendy who gave a talk about the studio – her holiday job in the studio was to ‘spot’ the black and white photos using a very fine brush… the spots were needed because of dust landing on the prints). The above image from the Restella Studio is of the first Mayoral Ball held in the old Lyric theater on the 16th of August 1911. Needless to say this image was just one of many that recorded the history and people of Bunbury.

Restella 1

… while we are on the topic of photography, the most recent edition to the Museum Education collection is this Kodak Autographic Model H camera. Once owned by Cyril Hubert Meade it was thankfully donated by his son Brian Meade. This model was manufactured between 1914 and 1926 and it is in full working order!

Kodak model 3 side view




It is 1941 in Bunbury and World War II has been raging for nearly three years. There is call for young men between 18 – 32 years that are urgently needed to train as pilots, observers and wireless operator – air gunners… what better way to recruit them than to screen an air force film in the Mayfair Theatre Bunbury. This film was presented by Group – Captain Cobby, Australia’s foremost ace in the Great War! (West Australian Saturday 6 1941, p.6).

The then recently constructed Mayfair Theatre in Stephen Street Bunbury was built in Art Deco Style and had what was termed ‘natural air conditioning’. This innovation is described in the Gala Souvenir booklet from August 4th 1939,

‘Large roller shutters have been built into the walls of the theatre to cover these apertures in the winter, but during the warmer weather they can be rolled up into a recess in the ceiling. So while patrons in the summer time will be enclosed in a massive building they will enjoy the same privilege as though they were seated in an open – air theatre garden…’

Magnetico Fantastico!


Our Magnetico Bakelite phones are now in working order! Many many thanks to Mr. Peter Brill (pictured) for taking the effort to drive from Perth to Bunbury, source the materials and collaborate with Raymond Buckley telephone restorer so that these wonderful objects of yesteryear’s technology can be used for our education program. The kids (and some of the adults) are going to love it!