Sunday, May 13, 2018

William Thomas – Kapunda Mayor 1893 - 1895

William Thomas – Kapunda Mayor 1893 - 1895

 William Thomas became Mayor of Kapunda in 1893, retaining the privileged position until 1895.

Thomas was born in Glamorganshire, Wales in 1854, and at 8 years of age moved to Kapunda, South Australia with his parents, brothers John and Even and sister Anne.

 In 1876 he married Emma Harvey at her parent’s house in Kapunda. Together they had one child, a daughter, Hilda Beatrice Thomas.
 Upon leaving school, William found work as an apprentice with My H.B, Hawkes iron foundry, working as an apprentice moulder and iron founder. In the evenings he worked the Main Street of Kapunda, selling newspapers.

 After Mr Hawke sold his business to local man, Mr Rees, William left the foundry. His previous work selling newspapers had been very lucrative, and he was able to become an agent, getting younger lads to sell the newspapers on his behalf. Meanwhile, he set up a stationary and book selling shop in the main street – perhaps Mr Thomas was Kapunda’s first news agent!

In 1879, Thomas gained a position on Council, after being elected to the West Ward. He also took positions on the boards of the Kapunda Institute Committee, The Kapunda hospital and the Dutton Park Management Committee.
Thomas was also a trustee board member of the local Druids lodge
 In 1893 he became the elected Mayor of Kapunda, a position he held from 1893 until 1895. In 1896 he was involved in a local scandal, when Mr H.B. Barker accused him of stating that the Corporation of Kapunda has misappropriated several Government grants. 

 Thomas went on record denying he ever said anything of the sort, even going so far as to publish a statement in the Kapunda Herald on May 7th, 1896 that Mr Barker was incorrect, and unfounded.

In September 1900, Emma passed away, and only a few weeks later, after 5 weeks of being bed ridden, William joined her. They are both buried in the Clare Road Cemetery.

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2018

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Kapunda Snow

Kapunda Snow

In June 1909 Kapunda, Allendale and Eudunda Ranges were covered in a snow!
In our modern times this is almost unheard of, but in the early 1900's, it would seem it was a regular occurrence.
 Snow was reported in the Kapunda Herald (newspaper) in 1901, 1906, 1908 as well as 1909 falling steadily, and in enough volume around the district for locals to build snowmen!

 photo Source: State Library of South Australia: B69054/114

Kapunda Herald 13 August 1909, page 1.

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2018


1909 'SNOW AT KAPUNDA.', Kapunda Herald (SA : 1878 - 1951), 30 July, p. 4. , viewed 19 Feb 2018,

1909 'Snow Scenes at kapunda', Kapunda Herald (SA : 1878 - 1951), 13 August, p. 1. (Kapunda Herald Illustrated Supplement), viewed 19 Feb 2018,

1906 'General New', Kapunda Herald (SA : 1878 - 1951), 31 August, p. 5. , viewed 19 Feb 2018,

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Kapunda People: Henry Fairclough

Henry Fairclough

1911 'Advertising', Kapunda Herald 1 September, p. 3.

Mr Fairclough was born in Liverpool England in 1849. His family moved to Norwood, South Australia in 1850. As a youth, young Henry attended school at “Holdsworth School” in Norwood and also learned to be a caterer, later, he learned the trade of ironmongery as an apprentice of F. & S.Sach, who were located in Adelaide on the corner of Gawler Place and Rundle Street.

In the younger years of his adult life he moved to New Zealand, and then later to the north coast of New South Wales.

Upon his return to South Australia he moved to Georgetown to work in the local hotel, and eventually fell in love, and married the sister of the publican. Soon he became a farmer near Moonta, but farming was dirty work with long hours, so he uprooted his family and moved to Kapunda.

Mr Fairclough had The North Kapunda hotel for 14 years and earned for himself a reputation for quality, unfailing courtesy and upholding the establishment to the strictest details of the licensing laws.

In 1903 Mrs Fairclough (nee Kewson) suffered a nasty injury when the cork in a bottle of aerated water she was trying to open, popped suddenly and hit her eye. The injury was so severe that she eventually lost her sight in her left eye.

In 1912 Mr Fairclough became very ill, and by November of that year he had been confined to his bed as his sickness grew steadily worse. His liver was in failure, and his days, unfortunately were numbered.

On the Monday the 17th of November 1912, Henry Fairclough lost his battle with illness and passed away in the Kapunda hospital.

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2012


1912 'OBITUARY.', Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931), 30 November, p. 41. , viewed 16 Feb 2018,

1912 'Family Notices', Kapunda Herald (SA : 1878 - 1951), 22 November, p. 4. , viewed 16 Feb 2018,

1903 'HAY-CUTTING.', Kapunda Herald (SA : 1878 - 1951), 13 November, p. 5. , viewed 16 Feb 2018,

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Kapunda Copper Mines

Copper Mines

The Copper in the Kapunda Mines was first discovered by Francis Dutton in 1842. He began a partnership with Captain Bagot (Captain was a traditional Cornish term used for a manager) and together they purchased about 80 acres of land. They paid 1 pound per acre of land.
The pair set about taking samples from the numerous green rocks. The samples were then sent to England for testing, this would take almost two years before results would return to Australia. Upon the results reaching Australia, the business partners were astonished to find the copper was 22.5 percent pure, which at the time was the richest deposit found anywhere in the world.
The mine began small with Bagot employing labourers to dig the copper from the surface with shovels and picks. In their first year they removed 600 tons of ore, valued at about 7000 pounds.
Around December 1844, Cornish miners began to arrive on-site, and tunnelling and underground mining began in earnest.
Francis Dutton decided to sell his 25% share in the mine in 1846, earning him the vast sum (at the time) of 16000 pounds, Captain Bagot now had the controlling 55% of ownership of the mine.

In its beginnings the mine would transport its ore via bullock dray to Port Adelaide, a journey of about 6 days, where it would be loaded onto ships and transported by vessels to Swansea in Wales. Loads were sent at 2 tonnes per load, by 1850, the mine was producing 100 tons of copper ore per month.
In the coming years the mine would expand significantly, and so would the town. Many jobs were created, and it seemed in this era that certain cultural backgrounds provided expertise in differing areas.
 The Welsh operating smelters, the Cornish, who were expert miners, and the Germans who began to cut down trees needed to power the furnaces of the smelters and began farms to feed the vast number of workers. Then there were the Irish who began as labourers, and to drive the Bullock teams to Port Adelaide – it was a cultural melting pot (lets also not forget a few Chinese men who started market gardens in Kapunda!)

Kapunda never had one distinct mine instead there were at least five or six distinct copper lodes in close proximity, which were mined from as many as ten separate shafts over time, these included: Wheal Bagot, Wheal Charlotte, Wheal Truscott, Wheal Lanyon, Wheal Harris, Wheal Major. There is no trace of any of them today, as they have all been obliterated by later workings of the mine (wheal being a Cornish mining term)
In 1849, Smelters made in Germany arrived in South Australia, reducing the need to ship ore overseas, however, the ships now brought back Coal from England for the smelters
In 1850, the mines had reached about 80 feet down and had started to go below the water table, a steam engine was brought in to pump the water out of the mine. At its deepest point the mine reached about 480 feet, or 150 metres.

In 1852, the Goldrush in Victoria began, this had a huge effect on Kapunda and its surrounds, many men left to try their luck at finding a quick fortune. For almost three years the production rate at Kapunda dropped to a minimal amount, however by 1857, production was at full speed again producing upwards of 4104 tonnes of ore
A sign in the Bagot mining Museum in Kapunda states that in 1861 the mine employed
43 miners - mostly Cornish
106 pitmen
23 children - mostly Cornish
82 labourers - mainly Irish
13 boys - mainly Irish
36 smelters and furnacemen - mainly Welsh
The mine at this time was employing 302 men and 36 boys
The Kapunda mines importance declined with the discovery of copper at Burra, with a lode four times greater than Kapunda, but even Burra couldn’t compete with Moonta, which had a lode almost 4 times greater than Burra's!
By 1863 the majority of the high-grade ore had been mined out, the mine was now a low-grade ore mine – soon it became an open cut mine.
The mine closed in 1878 and all the equipment was sold.

However, it did reopen again and continued until 1912 on a smaller scale. During this time 12,800 tonnes or copper ore were mined
Now, in 2018 the Copper mine stands as a tourist attraction at Kapunda’s Southern End, dominated by the large stone chimney that was used to provide air for the engine boilers below. The mine is the favourite place of artists who love the deep green hues of the water that fills the open cut mine and now features restored mining buildings and fantastic artistic sculptures.

Time Line:
1842 Copper ore discovered
1844 Mine opened
1845 Horse whim installed
         Mine Square Cottages built
1846 Dutton sold his share
         Captain John Richards appointed
1848 Draft engine purchased
1849 Draft engine at work
         Smelter built
1851 Buhl engine installed
         Mine closed by Victorian gold rush
1855 Mine re-opened
1859 Captain Bagot retired
1860 Kapunda Mining Company formed in London
         Subsidence in workings
         Railway reached Kapunda
1861 Draft Engine re-located
1862 East Kapunda mines opened
1863 Mines operated at a loss
1865 Scottish company took over mines
1867 Henderson Plant in production
         Captain Osborne appointed
         Open cut extraction
1877 Crash in copper price
1879 Mines closed
1880 Hillside mine opened
1912 Tributers finished up
1938 Matthews Gravel Quarry on Block 19 opened
1949 Matthews Gravel Quarry on Block 19 closed
1962 Council acquired Block 24
1972 Council acquired Block 21
         Plaque placed on smokestack
         Charlotte open cut used as Council dump
1986 Jubilee 150 signage erected
1987 Site entered in SA Heritage Register
2008 Preparation of Conservation Management Plan for the site

 Researched and written by Allen Tiller - originally published on December 3rd 2013 on the Haunts of Adealide: History, Mystery and the Paranormal, edited on Feb 16th 2018 - © 2018 Allen Tiller

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Bachelors Hall – North Kapunda Hotel

The Bachelors Hall – North Kapunda Hotel

 No-one is quite sure what year the rear accommodation wing of the North Kapunda Hotel was built, but it is estimated to be somewhere between 1848 and 1855. It may have been earlier than 1848 though and built as part of the miner’s accommodation around the town by the North Kapunda Mining Company. The same company built the original structure that would eventually become the North Kapunda Arms Hotel, that in 1865, Mr Crase would re-build into the striking to story hotel we see and know today.

The downstairs section of the hallway, in 1865 contained the first official office of the newly formed Kapunda Council, until they moved to bigger premises on the Clare Road (the building today is the Scout Hall). There were also two large, ornate rooms used by Jenkins and Coles bursars who dealt with the horse sales that were held at the rear of the hotel.
During the late 1880’s, the upstairs section of the hallway was known as “The Bachelor’s Hall”, the following is a poem penned about it by one of its inhabitants

Bachelor's Hall.


Hurrah ! hurrah for Bachelor's Hall;
The Queen's away and I'm monarch of all;
I don't have to hang up my coat or my hat,
And when I get lonely I talk to the cat.
I come when I like, and I go when I choose.
The finest cigars help me scatter the blues;
 No bundles I carry and nothing I buy;
There's no one to care about-only big “I”
 I revel in wildest confusion around;
There isn't a thing in its place to be found;
 My books and newspapers, they litter the room
That' hasn't for weeks seen the sight of a broom.
There's clothing or something on every chair;
My bed's never made, but it's little I care;
I sleep like a top, for there's no one to call
I take solid comfort in Bachelor's Hall.
I've used all the dishes and now it's my fate
To eat, when I'm home, on the back of a plate;
I'm learning to cook, but, alas. I confess
I choose to go hungry than, swallow the mess.
But, Bachelor's Hall with its comfort and quiet,
Is almost too spooky for regular diet;
No children live in it to welcome their dad,
No supper is waiting, no wife-O, so glad.
No! Nothing but ghosts of the loved ones away
Inhabit this tomb where alone I must stay,
Compelled to break silence by having a chat
With my woeful companion, the strange acting cat.
O, gladly I'll yield my crown sceptre and all
The Kingly delights of a Bachelor's Hall
To the Queen of the Home when she comes with her train
To wisely and lovingly over me reign.

First Published in The Kapunda Herald - Tuesday 7 August 1888, page 6

The Bachelor’s Hall saw its own scandal in the 1885 when three of its inhabitants found themselves facing the magistrate at the Kapunda Courthouse for disturbing the peace.
 Murray Thomson, Robert Anderton and James Shakes Jnr. Faced the magistrate on May 12th, with Thomson and Anderton represented by Mr Glynn, and Shakes represented by Mr Benham.
 The men had been charged because someone had been firing guns in Franklin Street at about 10 past three in the morning.

On the evening of the event, many people had been in town to see the bellringers entertainment and had then retired to the North Kapunda Hotel for a supper put on by Mr Crase, which included sing-alongs and speeches. The bar itself was closed, but the party went on in the commercial room upstairs and on the balcony.

 More than 125-gun shots were heard in Franklin Street in about a 10 minute time frame (Franklin Street has since been renamed Crase Street). The police tried to frame the defendants as being the guilty parties, but witnesses declared they had seen Mr Thomson in a room upstairs, light a candle and look out the window in his night clothes at the ongoing disturbance below.
 Mr Shakes wasn’t even within the town boundaries when the incident happened, so the case fell apart, instead, the Magistrate went after Mr Crase, under the guise of the act happening outside his hotel, he would be responsible for the people there. Mr Benham quickly shot down this argument as Mr Crase was entertaining upstairs privately, and may not have known who these people were, nor had they been inside his hotel drinking.

 The case was eventually thrown out of court.

Interestingly though, the story that circulated through the town was slightly different to the story that surfaced in court. It would seem a number of young men had been drinking in the hotels and had gone to the bellringers event. After the event they began walking the town trying to entertain themselves. 
 About 15 of these young men were heard in Main Street and were asked to move on by William Thomas when they congregated in front of his bookshop, which most likely angered the young men. It was within the next hour the gun shots occurred in Franklin Street, which may have come about because these young men were refused entry in the North Kapunda Hotel to join the upstairs party!

Originally written as “Kapunda – The Hallway to Hell” and published on Tuesday, 7 June 2016 on The Haunts of Adelaide: History, Mystery and the Paranormal – edited on the 16th of February 2018 by Allen Tiller
© 2016-2018 Allen Tiller

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Sinking of Von Spee’s Squadron

The Sinking of Von Spee’s Squadron 

Captain F.W. Wheatley

A little-known chapter in the history of The Great War (WWI) involved a Kapunda born Cryptographer named Frederick Wheatley.
Wheatley was born in Kapunda, South Australia on June 7th, 1871, to music teacher James Wheatley and his wife Magdalena (nee Basedow).
He was educated at the Prince Alfred College, and then the University of Adelaide. In 1890 he became a teacher at Way College, later he became a teacher at Prince Alfred College. Eventually he became the Headmaster at the Rockhampton Grammar School, of which he lasted a year, quitting after a disagreement with the board.
 He soon became engaged with the proposed Royal Australian Naval College, helping to establish their syllabus. 

Wheatley married Alice Kimber at Glenelg in 1898, together they had three children.

 In 1913, Wheatley travelled to Germany, where he improved his understanding of the German language, this would later assist in his position in the Australian Navy during the coming war.

 World War One broke out in August 1914. Wheatley was stationed at the Navy Office, Melbourne under Captain Thring, where he was placed in charge of intercepting enemy radio messages.
 A German ship hurriedly left Sydney on August 4th, and Australian authorities were convinced it intended to warn German ships to turn back to Europe, as they would not, as of yet heard the declaration of war announced.
 A German ship named Hobart entered the Port of Melbourne, and was soon boarded by the District Naval Officer, Captain John Richardson, under the guise of a quarantine inspection.  Later that evening two German men gave up the position of hidden safe that held a copy of the German Mercantile Code Book and a cipher key. These important documents were handed to Wheatley to Translate.

 Wheatley set to work, and via the cipher key, was able to translate the book, and decipher messages sent by Vice Admiral Graf Von Spee’s pacific squadron. It took three days to decipher the codes, but what they turned up were the itinerary of the Spee’s fleet, that they were steaming through the Strait of Magellan to the Falkland Islands, then heading towards Brazil, down to South Africa.
 A cable message was sent to the British Admiralty, and ships were sent toward the Falkan Islands, arriving the day before Von Spee’s fleet. The English ships sank Von Spee’s ships Scharnhorsl, Gneisenau, Nurnberg and Leipzig that day, with only the ship Dresden escaping.
 Dresden was later sunk by the British Vessels Kent and Glasgow off the Juan Fernandez Island in the Pacific Ocean.

 If it wasn’t for Wheatley’s expertise, who knows what damage Von Spee’s fleet of war ships could have caused for the Commonwealth.
Later in life, Wheatley became the Director of Studies at the Cranbrook School Sydney. He was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1932.
Frederick Wheatley passed away on the 14th of November 1955

 researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2018


Robert Hyslop, 'Wheatley, Frederick William (1871–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 11 February 2018.

1934 'HOW VON SPEE'S SQUADRON WAS SUNK', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), 27 June, p. 23. , viewed 11 Feb 2018,

Royal Australian Navy, 2017, Dr Frederick William Wheatley, Australian Government, viewed 11 Feb 2018,

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Kapunda's First International Celebrity - Mickey Pynn

Kapunda's First International Celebrity - Mickey Pynn

Mickey Pynn - SLSA: B57230

The Australian Tom Thumb – Mickey Pynn

 In 1870, traveling circus and sideshows were one of the main forms of entertainment for the citizens of the world, including those who lived in rural South Australia.
 We in South Australia would often gather together to watch the entertaining magic shows of Mr Vertelli, or a passing circus, but every so often we would be gifted with the presence of a international act, such as “General Tom Thumb” (real name: Charles Sherwood Stratton ) from the USA, who had just come from successful live shows in England.
 General Tom Thumb had achieved international stardom as a side show act for P.T. Barnum, Circus Pioneer throughout the US and Europe, and came to Australia to perform, including Kapunda.

 It was his exclusive trip and side show act in Kapunda that brought Kapunda local lad, Mickey Pynn to the forefront, and made him Kapunda's first international celebrity.
Mickey Pynn lived with his family just south of Kapunda, where the hill rises near the Greenock road turn of. The House still stands today and is occupied.
 A family member, or perhaps a family friend seeing an opportunity to make some money from Mickey's condition, held an “exhibition” of Mickey in The Miners Arms Hotel, owned by William Tremaine (My own Great-Great Grandfather).
 The exhibition caught the attention of General Tom thumb who asked to meet young Mickey and was astounded that he was almost a full two inches shorter than him.
 This led to Mickey being hired by the company that the U.S. Tom thumb had established (a very lucrative company, that would eventually bail out P.T. Barnum when financial strife almost collapsed his circus empire). Mickey would soon be travelling the world as a Circus midget and sometimes side show act under various names including “The Afghan Dwarf” and “The Australian Tom Thumb”, but this did not stop him from performing here in South Australia, nor in Kapunda.
In fact, “The Australian Tom Thumb” performed on occasion with his good friend John Morcom, better known as Magician “Vertelli”

 In an early career show that starred Mickey and Vertelli in The North Kapunda Hotel, it was written by a newspaper correspondent in the Kapunda Herald and Northern Intelligencer (March 3rd, 1871) the following:
"The diminutive Tom Thumb is a pleasing simple little fellow, whose greatest feat is to scratch his head like a bear with his toes his knees being kept straight during this interesting operation. He is said to be 17 years of age, not deformed, rather of a serious turn of mind, and has a look of great gravity previous to turning a somersault. If the Signor could induce a beard and whisker to grow, be would be a decided hit, and might put. "the General" into the shade—being some inches shorter."

 It is written elsewhere that Mickey's life contained many ups and downs over the years, but it would seem he often struggled with his inner demons, and took to drink, as attested in the following two stories in Sydney newspaper The Evening News in 1906, the stories being published only months apart:

Evening News: Sydney: Monday 3 September 1906

'What has he been, doing?' asked Mr. Smithers, S.M., at the Central Police Court this moraine.The magistrate's query had reference to Michael Pynn, 53, described on the sheet as anacrobatic dwarf. The offence against him was that of being drunk and disorderly on Saturdayevening in George-street. 'He was running after women, and catching hold of them' said the sergeant, looking severely at the little man in the dock. 'He has been locked up^ since Saturday.' ''He was here on Saturday morning for being drunk,' said a policeman.
Solicitor: He should be let off with half the usual fine your Worship
 ' The dwarf, who stood a little over 3ft high, was fined 5s."

Evening News - Sydney Wednesday 31 October 1906

"The name of Michael Pynn was called at the Central Police Court this morning, and a man of 57 years, but of diminutive stature, answered the call. He was so little that his head did not reach to within 2ft of the top of the dock rail.
 Pynn looked between the rail at the magistrate, and in a loud tone pleaded guilty to a charge of being drunk in Castlereagh street.
'He has been coming here frequently, lately, saw police prosecutor Davis. 'He goes about the street, and 'shapes' up -to men 6ft high, twice his own height. A short sojourn in gaol would do him good and keep him from giving way entirely to drink.'  Pynn, it was ascertained, sometimes gives the police trouble, and on Tuesday it needed the united forces of Constables Lambert and Hardiman to convey, him to the lock-up. A fine of 20s, or 14 days, was imposed."

Mickey Pynn 1880 - Photo source unknown. Though to have been taken
 in the North Kapunda Hotel.
 In his later years, Mickey retired to Sydney where he saw out his last days, firstly in Lidcombe in a men’s home, where it was reported his “appetite is vigorous, though rheumatism affected his walk”.
 Soon he moved to a different home in Liverpool, one with immaculate gardens, and better conditions for this once sought-after entertainer. Attendants of the Men's Home spoke well of Mickey saying “He was always ready to do what little he could about the place, and amuse the other inmates with his "double jointed" tricks”

 Kapunda's first international celebrity, Mickey “The Australian Tom Thumb” Pynn passed away on the 22 of June 1929 in Sydney NSW.

First Published on The Haunts of Adelaide - Tuesday, 14 February 2017
© 2018-2018 Allen Tiller