Bruce Rock is located 40 kilometres south west of the larger regional centre of Merredin.
The area depends mostly on sheep and cereal crops and is a receival point for C.B.H..
A rare underground orchid can be found in the this locality. This variety spends its entire life cycle beneath the earth and
even flowering takes place underground. I understand they are a bit hard to find.
The nearby town of Shackleton has what is reputed to be Australia's smallest bank. As it measures only 3 metres by 4 metres
the claim is in all likelihood quite true.
It was most recently operated by Bankwest and was open on Fridays but today it appears to be nothing more than a curiosity.
Bruce Rock is one of the larger towns in the area and contains a number of interesting buildings. The local museum is worth
a visit and if you want to pick up supplies, the store and butcher are good places to drop in to.
Last time we were in town (in November 2022) the store was being run from the hall as the local shop had burned down.
How long it will take for a new store to be built we can't say.
Like most inland towns, Bruce Rock has a good rest area for travellers and modern clean public toilets. Rather unusually,
the toilets are attached to a building containing old cars and machinery.
An excellent free campsite has been opened in the shire at what used to be the town site of Kwolyin.
This campsite has toilets and a camp kitchen and is easily accessible for all types of rigs.
There is plenty of room and most areas are flat and easy to negotiate.
The one thing you will need to do if you stay there is take plenty of mosquito repellent.
There is a nearby rock and walk trail and the best time to visit is in spring when the wildflowers are blooming.
Communal facilities in town are very good with an aquatic centre, gym, indoor cricket net, skate park, beach volleyball area
In the main street there is a 600 seat amphitheatre that hosts regular performances by bands and theatre groups.
Early settlement in the area dates from 1860 but the townsite was not gazetted until 1913 when it was part of the East
Avon Road District.
In 1918 the Bruce Rock Road Board was formed and it became a shire in 1961.
Originally the shire encompassed the Ardath, Babakin, Kwolyin,
Shackleton, Belka and Coordarin wards. Wards were abolished in 2005.
Originally called Nunagin (or Noonegin) the town was later renamed after a large granite outcrop east of town that was
used by a sandalwood cutter named John Bruce as a depot in 1879.
At the rock there is a sign which reads:
'This marks the camp site of John Rufus Bruce after whom Bruce Rock was named. The small soak was originally a native
soak possibly centuries old. The deep well is a good example of the method used in stoning wells in the early 1900s by
the Public Works Department.'
There are actually two wells at the site. The more important historic site is the rectangular shaped well not the rounded one.
The wheat belt contains a large number of other granite rock formations and 40km west of town, Kokerbin Rock
is the third largest monolith in Australia. The rock is 122 metres high and covers 9 hectares. A road gives access around the rock via a scenic drive.
Camping is not permitted at the rock but there is an excellent caravan park in town that offers travellers all the facilities they might need.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
Murder most foul.
Victor McCaskell, his wife and baby had a farm about 14 miles from Bruce Rock back in 1930. Helping on the farm was a young worker called Billy Halbert.
McCaskell complained to his neighbours about Billy's behaviour and had apparently talked about firing him only to be threatened by Halbert afterwards.
On December 30th 1930 Jack Rae (a neighbour) saw Victor running through the paddock towards him carrying a small bundle. As he got closer Rae was horrified to
see that it was Victor's baby covered in blood.
McCaskell said that he had finally had enough of Halbert and had told him to finish up what work he had to do and then leave the farm. McCaskell had gone off
to complete his daily tasks and had returned in the afternoon to find his wife and baby dead and Halbert hanging from the front porch in an apparent suicide.
The police began an investigation and slowly it looked like things just didn't add up.
During the autopsy it was found that Halbert was already in an advanced stage of rigor mortis but that McCaskell's wife and baby were not. Very strange as
Halbert was supposed to have died AFTER them.
It was also noted that the rope mark around Halbert's neck formed a complete circle, as if he had been strangled rather than hung.
When the police examined the rope, they found that if Halbert had had it around his neck he could have stood on the veranda with six inches of slack rope to
spare. Lastly they also found that the box he was supposed to have stood on and kicked away was too heavy to have been moved in such a manner.
Another neighbour stated that he had visited McCaskell's farm the afternoon of the murders and found Halbert lying dead on the porch but there was no sign of
a rope around his neck.
McCaskell was kept under watch by the police in the local hotel but as time progressed he became more and more agitated.
Finally he made a break for it and took off in a car towards his farm. The police gave chase but couldn't keep up and McCaskell reached the farm first. Abandoning
his car McCaskell ran away on foot behind a hay stack and as the police gave chase again there was a violent explosion from the far side of the stack.
McCaskell had apparently hidden a stick of TNT in the hay and now that the game was up, he put it in his mouth and lit the fuse!
A fitting end for an evil man. The motive' Just money. McCaskell had taken out a two thousand pound life insurance policy on his wife two months earlier.
The Coroner recorded that McCaskell committed the murders while he was insane but the cold calculated way he set Halbert up, strangled him and then waited
several more hours before brutally slaying his own wife and child show that the murders were in fact anything but a spur of the moment act of insanity.
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Video available from March 2nd 2024
Lin Butler Museum (Mon-Fri 2-4pm), Shackleton bank (smallest in Australia),
Aquatic centre, Coarin and Myarn Rocks,
Bruce's Rock, Ardath Hotel, Nunagin Rock, Railway dam, Amphitheatre and sculpture park, Noonajin Hill, Free campsite at Kwolyin.
BUILDINGS OF NOTE
Shire offices, Hotel, Museum, Picadilly Cafe, Craft Shop, Historic Well at Bruce's Rock.
State : Central Wheatbelt
Federal : O'Connor
Postcode : 6418
Local Government : Shire of Bruce Rock
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