Although Meekatharra is a shadow of its former self, it is still an important stop on the long trek north to Port Hedland.
The opening of the Rangelands Discovery Trail saw the town get a major face-lift and it now looks better than it has for a very long time.
Meeka is the largest town in the Murchison region and mining has largely been replaced by the pastoral industry as the most important source of revenue for the town.
Mining's fortunes fluctuate with the price of minerals.
A rocky outcrop known as Peace Gorge is close to town and is a good place to have a picnic and enjoy the rugged scenery.
It was originally believed that the town name comes from an Aboriginal word meaning 'place of little water' but recent research has shown that a more likely
source was the Aboriginal name Mikadah - a soak located in Luke's Creek. One source quotes the meaning as 'hollow tree'.
The name was originally given to a gold mine by Thomas Porter who with Meehan and Soych, first pegged the claim. The mine then changed its name to
Pioneer and finally Centaur.
The area was first settled in 1894, but then abandoned and later re-settled in 1896. Reticulated water from 5 bores was brought to the town in 1902 and t
he town was gazetted in December 1903 (one source quotes 1901 and yet another quotes 1906 but 1903 appears to be correct)
The first state school opened in August 1904 and 18 pupils attended. The police station opened in January of the following year and in 1910 the Royal
Mail Hotel opened for business.
'Meekatharra is widely recognised as being the soundest mining field outside Kalgoorlie.
Cyclopedia of Western Australia 1913.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service was established in W.A. in 1935 with the first base setting up in
Port Hedland. The service in Meekatharra followed soon afterwards. The School of the Air has operated here since 1959.
In 1901 the town's population was listed as 75. By 1911 this had grown to 2404 and by 1914 it had become the largest town in the Murchison.
In 1910 the railway from Nannine arrived in Meekatharra and it became the rail head for transporting stock that came down the
Canning Stock Route from the Kimberley. The railway continued to serve the town until 1978
and helped ensure its survival.
After WWI an influenza epidemic - called Spanish Flu - swept the world and the Road Board at Meekatharra tried to quarantine
anyone coming in to town by stopping the train and offloading passengers before they reached the town. It was decided by authorities in Perth
that the Road Board had overstepped its authority and the flu did eventually reach even this remote outpost and took several lives.
A bomb blast under the Road Board offices in 1922 badly damaged the building and blew out all the windows. The intended target was apparently John D'Alton, the
town's J.P. who had previously convicted the perpetrator of a minor offence.
Trackers followed the culprit foot prints to a house in town and arrested William Albert Bourke - a returned soldier - who was then sent down to Geraldton
to await trial. Fortunately the only damage was to the Road Board Offices and no one was injured.
Grant Watson's novel, 'The Desert Horizon' seems to capture the towns impact on the surrounding area:
Meekatharra 'which was at that time head of the line, provided the chief Labour Exchange for all the district. Employers came from fifty and even a
hundred miles to find labour to shear their sheep or work their mines...all the life of the district converged towards the town.'
A beer strike was called by drinkers in town to protest the raising of room and board rates by the local hotels - even though beer prices remained the same.
The strike only lasted a couple of weeks before the thirsty drinkers gave in to the hot weather. In retaliation for the strike the hotels again raised room and
board rates a further five shillings.
In 1940 Meekatharra began a period of decline when some of the larger mines started to close. In 1942 an earthquake shook the town but no serious
damage or loss of life was reported.
In 1977 during the federal election campaign, Malcom Fraser and his wife Tamie were diverted from Perth to Meekatharra airport due to bad weather.
On landing Tamie was heard to call Meekatharra 'The end of the Earth.' The locals adopted this good naturedly and used it to publicise the town.
Tamie was even invited back to open the local races - which she did.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
Murder in the bush.
Leslie John Brown (a.k.a. Louis J. Carron) went missing and after his false teeth and part of a skull were found in the remains of a large
campfire at a station out camp, a man called John Tomas Smith (a.k.a. Stanley (Snowy) Rowles) was brought to trial for the murder.
Smith admitted knowing Brown but denied killing him. Inquiries into the matter found that Smith had cashed a cheque in Brown's alias name
(Louis Carron) and Smith refused to give evidence at an inquest held into Browns disappearance.
Smith (Rowles) had already been in trouble with the law in the Darling Ranges and had been in more trouble at Wongan Hills
where he was arrested and sent to the Dalwallinu lock up. He had escaped from the lock up after assaulting a guard.
Although there was no conclusive evidence against him, and he continued to deny the charge of murder, Smith was eventually found guilty of wilful
murder and sentenced to death.
The train transported gold from Meekatharra and the security guards were always locked in to the hot stuffy rail car. One day they had a bottle of
whisky with them and asked the train guard for some ice. He returned soon afterwards with a nice cool lump. It melted quickly as they consumed
the alcohol so they asked for more. This went on until the bottle was almost empty and when they asked again the guard replied: 'Sorry lads, I can't
give you any more, the body is beginning to show.'
Teacher gets a lesson.
Conversation over the School of the Air radio between a teacher and a student:
Teacher: 'A drover was droving 14 cattle down the Canning Stock Route for one week. During that time 6 calves were born. How many cattle were there at the end ?'
Student: 'Nineteen, miss'
Teacher: 'No think again'
Student: (pause), 'Nineteen, miss'
Teacher: 'No, 14 cows plus 6 calves make 20.'
Student: 'Yes miss but when droving the allowance for the drover's tucker is one cow a week and they had been on the track for a week miss.'
It was said there was a barmaid on the Murchison gold fields who was offered 25 gold sovereigns to strip naked and take a bath in a tub of champagne.
She took up the challenge and two dozen bottles of fine Champagne were emptied in to a tub where she took her bath in full view of the gaping miners.
When she had finished it was decided to put the Champagne back into bottles as it is well known that fine Champagne does not go flat quickly and after all
who wanted to waste so much good booze.
The only problem was that when the wine was put back in to the 24 bottles there was still enough left over to fill an extra bottle.
(We seriously doubt the authenticity of this tale although we did find a second well told version in the book 'Great Southern Memories' by J.A. Genoni.)
Blood donor gives a bit extra.
There is a story about a young teenage girl having an accident with a cool drink bottle and cutting herself badly. She was in need of a blood transfusion
and a local donor was found and brought in to supply the blood. As the girl was receiving the transfusion and being stitched up she started to giggle and
behave in a most unusual way for someone who had just been injured.
The transfusion over, the donor returned from whence he had come - the local pub - and the girl was not only left to get over the injuries she had sustained,
she had to get over her first hangover as well.
PROBLEM PLAYING THESE ON FIREFOX?
Turn off Enhanced Tracking Protection
Click the shield icon left of the URL near the top left
Slide Advanced Tracking Protection to OFF
(C) MRGTV YouTube channel.
Nannine, Peace Gorge, Bilyuin Pool, Mount Gould Police Station, Garden Gully, Peak Hill, Horseshoe, Wilgie Mia art site, Rangelands discovery trail,
Museum (8:00am to 4:30 pm Monday to Friday), RFDS Base (9am and 2pm daily), State battery, Picture gardens, 25 Mile Well.
BUILDINGS OF NOTE
Old police station 1880, Old court house 1911, Royal Mail Hotel 1910.
State : North West
Federal : Durack
Postcode : 6642
Local Government : Shire of Meekatharra
Click on a thumbnail to see full sized picture.
Please note that using the https url will cause the photos not to show. To show photos use the standard http url.