Monthly Archives: April 2021

The Koolunga Bunyip


The Koolunga Bunyip


Koolunga is a small town in the mid-north. To Koolunga’s east sits White Cliffs reserve, it was here that in 1883 a Bunyip was allegedly witnessed.[1]
 Local Ngadjuri people believed that a Bunyah Bunyah dwelled in the billabong at White Cliffs. The Boughton River flows through this park, the same river attached to the Bunyip sightings at a billabong called Warra Warra, near Crystal Brook.[2]

 It was claimed that several witnesses saw the Bunyip in the billabong in 1883. A hunting party was formed, and rather than trying to trap the Bunyip, or shoot it, it was decided that dynamite would be used to blast the Bunyip out of its dark, watery home.[3]

 Rifles, pistols dynamite and soap were used to try and bring the Bunyip out of the depths of the billabong, all without success. 150 people assembled on the day of the dynamite explosion in hope of seeing the creature. The dynamite blew up deep within the billabong and brought to the surface debris, trees, and fish, but no Bunyip![4]


You can visit the White Cliffs Campsite for yourself. 

More details here:

Researched and written by Allen Tiller ©2020

[1] \’KOOLUNGA LETTER.\’, Port Adelaide News, (16 February 1883), p. 8. ,

[2] \’MERRITON, FEBRUARY 27.\’, The South Australian Advertiser, (8 March 1883), p. 7.,

[3] \’KOOLUNGA, January 22.\’, South Australian Register, (25 January 1883), p. 7.,

[4] \’FIFTY YEARS AGO\’, Northern Argus, (13 March 1936), p. 5.,

The Tragic Death of Alfred Rantanen near Ethelton Station.


The Tragic Death of Alfred Rantanen near Ethelton Station.


Headstone of Alfred and Laura Rantanen, Cheltenham Cemetery.

On Saturday 14 August 1926, a body was found lying near the train tracks between the Ethelton Train station and the Port River. It was estimated that at about 6:24 pm, Mr Alfred Waldamer Rantanen had been walking home to Fairfield Terrace at Glanville Blocks. Rantanen used the railway bridge as a short cut, he was struck by a train that was heading to Ethelton that had come from Adelaide heading towards Largs Bay.[1]

The engine-driver, Thomas Trueman, had pulled into Ethelton Station and noticed that the engines ‘grip tap’ had been turned on. He switched off the tap, and proceeded to the Mile End train yards, as required. Trueman inspected his engine at the end of his shift. It was at this time he found evidence that the grip tap had struck something. There was blood and other body matter on the tap and spread over the rear of the engine.
 Trueman telephoned the Commercial Road station at Port Adelaide and told them he through he had hit someone coming over the bridge. Porter Burden went and inspected the area and discovered at about 9pm, the body of Rantanen. Burden, with a lamp, inspected a large area around the bridge and discovered a man\’s coat. He then found parts of Rantanen\’s body, spread out over a large area. The body was removed to Semaphore where Sergeant Wilkin and Constable Atkinson were awaiting its arrival for inspection.[2]

The Rantanen Fund was established to help support the family. T.E. Stephens (secretary of the Port Adelaide Branch of the Driver Union) convened over the committee meeting. The Mayor of Port Adelaide, A.O.R. Tap was appointed to control the fund, while A.E. Wagner (President of the Port Drivers Union) was appointed Chairperson. S.J. Verran a local M.P. was appointed Vice-Chairman, and J.P. Tapping, treasurer. Trustee duties fell to Alderman J Anderson, J.H. Clouston, F.J. Brown and W.E.C. Baudinet. The auditors were D.B. Mason and E.W. Russell, with Mr Stephens, appointed honorary secretary.[3]

 Mrs Laura Rantanen appealed for assistance via a letter in The News. This letter sparked the community into action to form the fund. The Semaphore and Exeter Labor Party, with permission from the fund board, held a dance at the Port Adelaide Town Hall to assist in raising money. The Port Adelaide Council also agreed that a ‘tarpaulin collection’ could be held during the halftime break of a game between Port Adelaide Football Club and North Adelaide Football Club at Alberton Oval.[4]

Mr Rantanen had been a member of the Port Adelaide branch of the Ancient Order of Foresters. Mr Rantanen was also a member of the Port Adelaide branch of the Waterside Workers\’ Federation, was employed as a wharf labourer.[5]

  Rantanen left behind his wife and children: Emil, 17 years; Hilda, 14 years, who assists at home; Helma, 12 years; and Olga, 8 years, who attend the Ethelton Public School; Walter, 4 years; and Alfred, 17 months.[6]
  Mrs Ada Dickason, of Military Road, Semaphore, and Mr. August Raeinberg, who lives with his mother, are children of Mrs Rantanen\’s first marriage.[7]

Mr Ranatan was buried at Cheltenham Cemetery.[8]


Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2020.

Photograph: Find a Grave, Alfred Rantanen,

[1] \’SHOCKING RAILWAY ACCIDENT AT ETHELTON.\’, Port Adelaide News, (20 August 1926), p. 5.,

[2] Ibid.

[3] \’RANTANEN FUND\’, News, (2 September 1926), p. 13.,


[5]\’BREADWINNER KILLED\’, News, (16 August 1926), p. 1.,




The Death of Station Master, George Wyles.

 The Death of Station Master, George Wyles.

1909 \”F\” Class Locomotive SLSA: [B 11082] 

  George Wyles was a well-respected Station Master in Adelaide. In March 1926, he was sent to the Ethelton Railway Station to relieve Station Master, Charles Field, who was on his annual leave. On his second day on the job, Wyles was struck by the 7:20pm freight train from Port Adelaide to Outer Harbour.

  John C. Cutt witnessed the tragic accident. In his statement, he described the events that unfolded. Cutt said that Wynes left the eastern platform heading towards the ticket box of the western platform. Wynes was crossing the line when he noticed a freight train was bearing down on him. Wynes jumped to try and get out the way, but the train engine struck him on the shoulder, throwing him into the nearby fence. Wynes tried to grab the fence, but rebounded off it, into the fourth and fifth carriages of the train, pulling him underneath, and dragging him along the line.[1]

Another witness, John Taylor came forward at the inquest and stated:

 \”the engine, which was of the F-class had five box trucks and a brake van attached to it. Mr Wynes had been across the line to give the 7.27 p.m. passenger train from Ethelton to Adelaide the \’\’right-of-way\”\’ and was returning to the ticket office on the other side when the goods train went through on its way to Outer Harbour. The engine driver saw the man trying to cross the line, blew, the whistle sang out to him, and applied the emergency brake.”[2]

 The police and a doctor were called. Dr K.W. Bollen attended and pronounced Wyles dead. He stated that his injuries were horrific. Wyles\’ head was “shockingly mutilated, the skull being split right open, and his face was battered beyond recognition.”
Constables H. Atkinson and T. Allen removed the body to the morgue.

An inspection of the line revealed Wyles gold pocket watch. The watch was spattered with blood, the glass broken. The watch was stopped at 7:35.[3]

Researched and written by Allen Tiller  
© 2020

Photo: 1909 \”F\” Class Locomotive SLSA: [B 11082],

[1] \’ETHELTON FATALITY.\’, Recorder, (13 March 1926), p. 1.,

[2] \’CASUALTIES.\’, The Register, (13 March 1926), p. 13.,

[3] \’EFFECT OF THE CONFESSION.\’, The Register, (12 March 1926), p. 9.,

A Disinterred Child


A Disinterred Child

Port Pirie Cemetery – photo Allen Tiller © 2019

 Isaac Grey and William Wilson was charged in the Port Pirie courts by John Martin, for unlawfully exhuming the dead body of a child. On 30 November 1893, the two were summoned to court to hear their fate.[1]

 It was charged that Mr Wilson, the acting curator of the cemetery and the town clerk, instructed the cemetery sexton, Isaac Grey, to exhume the child’s body, which had been buried by mistake in a leased ground.

1-year-old Esther Violet Eva Martin had died on 3 November 1893 and buried the next day.[2] Her mother and father, John and Sarah Martin, and another relative George Heaver were all in attendance at the funeral. They placed wreaths on the child’s grave.
 On November 19, John and Sarah returned to the cemetery to visit his child’s grave, only to find all the wreaths removed. The Martin’s immediately went to the sexton’s office to find out what had happened.
 Martin asked Grey if his child had been moved, which Grey replied, “yes she had.”
He asked who had approved the moving of the body, and Grey told him that Mr Wilson had done so and that Wilson had said not to make a fuss over it, unless, by chance, he met them in the cemetery.

 The Martin’s visited the Mayor, Mr Geddes, and expressed their distaste at the goings-on at the cemetery. The Mayor was outraged and went with Mr Martin to Wilson’s office to make enquiries. They asked Wilson if it was true that the child had been moved. Wilson replied indignantly, “yes, what about it?
 Wilson asked Martin, “Have you come to make a fuss or row about it?”
 Martin asked, “Can I have the grave opened again to satisfy myself that my child is buried there?”
Wilson replied, “Most certainly not!”
 Martin asked for proof his child was buried where Wilson said she was, to which Wilson replied, “you’ve got to take my word for it.”
 Martin asked Wilson if it was not his duty to first ask the Mayor before moving a body, to which Wilson replied, “I will please myself.” Wilson then pulled out a map of the cemetery and explained to Mr Martin and Mayor Geddes how the mistake was made.

Mayor Geddes was put on the stand during the trial. He confirmed Martin’s report of what happened in Wilson’s office but also stated he gave no authority to Wilson to exhume the child’s body.

Wilson was called to give evidence. He stated it was his job to enter cemetery details into the register. He had discovered that Martin’s child had been buried in a plot already leased to Mr Davis. He discovered the error two days after the burial, so he asked Mr Grey to move the child to the nearest vacant site. Wilson blamed the error on Grey, who had not checked with him where to bury the child.

 The presiding judge ruled that the usual 10 pound fine for the crime was reduced to 1 pound and costs.

Mr William Wilson would go on to be Port Pirie Town Clerk for 31 Years (without a break, nor a holiday!). Wilson was originally from Dungannon, Ireland, arriving in Australia onboard Carisbrook Castle in 1875. He was 67 in the year of his retirement. Wilson died 25 Nov 1918 at Prospect, South Australia.


 Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2020

[1] \’DISINTERRING A CHILD.\’, South Australian Chronicle, (2 December 1893), p. 21.,

[2] Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.