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  • Writer's pictureBeverley Skurulis

A night in the Wittenoom Jail

Updated: 4 days ago

No.54.   in my series of short stories.

Wittenoom a famous asbestos mining town now a genuinely dangerous ghost town.

Rocks have always been something I have loved to draw and paint. This painting was done in watercolour in 1988. The cave was the left overs of one of the asbestos mines and all the blue grey is the tailings. I loved the uniformity of the rocks in the Hamersley Ranges, they were stacked naturally just like a brick layer or stone mason would do. Every area was unique.

Old asbestos mine and tailings Wittenoom
Wittenoom asbestos mine

As a family we often camped and swam in the Wittenoom Pool, due to the pools isolation it was where few people bothered to go on a hot day.

Back in the 70's and 80's not much of the Wittenoom Asbestos mine was talked about, we would go to the Witttenoom pub and have such a grand old time. The children would play with others that they knew from town and the adults would do an injustice to themselves and drink loads of alcohol.

For me to draw or paint I had a strange theory that if I even had as much as a sip of alcohol I couldn't or wouldn't paint or draw, I don't know where this idea came from but it worked.

One long weekend whilst we were out and about swimming in Dales Gorge and other water holes around the area, we decided to move on to Wittenoom, we met up with a policeman friend of ours he was the local Wittenoom cop, he had nearly finished his shift and asked us around for a beer and a feed which was pretty nice when you had been living on Kangaroo jerky, baked beans and other tined foods after all the fresh stuff had run out.

We stayed very late into the night and the children were very tired, and if I recall we were playing cards. As the police station was a single man posting there weren't any spare beds, so he suggested that we could all sleep for a night in the Wittenoom jail, that is the cells at the police station, "lets hope it was the only time my children slept in a cell", the kids thought it was great fun so we put our swags on top of the old iron beds with no mattress, rock walls made from local stone surrounded us and a huge metal gate that was not closed.

A great sleep was had by all, though waking up in a jail cell was a bit of a novelty.

We had been swimming and camping around Wittenoom Gorge in the 1970's. I loved to draw the huge white gums that

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