The City of Unley has seen some turbulent times since it was founded 176 years ago. Fire and flood, plague and pestilence, crime and craziness have all tested the mettle of the good people of Unley, but their village has grown and prospered.
Terrible Tales of Unley is the latest exhibition at Unley Museum, telling the true tall tales of misadventure, murder, mayhem and madness that are part of the history of South Australia.
Hailstorm on Arthur Street in Unley 1917 (Image: State Library PRG-280-1-28-226)
Of course we can't spoil the hard work of exhibition organisers by telling you everything that's on display at the Unley Museum, but we can give you some of the flavour of what you can expect when you visit. Terrible Tales of Unley is a fascinating insight into the forgotten stories of people in Unley, highlighting the bizarre, the unusual, and the really weird, with interactive displays that are fun things to do for all ages.
Adelaide Gaol Hanging Tower - the End of One Terrible Tale
The city of Unley grew from small subdivisions established from 1840 as part of the District Council of Mitcham, but a new Unley council was formed once the local population reached 2,000 people in 1871. With the increased population came a new set of challenges for this hard working village.
Terrible Tales of Murder The Unley police station was well established by the 1880's, and in 1894 a sharp eyed Unley detective saw a suspicious character on Unley Road. The man's name was William Brown and after being taken to Unley police station, he was charged with the wilful murder of his partner George Marowsky on a lonely gold field at Lovely Gully in South Australia's mid north. Brown was tried, found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by the Chief Justice. The Lovely Gully murderer became the first prisoner to be hanged in the New Building of Old Adelaide Gaol in 1894.
Terrible Tales From the Lunatic Asylum There are many strange stories from Parkside Lunatic Asylum that can be told. The Unley area was subject to flooding, and in 1897 during a particularly heavy hailstorm a lunatic asylum attendant had to rescue three women inmates clinging to the walls of an asylum outhouse to avoid drowning.
South Australia's history is full of sordid tales of crime and punishment, but Richard Blight's crime in 1909 was at the minor end of the scale. After being released on parole from Parkside Lunatic Asylum (now called Glenside Hospital), a policeman asked Blight about a bag he was carrying. It transpired that the portmanteau had been stolen from Alice Parry in Unley, and Blight was sentenced to six months in the slammer for his sins.
The Parkside Lunatic Asylum was free of plague, whose victims went to the Torrens Island Quarantine Station. However pestilence came to the extensive asylum gardens in 1889, when Codlin moths ravaged apple trees there.
Aerial View of the Magnificent Gardens at Parkside Mental Hospital 1938 (Image Courtesy State Library SA B7524)
Other Strange Stories from Unley While not considered a pestilence, youths in Unley were thought to have discovered a new breed of musical mice in 1932. Sadly the mouse died while being captured, and the South Australian Museum was unable to identify the reason for its musical mannerisms. To this day, the museum is still keen to see any live mice that can whistle like swallows.
Before electric trams were invented, Newey's coach service ran from Adelaide to Unley and Mitcham. The coach was later replaced by horse drawn trams, and then electric trams along Unley Road - but this brought new problems. In 1908 the night watchman at Unley tramsheds was overcome by armed robbers and the takings were looted. An increase in traffic along Unley Road saw thousands of tram accidents with pedestrians and other traffic - some fatal.
Flooding on Unley Rad 1934 (Image: State Library B18805)
Terrible Tales at Unley Museum
The free Terrible Tales of Unley exhibition at Unley Museum is a light-hearted and entertaining look at life in Unley. It's full of fun things to do and interactive activities for kids. The stories are presented in a humorous way, and bring to life many events from the history of Unley. Don't miss the chance to see this exciting new exhibition, and the other interesting displays at Unley Museum.