Extract from December 2003 Edition of Peelers' Gazette
Photographs by Peter William Thomas - Retired Senior Sergeant 4891
As Society members are aware we have been endeavouring to obtain a pre-1900 police station and quarters, both as a home for the society and to create museum premises. Numerous endeavours have taken place since 1987 and our correspondence file is littered with broken promises. Unfortunately some of our previous executive officers became disillusioned with these disappointments, and have since left our Society. Thankfully persistence has prevailed, with the current Executive building on those past endeavours, and success has finally come.
We can now look forward with some renewed optimism and confidence, as on Friday the 19th. December 2003, the first stage of the Highgate buildings passed to our possession.
In a formal ceremony the Commissioner of Police, Mr Barry Matthews, and the Hon. Minister for Police, Mrs Michelle Roberts, passed the control of the Police Station to the Society. Our President, Mr Brian Bull, and Secretary, Ms Val Doherty, signed the leasing agreement,
which is for an initial period of five years, with further options, and with the acknowledgment that the Police quarters will also be passed to the Society, under similar conditions, when vacated by the police unit currently in occupancy.
Of course the police quarters are integral to the concept of establishing the Society at this location, as the whole project would fail if this does not occur.
We are indebted to our Patron and Commissioner, Mr Barry Matthews, who, with the backing of the Hon. Minister, Mrs Michelle Roberts, has whole-heartedly supported this project. Though the premises are modest in comparison with our counterparts in other States, it is a starting point that, we hope, will herald bigger and better things, and prove to be an enhancement to the image of Policing in this State and give increased encouragement to those who have invested so much of their funds and time in this enterprise.
This occasion was marked by the ceremonial handing of the key to Mr Bull, and speeches, with all speakers referring to the history involved:
It was established in 1897 with a staff of a Corporal in charge of seven foot-constables. The station is one of the few surviving examples of a suburban police station built prior to 1900 in the Perth and Fremantle area.
The area abounds in Heritage-listed buildings, and directly opposite the station are seven cottages which were also built in 1897. Although not owned by the Government, these are known as "the Police Cottages" as they were occupied by the police officers serving the area. These cottages are also Heritage listed.
The Police quarters were built in 1906, and, like the station, are on the Heritage Register
1940 saw the closure of the Station when the Inglewood Police Station took over the district. However, when Japan entered the War in 1942 Highgate was reopened, to become the covert communication (Radio) centre for the Force, utilising the large sewerage vent for aerials hidden within the concrete tower. VKI remained at this site until 1975 when they moved to Police Headquarters at East Perth.
The station has been associated with tragedy, for, in 1928, Sergeant Alec Mark, the OIC since 1923, was murdered in a shooting at the Brisbane Hotel. The 53 year old, unarmed Sergeant, sacrificed his life by intervening to prevent Edmund Nicholas Kelly, 52 years, from killing the barman at the Hotel. The barman had earlier refused to serve the intoxicated Kelly, who left and went to Wellington Street where he purchased a hand-gun and ammunition from a second-hand dealer, who loaded it for him. After a shooting rampage in the City, during which he managed to elude capture, Kelly returned to the Hotel, where he fired two shots at the barman, one missing by inches. Sergeant Mark, attracted by the disturbance, appeared in the bar. Kelly then turned the weapon on the Sergeant and fired again. Though seriously wounded, Mark ran at Kelly, tackling him to the floor, and held him until others came to his assistance. Sergeant Mark later died of his wound.
This tragedy caused much public outcry, as Kelly, who had numerous convictions, in other countries as well as in Australia, had been given an 'Indeterminate Sentence' in 1921, and been paroled only a short time before he killed Sergeant Mark. He was subsequently convicted of Wilful Murder.
The shooting of this Police Officer was the catalyst for strict legislation to regulate the ownership and sale of firearms. Control of firearm licensing was handed to the Police Force. The Regulations for the licensing and control of firearms in this State have subsequently been more rigid and more strictly enforced than in other States, so it could be argued that, tragic though it was, Sergeant Mark's death prevented many more tragedies in the years since that fateful day. The story of Sergeant Alec Mark is perhaps the best known incident in the history of the Highgate Hill Police Station. Now that it is under the control of the Historical Society we need to delve further into its history to chronicle the full story of its chequered existence. All Society members will be delighted to know that we have at last taken possession of Highgate, but we must also be mindful that much work lies ahead if we are to fulfil our aim of establishing a Police Museum.
The co-operation of the Police Service in securing the lease of Highgate Hill for the Society is much appreciated, and we also thank those involved in the organisation of the ceremony to mark the handing-over of the station and lock-up. The necessary repairs and painting were undertaken at short notice, and several members of the Society spent many hours in organising and transporting the furniture and fittings to set up the station.
Special thanks to Graeme Sisson, Peter Thomas, Len Thickbroom and Peter Skehan for the efforts. We had very little notice to prepare for the event, but at least there was something to show those who attended on the day. The co-operation of Sgt Jack McGillvray and other staff at Highgate is also appreciated. They have had to cope with numerous disruptions to their schedule, and have been very helpful, as have various other members of the Police Service who assisted in the preparations.
The official ceremony was attended by a number of invited guests, including the Executive and representatives of the Society. It was organised by the Public Affairs, and included a display of transport as used by the Police Force/Service, including a pack horse led by S/Constable Ed Trindall, two camels, bicycles, our old Anglia (Thanks to Farley Campbell) and a modern patrol car and motor cycle. An old traffic patrol motor cycle BSA, restored and ridden by Jack Berkshire was also on display.
Guests were able to look over the old station and lock-up, and refreshments were provided. All in all, it was an event worthy of such an auspicious occasion.