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Published on Monday, 5 February 2024 at 2:45:56 PM

Who is our Mysterious Station Master?

If you have stepped into the Visitor Centre lately, you may have seen some Bridgetown merchandise featuring an old-timey station master. The photo in question is in black and white and taken on the platform of the railway station. He looks at the camera with one hand in his pocket and the other holding the lapel of his jacket, in a truly fabulous attitude. Undeniably, he has a magnetic look about him. So, who is our bewitching station master?

Photo courtesy Bridgetown Historical Society BHS 95-335

The photo itself came from the Bridgetown Historical Society but there were some conflicting possibilities for its date, so, even though we have records of the different station masters through the years, it was not easy to pin him down. We had two possible dates, one in the 1920s and another in the 1930s with no other source to settle the dispute so we needed to go to the picture itself for clues. It was time for some good old investigative work. We felt like Sherlock Holmes!


Our first clue came in the form of flowers. In the photo, the station master is posing next to some flowers, and we know, due to our research into the history of the railway station, that there were no flowers before 1921 when a newly arrived station master, Mr Errington, took upon himself to improve the looks of the station. This confirmed that our mysterious man was either Errington himself or one of the station masters that came after him.


We then turned to his uniform, (although it’s not clear that he is wearing a uniform, apart from his station master hat). The general look of his clothes made us think he belonged to the 1920s or later. We had a look at the station master uniforms throughout the ages, but the only thing we learned was that our station master was a bit of a rebel because he is not wearing all the components of his uniform. All other examples we found of those eras included a waistcoat, which he is not wearing. As he is wearing a hat we decided to look for station master hats. We found a photo of another station master wearing what seemed to be the same hat. This photo was dated as 1928, which was not terribly helpful, as it just confirmed that our station master worked at some time around the 1920s. Something that we had already established!


We then turned to the station. Was anything in the physical environment that would help us date the photo? We looked for clues in the station itself. We wondered whether the tubes that are visible outside of the building had anything to do with electricity (as we know when electricity was introduced in the town). Perhaps, but we could not be sure. Who knows what an electrical installation looked in those days? A lot of people, probably, but we’re not one of them, so we needed to look for other clues.


We then noticed the add next to him and the flowers. It was an advert for Witch Soap. After some looking, we found a photo of the same advert in Kalgoorlie. The photo itself is not dated but -and this was a breakthrough- under the Witch Soap advert there was another image for an event in Fremantle that was to take place between 1924 and 1925. This reduced our pool of station master’s considerably. It had to be either Alexander Errington, who was station master between 1921 and 1924 or Simon Phillips, who served between 1924 and 1928.


It was at this point when the Bridgetown Historical Society sent us another photo of him also at the station but from another angle. Here we could see another building in the back, that given the signage, it seemed to be the Westralian Farmers Cool Store, which we know was constructed in 1924. The Bridgetown Historical Society confirmed that this building opened in September 1924, just a month prior Errington’s departure on October 24. Thus, all seemed to indicate that this was a photo taken in 1924 before his departure to commemorate his legacy before his departure.

Photo courtesy Bridgetown Historical Society BHS 95-336

But there is more! The Bridgetown Historical Society came to the rescue one more time with a final photo. It was the photo of a much older Errington sourced from The question now is, is this the same person from our photo? We think so! The high cheeks and the deep eyes seem to indicate a profound resemblance, as well as the slightly prominent ears. We have our man: Mr Alexander Errington!

So, what do we know about him? Alexander Errington moved to Bridgetown with his wife and family from Kelleberrin, where he had been the station master for ten years, in April 1921. He was dearly loved there and they gave the Errington family a warm farewell party, which included valuable presents for all three members of the family.


Upon his arrival in Bridgetown, he was very committed to the growth of the town, both in his capacity as a station master and as a private citizen. The first one is easy to see in his efforts to aid the Fruitgrowers Association, which often saw him getting letters of appreciation and public endorsements from them. As a private citizen, he was involved with the school and the hospital and even performed in several concerts, both with his wife/daughter and by himself.


This is not surprising, as they were a musical family, playing together in several venues and events in town over the years they spent in Bridgetown. The star of the family was Miss Ivy Errington, their only daughter, who was a prominent concert player in town. These concerts were often held for charity purposes, which in many cases where organised by Mrs Errington who was very involved in the civic life of town and worked with several charitable committees, such as the hospital, school, and library. Ivy passed her ATLC exams (equivalent to the first-year recital of an undergraduate degree) with Trinity College in 1922 while in Bridgetown and soon after she started as the school organist and accomplished music teacher.


Errington and his wife left Bridgetown at the end of 1924 for Guilford, where he was to be station master. The town was saddened by their departure and, if the press of the time is to be believed, felt their loss deeply. Their daughter Ivy stayed in Bridgetown until 1926 when she moved back with her parents, but in a lovely turn of events, she ended up marrying someone from Bridgetown in 1928.


We need to admit that we were delighted that our mystery station master was Errington, he made the station pretty by planting flowers and other improvements, so we consider ourselves his rightful successors. We also want to make the railway station a lovely place that everyone in town can feel proud of.

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