I originally wrote an article titled ‘The Most Amazing Facts About Adelaide and South Australia’ and this can be found here. This is a part two write-up, covering more interesting facts about Adelaide and South Australia. Analogous to someone who has sprinted the first 100 metres of the City-Bay Fun Run only to run out of energy for the remaining 11.9 kilometres, I may have used some of the more relatively fascinating facts up in my previous article. Nonetheless, I present part two, containing a historical flavour.
The first ‘big thing’ in Australia was the Big Scotsman aka Scotty, located at the front of the Comfort Inn Scotty’s, in Medindie. This was built in 1963 by designer Paul Kelly. Kelly would later go on to create the Big Lobster (also known as Larry the Lobster) located in Kingston. Originally, the Big Lobster was meant to be much smaller and perched upon a building. Kelly was given the dimensions of the lobster in feet and inches however misinterpreted these measurements as metres thus making the Big Lobster much larger than planned. South Australia has an impressive array of other ‘big things’ with a list being found here.
South Australia became the second place in the world to give women the right to vote when in 1894 it became legal (it became legal in New Zealand the previous year). The South Australian legislation was the first in the world to allow women to stand for parliament. Mary Lee organised a petition for the suffragette movement that gained 11,600 signatures and can be viewed in Adelaide’s Parliament House today. The petition, when glued together was 122 metres in length. An opponent of the bill, Ebenezer Ward, wanted to thwart the women’s right to vote law from being passed. In order to do this, he placed an addition to the bill stating women should be allowed to stand for parliament. Ward had hoped that this added part of the bill would be voted against by the male politicians hence the women’s right to vote part of the bill would also fail. Unexpectedly, the law passed and by trying to prevent women from voting, Ward had incidentally also allowed women to stand for parliament in South Australia, in a world first.
In 1976, South Australia became the first English speaking location in the world to make rape that occurs between a married couple a criminal offence. As a result of this South Australian reform, other Australian states adopted similar laws to South Australia.
Homosexuality became legalised in South Australia after police drowned a homosexual man in the River Torrens. A second homosexual man who was also thrown in the River Torrens by police was rescued by a suspected serial killer. To put some details into this narrative, Dr. George Duncan was a Law lecturer at the University of Adelaide and in 1972 when this event occurred, homosexuality was illegal in South Australia. At a popular meeting place for homosexuals, alongside the Adelaide University footbridge, Dr. George Duncan and Roger James were thrown into the river by what were suspected to be police officers. Duncan drowned and James, suffering a broken ankle, managed to crawl to the roadside. Alleged serial killer, Bevan Von Einem, happened to be driving past and rescued James, taking him to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. In 1983, Von Einem would murder Richard Kelvin, son of channel 9 newsreader, Rob Kelvin. The public outcry that resulted from Duncan’s murder would lead to law changes in South Australia making it the first Australian state to legalise homosexuality.
Colonel William Light
Surveyor and designer of Adelaide, Colonel William Light, has a dedicated statue perched upon Montefiore Hill. Colonel William Light points from his elevated position down to the city of Adelaide. The only problem is that he doesn’t. The statue of Colonel William Light has an altitude of 40 metres above sea level. Rundle Mall has an altitude of 45 metres. Counter-intuitively, Rundle Mall is higher than the base of Colonel William Light. The highest part of the Adelaide, North Adelaide and parklands region actually lies in the South-Eastern corner of Victoria Park Racecourse. This point, near the Greenhill Rd-Fullarton Rd junction, has an elevation of 58 metres, making it 18 metres above the Colonel William Light statue.
When Colonel William Light passed away in 1839, he was provided with the first ever funeral procession in South Australia. He is buried under Light Square and is the only person to be legally buried within the “square mile” of Adelaide since settlement. Originally, the statue of Colonel William Light didn’t point towards Adelaide from afar at all because it was already within Adelaide. The statue of Colonel William Light was initially placed in the northern part of Victoria Square and a giant crowd watched its unveiling in 1906. Somewhat ironically, the statue’s location was the subject of a planning dispute as it caused disruption to the busy intersection. In 1938, it was moved to its current location, Montefiore Hill.
The Hills Hoist is synonymous with Adelaide inventions, yet there exist a glut of other innovations that have South Australian origins. It should be noted that it is often contentious who invented something first with several people claiming the same invention.
Adelaide company, Mitani, claims to have invented chicken salt in 1979. It was originally designed for use on rotisserie chickens hence the name chicken salt. Mitani creates 70 tonnes of chicken salt per year yet chicken salt is hardly known outside of Australia. The Mitani brand of chicken salt has a secret recipe and despite its name is suitable for vegans.
Known as ‘cask wine’, ‘box wine’, ‘a goon bag’ and numerous other colloquialisms, this product was invented by winemaker, Thomas Angove from Renmark. Angove’s inspiration for the cask wine invention supposedly came from coming across a picture of a Greek shepherd who was drinking liquid from a goatskin.
The Military Tank
Adelaide born Lancelot de Mole sent drawings of a tank-like vehicle to the British War Office in 1912 alongside the name “Tank MKI.” His inspiration for the invention arose when he travelled across “terrible” terrain in Western Australia. De Mole was originally not recognised for his invention and only after lobbying from the South Australian government was he was acknowledged and awarded £987.
Milton Blake was the first person to be credited with protecting the skin from sunlight in a creation resembling sunscreen. It is particularly apt that an Adelaide chemist developed a UV blocker, considering the climate he resided in. In 1932, the first 500 tubes were made from his southern suburbs, Hawthorn home. Blake’s sunscreen lineage led to the creation of Hamilton Laboratories which now makes 500 tonnes of sunscreen per year.
During 1949 in Adelaide, Charles Rothauser developed the world’s first disposable syringe. The ability to mass produce plastic syringes has benefited countless people as well as solving the problem of Penicillin clogging glass syringes. Rothauser is also renowned for creating Caroma, the bathroom accessories company. The company Caroma is also known for pioneering the first dual flush toilet.
When it was announced that the Beatles were touring Australia, Adelaide was originally omitted from their touring schedule. What changed this was an 80,000 person petition organised by the late radio host, Bob Francis and finding a sponsor in former department store, John Martin’s. Ringo Starr missed the tour with tonsillitis but was replaced with Jimmy Nicol. In 1964, the Beatles touched down at Adelaide Airport. What followed was the Adelaide public giving the Beatles the biggest crowd of their entire touring career. Estimates for the crowd range however a commonly quoted figure is 300,000 plus people. The crowd, close to half of Adelaide’s population, was doubly impressive as the Education Department warned that any student absent from school on the Friday that the Beatles arrived would be suspended.
People lined the streets from the airport to the city. Upon arrival at the Adelaide Town Hall, Bob Francis interviewed the Beatles. John Lennon Called it “The best reception ever.” The Beatles were clearly surprised by the crowd with George Harrison quipping “There were only 3,000 people at the airport in New York, so why should there be 300,000 in Adelaide?” A short video of the Beatles frenzied trip to Adelaide can be viewed here.
Edward Wakefield, known as a founding father of South Australia, had a chequered past. At the age of 30 he abducted a 15 year-old girl from England and travelled to Scotland where he forced her to marry him. They then travelled to France where Wakefield was caught. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison. Wakefield was instrumental in drafting the 1834 South Australia act. His interest in South Australia then diminished and he travelled to New Zealand to live where he became a key figure in the colonisation of that country. Interestingly, Wakefield never actually travelled to South Australia. Wakefield Street in Adelaide is named after Edward’s brother Daniel, who like Edward, was involved in drafting the South Australia act and never visited Adelaide. An interesting list of many Adelaide streets and who they are named after can be found here.
When planning Adelaide, the founders didn’t devote resources or space for a jail, believing that one would not be necessary. Their rationale was that unlike other areas of Australia settled by convicts, Adelaide’s free colonists would be honourable people. Adelaide Gaol was eventually built in 1841 in Thebarton and contained around 300,000 prisoners in total over 147 years prior to shutting down in 1988. Across its existence, 45 people were executed there and remained buried on the grounds. The exorbitant cost of building the Adelaide Gaol ballooned out to one fifth of the total funds set aside for the establishment of the entire new colony. The Adelaide Gaol’s cost was the key factor in South Australia becoming bankrupt in 1840. It also led to subsequent bankruptcies and was the catalyst for a statewide depression. Adelaide Gaol holds the record as the longest that a prison has been continuously run in Australia. Alongside Government House, Adelaide Gaol is the equal oldest public building in South Australia.
Prior to the Beachouse and Magic Mountain, Glenelg was home to Luna Park. It was opened in 1930 and shut down in 1935. This was due to council disputes, the worry by locals that “undesirable” people would be in their neighbourhood, economic issues and the dissatisfaction from church groups that rides were running on Sundays. Glenelg’s Luna Park lived on in some sense as the rides and amusements were disassembled, packed up and shipped off to create the famous Luna Park in Sydney. There is however one ride that remained at Glenelg from the Luna Park era- the carousel, in operation since 1901. This ride was later used at Magic Mountain and now at the Beachouse.
Torrens Island Concentration Camp
Shortly after the British Empire became engaged in WWI, Australians of German heritage had to report to a police station and were put on a weekly parole. At this time around 10% of the South Australian population was German. On October the 9th 1914, a concentration camp opened on Torrens Island, not far from Port Adelaide. Initially, only those men who had been in the German military reserves and those who had travelled on German ships were imprisoned there. Soon, all German and Austro-Hungarian men of military age in Australia were deemed various degrees of security risk. The Torrens Park concentration camp numbers grew to over 400. It had been said that the Torrens Island concentration camp had “By far the worst reputation of all internment camps in the Commonwealth.” The camp was closed in August 1915 and the official records of the camp were destroyed.