While I was writing the book about Adelaide (which is now finished and sent to the publisher as of last week; hallelujah and so on), I became acquainted with the magnificent Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program being undertaken by the National Library of Australia. Much material of the livelier sort – merely corroborative detail intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative – comes straight from the Adelaide papers of the times, mainly the Register and the Advertiser.
And here's something I just stumbled on (you do an awful lot of stumbling over treasure when you're noodling around at that site) a moment ago while looking for something quite different. It sounds eerily familiar. Nuriootpa is in the Barossa Valley. NOW READ ON ...
From The Advertiser, 21 March 1908
SWAGMAN DROWNED AT NURIOOTPA.
NURIOOTPA, March 19. - An apple-packer, while passing over the North Para bridge, at 6.45 a.m. to-day, saw the body of a man floating in the river near Mr. C. Schelz's house. He called at Tolley's distillery and the police were communicated with by telephone. Mounted Constable Grosser soon arrived on the scene and with assistance took the body from the water.
It was found to be that of a man about 75 years of age, and 5 ft. 5 in. in height. The deceased was toothless and had blue eyes, grey hair, and a grey goatee beard.
The deceased arrived in this town on Tuesday night with a swag and was last seen alive late yesterday afternoon, when he was camping on the bank of the river near the spot where his body was found. He was a stranger in these parts. A paper found on him bore the name of Michael Whelan. The swag, which was neatly arranged, was attached to the body. An inquest was considered unnecessary, everything pointing to accidental death from drowning.