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Ore Carriage Memorial and Alma Cowie’s Grave

Ore Carriage Memorial and Alma Cowie’s Grave

Ore Carriage Memorial
Silverton Road
Broken Hill , 2880

It is not a long trip from Sulphide Street Railway Station in Broken Hill to Silverton. On 1 January 1915, some 1200 people crowded into open carriages, usually used for carrying ore. The New Year’s Day Picnic was an annual event for members of the Manchester Unity Order of Oddfellows. Just outside the town shots rang out. Three people on the picnic train were killed and seven wounded. A stray bullet killed a man chopping wood in his back garden. The marksmen were members of the local camel driving community; one of them, Badsha Mahommed Gool, was an ice cream seller and the other, Mullah Abdullah, was a butcher.

Contemporary reports confuse the nationality of the two because they acted under a Turkish flag. They were routinely described in the press as Turks. Lieutenant Resch led the local militia and police, pursuing the ‘Turks’ and shooting both of them on a rocky outcrop. An eyewitness account suggested that Badsha Mahommed Gool was shot at least sixteen times while trying to wave a white flag. Mullah Abdullah died of his wounds shortly afterwards.

The owner of a local skating rink, which doubled as a cinema, took his camera and filmed the event, producing moving images of much of the activity. The film was screened in Broken Hill two days afterwards and in Adelaide a week later.

Papers found on their bodies noted that they were prepared to die because the Ottoman and British Empires were at war. After some initial hostility toward the local Afghan community, an angry crowd marched on the German Club and burned it to the ground, ensuring its complete destruction by cutting the hoses being used by firemen.

One of those killed was 17-year-old Alma Cowie, whose grave in Broken Hill Cemetery is a tangible reminder of this event. Other memorials in Broken Hill include an ore carriage, parked close to the site of the ‘battle’.

 

References

  • Picnic Train Massacre: Australia’s First Embedded Film-maker? Jeff Brownrigg, Film and History Conference, Canberra 2004 (National Film and Sound Archive)
  • A History of Australia, Volume Five, The People Make Laws 1888–1915, CMH Clark, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne 1981