The Yalgoo outrage, the Yalgoo horror, the Yalgoo mystery. Thus read the many headlines in 1903 when Solomon Lowns became the recipient of Australia’s first postal bomb, which blew off his lower left arm.
It was a far cry from the publicity when he died alone among his mining machinery near the remote Western Australian town of Yalgoo 17 years later.
He had been living as a hermit for the previous six years, since the mining operation had ceased.
And his solitary life was perhaps a reprieve he needed after the excitement of his earlier life.
It was February 1903 when a parcel arrived for him at the Post Office. But as it had not been sent with the correct postage payment, he had to collect it personally.
At the post office, he remarked to the postmaster that it was probably some gold posted to him to sell.
The postmaster asked him to open it there, because it if containedgold the postage cost would be more.
But as he opened it, it exploded, and he lost his left hand and part of his lower arm.
The man charged with the crime was exonerated after two trials, and the true culprit never found.
Lowns, an Englishman, had started a seafaring life, having been in America and South Africa before coming to Australia, where he spent time in Queensland, the NorthernTerritory and the Kimberley.
He came to Yalgoo 20 years before his death, and was at one time the storekeeper and carrying and forward agent.
After his accident and the court case, he continued as a busy member of the community, on the local roads board, acting as a JP and a member of the licencing bench.
He was part of a syndicate which took up a lease on the old Gullewa Queen mine and worked it without much success. He bought out the other shareholders but eventually ceased mining.
Lowns refused to see a doctor as he lived among his rusty mining machinery with his health failing.
He was buried at the Yalgoo cemetery the day after his death, but his headstone is not the only landmark to his life … the remains of a home and store he started to build after his accident, but never completed, add to the character of this tiny outback town.
Sources: The Geraldton Express, 29 April 1921, p 4
Geraldton Guardian, 28 April 1921, p1
West Australia, June 15, 1903, p3.