Yowie! It’s Oz’s Bigfoot
QUESTION Is the Yowie Australia’s equivalent of Bigfoot?
The earliest accounts of mysterious ape‑like men in Australia date from the mid‑19th century. Many sightings of Yowies occur in and around the spectacular Blue Mountains that dominate the skyline of Sydney and the Sydney basin.
A first‑hand report, from February 1842, in the Australian and New Zealand Monthly magazine, reads: ‘The natives of Australia believe in the Yahoo .
‘This being they describe as resembling a man of nearly the same height, with long white hair hanging down from the head over the features, the arms are extraordi‑ narily long, furnished at the extremities with great talons, and the feet turned back‑ wards so that, on flying from man, the imprint of the foot appears as if the being had travelled in the opposite direction.
‘Altogether, they describe it as a hideous monster of an unearthly character and ape‑like appearance.’
Yowie appears to be a corruption of ‘ yahoo’, i tself probably taken f rom Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) in which the Yahoos are a race of brutish human‑like creatures.
A December 9, 1882, first‑hand account surfaced from Mr h. J. Mchooey, who told an Australian paper: ‘A few days ago I saw one of these strange creatures . . . on the coast between Bateman’s Bay and Ulladul‑ la . . . if it were standing perfectly upright it would be nearly five feet high.
‘It was tailless and covered with very long black hair, which was of a dirty red or snuff‑ colour about the throat and breast. Its eyes, which were small and restless, were partly hidden by matted hair that covered its head. I threw a stone at the animal, whereupon it immediately rushed off.’
There were many sightings in 1912. Charles harper, a surveyor, discussed his encounter with the Sydney Sun: ‘ A huge man‑like animal stood erect not 20 yards from the fire, growling, grimacing, and thumping his breast with his huge hand‑ like paws. The creature stood in one posi‑ tion for some time, sufficiently long to ena‑ ble me to photograph him on my brain.’
harper described the Yowie’s long arms and its thigh, which was out of proportion with the rest of the leg. he said the head and face were very small, but very human. Its eyes were large, dark and piercing, deeply set, and that it ran off on all fours.’
Sightings of the Yowie continue to this day. Cryptozoologists have noted with interest that many of these sightings coin‑ cide with electrical storms. This is often the case with North America’s Bigfoot.
Some have gone as far as to add that these storms are openings into another dimen‑ sion. others see the yahoo or yowie as part of Aboriginal dream culture, brought to life by superstitious westerners.
Yowie folklore follows a pattern familiar to most unidentified hominids around the world: variable eyewitness accounts, mysterious footprints and a l ack of conclusive proof.
allan Davies, Welshpool, Montgomery.
QUESTION Where is the oldest public convenience
still in use?
The Public health Act of 1848 called for ‘Public Necessaries to be provided to improve sanitation’, and at the 1851 Crystal Palace exhibition, Brighton engi‑ neer George Jennings i nstalled his ‘Monkey Closets’ in the retiring rooms .
These were Britain’s first public toilets, and during the exhibition, 827,280 visitors paid a penny each to use them. For ‘spend‑ ing a penny’, they were provided with a clean seat, a towel, a comb and a shoe shine.
The toilets gave Jennings a net profit of £1,790 in only 23 weeks.
The success of the exhibition conveniences persuaded Sir Samuel Peto (the building contractor who raised Nelson’s Column) and henry Cole (inventor of the first com‑ mercial Christmas card) that there was a widespread public demand.
The Society of Arts sponsored their building and Britain’s first men’s public toilet opened at 95 Fleet Street, in London, on February 2, 1852. The first Ladies opened a few days later at Bedford Street, in the Strand. Both were elegantly fitted with brass and mahogany furnishings and each was run by a supervi‑ sor and two attendants. The price was 2d for basic use, 3d for the same plus wash and brush‑up.
But despite an advertising campaign, the Gents had only 58 customers in its first month and the Ladies a mere 24. So they were shut down.
The suggestion that William haywood inaugurated the first municipal under‑ ground public toilets in 1855, outside the royal exchange, and that Jennings was the contractor, can be traced to The Good Loo Guide — a comic publication from the Six‑ ties by Jonathan routh — and is wrong.
haywood’s own description of ‘The underground Urinals and Water Closets on the Western front of the royal exchange, erected by the Commissioners of Sewers of the City of London, 1884‑5’ states that the toilets opened on January 23, 1885, built by ‘Mark Gentry, Contractor’.
There are many examples of cast‑iron Victorian urinals around the country and the oldest that is still functioning is in Bristol, at the top of Blackboy hill. It was made in Glasgow by Walter Macfarlane, and erected in about 1880.
The ornate rectangular building is con‑ structed from cast iron with a Moorish‑ style theme and glass roof, and each por‑ celain urinal unit has a curved metal modesty screen at chest level. It was recently awarded Grade II‑listed status.
Two smaller domed urinals also remain in Bristol — on horfield Common and at Mina road Park — built by Macfarlane’s Glasgow rivals, George Smith & Co.
godfrey Tweed, Bath, Somerset.
When the British Government sent the Auxiliaries and the Black and Tans to Ireland to assist the security forces in the Irish War of Independence, they were not regarded as a military unit. So who commanded them day to day? FUrTher to the earlier answer, I visited Ireland in the Sixties with my parents. At that time a popular drink was half a light ale mixed with half a Guinness, known in england as a ‘black and tan’.
I had just turned 18 and dad sent me to the bar to order a drink. I asked for a Guinness and a ‘black and tan’. I had no idea of the connotations. You could have heard a pin drop.
Fortunately the barman defused the sit‑ uation, asking my dad if I ‘was looking for a job in the diplomatic service’.
Dad was furious. I still blush when I think of it today.
Mystery: An artist’s impression of a strange creature claimed to have been sighted in 1912