Forgotten Australia

History - As You've Never Heard It Before

From the desperate struggle against Spanish Flu in Sydney and the weekend Melbourne was ruled by anarchic mobs, to Brisbane’s most puzzling murder mystery and the Lord Howe Islander who tried to save passengers on the Titanic, each episode of Forgotten Australia brings you an incredible true story that you didn’t learn in history class. Forgotten Australia is created by Michael Adams, a Sydney-based writer, author and television producer.

Australians are no strangers to big cat stories, but only one mystery resulted in the capture of not one but two monsters. In the early 1890s, witnesses claimed to have seen a tiger in the Tantanoola region of South Australia and graziers often found their sheep mutilated and partly devoured. Search parties failed to capture the beast until an expert marksman joined the hunt. Yet even after the creature was slain, sheep kept disappearing, falling prey to an even more terrifying predator.

In March 1872 Australians were shocked by one of the most cold-blooded murders the colonies had ever seen. The nightmare began with the discovery of a badly decomposed body that had been weighed down with a heavy stone in the Parramatta River. Even more chillingly, it soon emerged that this victim, John Bridger, had been lured to his brutal death via an employment advertisement in The Sydney Morning Herald. Then it became clear that this murdered man wasn’t the only victim.

With Titanic sinking in the early hours of 15 April 1912, boatswain Albert Nichols has to muster his men and make ready the lifeboats. Around 1am, it’s claimed, he was given a dangerous mission that, if successful, would save many more lives. But mystery swirls around what happened in the next 80 minutes.

Albert Nichols was born in 1864 on remote Lord Howe Island. After a public scandal that saw him pitted against his parents, Albert fled to Sydney before working his way to London as a seaman. There he established a successful career with the White Star Line, working as a boatswain first on the company’s luxury liner Adriatic and then on the even-bigger Olympic. In April 1912 he transferred to Titanic, the greatest ship ever built and was aboard for the liner’s sea trials, for the trip from Belfast to Southampton and for the maiden voyage. His life story is told for the first time in this two-part episode — and, despite this being a true Titanic tale, you simply won’t believe the ending.

A century ago, a world already at war faced its worst-ever natural disaster: Spanish Flu. But in late 1918, this plague, which would claim as many as 100 million lives, was yet to infect Australia, with Sydney’s North Head Quarantine Station becoming the frontline in the battle against the deadly invader. Young nurse Annie Egan was among those brave souls who risked their lives to help the infected. Her fate sparked a furore — and foreshadowed what awaited many Australians in 1919.

Spanish Flu Sister Annie Egan North Head Quarantine Station Epidemic Plague Black Death