Dyson’s Swamp

Julubup was the Wadjuk people’s name for this place. Wadjuk are custodians of the country on which the city of Perth in Western Australia is constructed. Dyson was deeply involved in building of the city and got his start providing timber to the government of the day for a prison on Wajemup (Rottnest Island) back in 1845. This prison proved to be a place of exile, torture or death for many Wadjuk and other first nations people resisting their dispossession, so it is only justice that the name of Dyson’s Swamp reverted back to Lake Julubup after a long interregnum.

Lake Julubup in 2016

Dyson’s Swamp is also the name of a book currently being written by Alan James Thompson. It will detail the fall and rise of the man behind the swamp, from his convict origins, to being an employer of convicts; The tragic fate of his first wife and the second wife who would stop at nothing to avoid the same fate. Then there were his children, all twenty-one of them.

James Dyson (1810-1888) was more than just another worthy in Western Australia during the middle of 19th Century. For a start, they did name a swamp after him. Starting as a labourer and sawyer (his past painstakingly hidden), he built up a small empire as a timber merchant, brick maker, butcher, baker and general trader in all the things required for life in the city of Perth.

At his peak he was a long serving member of the City’s ruling municipal council and the Perth Road Board. He served during the construction and opening of the Perth Town Hall. He supplied bricks and timber for the Wesleyan Church being built around the same time. Both of these structures are vanishingly rare examples of architecture in the city from before the mining booms. An intersection in the city on the corner of King and Murray Street was for many years known as Dyson’s corner as it was the real estate heart of his little empire.

He was involved in local politics and was not afraid to speak truth to power regardless of the consequences. There were to be consequences.

This is the story that this book intends to describe.


Dyson’s Swamp is divided into broad sections roughly defined by time periods:

  1. 1810 – 1833 Lancastrians & Yorkists (Complete as of May 2021)
  2. 1833 – 1841 Van Diemen’s Land
  3. 1841 – 1854 Swan River Colony (Half complete)
  4. 1854 – 1862 Convicts Again
  5. 1862 – 1888 Respectability
  6. 1888 – 1914 Wild Colonial Girls and Boys
  7. 1914 – 1944 Survivors