22. Sith Annie Chesters (c1865-1954), ‘Wood Lady of Subiaco’ and James Chesters (c1864-1929), builder and Mayor
James Chesters was a well-known builder in Subiaco. For a time he was Mayor of Subiaco and served as a Trustee on the Karrakatta Cemetery Board from 1910-1912.
James Chesters’ wife Sith Chesters was always elegantly attired, usually donning large picture hats and white gloves. James Chesters, whilst a moderately affluent man, was very careful with his money. The Chesters had no children, and when James died in 1929, Mrs Chesters gradually withdrew from society, firstly selling their home and moving into a small house on the edge of King’s Park and living, it seems, only on what she had before her husband died.
She lived with the utmost stringency but was generous to charitable causes. She was known simply as the “Wood Lady of Subiaco” when she became a familiar figure pushing her old pram along Thomas Street collecting wood and bottles. She was also referred to as the “Bird’s Nest Lady”, a reflection on her hairstyle.
Over the years she became increasingly anti-social and fought a bitter and unsuccessful battle against a road going through her property. Sith Chesters made a unique contribution to the War effort during World War II. In August 1940, she bought two Spitfire fighter planes at the cost of 8,500 pounds each, to be kept in England and used in the Battle of Britain, and a training plane costing 1,750 pounds for Australian pilots to train in. She lived into her 80s and suddenly people realised she just wasn’t around anymore. Sith Chesters was one of the unusual characters and eccentrics of Perth. When she died she left many charitable bequests including funding for medical scholarships at the University of Western Australia.