Rough muse

LEWIS WOOLSTON (above) is a former Fremantle resident, but one who’s time in the city found him on the fringe of society. Now on a much happier path with a family in South Australia and a budding career as an author, with his first collection The Last Free Man and Other Stories shortlisted for the Northern Territory Chief Minister Book Awards in 2020. His second book Remembering the Dead and Other Stories takes a look behind the painted facades of Fremantle in the early noughties to remember the characters who weren’t headline makers, but added to its well-known diversity. Perhaps like Lewis you’ve moved on but remember Freo’s characters from back then, or even him. We’d love to hear those stories as well, so if you’ve got some yarns about the good old days, let us know at To get a copy of his book, head to

I LIVED in Freo from about  October 2000 to about August 2003.

I had made a mess of my young life with addiction and various other poor life choices, so I found myself living in a boarding house, being on the dole and my life basically centred around Narcotics Anonymous meetings and wandering the streets of Fremantle with no money and nowhere to go. 

It sounds miserable and to a certain extent it was but it was also one of the formative experiences of my life.

Life was very hard for me at the time but also very real and meaningful in a way that doesn’t happen so much in middle age. 

Fremantle, and Perth as a whole, was a lot rougher and rattier back then; the mining boom hadn’t happened, rent was still cheap and the dole used to stretch a lot further than it does now. 

Fremantle used to be a fun place full of artists, drifters and oddballs.   

Eventually I made a better life for myself elsewhere and moved on but I never forgot those years. 

In about 2018, not long after my daughter was born, I was having a quiet moment of reflection while my wife and daughter were asleep and I thought about those years and the people I knew back then.

I wondered what became of them and it occurred to me to try and Google some of them and see what came up. 

I Googled one particular person, thinking I might find him on some form of social media or perhaps he’d been in a local newspaper for something … the first thing that came up was his grave on a family history resource website. 

This came as a bit of a blow and I thought about other people I’d known in those years who’d died. 

It occurred to me that nobody would ever know or care about them, they weren’t rich or famous and they lived on the fringes of society. 

I decided that I would take the responsibility of writing about them and telling their stories as best I could.

I would bear witness to their short and troubled lives and by doing so would sort of atone for my misspent youth. 

Those stories became the emotional core of my new book Remembering The Dead and Other Stories, a book firmly focused on the past and the legacy of choices, good and bad, made in our youth.

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