Monday, 23 December 2019

A Strangers' Home for a stranger power: A Brisbane Poltergeist Story

A Christmas message from The Moreton Bay Courier,
published on the 21st of December 1850.

*Preface*  A century ago, it was customary to run Christmas ghost stories in the newspapers throughout the British Empire, a yearly event in which Australia also indulged - this tradition was most likely fuelled by the famous author Charles Dickens, who published many works on ghosts centred around the Christmas period.  The newspapers of early Brisbane were no different - each year, a collection of ghost stories both fictional & real, would be published as a Christmas Supplement.  So, in the spirit of resurrecting the age-old practice of sharing a local ghost story in time for Christmas, & without any further ado, please enjoy our "Ghosts of Brisbane's [Christmas] Past" article - & Merry Christmas to you all, from the Haunts of Brisbane!

To provide some historical context & validation for the following ghost tale of early Brisbane, we need to briefly examine the state of the region circa 1850.  The event, which purports to detail an unexplained poltergeist outbreak, took place in a ramshackle premises in what we now know as Fortitude Valley.  As a *fun fact* - & purely for the purposes of our yuletide tale - Fortitude Valley gained it's name after the resettling of immigrants brought to Australia aboard the ship Fortitude in 1849, as a part of the Rev. Dr. John Dunmore Lang's assisted immigration scheme, in a gully beyond the fledgling outpost of Brisbane.   Quite coincidentally - the Captain of that ship, the first of three immigrant vessels to enter Moreton Bay, was John Christmas!

For those who follow the Haunts of Brisbane facebook page, we posted a teaser to this story a week back via an excerpt from The Moreton Bay Courier, advertising the issuance of Publicans licences on Monday 23rd December 1850 (pictured above).  In amongst 3 separate licences that were issued on that date just prior to Christmas, one stands out - that of Jeremiah Scanlan's (spelt incorrectly in excerpt), for an establishment named The Strangers' Home - so we definitely know that an establishment, by that name, existed in Fortitude Valley as the region transitioned into 1851.  From other period documents, we also know that the establishment existed on the corner of Queen Street (which would be renamed Ann Street in the early 1860's) and the New Farm or Race Course Road (also renamed later, to Brunswick Street) - for clarity, the original site rests below what is now a commercial building & The Beat Megaclub, diagonally opposite the now Royal George Hotel (or RG's as it's locally known, which at the time was the only other substantial structure in the region.

The licence renewal for the Strangers' Home Inn would eventually be refused in April 1854, providing us with a window of approximately 3 years within which the following poltergeist outbreak could have occurred (1851-1854).   By 1854, the Strangers' Home Inn had already seen 15 months of upheaval.  Around December 1852 (again, at Christmas), the Inn's original licensee, Jeremiah Scanlan, defected to a new premises of his own in the area, under the banner of St. Patrick's Tavern - the venue's owner, Charles Windmell, frantically attempted to transfer the licence but was refused, locking him in to continued trade at the Strangers' Home.  By April 1853, at a time when our poltergeist was likely in action & the Strangers' Home's licence was yet again up for renewal, the Licencing Bench cautioned Charles Windmell & his management of the establishment that, "unless he reformed certain habits of intoxication that had been observed in public, his licence should not be granted for next year" - come 1854, it wasn't!  Had the continued overt intoxication witnessed at the Strangers' Home Inn led to the belief in a "poltergeist" outbreak??  That, we will likely never know...however the following story stands as a fascinating report of early Brisbane paranormal activity!

[Taken directly from the Sunday Mail, printed on the 23rd March 1941]

SUCH a rational explanation of a poltergeist has never been found for an earlier outbreak in Brisbane, which, to some extent, resembled the famous Guyra Ghost.  This ghost on the New England Tableland used to do its racketing and junketing at a house on the outskirts of Guyra.

Stones, some of them anything but small, fell on the roof of this house frequently at night, and the origin of them appeared to be mysterious in the extreme.  The fame of this poltergeist travelled far beyond Guyra and the Tableland.  It became, in fact, a major sensation of the Sydney and Brisbane press.

Additional police were sent to Guyra, and many persons, whose curiosity or superstition has been aroused by the reports, went also to inspect the house.  Opinions differed widely as to whether the stone throwing and other weird outbreaks in Guyra were due to occult force, or had their source in some more that ordinarily expert larrikinism.

The Guyra Ghost ended with the suddenness with which it began, and if its manifestations were the work of that merry little cheer-up society, the poltergeists, then it was behaviour consistent with their record.  The curious thing about any poltergeistical outbreak is, that a house haunted by them suddenly ceases to be haunted, and becomes once more fit for human habitation.

Apparently this was the case with the old Valley house in which, in the files, there occurred such a remarkable series of events and noises, for while the old files record the outbreaks, references ceased, and, so far as can be ascertained, did not appear again.

In the very early days of Brisbane an inn stood in Fortitude Valley, beside the timber-getter's track, which led out along what became Ann Street, to the big scrubs which then lined the banks of Breakfast Creek.

THE Valley itself was only sparsely settled, and the one shanty, which appears on the original licensing records as The Strangers' Home Inn, was sufficient for a time to serve the local people, the timber-getters, and general teamsters.

As the Valley showed signs of growing, the landlord of The Strangers' Home, decided to build extra accommodation.  The additional quarters were erected at a short distance from the inn proper, and were of the type usual in those days.  They consisted of a chain of rooms in a single-story building, facing on to an adze-hewn slab verandah, the whole structure roofed with bark.

About two years after it was erected, according to the accounts, began the first of a series of weird happenings, which have never had published explanation, if they had explanation sufficient to settle their nature to the satisfaction of the innkeeper, his guest, and frequenters.

One night, while teamsters and other early Valley workers were busy with the beer and rum in the long, low-ceilinged taproom, a man rushed into the bar and said that he had been struck heavily on the head by a rough wooden stool, which had suddenly bounded from the floor of his room in the new quarters!

DESPITE the fact that he was bleeding from a cut in the head, no one took much notice of him, for he was a recent arrival from the bush, who had been drinking heavily and steadily for days.  They believed he had fallen and cut his head.  He was induced to go back to bed.  As the landlord, who had accompanied him, turned to leave the rough room there came a rending sound, and a joist fell from the roof, striking him so heavily that it broke his arm.

When a man in an adjoining room half an hour later was flung heavily from his bed a crisis developed.  No one would remain in these quarters, and the taproom emptied its human contents to stand gazing awe-struck at the long building beneath a full moon on a mellow night.

No one would consent to sleep in the building for a full week, rolling themselves in their blankets on the floor and verandahs of the inn proper.  Then, says the quaint old report of these happenings, "one citizen, equipped with more fortitude than his fellows, essayed the feat of laying the ghost."

He undertook for a bet to spend the night in the room in which the landlord himself had been struck.  About 11 o'clock he settled down quite peaceably, but in a quarter of an hour there came a frightful noise of banging and rattling, and the courageous one came fleeing forth in his night shirt, with the bed gambolling after him, and shingles falling from the roof about him.

As there was not even a breeze the whole business was regarded as too perplexing for comprehension.  That was the end of the annex to the inn.  It was not afterwards occupied.

A reference to it about six months later in the Moreton Bay Courier says that the building was apparently free of the ghost-like visitations, but that nevertheless the landlord had decided to pull it down.  Whether he did so is not known, but the advance of the Valley would, in an case, have disposed of it.

So for Queensland's poltergeists.  Any one who is interested in the study of these strange antics in a wider sense may read Sacheverell Sitwell's "Poltergeists," recently published in London.  English reviews state that Mr. Sitwell gives the detailed history of innumerable British poltergeists.

We are not likely to have many of them here.  Possibly our climate is against them!  Allowing exaggeration, or poltergeistical outbreaks are more likely to be "jokeristical" in their origin.


*Postcript* The book referenced above - the 1940 edition of Sacheverell Sitwell's "Poltergeist," is available [HERE] for perusal & download for addition to your personal paranormal collections - amongst other reference materials, please download it before it's likely no longer readily available to access.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

The 140 year old dark secret, hidden amidst the mangroves of Green Island...

"Green Island, Moreton Bay - The New Pleasure Resort which has been
made Available to the People of Brisbane by the industry of Boating Men."
(Published in The Northern Herald, 17th January 1918)

Eight weeks ago, whilst casually scrolling through the events list on facebook, a specific entry in between boutique brewery tours & face painting tutorials caught my eye - Green Island Clean Up (Moreton Bay) 2019, being hosted by Ocean Crusaders.  Presenting an opportunity to help clean water-borne rubbish from the shores of one of Moreton Bay's smaller islands, the event was particularly attractive, especially given the chance to travel out to Green Island via the Cat'O Nine Tails (a vessel on which I'd traveled to St. Helena Island many years ago) for only $10!  However, the draw of a trip to Green Island was two-fold - what better way to spend a Sunday volunteering time to aid in cleaning up Moreton Bay, whilst also utilising the traverse across the Island to further investigate a long-forgotten dark secret hidden between the mangrove stands?

For those who follow The Haunts of Brisbane, you're likely aware a huge project is currently underway, a preliminary result of which has led to the identification of six previously lost & forgotten burials on St. Helena Island (PART I here, & PART II here).  However, given how wide the proverbial net was cast in pursuit of the project's main goal (yet to be published), further lost & forgotten Moreton Bay burials have been identified in the interim - one of which has remained in the murky shadows of Green Island for the past 140 years.  So, once again via The Haunts of Brisbane, let's provide voice to the voiceless & identify another lost soul who's passing & interment virtually went without notice or record.

Let's traverse back in time 140 years, to the crossover of 1878 into 1879...

The proceeding weeks would see a number of vessels arrive in Moreton Bay, carrying immigrants from a range of different ports & European centres.  On the 30th of December 1878, as the calendar was about to tip over into the new year, the Clara arrived off Cape Moreton from Greenock, Scotland, with almost 320 souls on board.  On waiting under anchor at the Bar for days, a visit from the Government Heath Officer on the 4th of January 1879 would see the vessel immediately placed under quarantine & towed across to Peel Island by the Boko, due to the presence of typhoid fever amongst the passengers - she would remain in detention at Peel Island through until the 30th of January, much to the chagrin of Captain A. S. Cutler, the ship's Master.  The protracted quarantine order would result in the publication of a strongly worded letter from the Captain, via The Brisbane Courier on the 31st of January - quite ironically a day after the Health Officer, Dr. Challinor, had recommended the ship for release!

However, the Clara would not be long alone in her quarantine at Peel Island.  On the 17th of January, the Fritz Reuter from Hamburg, Germany, arrived off Cape Moreton, with over 480 immigrants on board.  On moving across to the Bar, the ship was inspected by Dr. Challinor, with the discovery that 30 passengers had perished during the trip, many due to typhoid fever - the last death from typhoid having occurred on the 16th of January, as the ship made it's final approach to Cape Moreton.  As had been the case with the Clara, the Fritz Reuter was immediately placed under quarantine, & was similarly towed across to Peel Island on the 19th of January by the Boko, for a period of detention that would extend through until the 8th of February.

By now, serious strains were being placed on the Island's resources, with two large immigrant vessels in quarantine simultaneously - however, the situation was about to deteriorate further...

and Burnett Advertiser, 6th of February, 1879.

On the 26th of January, the R.M.S.S. Somerset entered Moreton Bay, having wended her way down the coast from Hong Kong, via Singapore, Thursday Island, Cooktown, Townsville, Bowen & Rockhampton.  During her stop at Cooktown, a smallpox outbreak was identified amongst the passengers, with the Health Officer in that port immediately refusing pratique & advising the vessel to promptly offload the mail & continue moving on towards Brisbane - subsequent ports advised similarly, offloading the mail bags for fumigation whilst palming off the vessel's contagions for the next port down the line.  By the time the Somerset reached Moreton Bay, the Brisbane authorities were already well aware of the smallpox outbreak on board, & it was an inevitability the ship would be placed into immediate quarantine.  However, with both the Clara & Fritz Reuter anchored off Peel Island, & the majority of their passengers in quarantine on the island, the quarantine station was literally at breaking point.

St. Helena Island, which had been used in the past as a quarantine ground, was completely out of the question, due to the 12 year old Penal Establishment that now graced it's shores.  Dunwich on Stradbroke Island, another prior quarantine ground in years past, was now home to the Benevolent Asylum.  So, with extremely limited options for quarantining the Somerset's passengers out in the bay, the decision was made to relocate the ship to the "Four-fathom Hole" off Green Island on the 28th of January - an anchorage  located approximately a third of a mile (just over 500 metres) to the west of the island's shoreline.  A second vessel, the Chance, was co-located in close proximity to the Somerset, with a specific goal of providing support to the quarantined vessel in absence of a land-based station.

The "Four-fathom Hole" encircled in red, a noticeable depression
just over 500 metres off the westernmost point of Green Island.

By the 6th of February, the Somerset having sat at anchor alongside Green Island for over a week, rumours began to circulate that a fresh case of smallpox had presented in one of the ship's passengers.  The Queenslander on Saturday the 8th of February reported that, "A fresh case of small-pox among the R.M.S. Somerset's passengers was reported last Thursday [6th February], the patient being a European, & a supposed stowaway."   On the same day, Rockhampton's Morning Bulletin reported that, "A fresh case of small-pox is reported amongst the quarantined passengers on board the Somerset."   By the morning of Thursday the 13th of February, The Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald & General Advertiser would report that, "Virulent small-pox has broken out among the passengers in the R.M.S. Somerset, now in quarantine at Green Island, in Moreton Bay.  There are two cases on board, one of which is expected to terminate fatally."

The Brisbane Courier would clarify the issue on the same morning (Thursday the 13th of February), "The smallpox cases on Green Island, near which the mail steamer Somerset is quarantined, assumed a serious phase on Sunday morning last [9th of February].  Two South Sea Islanders who came down with the steamer showed symptoms of the disease after the patients previously attacked were in a fair way for recovery.  One of the islanders is very ill, the disease in his case being of a malignant type, the other being of the milder form hitherto seen amongst the Somerset people.  The quarantine seems to be maintained very stringently.  The mail vessel lies at anchor about a mile from the shore, and the schooner Chance lies to windward for the purposes of communication.  A medical man is stationed on the latter vessel.  On shore the people are living in tents, and communication is made with them by placing the articles they require upon the beach near the sea.  There is no water on the island, unfortunately, and this, as well as stores and other articles, have to be brought to the quarantined people.  The water police, under Mr. Wassell, have the arrangements in hand, and are vigilant in their duty.  They speak well of the spirit and assistance of the officers of the Somerset in their trying position."

The above article provides confirmation that Somerset passengers were no longer restricted to shipboard quarantine, & had now been relocated to tents on Green Island - given the locality of the vessel at anchor in the "Four-fathom Hole" 500 metres off the westernmost point of the island, we'd have to assume that the quarantine ground would have been situated accordingly, in sight of the vessel with access to a beach on which provisions could be dropped:

 (Courtesy Bing Maps, 2019)

On Wednesday the 19th of February 1879, a Seventeen word report appeared in The Brisbane Courier:

The Brisbane Courier, 19th of February 1879.

Seventeen short words was all the local print media could muster to cover the loss of a human life.  From The Brisbane Courier's Shipping Arrivals column of the 27th of January 1879, we can deduce that the Somerset was carrying 11 South Sea Islander passengers - 5 bound for Brisbane, & an additional 6 bound for Sydney:

Unfortunately, on consulting the 762-page tome that is the "Ships passenger lists - Brisbane - inwards - 4 January 1875 to 10 November 1880," held by the National Archives, we come across a wonderful typeset disclaimer on page 3:

And with that, the ability to narrow down & provide an identity to the male South Sea Islander in question, is made markedly more difficult.  What we do know, however, is the Somerset was finally released from quarantine at the end of February.  She sailed from the Brisbane Bar for Sydney on the 1st of March, according to both The Brisbane Courier & The Sydney Morning Herald.  Three days later, according to the Evening News & The Sydney Morning Herald, the Somerset arrived in Sydney on the 4th of March, where she was again placed in quarantine due to her history of illness - here she'd sit, until the 10th of March, before finally gaining clearance to dock at the Company's Wharf. And - it's here - that we finally narrow down the identity of the burial on Green Island.  The man in question was likely one of the 5 South Sea Islander passengers bound specifically for Brisbane, & not within the group of 6 destined for Sydney - the "Passengers Arriving 1855 - 1922" list, held by the State Records Authority of New South Wales, lists 6 passengers (identified as "From Thursday Island") disembarking in Sydney from the Somerset on the 12th of March, 1879.

For now, however, whilst the identity of the deceased Somerset passenger ultimately alludes us, the search continues to put a definitive name to a tragic statistic all but lost to history.  Five years later, with the memory of the Somerset's detention still present in the minds of the authorities, the Cabinet Council would re-visit Green Island to gauge its viability as a quarantine station in 1884 - the debate would be short-lived, the Island being found ultimately unsuitable.  Over the decades that followed,  the Somerset's fateful 1879 arrival in Moreton Bay was all but forgotten, & Green Island became known as a destination for fishermen, canoeists, yachts & botanists.  By January 1911, the Island was declared a recreation reserve, with control of the 9,160 acres handed over to Wynnum Shire Council as Trustees. By 1915, works commenced on a permanent resort, boasting an impressive jetty (pictured, top of article), gardens, bathing boxes & shelter sheds...however, the ravages of time & the ever-present spectre of vandalism have long since erased any sign of habitation.

So...for those who are already booked to visit Green Island this coming Sunday (or those who are lucky enough to snap up the remaining few tickets after reading this article), please keep your eyes peeled when traversing the island's mangrove stands - whilst I'm sure there'll be copious flotsam & jetsam for collection having washed its way across Moreton Bay, be mindful that scant material heritage may still exist on the Island dating back to the Somerset's detention, & at any point in time you may well be walking over a long-forgotten grave of a poor soul yet to be named...

Friday, 28 June 2019

The tragic little burial ground Moreton Bay never knew it had [PART II]

Sketch of ships anchored of Cape Moreton, ca. 1865

So...St. Helena Island, & a forgotten little cemetery lost to history??

Two of five immigrant burials identified on St. Helena Island occurred in 1862, detailed in Belinda's blog "3 graves that can't be found," on The St. Helena Island Community - that of Margaret Killan, followed by Joseph Bradshaw.  To date, these burials seemingly represented two unassociated immigrants, from two unassociated vessels, supposedly buried a fortnight apart in unassociated graves, somewhere on the expanse of St. Helena Island.

So, let's examine Margaret Killian first, before digging a little deeper via Joseph Bradshaw...

1862 heralded a massive ramping-up of immigrant vessels plying their trade to Australia, with a specific focus on Queensland - with Moreton Bay's emancipation from New South Wales only three years previously in 1859, & land suitable for residential, commercial & agricultural purposes up for the taking, assisted immigration schemes were in full swing.  With unrest still prevailing in Ireland,  the Queensland Immigration Society was soon established, in the hopes of both driving interest in, & facilitating, assisted immigration to Brisbane.  Two bounty vessels arranged by the Queensland Immigration Society, to ply their human trade to Brisbane, were the Erin-go-Bragh & the Chatsworth.

The Erin-go-Bragh was, for all intensive purposes, a rickety old ship, on board which a bumper cargo of immigrants were bound for Australian shores.  According to historian A. G. Davies, in a reading to the Historical Society of Queensland in March 1935, "The vessel is said to have been formerly named the "Florida," and apparently her name was changed with a complimentary intention, as a tribute to the fact that she was carrying Irish immigrants."  Complimentary name aside, the ship certainly wasn't immune to the ravages of communicable disease, & within days of leaving port scarlatina & typhoid fever broke out amongst the immigrants housed below her decks. Over an incredibly protracted 174 day voyage to Brisbane, via a brief stop-over in Hobart, 54 men, women & children passed away, literally decimating whole families who'd boarded in the hopes of a better life south of the equator.  On arrival off Cape Moreton on the 31st of July 1862, the Health Officer Dr. Hobbs immediately placed the ship in quarantine at anchor, due to the large loss of life experienced during the voyage.  Within days, according to The Courier, the Governor declared:

"In order to facilitate measures to be adopted for the fumigation of the vessel, and the washing of linen and other clothing used during the voyage, as well as to afford to the passengers the means of necessary exercise and change, his Excellency has been pleased to establish a temporary Quarantine Station at the Island of St. Helena, in Moreton Bay.  During the detention of the vessel and her passengers under surveillance, the island in question will be appropriated to their sole use, and all persons are strictly cautioned not to attempt to land on such island, or in an way to establish communication with the people on shore or on board the vessel, unless with the sanction, in writing, of the Government, for which application must be made at this office."

It would herald the first official occasion St. Helena Island had been used as a quarantine ground for a questionable immigrant vessel - but it would not be the last.  By Wednesday the 6th of August 1862, The Courier reported that the Erin-go-Bragh's immigrants were, "availing themselves of the Government regulation, whereby they are permitted to exercise themselves and breathe the fresh air on the Island of St. Helena.  So far as we can gather, there does not appear at present to be any infectious disease on board the vessel, although a woman died on Monday, and was buried on the same day on the same island.  The complaint, however, was one of a pulmonary nature."  And, with this report, we have confirmation of an immigrant burial on St. Helena Island - that of Margaret Killian.  Despite the communicable diseases running rampant on board the Erin-go-Bragh, Margaret passed away due to "consumption" - an event specifically recorded in an electric telegraph from Lytton, to A. W. Manning, the Principal Colonial Under Secretary.  It was suspected the malady had resulted from the birth, & subsequent death a few weeks previously, of her 2 day old son aboard the ship whilst still at sea.

Interestingly, The Courier's report above mentioning Margaret's death & burial the same day, Monday the 4th August 1862, seems to contradict her previously accepted date of death - that of the 3rd August 1862, as listed on the Rootsweb website.  Unfortunately, Queensland's BDM historical scans covering the deaths on board the Erin-go-Bragh have been previously unavailable...however, after requests made to the Department by the Haunts of Brisbane early last week, the historical scans of the Erin-go-Bragh's deaths have now been very kindly scanned & added for online access, including that of Margaret Killian.  Unfortunately, however, there is no official date registered against her death:

Margaret Killian's record as per the Marine Register of Deaths held by Queensland's
BDM Registry, covering those who passed away on board the Erin-go-Bragh.

Within days of Margaret's burial on St. Helena Island, the Erin-go-Bragh's sister Queensland Immigration Society ship, the Chatsworth, maneuvered into position off Cape Moreton, awaiting a pilot on the evening of the 6th of August 1862.  And, it is with the Chatsworth's arrival at Moreton Bay, that St. Helena Island's non-prison burial record cracks wide open!

On arrival off Cape Moreton from the Ports of Liverpool & Cork, the Chatsworth had also experienced a tragic run to Australia, albeit with a death toll far less than that of the Erin-go-Bragh.   Once out on the open ocean, measles broke out predominantly amongst the young children on board, accounting for a dozen deaths at sea.  On arrival in Moreton Bay, the ship was inspected by Dr. Hobbs, as had the Erin-go-Bragh a week earlier, & just like the Erin-go-Bragh, the Chatsworth was placed into immediate quarantine at anchor due to cases of measles still being present amongst the remaining children.  And, it's at this point, that we need to refer specifically to the following excerpt, taken directly from the British Register of Births, Deaths & Marriages at Sea, specifically documenting deaths that occurred on board the Chatsworth.  As you'll see, the excerpt below contains eight names & dates of death, keeping in mind that the Chatsworth arrived in Moreton Bay on the evening of the 6th of August 1862

An anecdotal account, printed in The Courier's Shipping Intelligence on Friday the 8th of August & supposedly taken from an Officer aboard the steamer Samson, reported that a child from the Chatsworth had been buried on Moreton Island on Wednesday the 6th of August - this was likely 4 year old Ellen Tracey, who'd died from dysentery on the 5th of August as the ship approached Cape Moreton (not in the above list).  However, Mathew Mathewson, a 2 year old boy who died on the 9th of August from measles whilst the vessel was still in quarantine at anchor off Cape Moreton, was likely also interred somewhere on Moreton.  On the same day, The Courier noted that:

What we do know, however, is that by the 12th of August at the very latest, the Chatsworth had been moved on to St. Helena Island for quarantine, just as the Erin-go-Bragh had been just over a week earlier.  We know this due to a letter that was penned to Dr. Hobbs from the ship's surgeon, Charles J. Moran, dated the 12th of August.  In his correspondence, the surgeon stated that, "I beg leave to forward you my report of the present state of health of this ship.  There are only two cases of measles & in these the rash is disappearing.  The health of the ship in all other respects is good.  The greater number of the passengers have been landed on St. Helena Island & their clothes been washed.  The ship has also been fumigated."  Despite continued public assurances printed in The Courier that all traces of contagious disease had been purged from the Chatsworth's passengers, & the ship would likely be released from quarantine at any moment, the reality on board & amongst those camped on St. Helena was anything but assured - likely resulting from clothing & possessions being unpacked from trunks that had remained sealed since Liverpool, typhoid fever had broken out amongst some adult passengers.

On the 18th August, a letter was forwarded to the mainland from the Chatsworth, penned by James Jeffrey, an Admiralty Surveyor in the Royal Navy, & one of the many detained passengers.  In his correspondence, he noted, "About 50 of the passengers are landed on the Island of St. Helena, two children and one man died on the island last week, and one woman has been landed this morning, some of the passengers refuse to land."   Referring back to our excerpt of deaths aboard the Chatsworth by date, we can deduce these deaths correlate to Daniel Drew, a 2½ year old boy who died from convulsions on the 14th of August, Ellen Scotland, a 2 year old girl who died from measles on the 16th of August, & Joseph Bradshaw, a man who died from typhoid fever on the 17th of August (Joseph had previously been identified by Belinda on The St. Helena Island Community in her article "3 graves that can't be found").  The author of the above letter seemingly failed to realise, in amidst the confusion that was no doubt raging on the Island, that Joseph Bradshaw's 2 year old son Edwin had also passed away on the 17th of August from dysentery - we can only surmise that his little body was buried with that of his father, & was hence mistaken as a single grave by the concerned passenger.

On the day after the above letter was penned, on the 19th of August, little John Drew (younger brother of Daniel, who'd died on the 14th of August), passed away from measles.  And, by the 22nd of August, a further two deaths would occur - that of Eliza Blake from typhoid fever, as well as her infant son George, from measles.  These would be the final two deaths linked to St. Helena Island, as the Chatsworth with passengers was finally relocated to the new quarantine grounds at "Dunage" (present-day Dunwich, on Stradbroke Island) on the 23rd of August.  The Courier would report the same on that day, in addition to a veiled clue at the death toll incurred whilst the vessel had lay at anchor off St. Helena - "[W]e understand an arrangement has been made for towing over the Chatsworth from St. Helena to the permanent quarantine ground at Dunage.  Whilst on this subject, we may remark that it has been considered a matter of surprise that no proclamation has been issued by the Government."  And, with that, the Chatsworth's link to St. Helena was severed - one last death would occur amongst the ship's passengers prior to release from quarantine, that of William Williamson from typhoid fever on the 3rd of September, however this burial would become a part of Stradbroke Island's history as a quarantine ground.

So, up until last week, the above had been purely deduced from the British Register of Births, Deaths & Marriages at Sea, as the historical images of these seven deaths whilst the Chatsworth was anchored at St. Helena were not available through the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages (similar to Margaret Killian's).  However, on request from the Haunts of Brisbane, the Department was again kind enough to scan the pages referring to to Chatsworth's deaths, which are now readily available via their online search platform...& it's through these documents that we can undeniably confirm that at least one death resulted in a burial on St. Helena Island - that of Elizabeth Blake, on the 23rd of August just as the Chatsworth was preparing to tow across to Dunwich:

For clarity's sake, the full historical record of all seven deaths, courtesy of Queensland Births, Deaths & Marriages, is as follows:

The official record above clarifies & confirms the following names:

Daniel Drew - 14th of August 1862 - 2 years, 6 months, from convulsions & measles
Mary Isabella Scotland - 16th of August 1862 - 1 year, 10 months, from measles
Edwin Bradshaw - 17th of August 1862 - 2 years, from dysentery & general debility
Joseph Bradshaw - 17th of August 1862 - 29 years, from typhoid fever
John Charles Drew - 19th of August 1862 - 10 months, from measles
Elizabeth Blake - 22nd of August 1862 - 33 years, from typhoid fever
George Blake - 22nd August 1862 - 2 years, 8 months, from measles

So, we now know that the Chatsworth arrived in Moreton Bay on the 6th of August, was placed in quarantine on St. Helena Island by the 12th of August, & was finally towed to the permanent quarantine ground at Dunwich on the 23rd of August.  During this time, eight passengers died - one prior to the ship moving to St. Helena, with likely burial occurring on Moreton Island, & a further seven whilst the ship was quarantined at St. Helena.  Of these seven, we can confirm that one adult female was buried on St. Helena due to the BDM records, & a further two children & one adult male were interred according to correspondence penned by a passenger whilst also in quarantine on the Island.  However, I think it's very safe to say that all seven passengers who died whilst in quarantine on St. Helena Island, are buried on St. Helena Island.  Which, taking into account one previous burial from the Erin-go-Bragh less than a week before the Chatsworth's passengers' arrival on the Island, raises one massive historical conundrum!

Humans are creatures of absolute habit, especially when it comes to matters of faith & the way in which we commemorate the departed.  With two ships offloading into the same quarantine ground, & a steady string of eight deaths & subsequent burials over the space of a little more than two weeks, it's highly probable that all interments took place one after another, alongside one another, in an area of the island not too distant from the quarantine camp - keeping in mind that most deaths were children, & all those who died had remaining family still in quarantine, the graves would likely have been within short walking distance to the camp and were likely marked, even if crudely.  So, now the real research work begins, in trying to narrow down the area used for quarantine, & in turn the most likely surrounding areas that would best accommodate a small immigrant cemetery of seven to eight interments.  The next steps in potentially physically locating these previously-forgotten souls will not be an easy one, but where there's a will there's definitely a way.  And, at the very least, we've succeeded in identifying five lost little children, & a mother, after almost 160 years.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

The tragic little burial ground Moreton Bay never knew it had... [PART I]

"Entrance to Moreton Bay" - sketch, circa 1860.

It's sometimes funny how the mind of an historical archaeologist works...forever on the lookout for the frustratingly missing fragment of historical information, that will finally provide closure on a previously incomplete body of work...or that perpetual drive - deep down - to provide a voice to those who have passed before us, or have slipped below the historical record's radar due to a perceived lack of fame or fortune, or who've ultimately been lost or completely erased from history due to the ravages of time.  But...every so often, the stars align & a welcome series of current events (in contrast to those frustrating historical ones frequently puzzled over by researchers) transpire to provide the necessary kick-in-the-backside for tackling something truly monumental.

Welcome all to the Haunts of Brisbane, & the very first article to grace the blog site in six long years - virtually to the day!

For those who've followed the Haunts of Brisbane over the years, you're likely aware of the many projects upon which we've already embarked (via the blogsite, the facebook page & the YouTube channel), in the hope of not only promoting a wider understanding of Brisbane's lesser-known history, but also via platforms that are publicly available for all & completely free to access (despite the sometimes considerable behind-the-scenes expenses incurred to research & produce content).  With the advent of 2019, the Haunts of Brisbane has also been lucky enough to partner with the Friends of South Brisbane Cemetery & the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society to launch a schedule of special tours through both Toowong & South Brisbane Cemeteries - from which every cent of tour ticketing is rolled back into cemetery projects.  2019 is fast becoming a definitive year for the Haunts of Brisbane, with a ramping-up of activity & an opportunity to hand back to the residents of the wider Brisbane region, in the form of our shared & forgotten history.  The following article (in two parts), details a component of a much wider current project (personally funded, to date), which not only furthers our interpretation of a well-known historical asset located in Moreton Bay, but additionally fulfills the tenets of historical archaeology - "Providing voice to the voiceless."

So, let's digress back to the 1980's...

One of my fondest childhood memories, given my overwhelming desire to become an archaeologist "when I grew up," was a pending primary school trip across Moreton Bay to the mystical isle of St. Helena.  Classroom talk at school centered around the island's history, in-so-much as there'd been some "convicts" there, & it was a terrible place...complete with a fleet of man-eating sharks trained to attack anyone who tried to escape, & a massive cannon (presumably to ward off a pending pirate attack, we kids surmised!).   However, in the immediate lead-up to the excursion, my mother imparted a genealogical clanger - my great-great-great grandmother & her newborn child were buried somewhere on the man-eating-shark pirate convict island, & I should question the tour guide as to whether their whereabouts were known.  Irish immigrants, who'd boarded a ship in search of a better life in the southern hemisphere, they'd both passed away at sea & had been (I'd interpreted) unscrupulously dumped on the island in an attempt to cover up their deaths.  Their immigrant ship was apparently on the $5 note, & the burial site had alluded any genealogical research to date.  I still distinctly remember dropping my St. Helena grenade in front of the tour guide on the fateful day, complete with the stunned look I received in reply - my g-g-g grandmother's location would remain a mystery!

Related image
The ship depicted in the top right corner of the 1967
 Coombs/Randall $5 note is, in fact, the Waverley, not
my great-great-great grandparent's vessel.

Jump forward almost a decade to 1993.  Now in high school, school-endorsed work experience reared its opportunistic head - as friends approached the local fast food outlets, I submitted an application with Queensland Parks & Wildlife, due to a very timely media segment detailing archaeological work taking place on the island at the time.   To my actual shock, I was accepted, & traveled to St. Helena to live on-island for a week - whilst it transpired that all archaeological works had ended just prior to my arrival, the week was spent working away on constructing cattle fences, mixing & applying sacrificial render to the remaining building facades, wrestling with kevlar chaps whilst maneuvering whipper-snippers in the long grass, & generally exploring every accessible inch of the island in search of my ancestors' no avail.  During my university studies, two additional opportunities arose in the late 1990's to spend a further two week-long stints on the island, whilst undertaking archaeological assemblages analyses...however, any further attempt to shed any amount of light on my g-g-g grandmother's final resting place still alluded me.

With the eventual advent of the Haunts of Brisbane blog, & a renewed interest in producing historical content, I delved a little further into my g-g-g grandmother's story in August 2012, as a part of a wider article on a murder at Downfall Creek (current day Lutwyche).  The foul deed, committed in the stables area of the Edinburgh Castle Hotel in 1889, indirectly involved my great great grandparents - one of whom was Michael Goodwin, the son of my mystery g-g-g grandmother, buried on St. Helena Island.  As a child, he'd boarded an immigrant vessel at Gravesend in England on the 18th of February 1852, with his father, pregnant mother & nine siblings.  Hailing from the port village of Foynes, within Ireland's County of Limerick, the family was likely rattled by the well-documented "Great Famine," which had run roughshod over swathes of western Ireland in the years leading up to 1849-1850.   As word spread that English agents were advertising "bounty" schemes (assisted immigration), ofttimes with a promise of land in the new colonies, the family apparently heeded the call alongside a number of their fellow countrymen, & made their way to England & a new life in the southern colonies - boarding a ship by the name of the Maria Somes (Maria Soames), a vessel that had cut her teeth many times over on the Australia run, as a notorious convict transport.

After 116 days at sea, the Maria Somes finally came in sight of Mt. Warning & the promise of a new start in the Colony of New South Wales (Queensland's separation would not occur for another seven years, in 1859).  On sailing a further three days in search of the entrance to Moreton Bay around Cape Moreton, the ship's Captain realised they'd horribly overshot their mark, & were now sailing past Sandy Cape on Frazer Island.  In a panic at the oversight, & the fear of falling foul on reefs in the region, the Maria Somes went about in the hope of a quick return to Moreton Bay...unfortunately, the weather would dictate otherwise.  No sooner had a reverse tack been made, than the ship was hit with a downward blast, "strong enough to blow the masts out of the ship."  After days of stormy weather & high seas, the Maria Somes finally anchored off Moreton Island....& it was here, after almost a week in delays & just short of landfall, that my heavily pregnant great-great-great grandmother Johanna went into labour.

Despite the best efforts of the ship's skilled surgeon, both Johanna & her baby died on board the Maria Somes, within sight of the Glasshouse Mountains & the mouth of the Brisbane River.  Before the ship was boarded & inspected by the necessary authorities for granting pratique, Johanna & her newborn child were hastily buried on the shores of St. Helena Island - then nothing more than a wooded island on the approach to the free settlement of Moreton Bay, pre-dating the St. Helena Penal Settlement by fifteen years.  The whole sad event, culminating at St. Helena Island & documented by the Reverend Henry Berkeley Jones, was published in the book, Adventures in Australia in 1852 and 1853:

"There we interred a poor emigrant and her infant child, who died just as she had completed her voyage, leaving her husband the guardian of ten surviving children - a heavy charge and drawback to this poor man, who was a peaceable, well conducted Irishman."

"St. Helena, Moreton Bay, 20th July 1853"

And thus, the earliest identifiable European burial on St. Helena took event that, short of a few vague 1852 newspaper articles & a brief mention in the above book, may well have slipped by unnoticed & unrecorded.  Johanna's death & that of her child, occurring prior to landing on terra firma, went unrecorded in the official death registry.  But for the space of two short years, their tragic passing may have at least rated a mention - from 1854 onwards, all births, death & marriages at sea were required to be recorded in ships' logs, with a further requirement that collected records would then be passed on to the Registrar General of Shipping & Seamen on reaching the next British Port, after which records were then to be forwarded to the General Register Office in England.  Johanna & her child were not so lucky in 1852 - their deaths went virtually unnoticed beyond the living memories of the family they left behind to settle at Moreton Bay.   

A few years after the Haunts of Brisbane article briefly touching on Johanna's story was uploaded, another fantastic historically-focused blog took form in late 2017.  Published by Belinda, a very skilled fellow historian & storyteller, The St. Helena Island Community (& associated facebook page) published another great article identifying three immigrant burials on St. Helena Island, in April 2018.  Entitled "3 graves that can't be found,"  Belinda identified three individuals buried on St. Helena Island prior to the opening of the Penal Settlement, two being immigrants from immigrant vessels entering Moreton Bay in 1862, and a third being the wife of the Settlement's early building supervisor in 1865, prior to landing of prisoners on the island.  On reaching out to add my g-g-g grandmother & her child to the list, Belinda followed up with an additional article entitled, "5 graves that can't be found."  With that article, the total number of burials pre-dating St. Helena Island's conversion to a Prison Settlement has rested.  Furthermore, given the sporadic unofficial record of burials - a double burial in 1852, 2 somewhat unassociated burials in 1862, & a further burial in 1865 - one could imagine that these individuals were interred in a hap-hazard manner, in isolation, at various unknown locations around the island's perimeter.

However...what if St. Helena Island's shores hold more than just five immigrant burials??  And...what if those burials likely rest within a forgotten little cemetery that has been completely lost to history, totally unrecorded, still to be located below the Island's sandy surface??  The Haunts of Brisbane's recent research cracks wide the above two questions, & markedly expands the interpretation of St. Helena Island's history!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

THE DOUBLE EXECUTION - Ellen Thompson & John Harrison

**NOTE: The following is the exact transcript of an article published in The Brisbane Courier, page 3, from the 14th of June 1887 - I have taken the liberty of inserting related photographic material within the article body for effect.  Ellen Thompson's & John Harrison's presumed guilt or innocence aside, the following article (written by a member of the Press who was present at the execution) provides a very detailed & troubling insight into the act of execution in Queensland around the turn of the century.**

 The Gallows within Boggo Road Gaol's Number 1 Division,
in 1903 (State Library of Queensland).


Shortly after 8 o'clock yesterday morning the two prisoners, Ellen Thompson and John Harrison, who were convicted at the April Criminal Sittings of the Northern Circuit Court of the murder of William Thompson (husband of the female prisoner) near Port Douglas on the 22nd October last, and who were sentenced to death by His Honour Mr. Justice Cooper, suffered the extreme penalty of the law.  Some considerable time before the hour appointed for the execution, the gaol officials, and those whose various duties required their attendance to witness the fearful spectacle, began to arrive, but the attendance of those whose curiosity led them to make application for passes for admission was very small.  The rumours which had been current for some weeks previously respecting the almost unprecedented conduct of the female prisoner and her frequently expressed determination to resist all attempts to hang her had created a great deal of public excitement.  But, although the condemned woman all along placed entire confidence in the belief that the Governor of the colony would at the last moment grant her a reprieve, her demeanour, when it was at last made clear to her that all hope was past, was anything but uproarious or unwomanly.

Both she and Harrison rose at an early hour yesterday morning.  Shortly after daylight the prisoner Thompson was attended by two Sisters of Mercy, whose ministrations she appeared thankful to receive, and to whom she continuously repeated her protestations of innocence of the crime for which she was about to suffer the penalty.   While denouncing the Governor and the Executive for refusing to grant a commutation of her sentence, she admitted that from a legal point of view she might be guilty of the charge of murder, but urged that morally she was as innocent as an unborn babe.  Her version of the tragedy was briefly that her husband and Harrison had been quarrelling, when she, with the intention of making peace between them, in a jocular spirit remarked to Harrison that if he did not shut up, the old man, meaning Thompson, would shoot him.   Harrison immediately took up the revolver, saying, "Will he? Well, I will have first shot," at the same time firing.

Throughout the morning Mrs. Thompson conducted herself with the greatest respect towards the Sisters of Mercy, and also towards Father Fouhy, who visited her in the last half-hour of her life.  She bore up bravely to the last, and even when standing on the scaffold her fortitude was remarkable. Attended by Father Fouhy, she stepped on to the drop, and her voice was unshaken as she said, "Good-bye everybody; I forgive everybody from the bottom of my heart for anything they have wronged me in this world. I never shot my husband, and I am dying like an angel."  Only once, within a few seconds of the fatal moment, was there a perceptible quiver in the unhappy creature's voice, when with almost her dying breath she murmured, "Oh, my poor children; take care of my children will you, Father".  The next instant her body was swinging in mid air.

Harrison, is said to have been a soldier in the British army.   To Archdeacon Dawes, who was with him during his last hours, and with whose ministrations he appeared deeply impressed, he stated that both he and the woman were implicated in the death of Thompson, but that although he did fire the shots which killed him it was done in self-defence.  When standing on the scaffold he spoke not a word, and in the expression of his features could be traced not the slightest evidence of fear or nervous excitement.


The main gaol building is a gloomy place at the best of times with its lofty ceiling and its tiers of cells and the scanty light that steals in through the few long-barred windows and falls on iron-barred doors and iron-barred ratings, and on the cold stone floors and walls.  It is gloomy and depressing even when the sunshine streams in of a summer day, and when lightsome birds wing boldly in through the unglazed windows and perch twittering on the iron-barred doors, but it was gloomier still upon this cloudy blustering June morning when a little crowd gathered quietly on the ground floor and gazed silently at the ready scaffold on the tier above.  For a tragedy was to be enacted with this gloomy building for a theatre, and the ominous-looking scaffold which crossed from side to side for a stage; a tragedy in which two fellow-creatures would be the prime actors, and in which that mysterious thing which men call Law would move as Fate.  And one was to be a woman; a pitifully wicked woman.

She crossed the yard from the little hospital building so quietly that one could hardly imagine she was walking to her death with a companion woman, a female warder it appeared, by her side, and a guard, for form's sake, behind.   She walked with head bent a little and with hands clasped, in neat black garments, and with black bonnet thrust back a little from the drawn and haggard face, the face of a woman whose whole life has been passed in ceaseless toil.  She had been brutal and violent, giving free vent to the bitterness of a despairing heart, shocking all who heard her with her blasphemies, and deafening the ear of mercy with unseemly cries; it was thought that there would have been a struggle on the gallows.   But humanity prevailed at the last moment, and Ellen Thompson, murderess, died quietly and died "game".  Vile as the crime was, however necessary murder for murder may be, there is something that inspires esteem in the courage of the fellow-mortal who fears to die, who longs to live, and who yet, brought to bay, can stand unflinchingly on the edge of eternity.  "I'll soon be in a world where they won't tell lies about me," she observed, as she mounted the steps and disappeared up the inner stairway which leads to the condemned cell.  When she appeared again it was as an actor in an awful scene.

 Ellen Thompson (Queensland State Archives).

One heard the priest's voice raised in prayer as 8 o'clock drew near, the gloom seemed to deepen, and the wind seemed to moan passionately as it came in through the bars.  A sturdy warder, pale-faced, stepped on to the scaffold, there was a rustle, the prayer sounded louder, and in a moment the murderess stood on the trap, under the fatal rope.   She was white as marble, and her teeth set hard, but she never faltered, and she looked such a poor little woman as she stood there waiting to die.   Her hands were clasped still, and she held a little crucifix in the right one; she protested her innocence, she bade good-bye to her children, and then she prayed in Catholic fashion − not passionately, but as one who labours under a burning sense of wrong.  She never moved from where she stood, but she swayed as one fainting when the noose was drawn about her neck, her hand clasped convulsively over her crucifix, and it seemed as though her lips, under the death-cap, moved silently in prayer.  The strapping warder, who stood on the scaffold, held out his hands to steady her, but she braced up in a moment and did not fall.   The executioner shook the rope to clear it, he and the warder stepped to the side corridors.  At 8 precisely the bolt was drawn.   Her last thought was for her children.  Thud!  That was the only sound, for the wind had lulled, and nobody seemed to breathe.  Ellen Thompson fell straight as an arrow through the trap, her knees drew up spasmodically, and then Ellen Thompson's body dangled lifeless.  The rope had cut into the neck, severing the jugular vein, and in a moment a patch of red appeared on the white cap and a crimson stream poured over the black dress, falling in a pool on the stone floor.   It was pitiful before, but it was still more pitiful now, this execution.

The woman who had accompanied her across the yard washed the hands from the blood which stained them.  A coffin was placed on the blanketed earth which two prisoners had brought in and heaped over the crimson pool.  They lowered her tenderly, removed the rope from her neck, and the execution was over.  It had not taken fifteen minutes altogether.  The executioner is a tall, gray-bearded, gentlemanly-looking man, whom no one would take for the holder of such a vile action.  He is businesslike and he never shrank, as the warders did, from the touch of the dead woman. But he felt annoyed when in the interests of science the cap was removed for Professor Blumenthal to measure the head.

John Harrison (Queensland State Archives).

It was 8:20 when Ellen Thompson's plain coffin was carried away and when the trap was shut again, and when the rope lay ready for another victim.   The little crowd that the first execution had sickened waited quietly, and talked in subdued tones; but had it not been the duty of officials, doctors, and reporters to see it all over the crowd would have melted away.  They talked of ghastly things; the doctors of how the bleeding happened; the officials of whether or not Professor Blumenthal should have been permitted to measure; some of the woman's guilt, or some of her possible innocence.   And always everyone kept looking at the stage beyond, beneath which a mound of earth now rose like a grave, and in every man's mind was the conviction that whether the death penalty be right or not, hanging is a barberous and a brutal thing.  As 8:30 approached there was another rustle without, but through the doorway Harrison could be seen, treading the path which his paramour had trod half an hour before.  He passed to the stairway in a moment; surprisingly soon he reappeared as the woman had done and stood where she had stood when she last thought of her little ones.  He looked like a man as he stood on the trap without a tremour, without even a paling of the face or a twitching of the eyelids.  He looked tall, and straight, and sailor-like, in coloured shirt and moleskin trousers, and he looked straight in front, after casting his eyes about.  He had a peculiar face, with rather receding forehead, and with bushy eye-brows, which nearly met, and he had heavy sensual lips which looked rather out of place with his long face and with the sandy beard which grew thinly on the cheeks.  He never spoke a word that could be heard below, though he had shaken hands as he stepped on the scaffold with those who had to slay him.  There was the same formula of feet-tying and cap drawing and rope-setting; the official stood clear again, and even as Archdeacon Dawes prayed, the trap opened again, with a sharp click, and the rope fairly rang as the heavy weight of the condemned straightened it.  And again the same throat-cutting happened; though less profuse, the bleeding was enough to dye cap and clothes, and to drip sickeningly from the dangling feet to the ground.  We reporters came away, and left him hanging.

But beyond these unfortunate accidents the executions were perfect of the kind, killing instantaneously.   After the spasmodic drawing up of the knees neither of the executed moved a muscle, a most unusual thing.  Dr. Ellison states that the spine was dislocated between the first and second vertebrae, at which point the medulla oblongata, or presumed seat of life, is situated.  This was ruptured, and death must have been instantaneous.   The long drop, such as used by the present executioner, aims at dislocation at this spot, for if it happens lower down death results from asphyxiation, and the suffering of the condemned is needlessly increased beyond what it might have been had asphyxiation alone been attempted, which is the aim of the short drop.

Professor Blumenthal found that the respective measurements of Ellen Thompson's and Harrison's brains were: largest measurement, 22¾in. and 21½in., and from neck to root of nose 13in. and 13½in. A phrenological examination showed that in the woman combativeness and destructiveness were both large, the domestic affections were fairly full, the animal or selfish propensities were full, the moral propensities were small, and sexual love−amativeness, exceedingly large.  In Harrison combativeness was exceedingly large, destructiveness large, amativeness rather small but tending to sensuality, as shown by the noticeably heavy lips. His domestic affections were also small.   Judging from this it would seem that the woman was the moving spirit in the plot, and that her passion for Harrison inspired her.  She was active, cunning, and masterful, capable of doing kindly acts and of attachment to her children.  Harrison, on the contrary, cared for nothing but himself, and wanted old Thompson's money far more than he did old Thompson's wife.

Several theories are advanced as to the cause of the severance of the veins which occurred in both cases, the most plausible being one ascribing it to the thin skin of the executed persons, for the drop itself was the same as that used some weeks ago for Pickford, who, although much heavier than the woman Thompson, met with no such injury.  It should also be said that in spite of the disgust which the very idea of the bleeding naturally causes, there would seem to have been far less suffering than had the spine been dislocated elsewhere and the neck not been injured.


The woman Thompson addressed two letters to the Governor as follows:

"H.M. Gaol, Brisbane, 4th June, 1887.− On my knees I beg for mercy. Consider my character and the dreadful lies sworn against me.  When you were visiting Port Douglas I was one of the women who followed you on horseback.   I asked Sir Samuel Griffith for a schoolmaster, to bring my children up the right way, as my husband was so cranky.  I banished all the children so that they would not annoy the poor old man.   I swear by the cross I now hold in my hand that —'s evidence is a lie, and made up by himself. . . . . Do as you think proper with me, but have mercy on the unfortunate man who is innocent.  On my dying oath, my husband's door was shut when I looked up from my own house after I heard the shot and his moans.– ELLEN THOMPSON."

"H.M. Gaol, Brisbane, 8th June, 1887.– I have already made a pitiful appeal to you on behalf of the young man, John Harrison, whom I believe to be innocent.  It meant ruin and poverty for me to lose my husband, and I will never consider it a murder, when I am dying on the gallows; it will be the taking of my life that will be the murder.  Our lives, I know, were completely sworn away through false swearing.  I have three demands to make of the Government: Firstly, in the event of my innocence being proved, that each of my four children receive the sum of £500; secondly, that all my statements be returned to me, that I may destroy them; and thirdly, that Pope Cooper may
never be allowed to sentence another woman in Queensland without first hearing both sides of the story.  I want these requests to be granted in writing, and Mr. Knight and the Rev. D. Fouhy are to be trustees for my children.   If these demands are not granted I will stick out for my rights at the foot of the gallows; if they are I will walk on to the gallows like an angel.– ELLEN THOMPSON."