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' graves...to 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 place...an 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).



THE DOUBLE EXECUTION.

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.
______________________________

TWO LIVES FOR A LIFE.
BY SKETCHER.

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.
______________________________

PETITIONS FOR MERCY.

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."

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Tale of 4BC's Spectral Maintenance Man: a new "how to" for the avid ghost researcher...

The R. W. Thurlow & Co. building, 1901
(Taken from The Queenslander, 27th April 1901)

Welcome back to 2013's first (full) article from the Haunts of Brisbane!  Much has occurred since our last ghostly exposé - we all dodged a bullet as the Mayan Calendar allegedly ended (& restarted as predicted), Christmas & New Years came & went without incident, the unbelievable Boggo Road Gaol saga occurred (which we're still attempting to rectify), & yet another natural disaster has befallen us, courtesy of ex-Cyclone Oswald...needless to say, the past 8 weeks have been anything but restful!  As a result, our regular articles focusing on Brisbane's haunted history were put on the back-burner...until now!  So, strap yourself in, put your "ghost sleuth" caps on, & let's welcome in a new year of articles focusing on the darker side of Brisbane's history!

Over the past few months, I've received many emails from individuals, local history groups, & media outlets, all asking, "How do you manage to dig up all the information used in Haunts of Brisbane articles??"  In honesty, consolidating raw data (from multiple sources) into a seamless story that flows from Point A to Point B takes a lot of work...however, gathering the raw data from which the articles are written isn't difficult - we covered this process almost a year ago in an article entitled, "Petrie Mansions - a "how to" for the avid Ghost Hunter..."  Unfortunately, when it comes to the interwebs (& specific ghost/"historical" tours offered in Brisbane), it's very difficult to know whether you're actually being educated with historical fact...or being fleeced with bullsh*t specifically tailored to pilfer your hard-earned money.   So...how can you tell?!?

In anticipation, I've chosen a well-advertised, internet-based Brisbane ghost story, which apparently took place in the CBD - amongst a list of local ghost stories on the Brisbane History website, the story goes thus: "A few blocks away on the corner of Adelaide and Wharf streets stood the old Radio 4BC building.  It too has fallen under the demolisher's hammer.  Originally a pickle factory, the building had a staff tea room at the rear.  There was an opening in the tea room floor that had once housed a food lift.  In the time of the pickle factory a worker fell down the shaft while trying to fix the lift.  Years later 4BC night-time radio announcers swore that the room would suddenly turn icy cold and the sound of someone crying for help could be heard coming up the shaft."

So...how do we get to the bottom of this story, in an attempt to judge its validity??  If the building was demolished, as per the statement, are we unable to confirm the death??  Was the building actually utilised by 4BC, & was it originally a pickle factory? Did a basement exist beneath the building, necessitating a lift??  Did an employee actually die whilst repairing the lift during its life as a pickle factory??  Or...as is regularly the case in workplaces, was an urban legend formulated to scare the night-time radio announcers??  Let's break it down from the top, shall we?

What do we know about the history of 4BC??  According to Wikipedia's listing on 4BC,"4BC was one of the first radio stations in Brisbane.  It was established in 1930 by John Beals Chandler, an electrical appliance retailer and later Lord Mayor of Brisbane.  In March 1937 the station was sold for £50,000 to the Australian Broadcasting Company who took control in April [1937]."  From this, we know that searching prior to 1930 (when the station was founded) is pointless...so where to from here??  Jumping across to the National Library of Australia's Trove Database, with the search string, "4bc building AND brisbane" - the following comes up at the top of the list, in The Courier Mail on 9th of December 1948:

  

So...is this where the 4BC studio ended up, on the corner of Queen & Wharf Streets??  Is our ghost story already faltering??  Alas, not - with patience, continuing to search through the results on the Trove Database, a further record pops up on in The Courier Mail on the 19th of November 1952:


So...in 1952, 4BC purchased Thurlow's building on the corner of Adelaide & Wharf Streets, for the sum of £30,000 - we've now confirmed our first component of the ghost story!  Furthermore, as residents of Brisbane, we know that Thurlow's building was demolished well over a decade ago to make way for a newer 12-storey building (plus basement) - the second detail of our ghost story confirmed!

What do we know about the history of Thurlow's building?  Was it actually a Pickle Factory, did it possess a basement below ground-level, did a lift exist, & did someone die within it??


Again, on searching the Trove Database with the search string, "thurlows building," an article from The Argus crops up from the 17th of September 1952, detailing the sale of Thurlow's Building on the corner of Adelaide & Wharf Streets, in Brisbane.  According to the advert, the building contained a basement, ground and three upper floors (so, a possibility of a lift?).  Most importantly, it also provides us with with details about the prior owner, Robert Woods Thurlow.  For the Brisbane history buffs, this name should ring a bell - Robert Woods Thurlow was a very prominent businessman & merchant in Brisbane (as well as a one-term Mayor of Brisbane in 1896), running R. W. Thurlow & Co., best known for their fine, imported foodstuffs & Crescent Vinegar.  These fine groceries were dispensed from the Company's custom-fitted warehouse & "department store" on the corner of Adelaide & Wharf Streets.   Further digging in the Trove Database turns up another article in The Brisbane Courier's edition of the 7th of February 1901, entitled, "Messrs. R. W. Thurlow and Co. - Opening of New Building" - this article details a party held to celebrate the opening of the Company's new premises. 

We now know that the building was opened in 1901, & was purchased for use by 4BC in 1952 - this narrows our search for the unfortunate accident down to a 51-year window.  Unfortunately, we've debunked the "pickle factory" component of the story...however, given that Crescent Vinegar (a well-loved brand at the time) was brewed on-site, it's no more than a minor oversight...

So...what about this lift & the fatal fall??

That's where our ghost story unfortunately comes to an abrupt halt.  Searching every which way possible, utilising every available search string, the Trove Database comes up trumps...nothing...nil - no record exists regarding the death of a lift repairman at the site...that being said though, multiple records exist of accidental deaths, suicides & murders within the buildings located on the three other corners of Adelaide & Wharf Streets.  At this stage, we can refer to one further article we discovered whilst doing our initial building search - a 3-page spread, complete with amazing pictures, published in The Queenslander on the 27th of April 1901, at the time the venue opened for business.  This fantastic article intricately details the design features of the building, including the lifts & their safety features...& this is where the story gets a little interesting!  According to the article:

"Near the base of this wall [back of building], on a level with cart and dray when "backed," are two lifts - each 8ft. by 8ft. 6in., capable of hoisting a three-ton load - the one passing up to each floor of the warehouse, the other to each floor of the factory. The work of the lift is controlled by means of electric bells, connected with each floor.  As a precautionary measure against accident where other than experienced workmen are employed in the locality of the lift, sliding gates of strong wire, 5ft. high, are placed at the lift apertures on each landing, and are only removable by the lift when flush with the floor, so that to enter the shaft when the lift is not in position necessitates a climb to surmount the gates referred to."

So, lifts definitely existed at the site - we know that for sure.  However, given the safety features installed to ensure people didn't fall down the lift shaft, it's somewhat unlikely that someone died by falling down the lift shaft...although, stranger things have happened!  Either way, without having been able to locate a record of an accident that matches our ghost story, we're unable to either absolutely confirm or deny the existence of a spectral maintenance man at the site...however, we have managed to confirm, & deny, the story's other details regarding the building itself.  This is usually the frustrating point when I shelve a story regarding Brisbane in the hope that one day I'll stumble across the missing clue whilst researching another article.

And...there you have it - another lesson in how to pull apart ghost stories & dig for details to get to the truth...the process isn't difficult, it's merely time consuming!

However...in the interests of adding one last little twist, we'll end with a snippet of information that may be coincidence...or may be more!

Cast your minds back to the initial article regarding the negotiated purchase of a building on the corner of Queen & Wharf Streets, for use by 4BC, in 1948 - Empire Chambers.  This building was used for many years as a conference, lecture & dance venue, by a number of different groups.  On the afternoon of the 11th of April 1924, Spring Hill resident Harold Duggleon was standing in the vicinity of the building's lift...it's unclear whether he was visiting the building for one of the many events that occurred there, or was working on the lift as a maintenance man.  Either way, Duggleon stuck his head into the liftwell (many were open to an extent back in those days) to look down the shaft...right as the ascending lift carriage arrived on the same floor!  Duggleon suffered a fractured skull & shattered nose as a result of the unanticipated impact, & was rushed to Brisbane General Hospital in a very serious condition.  Unfortunately, no further information is provided regarding Harold's recovery - is it possible that he passed away from his injuries whilst in hospital & ended up haunting the liftwell of Empire Chambers??  Could 4BC's 1948 link with the building have brought about the ghost story at their final premises in Thurlow's Building 4 years later??  We'll never know...but it's fun to speculate, right?

Thursday, 17 January 2013

So...what constitutes "Heritage Work?" Cameron "Heritage Work" Sim knows...


Yep, that's me in the top right corner, painstakingly excavating the back yard of a Court House built with convict labour in 1829, & exposing the cobbled floor of a long-forgotten stables complex pending drainage works scheduled by the local Council.  That day, we openly invited & encouraged the local population to visit us to witness their heritage being unearthed, we recovered numerous & surprising artefacts for display in the local museum, we intricately mapped the entire site by hand down to the square millimetre for future reference, & we then retired back to our site foreman's house for well-earned beers knowing that we'd made a markable difference to the surrounding community.  The photo above was taken a few years back when I was working as an archaeological consultant in Tasmania (voluntarily on this occasion, as I've done regularly since), carrying out legitimate heritage works benefiting local communities - this project ran whilst I was completing my Masters Degree in Cultural Heritage Management on the back of a Degree in Anthropology & Archaeology, & I relished every second of it!

So...where are we going with this, I hear you ask??

Well...quite amazingly, in yet another ill-conceived effort to convince the residents of Brisbane that he actually cares about the heritage values of Boggo Road Gaol (rather than the dollars it can generate), Cameron "Heritage Work" Sim claimed yesterday that, "Our Tour Guides are passionate about the significance of Boggo Road in Queensland’s history – when not taking tours or re-enacting they have been hard at work removing non-original material deposited from years of abuse."  Apparently, Cameron "Heritage Work" Sim's staff have been painstakingly focusing their efforts, to such a large degree on "heritage work" within the gaol's walls, that an entire "blog" article needed to be written to document it on the Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd website, entitled "Heritage Work."


"Heritage Officer" Toby Martin
, engaging in crucial "Heritage Work."

So...what critical, ground-breaking "heritage work" is going on at Boggo Road Gaol at the moment, driven by Cameron Sim & the staff of Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd??  Have a number of priceless artefacts been recovered from beneath the gaol's foundations??  Has a missing collection of prison documents & photographs been located within the walls of the gatehouse??  Have the cellblocks been stabilsied, single-handedly by the Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd Staff, to ensure their survival in perpetuity??  Nope...nothing of that calibre has occurred within the gaol's walls...however...

Cameron "Heritage Work" Sim's staff have been craftily utilising their copious free time not running tours or re-enactments, scouring the gaol in the hunt for stray Blu-Tack™ & cello-tape!  That's right...your eyes deceive you not - the greatest threat to Boggo Road Gaol's future as a viable tourism venue, lies not in the Deed of License issued to a shonky commercial ghost tour operator, but in the alleged wads of Blu-Tack™ apparently plastered to the walls!

Ironically, very few spots of Blu-Tack™ & cello-tape exist around the gaol - from September 2011 until September 2012, the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society held monthly "Clean-up Days" within the gaol's walls, during which the grime within the gaol was pressure-blasted, hosed & swept out.   Of the few Blu-Tack™ marks that still exist on the walls of the gatehouse, many are attributable to warning signs posted by Department of Environment & Heritage staff through the 1990's when it was under State Government control, & the remainder are likely attributable to Ghost Tours Pty Ltd's operations & promotional posters posted between 1999 & the gaol's closure in 2005...more ironically, no mention is made in the above Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd "blog" to the contemporary graffiti easily identified on the cell walls of E-Wing, or candle-wax stains on the benches & floors, directly attributed to Ghost Tours Pty Ltd's "Haunted Sleepovers" during the same period.  Even more ironically again, Cameron "Heritage Work" Sim claims in his "blog" that, "New signage throughout the Gaol is being fixed in place with easily removable adhesive tape and will routinely be checked and replaced as it ages."

Having been university-trained in heritage management, site preservation & conservation technique, & having worked for a number of years as a heritage professional, I can vouch with 100% accuracy that no adhesive tape is "easily removable," & no similar product would ever be recommended for adhering any signage...to any surface...in any heritage-listed site.  That said, perhaps Cameron "Heritage Work" Sim could also examine the three laminated A4 signs he's adhered to the steel front gates of Boggo Road Gaol...with Blu-Tack™...advertising his tours:

Pray tell...what vandal Blu-Tacked those Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd signs
to the front gates of the gaol?!?

Ultimately, if Cameron "Heritage Work" Sim is keen on "removing non-original material deposited from years of abuse" at Boggo Road Gaol, I have a poignant word of advice to share with him as a qualified heritage professional - pack your bags & hit the road, as your statement above more than adequately describes your business's unpalatable presence at the gaol - non-original, & responsible for years of abuse.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Recipe for a "Disaster Cocktail":
1 rotten egg, liberal dash of Snake Oil, agitate thoroughly, serve in sugar-coated, rose-coloured glass...

Current-day "F Wing"...the only cell block accessible at the gaol.

"Silver and gold are not the only coin; virtue too passes current all over the world" - Euripides (c. 480 - 406 BC)

Welcome to a "special edition" article from the Haunts of Brisbane - the fact that you're now reading this confirms that the Mayan Gods postponed the impending apocalypse to allow access to this informative public brief...

As many of you are aware, the Haunts of Brisbane has been tirelessly fighting alongside the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society regarding the current commercial operating structure implemented at Boggo Road Gaol, & any future public access system the site may adopt.  The current Deed of License was issued despite numerous meetings with frequently-rotating Government Officials from the Department of Housing & Public Works, whilst Cameron "Jack" Sim & his posse of obscure "employees" sat in & stifled every attempt to engage in sensible & open negotiation - despite the unpalatable outcome, I'm proud to say that I was personally present at these meetings, helping to represent the position of the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society alongside current Historical Society Secretary Chris Dawson.  As such, & given certain events that have occurred over the past two weeks, I believe it's well within the public interest to address a number of unfounded accusations, insinuations & outright lies that have been perpetuated by Cameron "Jack" Sim in his attempts to justify the gaol's opening under his company's management...

For those who are aware that Boggo Road Gaol has re-opened under the commercial management of Cameron "Jack" Sim, you're likely asking yourself, "Why the hell did a Government Department give overriding management access, inside a publicly-owned historic site, to a small-time commercial ghost tour operator??"  Well...before you jump to the conclusion that Ghost Tours Pty Ltd were issued with a Deed of License to access the site (which you couldn't be criticised for thinking, given that Cameron "Jack" Sim hasn't even remotely attempted to clarify his business dealings), the Deed of License was issued to the independent company Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd - ironically also owned by Cameron "Jack" Sim, & staffed by the same motley crew as Ghost Tours Pty Ltd!

So...in order to address the current political situation at the gaol, let's focus on the happenings of Thursday the 20th of December (2 days ago) - on that day, 2 separate (yet connected) media events occurred, that went a long way in bringing this sorry state of affairs into the public sphere...


On Thursday night, Channel 7 News ran a story (above) entitled, "Fight over Boggo Road Gaol," in which Stephen Gage publicly aired the concerns of the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society regarding the non-transparent installation of a commercial entity within the site.  For the record, Steve Gage is a highly respected long-term ex-Officer of Boggo Road Gaol, authored one of only a few factual books regarding the working history of Boggo Road Gaol (Boggo Road Prison: Riots to Ruin), & is the current Vice-President of the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society...needless to say, he is a powerhouse of information regarding Boggo Road, & is very well placed within the Historical Society.  Steve eagerly attended the 7 News interview in front of the gaol on Thursday morning, & voiced some of the concerns that the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society have (as do many members of the public), regarding the 4 month interim commercial instalment at the gaol...& that's where things went downhill.  So...let's start with the 7 News article...

**Keep in mind that 7 News interviewed Cameron "Jack" Sim first, hence receiving their general information regarding the site directly from him**

We're informed straight away that Boggo Road Gaol "hasn't been open to the public in 8 years" - in actual fact, regardless of multiple public statements by Cameron "Jack" Sim in recent weeks, Boggo Road Gaol closed its doors in December 2005, 7 years almost to the day!

Next, we're told that Cameron "Jack" Sim started taking tours at the gaol almost 15 years ago - in actual fact, Cameron Owen Sim registered his new ghost tour business on the 5th of June 1998 (14 ½ years ago), started running basic walking tours through the CBD of Brisbane around August/September 1998, & finally gained access for tours at Boggo Road Gaol in early 1999 (just under 14 years ago) - amusingly, Mr Sim claims in the introduction to his book The Ghosts of Boggo Road Gaol: Ghosts & Gallows, "In January 1998 I tentatively walked up to the imposing gates of Number Two Division - the only section still standing of Boggo Road Gaol. I rapped on the gate, as visitors to this section of the prison had for over ninety years.  I was greeted by a man with a thick Yorkshire accent who introduced himself as the curator of the Boggo Road Gaol Museum.  [W]e sat down at a table and he asked me did I have my insurance as requested over the phone, 'Yes', I replied, 'would you like to see it?'. 'No', he said, 'we have a gentleman's agreement'. With that he handed me a large ring with a huge set of keys to the front gates of Boggo Road Gaol."  So...apparently, 6 months prior to Cameron Sim registering his new business (& organising his associated public liability insurance), he dropped by Boggo Road Gaol & secured a set of keys from the then proprietor Don Walters under false pretences/fraudulent business practice...or so he'd have us think!

Skipping Steve Gage's response to some of the major concerns regarding the commercial focus now placed on the gaol, we hit the first major issue of the article...whereby we're told by the reporter that "the decision to open the gaol under the private model, was made by then Public Works Minister Bruce Flegg" - after five weeks of fruitless meetings with Department of Housing & Public Works staff, a meeting was finally organised with the prior DHPW Minister, Dr. Bruce Flegg, at close of business on the 13th of November...during this meeting, Dr. Flegg made repeated mention of his enthusiasm for ongoing broad public access at Boggo Road Gaol.  Unfortunately, Dr. Flegg posted his resignation less than 24 hours later, during the day's Parliamentary sitting on the 14th of November...yet we're expected to believe that the outgoing Minister passed a decision to grant Cameron Sim a Deed of License over Boggo Road Gaol, in his final hours??  Sadly, in the three weeks proceeding Bruce Flegg's resignation, the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society made repeated enquiries, as did I, regarding the opening of Boggo Road Gaol, as we'd been told the Government planned to open the site on the 1st of December - when the 1st of December came & went, a further meeting was scheduled for the 5th of December to provide the BRGHS with "an update on how the plans for the gaol were progressing."  During that meeting, the shock announcement was made that a Deed of License had been issued to Sim, & the gaol would be opening in a couple of days...imagine our added surprise when we arrived home to discover on the Courier Mail website that the DHPW Minister, Tim Mander, had officially opened the site that morning - at the very same time our meeting had been taking place with DHPW Officials!

Ironically for Cameron "Jack" Sim, who wishes to claim that Boggo Road Gaol's been closed for 8 long years **FALSE**, that he ran tours at the site 15 years ago **FALSE**, & that Bruce Flegg issued a Deed of License for Boggo Road Gaol in the scant hours prior to his public resignation **FALSE**, there's far more to the story...stay tuned, as tomorrow night we'll expose further details about the current re-opening that will likely stand your hair on end, & help you all better understand why the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society felt they had no other option than to withdraw from the current commercial arrangements, & why the Haunts of Brisbane/Naked Zombie Radio/BRGHS Haunted Cellblock Tours are still pending...