Monday, 23 January 2012

The Murderous Maynes: Patrick did, um didn't, yeah did...ummm...

Overlooking Kangaroo Point (current CBD in background), from Bowen Terrace, in 1851
The Murderous Maynes...the respectful catch phrase coined by "Jack" Sim of Brisbane Ghost Tours infamy, referring to one of Brisbane's founding families in his book The Ghosts of Toowong Cemetery: Brisbane's Necropolis.  The Haunts of Brisbane visited this book & the fiction it contains previously, in the article "O' 13th Avenue, Where Art Thou??."  In honesty, the "Murderous Maynes" catchphrase has always concerned & confused me since its inception 5 years ago, as it seems to infer the entire Mayne family were a legion of murderous gangsters - in actual fact, the family's patriarch Patrick was the only family member suspected of a gruesome murder...a topic that has been hotly debated within professional historian circles for over a decade, after it was alleged Patrick had admitted to a murder on his deathbed in Rosamond Siemon's book, The Mayne Inheritance.  This week, we pay The Ghosts of Toowong Cemetery: Brisbane's Necropolis a revisit with the addition of two equally ridiculous books, Haunted Brisbane: Ghosts of the River City, & Bloody Brisbane: Crime & Murder in the River City, Vol.1Over this week & next, we will endeavour to set straight many of the outlandish claims published about the Maynes by correcting the multitude of historic errors contained in all three books, culminating next week in an examination of what ghostly history actually exists about the Maynes, if any.

For those who are unaware of the story, in September 1849 a recently married Irish immigrant name Patrick Mayne purchased a butchery fronting Queen Street. Having arrived in New South Wales penniless in 1841, he moved north shortly after given the opening of Brisbane Town for free settlement. At the time, Brisbane was no more than a frontier town, ripe for the picking for immigrants willing to apply themselves - by 1846, Patrick had secured employment as a butcher at Kangaroo Point. However, on the night of the 25th of March 1848 (or very early hours of the next morning), it is postulated that Patrick horrifically murdered & dismembered a cedar-cutter named Robert Cox at Kangaroo Point's Bush Inn for the sum of £350. Cox's body was spread across a number of sites on the Kangaroo Point peninsula, police taking hours to locate the grisly pieces - ultimately, the Bush Inn's cook William Fyfe was arrested, tried for the crime amidst his protests of innocence & hanged.  A year later, Cox's missing money was supposedly used to buy Mayne's butcher's business on Queen Street, in turn funding the massive real estate empire that Patrick accrued over the next 15 years.  It is further supposed, that days before his death on the 17th August 1865, Patrick had admitted to the prior murder on his deathbed.

What do we know about the murder??  In The Ghosts of Toowong Cemetery: Brisbane's Necropolis, it is inferred the murder took place "in the early 1840's," when in fact it had taken place on the night of Saturday the 25th of March 1848 - furthermore, "fingers were found in a gutter; legs in a street next to a gutted torso; human entrails were found down a well in a bucket; a severed head, on a rafter in a hotel, positioned to stare macabrely down at those who entered. Haunted Brisbane: Ghosts of the River City states, however, "severed fingers in a gutter; legs on the riverbank; a gutted torso and genitals in the street; entrails down a well on top of a bucket of butter and the victim's severed head found on a rafter in the very same hotel he had been drinking the night before, positioned so when the owner of the pub opened the door the very next day, its cold eyes stared down at him."

Finally, Bloody Brisbane: Crime & Murder in the River City states,"On the evening of Sunday, 26 March 1848, Robert Cox, a timber cutter, was drinking heavily at the Inn in the company of other men."  Once again, "Jack" Sim has the date incorrect - Cox's body was discovered early in the morning on Sunday the 26th of March, making it impossible for him to be drinking later that evening!  The book goes on to state, "Cox's legs were found on the river bank, his torso found lying gutless nearby in a garden, his entrails discovered by a house-wife down a well at the back of the Bush Inn.  They were pulled up in a bucket of butter which had been lowered into the well to keep it cool.  One account (untrue) has the victim's head being discovered by the owner of the Bush Inn the next day sitting up on a beam, its eyes open, looking down at him when he opened the door.  In reality the victim's severed head was discovered by a dog in a building under construction in the grounds of a nearby rendering works."

So, dark historian "Jack" Sim...what would you have us believe??  You have body parts laying all over Kangaroo Point, in different places depending on which of your books we read - & most ironically, in Bloody Brisbane: Crime & Murder in the River City you clearly state that the accounts in your other two books, regarding the severed head placed on a rafter of the Bush Inn, are completely & utterly fictitious!

For the record, at about 7:00am on Sunday the 26th of March, George Cumming & his family were travelling down the river in their boat when they spied the lower part of a human body in the mud on the riverbank...the upper portion of the body, minus the head, could also be seen laying a few metres away, also on the riverbank.  George immediately sought the assistance of Constable Murphy stationed nearby, who in turn sent for Chief Constable Fitzpatrick - the body was removed from the mudflats a few hours later & the grisly search began for the head.  James Coulston, a bystander hoping to help in the search, noticed a dog coming from an unfinished building across the road from the Bush Inn.  On investigation, he finally discovered Cox's severed head just inside the front door between the exposed floor joists.  Meanwhile, quantities of blood had been discovered in the back yard of the Inn, especially around the fence & the well.  After finding the water within to be bloody, a ladder was procured & the contents of the well were examined - from its depths, a portion of intestine (suspected to be human) was recovered, along with a white-handled knife, a towel & three shirts - one shirt was found to be missing a sleeve...this sleeve had already been recovered, still clinging to the headless upper body portion recovered from the riverbank a few hours before.  Gruesomely, two bottles of this bloodied well water were tendered as evidence in the ensuing trial.

Now we've gone over the actual events proceeding Robert Cox's terrible murder all those years ago on the banks of the Brisbane River, I must raise what is easily the most startling statement I have ever read on the event, straight from the pages of Bloody Brisbane: Crime & Murder in the River City - "The crime suggests great anger on behalf of the killer towards his victim, something more likely between people involved in a relationship.  Police at the time suspected that Cox & Fyfe were more than just room mates - a scenario in keeping with the nature of the crime."  Needless to say, insinuating that Robert Cox & William Fyfe were in a homosexual relationship, & that the murder was a result of a lovers' quarrel, would have to be the most ludicrous, offensive & disrespectful attempt at rewriting sensationalist history in Brisbane by "Jack" Sim yet.  For a start, Robert Cox had only arrived in Brisbane on Wednesday the 22nd of March, 3 nights prior to being murdered.  Furthermore, Cox & Fyfe had never been room mates - on the night of the murder, Fyfe had moved bedrooms from the second storey of the Inn to a room off the kitchen - Cox had fallen asleep in this bed after drinking heavily hours before being murdered, but at no stage had shared a room with Fyfe.

So...after having attempted to set straight the historic record regarding the death of Robert Cox at the Bush Inn in 1848, we are now in a position to adequately tackle Patrick Mayne's alleged involvement in the affair & the multiple ghost stories pitched about the family ever next week's instalment, right here on the Haunts of Brisbane!

**POSTSCRIPT** - Jump to Part II of this article.


  1. A few years back Dr Bernadette Turner made a strong case against Mayne being a murderer, although Dr Siemon put up a spirited defence. The whole thing was debated over a number of articles in the RHSQ journal, big stuff at the time. I know ghost tours have flip-flopped over this as the real historians fought it out. First mayne was guilty, then he was innocent, then guilty again. Where do they stand now?

    1. Thanks for lending more material to the debate, Chris - the whole affair surrounding Cox's murder & Mayne's involvement has taken on a life of its own since the publication of Rosamond Siemon's "The Mayne Inheritance" back in 1997...however, whilst any involvement by Patrick in the murder is questionable, so are the many facets of the murder itself as have been published over the past 15 years.

      As the subject of Cox's murder is so complex, & so many misnomers are still blindly regurgitated by wanna-be "historians" to this day, this topic almost requires a 3-part series to even generally attempt to set the record straight. Needless to say, more will be revealed in this week's 'Haunts of Brisbane' article on the murder, given this single event led to the current "Murderous Maynes" moniker - our next post will aid in clarifying what has already been published, I assure you.

  2. Firstly, I want to thank you all for taking the time to try and undo the bad history being told by Ghost Tours. Brisbane has some unique history and it is a shame it can get so warped by a man claiming to be a historian. I can understand that from time to time historians can get it wrong but in this case it takes on three different stories from the same author - well, what can I say??

    I undertook the ghost tour at Toowong Cemetery where the "Murderous Maynes" are a starring feature. They try to make every one believe the grave itself oozes blood - a sign they have been condemned to eternal hell and this is the blood on the Maynes hands. Oh Please - it is rust!! Then the grave exudes a foul odour - this may be because it is not waterproof and it gets rather musty.

    I actually felt saddened for the Maynes - none of them can rest in peace since they have all been labelled murderers.

    I am no historian but I can tell the difference between actual history and a total furphy. Hence, me never going on another Ghost Tour and never buying one of his books.

    I am eagerly awaiting the next episode.

    1. Thanks for the ongoing support & kind words, Matt - whilst undoing bad history is a painstaking process of pulling apart official records & sourcing primary documentation to verify the validity of what has been published in recent times, the pursuit is well worth the effort - Brisbane has an amazing history, & many who live here owe their ancestry to those early days when Brisbane Town was nothing more than a fledgling colony to the north of Sydney.

      The story you were told on the tour through Toowong Cemetery ranks a heavy mention in this week's upcoming article, as does another "ghost story" that has been flogged to death over the past few years in Brisbane's CBD - coupled with another outlandish "Jack" Sim statement that is yet to be revealed to the public, even more unbelievably sensational than the National Geographic "2nd Most Haunted" claim!

  3. having recently been on one of Jack's tours I did find his stories a little hyped up, since having taken my own investigations into the 'facts' it did not take long to see that I underestimated how much hype he puts in, I could say more on that but I am not trying to make this a pick on Jack session.
    what I am writing today is to tell you thank you for presenting what you know about the facts of the murder of Robert Cox, these facts show clearly a time frame and circumstance pattern that defies many 'explanations' I have read on the popular sites..
    I look forward to reading more of your articles as you publish them.

  4. Really enjoying some of your blogs, however after reading just a few I king of get the feeling that all this is about is discrediting Ghost Tours and Jack Sim. Your clearly a talented historian and writer, I find your articles informative and riviting and once I start reading I can't stop. I appreciate your trying to "true up" some shall we say historical inaccuracies but as they say any publicity is good publicity. A lot less Jack Sim "bashing" and a lot more historical retelling would be awesome. I have only just found your blog today but quickly becoming a fan. Keep up the awesome work :-)