Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A new Facebook group called Family History Unplugged went live on 5th November 2014. They are a platform for airing the quirky, interesting, silly and plain weird things that we all find when researching history. They are not an advice forum for genealogical queries  but exist purely for fun, interest and entertainment. I hope to be adding some of my quirky snippets about Thames and surrounds.  See you there -

Rewriting history.

Two of Kenneth Brown's horses listed as Melbourne Cup entries for 1873 - Hindu and Victorian.  There was a third, Asteroid, not listed here. (The Empire, Sydney 18/08/1873)

Hung for the murder of his second wife, Kenneth Brown, explorer and pastoralist of Western Australia, had a previously unknown connection to Thames, NZ which came to light when I was researching my blog 'Against her heart'  (July 2014).

Intriguingly, I was unable to find any mention of the Brown's time in Thames or New Zealand  in Australian newspaper reports or  Australian information sources.  All reports said the Brown's spent that year or so in Melbourne before returning to Champion Bay, ten weeks before Mary's murder.  

It's fascinating how the internet has made the often murky past accessible, particularly the digitising of documents and newspapers where details only guessed at by generations before us are suddenly fleshed out.  Stories that have been lost in time, mis- remembered or deliberately hidden start to take shape under the electronic glow of the internet.

In an eerie coincidence, Aidan Kelly, lawyer of Fremantle, WA , was working on a presentation of Kenneth's life to be given in Champion Bay, WA,  at the same time I was researching my blog story. 

 He had noticed the appearance of the name Kenneth Brown in NZ records but didn't think it could  be the same person.  When he came across my  just-posted blog , which was based on the story of the domestic violence against Mary Ann, the penny-dropped. 

We began swapping notes and the missing parts in the  life of Kenneth Brown came into focus.
Aidan gave his talk in  Champion Bay on 20 August 2014 which was reported in the Geraldton Guardian 27/08/14.  His interest in Kenneth Brown had been sparked  last year when he started researching a documentary on the rare, nearly extinct Australian night parrot.  (Kenneth Brown had  shot the type specimen in 1854.)

Kenneth was also the first Western Australian to enter the Melbourne Cup .  He took his best horses Victorian, Hindu and Asteroid and trainer-jockey Henry Woolhouse. 

There was a lot more to Kenneth Brown than his inglorious end and he became famous for all the wrong reasons and 
I am pleased to have been able to play a small part in the search for Kenneth Brown.

For more on Aidan Kellys' quest  -

Mary Ann Tindall Brown - it was "against her heart" to testify against her husband. 

Kenneth Brown -  an enigma to this day. 

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The flutter of a beloved petticoat.

Sorry for the break in transmission - my husband had a heart attack!  And although extremely frightening, I'm glad it happened now and not 'then'  . . .

The Thames Star of 1911 admonished readers that "you do not respect your hearts as much as you ought to."  Women,  when they had done a hard days shopping then fainted when they got home, were advised "it is your poor old heart that finds itself too weary to pump the blood up into the brains."  Men who trained for rowing or boxing  trained their biceps and calf muscles,but neglected their hearts "and fall out before the race is finished because the heart has not been trained to stand the strain."

Envisioning the heart as an organ with an occupation the Star continued  "perhaps you forget that your heart is really a works all day and all night and even attends to business on holidays and Sunday . . .It never strikes for higher pay: it only demands care and good food."

The stomach had a lot to answer for  - "it receives the food as it is swallowed, is quite close to the heart, and when it is distended with wind the heart is pressed against and its action disturbed; hence the treatment of palpitation is to pay no attention to the heart but to direct the treatment to the digestion.  In these cases look after the stomach, and the heart will take care of itself."

Smoking was recognized as a danger - "cigarettes act as a heart poison, especially the very cheap kind: you must not smoke cigarettes until you are 21, and then you must exercise your own discretion."  Silly boys,  steamed the Star,  "who smoke cigarettes in large numbers because it looks grand ought to be locked up.  Their hearts are certain to suffer."

Sex, of course, was fatal - even the mere thought of it - "anxiety makes the heart beat faster; the flutter of a beloved petticoat sends the pulse rate up and the heart acts feebly in times of depression and misery."

For the sake of our hearts  one must maintain a cheerful and steady temperament, counselled the Star before adding  perhaps the wisest advice -  still relevant today -  "a man who flies in a temper over trifles a dozen times a day throws a heavy strain on the heart; it is a very expensive habit to keep a bad temper."

 Thanks to Thames Hospital and Waikato Hospital Cardiac Care unit.  We are (both) on the mend now!

Pain, smothering, choking, fainting, no pulse - not to worry!  It's probably only a heart attack - have a swig of this!
Disquieting advertisement from less enlightened times (1909)
(Source: Papers Past)

Monday, 6 October 2014

Mantraps. John Fitzgerald, 1906

Coromandel town in 1904 - memories of mines and men.

At 77 John Fitzgerald was still spry enough to gather his firewood from around the Coromandel hills.  By May 1906 the old prospector had lived in the area, where he and his brother Michael were well known for their glory days on the goldfields, for over 30 years. 

But Michael had died two months previously at the age of 83.   He had not enjoyed good health and had been a patient at the hospital for some months. 

John lived by himself and his neighbour, William Anderson, kept an eye on the bereaved man.  On Monday 7 May William was becoming anxious - he had not seen John since Friday.   He headed into the hills where he knew John was in the habit of collecting firewood and soon came across a bundle of wood beside an old mine shaft overgrown with scrub. On looking down the shaft William made out the motionless figure of a man.  He went for help.

 Charles Norman volunteered to be lowered down the shaft and a 60ft rope was obtained.  This proved too short and he had to be hauled to the surface again.
When a longer rope was found, Charles descended the shaft where he found John Fitzgerald in a huddled up position, quite dead.  The body was pulled to the surface and carried to the Golconda Hotel where an inquest was held.   Dr Smith found the neck and spine were broken as well as a large number of ribs and the right leg.  He concluded death must have been instantaneous.

The inquest found John Fitzgerald came to his death by falling down a mine shaft. The jury added a rider that the conduct of Charles Norman in descending the shaft twice on a rope was worthy of commendation. During the inquest a good deal of discussion had taken place as to the action of mine companies in leaving old shafts unprotected.  The Coroner emphasised that the mining law provided for old shafts being either filled in, covered or fenced.

It was an ironic end for the old prospector who fell down an 80 ft dry air shaft on the Hauraki No 2 Gold mining Company's property.

Twenty five years earlier, in 1881, John Fitzgerald had been noted as one of the lucky prospectors of Blackmore's claim, leaving for Auckland to arrange matters in connection with the formation of a company. Gold was showing more freely in Blackmore's reef the more it was worked on.  A very rich leader ran down the centre of the reef which was about 6" wide.  "Every stone taken from it is richer than anything yet got out of the claim," marvelled the Thames Advertiser, "and where left in the floor of the workings the gold is stronger than ever, giving every promise . . . "

The claim, discovered by Harry Blackmore, was known as the Tiki and such was its promise that the Auckland Star wordily reported "most of our old miners who essayed to try their luck at Te Aroha have returned, and so convinced are they of the auriferous character of the newly-discovered Tiki gold-field, that they have gone thither and pegged out claims adjoining the prospectors."   There was a considerable area of ground lying between Blackmore and Fitzgerald's claims.  Good results from the field were expected and "prospects are such that a considerable increase of population may be expected before long."

The Tiki Battery was opened in September 1881 to great fanfare. Several hundred people, including "a fair sprinkling of ladies",   came in spite of the bad roads and other difficulties.  A few minutes before 12, the machinery having been set in motion, the customary bottle of champagne was broken over the flywheel by Miss Blackmore who named it 'The Tiki.'
After viewing the machinery in action, the public dispersed over the mines, lubricated by an abundance of refreshments.   "There was not the slightest hitch.   Everything worked as smoothly as though it had been in operation for years," noted the NZ Herald approvingly.   

That night a grand dinner was held at the Star and Garter Hotel to commemorate the opening of the Tiki battery.  The evening echoed with toasts, speeches and musical honours.   One speaker said when he first came to Coromandel 13 years previously it was a very dull place indeed, but he thought there was a bright future before it now.  Another added he was perfectly astonished at what he saw at the Tiki, and was sure when he got back to Auckland and told people what he saw in the mines and in the district, they would be sure to want to come and see for themselves.  Another said "he was very sorry that so few of the Auckland shareholders had come down . . .  if they had - they would have felt well repaid."  Toasts were drunk to engineering feats carried out in weather so bad the roads were near impassable.   "When the Tiki broke out, although there was no money, they managed to get a road made, and a good many roads had been made since."   Finally the tables were cleared away and celebratory dancing was kept up for some hours. 

But all that glittered was not gold - in February 1884 brother Michael Fitzgerald was in the district court taking action against the Blackmore Gold Mining Company for 37 weeks and three days wages at two pounds eight shillings per week for work and labour done at the defendant's mine at Coromandel, between 21 June 1882 and 25 April 1883.

Michael Fitzgerald said he was working with John Fitzgerald and others in the mine.  John was one of the largest shareholders in the mine and said he could not pay his calls. 
The company was also in debt at the time.  John Fitzgerald undertook to work the mine with the help of other men, including Michael, for three months or until the company's liabilities were paid off; or until the company should pay Fitzgerald or Blackmore.  After a complicated hearing the district judge ruled that in his opinion the company was not liable for wages for the plaintiffs.   Further action against the company by John Fitzgerald was withdrawn.

A year later the brothers established a new Fitzgerald Claim about 3 miles out of Coromandel in the direction of the Tiki.  It lay on one of the spurs from the Tokatea main range; the spur lying between two gullies.  Here the Fitzgerald brothers took up three claims consisting of about 80 acres in all.  They had prospected this ground some years before and got gold on leaders running off the main reef that ran through the ground.  The ground was then floated, but financial difficulties of the Auckland shareholders prevented the supply of the capital necessary to develop the property. The ground was known to be gold bearing and they were encouraged to now thoroughly prospect it. 

Three years later, in 1898, when the brothers were aged 70 and 75, they made headlines again.   The men, now identities on the Coromandel goldfields, had made a new discovery at Tiki.  After diligent and patient labour they discovered a reef hinting at more than average promise.   "These indefatigable brothers, although well advanced in life, have persevered in a manner deserving every success, the difficulties encountered by them being of no mean order," praised the NZ Herald. It reminded readers that some years before "when mining was at a low ebb, they, in conjunction with the late Mr Harry Blackmore, made an important and valuable discovery -  the claim being known as Blackmore and Fitzgerald's - and caused a revival  in our midst."  The brothers were now working at following the lode down and were hopeful that within a week or two they 
would be able to prove it was of sufficient value to stimulate prospecting. 

But by March 1902 the brothers who worked so doggedly had finally laid down their picks. The Council were asked to take steps to get numerous claims now protected and not being worked forfeited and thrown open to bona-fide miners. It was resolved that the circumstances of the Fitzgerald brothers and the forfeiture of their claim be laid before the Minister for Mines when he visited the district. 

Two months after John Fitzgerald's fatal fall the Coromandel News commented many such 'mantraps' were about the Coromandel goldfields and it was a wonder such accidents did not happen more frequently.  It was high time that legislation was enacted making it compulsory for claim owners to make safe every property held under licence by them.  
The Thames Star called the disused shafts "a perpetual danger on mining fields."

In July 1906 a case was brought before the Warden's Court at Coromandel - the outcome of John Fitzgerald's death.   Information was laid by the Mining Inspector against the Hauraki No 2 Gold mining Company.  But the company had gone into liquidation prior to the information being laid and it was doubtful who was liable under the Act.  The inspector withdrew the information after bringing before the public and owners of mines their liability to heavy penalties for allowing disused shafts to remain unfenced or uncovered.  The inspector stressed  the determination of the Mines Department to see that the Act was strictly complied with.  Too late for John Fitzgerald, tireless prospector. 


The surface works of the old Hauraki Gold mining Company in 1904.

The Fitzgerald brothers are buried at Buffalo Cemetery, Coromandel.  They left a sister in Australia and a nephew, Mr Oliver Mason, of Limestone Island, Whangarei. 

Phillip Henry Blackmore, known as Harry, was also a most assiduous prospector who discovered the celebrated claim at Tiki which bore his name, besides many other important finds.  He took a very active interest in public affairs and was a member of the County Council.    Despite his industry and the discovery of the Tiki, he did not profit much by it. He was remembered as a thoroughly upright and straightforward man.   He died in December 1892.

Sources: Papers Past, Te Ara, Heritage Images 19041020-16-4 & 19040915-3-1

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Papers Past Bloopers

And now for something completely different - a little sidetrack into the lighter side of my researching.

The vagaries of the Papers Past digitisation process makes the task more enjoyable when the text is transcribed inaccurately. Here are a few examples which have relieved some grimmer moments during my investigating.

In June 1900 Thames ratepayers would have been indignant to learn of Grants for County Beads. Council workers decked out in jewelry at their expense it was not though - it should have read Grants for County Roads.

In August 1900  education may have sounded under threat if you were Tom, Dick, Harry - or any other name for that matter  - with the announcement of the Coromandel School of Mikes. Fortunately it was the Coromandel School of Mines so no aspiring mining engineer suffered through having the wrong handle.

 Paeroa appeared to be lovesick in October 1900 with the headline Paeroa Dotes, but in reality it was the more mundane Paeroa Notes. 

September of 1905 saw news of The Snaremarket which was an amusingly apt but faulty translation of The Sharemarket .

The meaning of The undalanced drain in October 1915 was anybody's guess. The off-kilter digitization actually referred to The unbalanced drain, still a strange heading in it's original text.

A colourless way to die reported by the Nelson Evening Mail in March 1892  was A supposed case of browning.   Perhaps drowning would have been preferable.

Possible earthquakes in Coromandel were reported in March 1906 with Coromandel Joltings but the upheavals were just a computer misinterpretation of Coromandel Jottings.

The Ohinemuri Gazette  in August 1906 appeared to put a sexy spin on sport, announcing the game of Hotkey,  throwing a curve ball at the far less exciting game of Hockey.

For local  pupils in December 1895 the year's end seemed to be all a bit too much with news from Thames Sigh School.

In October 1912 spendthrift residents dreading bills in the post would have viewed with alarm the Wail Notices,  a mis-transcription of the more benign Mail Notices. 

There was evidently danger at sea with a July 1902 report of Trawling in the gulp.  This hard-to-swallow fishing story actually read Trawling in the Gulf. 

The Manawatu Standard, in August 1902  promised more - but their Further Particulars ornately translated as Farther Particuarly.  

The Evening Post reported the bizarre demise of an unfortunate person who was Bun over by a lorry in March 1935, leaving them not sure to rise again.

Distasteful news was delivered in October 1885 by The NZ Herald and Daily Southern Gross, after the merging of the Herald and the Daily Southern Cross.

And my personal favourite from May 1884 -  Home Eule Foe Ohinemuri and Justice Foe hee peoplet -  a hilarious digital transcription of Home Rule For Ohinemuri and Justice For her people.

Back to the inquest reports and headstones for me - another Dead Cert coming soon!

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert, 2014

Monday, 25 August 2014

"O heaven, what shall we do!" Walter Ritchie, 1881.

Boys, bush and bullets.  A creek near Paeroa. 

For the four lads out on an impromptu shooting expedition on an April afternoon in 1881  the excursion was a high spirited, late summer adventure.  The intended quarry was duck and pigeon of which there were plenty on farmland near Puke, Paeroa.    Earlier that morning, about 10am, Thomas Cashen, jnr, aged 14, and Fred Lipsey, 17, had set out -  Fred carrying his  double barrelled breech loading, pin fire Sniper.  They walked towards the junction and crossed the river near Haora Tareranui's settlement,  passing near Mr Lipsey's farm.

About 12pm they saw Walter Ritchie, aged 13,  on the opposite side of the river.  Walter was also hunting and had a gun with him.   Fred and Thomas re-crossed the river and Walter joined them.  They all walked down to Mr Moore's and there 11 year old Ernest Moore joined the group.  The boys, with youthful exuberance,   crossed the river again and once opposite Mr Snodgrass'  went some distance below his house to a fig tree.  They picked some figs and then their attention was caught by a shag sitting in a willow tree.  Walter aimed his gun and fired at the shag while Fred  discharged both barrels of his gun and then re-loaded.   While Fred was reloading, they saw another shag and Fred called out to Walter "I am going to fire" at the same time raising his gun. Walter was standing about a yard and a half on the left side of Fred when he inexplicably  shifted his position in front of Fred's gun.  The gun went off and shot Walter in the head.

Lewis Snodgrass was on his farm near Puke at 3 pm when he heard shots on the other side of the river.  A short time later he heard another shot, followed immediately by the sound of boys crying out "O heaven, what shall we do!"  Lewis took his boat and went over the river to see what the matter was.  On arriving on the other side he found three boys - Frederick, Ernest and Thomas, who were in great distress. They told him Walter Ritchie was shot.  Ernest pointed in the direction and Lewis Snodgrass found Walter lying on his back.   It was about seven yards from the bank of the river, on open ground.  A distraught Fred  said to Lewis Snodgrass "What shall I do - the gun went off accidentally and I shot him."

At the inquest, held at Paeroa Hotel,  young Thomas Cashen said he thought the reason Walter had stepped in front of the gun was to prevent Fred from firing until Walter was ready to shoot too.  "After the accident,"  said Thomas, "we all ran away screaming." 
Lewis Snodgrass testified  that  he heard no sound of dispute or quarrelling before the shot was fired.  Two of the boys had told him that when Fred was in the act of firing,  Walter ran in front of him and was shot, but the shock and speed of events possibly distorted their recall.

Albert Russell, Sergeant of Police, said that at 3.30 David Snodgrass junior came to the police station and informed him Walter Ritchie was shot and was lying opposite his farm near Puke.   Russell  went immediately to the scene where he asked Thomas Cashen how the boy came to be shot.  Thomas replied Fred had shot him.  He pointed out the spot Fred  had stood in when he fired.  "It appeared to me," said the sergeant, " as if the deceased had come out from behind the bush.  I should think that anyone standing behind the bush could not be seen by Lipsey."  Russell arrested Fred who said "I don't know how it was done; it was accidental." Sergeant Russell believed the boys to all be very good friends.

The jury found that  Walter Ritchie met his death by a gunshot wound and that it was purely accidental and a misadventure.

Walter was the son of Mr John Ritchie, the  respected headmaster of the Paeroa public school. "Deep gloom was cast over the inhabitants of Paeroa, Ohinemuri and the whole adjacent district ," noted the Thames Advertiser when news of Walter's death broke. 
To add to the family's distress  an elder brother of Walter's was lying at Thames in a most critical condition, having recently come out of hospital.  "If sympathy could alleviate this new affliction of the parents, there is an abundant outpouring of it in Paeroa now . . . "

Walter was buried on the outskirts of Paeroa in spite of the law providing  for burial in public cemeteries only.    There was no cemetery in Paeroa then.   Walter's death saw " a strong feeling prevalent in Paeroa which this fatal accident may bring to a climax - that a local cemetery for such a populous district must be provided at once."

Walter was a bugler in the No 3 Company of the Thames Scottish Volunteers.  He was buried with military honours: a tragic victim of those relatively carefree colonial days where young boys entrusted with guns was commonplace. 

There were seven children in the Ritchie family, including Walter.  Two of his brothers, Fred and Jack, are pictured here to the right, leaning on the seat.

(Back Row: Mr Walter Sullivan (Headmaster  at Paeroa School 1885-1901), Miss Minnie Shaw. Teacher at Paeroa for 31 years, Fred and Jack Ritchie. Seated: Fred Shaw, Mr Jim Shaw (uncle of Shaw's and Ritchie's) Mrs Sullivan.Two young ladies not known).


The lack of a cemetery at Paeroa was the subject of a Pigeongram flown to the Thames Advertiser in February 1878 which noted that “the wife of Mr Thomas Shaw (Foreman of the Works in this district) died yesterday...owing to the want of a cemetery here her remains will have to be conveyed to the Thames for sepulchre.” In 1882 Paeroa submitted a request to parliament for the setting aside of a piece of ground for a local cemetery and was finally successful.  Later that year a cemetery committee arranged the fencing, ploughing, harrowing and sowing of a one acre block, ‘Pukerimu’, for a cemetery.  

John Ritchie was the first headmaster of Paeroa school (1875-1884).  
  In 1876 he opened a part time school at Mackaytown, while Mrs Ritchie continued teaching at Paeroa.  When Mr Ritchie left Paeroa he went teaching in Northland.  He returned to Ohinemuri, opening the Karangahake and Owharoa schools.   He died 21 October 1901, aged 70.
Mrs Ritchie died on July 16, 1884,  aged 48, three years after her son Walter.  She was buried at the Paeroa cemetery by then opened.

The area where the boys were shooting  was called 'Te Puke'  in newspaper reports, likely meaning the Puke Road area of  Paeroa, not Te Puke, Bay of Plenty.   
"In 1842 when Joshua Thorp sailed up the Waihou with a view to building the first European house in Ohinemuri he chose the site "Te Puke", a low hill adjacent to the river . . ."   [see  Ohinemuri Journal 8: Thorp Family - Paeroa's First Settlers ) 

(Sources Papers Past, Ohinemuri Journal No's 8, and 19 (Ritchie photo), Sir George Grey Auckland Libraries 534-9514)  

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Hawkeye, 1887.

A goose gizzard gathering gold was dissected  at Puriri and was found to contain  40 small particles swallowed from the river there.  The goose's nest egg prompted  the Advertiser to proclaim  "the opening out of this important tract of country is of the utmost importance to the county."

Also at Puriri vigorous steps were being taken by the police to quell orchard and honey robbing which was rife in the settlement.  There was scarcely a settler who had not suffered from "nightly marauders".  Constable O'Brien, it was ominously reported, would no doubt with his usual tact run to earth the petty thieves.  The metalling and forming of the Puriri- Hikutaia road was making good progress with about 40 workmen and ten teams of horses employed on the job by the contractor, Mr J Rickets.

Boisterous weather, bad roads and hard times were reported form Paeroa. Compounding the gloom was the amount of 'naughty lingo' overheard there.  A 'burst of amusements' was anticipated though - talented musicians were to appear at the public hall and a football match at Mackay Town was scheduled.

Banging gates in the vicinity of Thames Hospital pained patients. The negligence of  some inhabitants in attending to the safe fastening of their gates, particularly during windy nights, earned them a scolding.  The hospital patients had 
 their rest seriously broken by the clanging and banging of unfastened  gates and those  who were the cause of this harassing nocturnal disturbance were advised to take the precaution of safely latching  them - if only for the sake of their own comfort.

'A case of misplaced charity' was observed when a Shortland  fisherman obtained from the Charitable Aid Board an order for food rations and was later seen in a public house  trying his utmost to exchange the order for a long beer.

"Bread stuffs falling" announced the Advertiser, catching the attention of Thames housewives  concerned about the price of bread.   A baker boy in Richmond Street,  driving his pack horse  to his customers, was nearing the  Rev Mr Neil's house when the horse bolted, upsetting the bread and sending several loaves flying.

"Mr F C Dean, Town Clerk, announces that from and after Saturday next, the water supply of the Borough will be cut off except during the hours of 7.30am and 11am.  This course is necessitated through the cleaning out of the dam, and the repairing of the water race."

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Where youth and laughter go. 1914-1918.

With the start of the commemorations of World War One it is perhaps timely to remember that not all casualties were to be found on the battlefields or in the trenches.  Thames and districts were no exception.

In May 1915, against a backdrop of rising anti-German feeling across New Zealand, Herman Mohlman, a naturalised German of Paeroa, ordered his wife and children out of the house.  His wife, who had no financial means, went to stay with friends.  She had recently started proceedings against her husband on account of his ill-treatment of her.
They had married at Rotorua six years previously and had lived at Opotiki for a time, then at Paeroa for about eight months.   Two years earlier Herman had gone to Germany for six months.   His father had died and Herman was to look into his estate.  He had been in New Zealand a little over six years and was naturalised after marriage.  He had been a gardener at Rotorua Sanatorium and afterwards started farming near Rotorua but gave it up to go to Germany.  Since returning from Germany his sympathies were absolutely German and he was very strong in his beliefs.  He began gardening again at Paeroa but was fired due to pronounced pro-German statements.
The day before he ordered his family out he had applied to the Thames police for the cancellation of his naturalisation papers as he wished to become German again.
His wife last saw him on the morning of the 18th when he called out from across the road to say he was going  to the police and wanted to say goodbye to the children.

Herman travelled to Thames and engaged a room at the Royal Hotel.   He told Mr J W Bright, the hotel licensee, that he would be staying overnight and returning to Paeroa the next afternoon.   A subsequent guest went to occupy the room Herman had been in but found it still tenanted.  Bright investigated and to his horror found Herman shot in the temple, on the bed, fully dressed with a revolver nearby.

Bright told the inquest that he had heard no shot fired nor had he noticed anything unusual in Herman's behaviour.   He considered Herman had been perfectly sane.  He drank very little and had missed no meals.
The verdict reached was one of suicide by shooting, there being no evidence of insanity. There is no record of where Herman Mohlman is buried, a task that was probably carried out quietly with no acknowledgement.  It was noted that for the Mohlman's, there had been unhappiness before the war, which had increased since its outbreak.

In June 1915, near Ohingaiti, on a special troop train from Auckland to Trentham, Archibald Young, from Thames, a member of the Auckland reinforcements, was asked for  a match by another trooper.  Instead of producing a match box Archibald pulled out a razor and shockingly slashed at his own throat in a most determined manner.  He was immediately restrained   and a doctor who boarded the train at Hunterville  accompanied the injured man to Palmerston North Hospital.
At the Magistrate's Court hearing the next month  Archibald Young  blamed the send-off in Auckland at which the departing soldiers were supplied with a great deal of liquor, which  had affected him. He made a "remarkable recovery" and his father paid all court costs.  "A soldier's lapse" the newspaper headlines described it,  playing down what was,  for the times, perceived as a shameful disgrace.

The uncertainty of war also affected loved one's  left behind.  In February 1917 at Tirohia, Kahu Taupaki, a 19 year old  European woman, attempted to drown herself in the Waihou River in the vicinity of the Tirohi Maori settlement.  Her husband, a Maori, was away at war and she had been living with his relatives at the settlement.  She felt isolated and alone and  got the idea into her head that she had not been treated properly, and those at the pa were always talking disrespectfully of her. This preyed so much on her mind that she suddenly rushed into the river.  She was up to her shoulders in the water before she was rescued.
Kahu was taken to Paeroa and seen by a doctor.  The stress of the incident affected her psychologically. "Strange to relate Mrs Kahu Taupaki appears to have lost her memory regarding the occurrence.  She could remember nothing whatever about going into the water," said the Ohinemuri Gazette. She was brought up at the Police Court and charged with attempting to commit suicide.  The Bench unsympathetically  gave her a severe reprimanding, some advice and discharged her, remarking it would be wise for her to leave the area.
Kahu was reported to have later taken a job as an assistant at the quarry cook-house at Tirohia with the likelihood of her running it on her own in the near future.  "She is, however, in regular receipt of money from her husband at the war."

Suicide and cowardice were seen as a serious transgression particularly in war time.  There was much to fear - being shot at, gassed, losing friends, losing family, being wounded, being killed.  The continual fear of death drove many over the edge.  Others suffered from trauma and mental breakdown from constant explosions and artillery fire. Men returned  wounded,  suffering with war related mental illness to employment prospects could be grim.   Shell shock was poorly understood and often not recognised.

In  July 1918  the publication of details on the suicide of soldiers came under discussion.
The Rangitikei War Relief Association protested against the undue prominence given in the press to suicides of soldiers and returned soldiers. The association asked the Dominion Advisory Board of the Patriotic Society  to take action so that the newspapers would suppress the words "soldier" and "returned soldier" in future.  The president of the RSA, Mr McCallum, said "starring in headlines of returned soldier suicides was most offensive.  It reflected on the deceased relatives and in soldiers generally."
Mr J Dougall said the request should not stop there - it should be extended to cover soldiers charged in court. The Hon J T Paul remarked that he had heard "very strong comment in the lack of publicity that was given to suicides in the (training) camps for instance."   He agreed that publicity in these matters was sometimes scandalous, but they must not stifle reasonable publicity.  The public, he said, was the great jury.
Mr Larner observed that the government might not be blameless in these suicides.  He believed many of the men to be victims of neurasthenia, who had been discharged before they were fit.  Publicity would be a good thing if it brought the government to a sense of responsibility in regard to these men.  Mr McCallum, replying, said that camp suicides were on a different plane to those of returned men.  Camp suicides  might be from fear.  As for returned men,  it was impossible to say what a man might have been through or how his mind might as a result have been affected.  A resolution was passed condemning undue publicity being given to soldier suicides or offences.*


By Siegfried Sassoon

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

Rameka Taupaki's war grave at Ramparts Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium. His wife, known as Kahu, was Gwenyth  Taupaki,  nee Henry.   They married at an Auckland Registry office in February 1916.    They lived at Grey Street, Waihi at one time.   Two Taupaki brothers went to war.   Rameka Taupaki was a Lance Corporal who embarked February 1916 with the Third Maori contingent.  He was killed in action at Ypres, on 31 December, 1917, aged 27, ten months after Kahu's suicide attempt.  His brother, Te Aotutahanga Taupaki, was a private who embarked in February, 1915, with the First Maori contingent.  He is noted as being single, with his as mother next of kin. In Roll Of Honour In Memoriam notices a year later Rameka is remembered by his brother Te  Aotutahanga, his sister Caroline and his mother.  Rameka's brother's memorial notice to him poignantly says "killed in action somewhere in France." 

'John' Taupaki of Paeroa - Auckland Weekly News 21 March, 1918.  In all likelihood this is Private Rameka Taupaki who was killed three months before.

(Thanks to Althea Barker for additional information on Rameka Taupaki's marriage details.)

*At the same discussion there was also an appeal for the elimination of 'Americanisms' in the press.

Neurasthenia  was originally a description of a mechanical weakness of the actual nerves.  It later came to mean a psychological disorder marked especially by mental exhaustion, lack of motivation feelings of inadequacy and psychosomatic symptoms.


(Sources: Papers Past,  Heritage Images AWNS 19180321-41-34, Auckland Museum Cenotaph database,  NZ War Graves Project, Wikipedia)

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Hawkeye, 1878

Turkish Baths were to be established in Thames.  Mr Sykes, proprietor of Auckland, had been looking for a suitable site and settled on the premises lately occupied by Dr O'Flaherty near Karaka Bridge.  The opening of this Oriental luxury to the public was much anticipated.  

A small vineyard at Block 27 also excited cosmopolitan citizens.  Mr Gough had planted half an acre in about 400 vines, which were heavily laden with fruit.  He expected to make 800 gallons of wine and  already had a good stock - some of it three years old.  "After sampling it we can pronounce it very good," beamed the Star.   A powdery mildew had passed over the vineyard but only affected the vines in a sort of narrow streak, the black grapes being  little touched.  Mr Gough gave the vines a dressing of solution of potash "which answered very well."  Mr Gough had been trying for some time to get permission to bring his homemade wines before the public, but it appeared he needed a license.

The English snail, recently introduced to New Zealand, was becoming a great pest in the garden.  "The mynah is very fond of these molluscs and should be encouraged wherever they abound," gardeners were advised.   A variety of snail slaying measures were recommended including salt, quickllime and sawdust. "They may also be trapped by placing pieces of tile and coarse pottery about the garden, so that the snails can get underneath them."  The snail, which appeared in Thames a few years previously, had by now spread over the whole district and had become a nuisance.

A man standing in Pollen Street, near Sealey Street, was reading in impressive tones from a book.  At first his audience consisted of a small boy and large dog.  The dog appeared to belong to the eccentric reader as he was most attentive.  Very soon the peculiar spectacle attracted a larger audience as the man appeared to have some 'derangement.'  He was later arrested - the intellectual being an inebriate. 

Heavy rain at Thames flooded yards and houses on the western side of Owen Street, between Burke and Coromandel Streets, some of the residences having as much as a foot of water on the floor.   Mr Green, hatter, noticed the rising water in time to remove a large number of valuable hats from the floor to a higher and dryer place.  His shop and kitchen were under three inches of water.  Mr Renshaw's shop was flooded and considerable damage done to the floor; the high water mark reached about nine inches.    The footpath was covered in sand and mud, and a flotilla of fences and timber were seen sailing down to the sea.

"An enormous eel, weighing 17lbs, which was caught in the Kauaeranga, was cooked by Mr O D Grant yesterday for some natives.  They bought a large tin milk dish to bake it in, and his eelship completely filled it."

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014

Friday, 18 July 2014

Fine, promising girls. Leonie and Viva Gillespie, 1891.

The Kauaeranga River - delightful, deceptive. 

In the late summer heat of 1891 the shaded banks and cool waters of the Kauaeranga River were irresistible to young girls trussed up in long skirts, boots, stockings, buttons and hats.

A small picnic party had left Parawai, Thames, about 11.15am on 31 March comprising  the two Perry girls and their aunt, Miss Carpenter, and the Gillespie girls - Leonie, aged 13 and Viva, 15.  They were cheerfully accompanied by Miss Carpenter's retriever dog. 

Leonie and Viva were from a large family overshadowed by their mother's death nine years before.  Sarah Theresa Gillespie had died after a lingering illness following  a severe cold caught after the birth of her tenth child, Ella Rose Mary.  The Gillespie's were well regarded - Henry Cameron Gillespie was the manager of the Kauri Timber Company (Shortland Sawmill).  Following  his wife's death, the vessels in port hoisted their flags to half mast and most of the tradesmen at Grahamstown and Shortland showed respect by putting up their shutters.  Two months after Sarah's demise, her ninth child,  Elizabeth Amy Irene,  died aged  17 months.    The Gillespie's had previously lost a 13 month  old daughter, Emma Lillie Marion,  in 1869.   Henry Gillespie  remarried in 1884;  Maria Cleave bravely taking on his  large brood.  

   Once up the Kauaeranga Valley the girls selected a spot under some trees near the river bank, below Mr Smith's orchard, opposite the Orphanage.

Just after 3pm they decided to bathe in the river, which was very shallow in places.
Viva went well out into the river, while Leonie and the Perry sisters just took off their boots and stockings and waded about.  Miss Carpenter was sitting on the bank reading a book.

After Viva had been in the water for some time, she said she would play at being drowned to see if Miss Carpenter's retriever dog would bring her out of the river.  She walked backwards and gradually got into deeper water, until she appeared somewhat exhausted.   Her sister Leonie, with her boots and stockings off, but otherwise fully dressed, waded in to her assistance.  When she reached her struggling sister she also got into difficulties when Viva caught her in her arms and clung to her.

Miss Carpenter rushed into the water fully dressed and the dog followed his mistress.
Miss Carpenter became exhausted and seeing it was impossible to do anything for the girls, she threw her arms around the dog's neck and he swam with her back to the bank where she was pulled to safety by the Misses Perry. Miss Carpenter was by then in a fainting condition.

The screams of the Perry sisters were heard by Stanley Smith and John Wallace who  were cutting ti-tree close to the river.  At first they thought they came from the Orphanage.  They ran down to the bank of the river where a frantic  Miss Carpenter said there were two girls in the water and pointed to the spot where they had sunk.

Dr Callan, who was returning from the Orphanage, also heard some cries and followed them  across the paddock and down to the river.  

Stanley Smith dived in but could not reach the girls. John Wallace, though, found them lying side by side, face downwards,  and succeeded in bringing them to the surface, but it was too late.   The bodies were laid on the bank.  Dr Callan arrived and tried to restore life, to no avail. 

Thames was greatly affected by the tragedy.   "The terrible mishap has cast a gloom over the town and much sympathy is felt for the parents in the loss of their two daughters whom were fine, promising girls and great favourites among their acquaintances," said the New Zealand Herald. 

Once again public sympathy for the Gillespie's was shown with flags flying at half mast from the vessels in port and from several public buildings. 

The Thames Star melodramatically reported  "both sisters, clasped in each other's arms, had sunk for the last time, and passed into eternity." 

Rather poignantly, the inquest was held in the Parawai schoolroom.  Miss Carpenter was suffering very much from shock and was not called to give evidence. The fatality was established to have occurred between the Orphanage bridge and the willows.  There was 30ft of water in the river in some places. Neither sister could swim.

Mary Perry told the Coroner  "It was a dangerous spot in the river and so deep as to form an eddy.  In one place the water was very shallow, but suddenly became very deep.  There was no notice posted up warning person's against bathing there."

John Wallace said  there was 10 or 12 feet of water where the girls drowned.  At that place it broke off very suddenly from shallow to deep water.  It was very dangerous to anyone walking along.  Dr Callan also told the coroner the spot where the fatality occurred was very treacherous.

The jury reached a verdict of accidentally drowned.  A rider was added that "the Thames County Council be requested to put up notices at the Orphanage bridge, the bluff, and at the willows, that these three places in the river are dangerous to bathers."

The Coroner praised Miss Carpenter.  Her  "conduct in endeavouring to rescue the deceased had been truly heroic, and for her bravery she must merit the admiration of everyone."

The committee of Parawai School sent out a request that the children of the school attend the funeral of their late companions.

The funeral was very largely attended by all classes of the community.  It was described as "perhaps one of the saddest that has ever taken place on the Thames."

Two hearses were employed and the coffins of the two sisters were carried by the employees of the Kauri Timber Company.  The cortege was preceded by the pupils of Parawai School and most of them carried small bouquets of white flowers in their hands. On each side of the hearses walked six young girls, numbering 24 altogether, carrying beautiful floral wreaths on their arms.
A short service and very touching and impressive address was given by Rev. Dr. O'Callaghan at St George's church.   After the service the procession made for the Shortland cemetery where the burial took place.
"Thus were laid to rest the two victims of the most pathetic tragedy that has occurred in this community," the Thames Advertiser lamented. 

Newspapers across the country picked up the story, but the lack of detail irked the Evening Post which growled "the circumstances of the bathing accident at the Thames, by which the two daughters of Mr H C Gillespie met their death, were sensational enough to give us ground for complaint that the local agents of the Press Association neglected to send even the bare facts."

And a few weeks after the tragedy 'Nemo' wrote to the editor of the Thames Advertiser that, although neither a Thames householder or ratepayer,  he took a lively interest in the place.  He had recently felt compelled to  visit Shortland cemetery after the interment of "those two dear girls who were drowned in the Kauaeranga River."  He was "surprised and pained to see the abominable state of the road leading to the cemetery: not an inch of footway in the whole length of the road, and for the most part the carriage way is composed of loose road metal that may do very well for the hearse, but it is purgatory for pedestrians . . . I do not blame the Borough or County Council . . .  surely the general public would be willing to subscribe a few pounds . . .  for a few loads of shell, sand or small gravel . . . the present state of things is disgraceful."

The Gillespie family grave at Shortland cemetery - here lie Henry Gillespie, his first wife Sarah and their daughter's Elizabeth, Leonie and Viva.  Also buried here is an unknown baby  who died two months after Henry.   Perhaps it is a grandchild.  No mention is made of 13 month old  old Emma Lillie Marion being buried here.

Henry Cameron Gillespie 

The sister's names were Isabel Viva Gillespie and  SarahTheresa Leonie Gillespie but they seemed to prefer being known by their more cosmopolitan' middle names.

Henry Cameron Gillespie was known as 'one of the landmarks of town.' The day he died in 1902 there were set of coincidences which are covered in the chapter "It may be my turn next" in the Dead Cert book currently being worked on.

(Thanks to Pauline Stammers)

Source: Papers Past, Cyclopaedia of NZ 1902, Sir George Grey Special Collections AWNS 1909 211-4-02.

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Against her heart. Mary Anne Brown and Kenneth Brown, 1876.

Thames, 1870s - a far cry from Melbourne, Australia. 
(Sir George Grey Special Collections AWNS 19170802-p035-2)

The new licensee of the Courthouse Hotel in Grahamstown, Thames, was a tall, fine looking Western Australian.  

Kenneth Brown had arrived in Thames in 1874 with his wife, Mary-Ann,  and baby daughter, Amy, who had been born in Auckland.  In August, the licence of the Courthouse Hotel was transferred to him from Samuel Young. 

Thames in the 1870s was still a busy gold mining town with around 100 hotels operating which offered a lucrative opportunity to the would-be publican.

 A few weeks after taking over the Courthouse, Kenneth Brown was charged with allowing his house chimney to catch fire.   Property owners were responsible for keeping their chimneys swept.  If not, and the soot caught alight, they were in breach of the law and fined.  His defence was he was only recently in the house.  He was fined 10s and costs.  

But Kenneth Brown was beginning to attract notice for more than neglected household maintenance.  He drank heavily and when drunk, frequently quarrelled with his wife. Mary-Ann was considered an intelligent and inoffensive young lady and while in Thames gave birth to a second daughter, Florence Jessie Rose.  Kenneth Brown was thought at one time to have been an independent man, but gave way to drink and gambling and was reduced to an allowance which he derived from a station in Australia.  

One Friday night, in January 1875, Kenneth Brown was on board the steamship Manaia travelling from Auckland to Thames when a disturbance took place between himself and Mr John Leydon over the possession of a bunk.  Words passed into blows in which Kenneth Brown sustained damage to his face. This did not end the quarrel.  The next morning at Thames, Kenneth Brown went to Mr Leydon's residence  in Pollen Street where he assaulted him. Kenneth Brown was also later charged with assaulting  Leydon's wife, Bridget, on the same date.  The case, lacking evidence, was struck out.

One month later, in February, the  volatile publican of the Courthouse Hotel  applied for the transfer of its license to Sylvester B Percy (or Piercey).  The application was granted, noting "there was no furniture in the house."

Life for Mary-Ann was miserable.  Her husband was drinking heavily and on March 31, after being away all day, Kenneth arrived home very violent.  He came after her with gun  and threatened to kill her.  He was charged with  unlawfully threatening to shoot Mary-Ann Brown. It went against her heart to testify against him, she said, but she was afraid for her life.  Kenneth Brown denied the charge.  He was bound over to keep the peace for three months.

The Brown's hopeless year or so in New Zealand ended in August when a  public auction of the furniture and effects of Kenneth Brown, who was leaving the colony, was held at their residence between Sealey and Richmond Streets, Shortland.   Under the hammer went a  double iron bedstead, Colonial sofas, mattresses, blankets, washstands and ware, tables, carpets, toilet glasses, chairs, a meat safe, crockery, cutlery, and kitchen utensils. Terms were cash.  

By October 1875 they were back in Western Australia, in the town of Geraldton,  Champion Bay.  Kenneth and Mary-Ann were known for constantly and openly quarrelling as well as having  physical altercations. Finances were tight and Kenneth suspected his wife of being unfaithful. By the New Year they were leaving  the house they were in. 

On the morning of Monday January 3, 1876, Mary-Ann and Kenneth began quarrelling over a pair of boots in front of their servant, Bridget Mountain.  Also present was a Mr Simpson who was employed in removing the Brown's furniture to another house. 
Mary-Ann threw the boots out and Kenneth retrieved them.    He picked up a gunpowder container  and threatened to blow the roof off the house.  The gunpowder  was taken off him by Simpson who had observed Kenneth walking up  and down the house passage talking to himself and appearing to be intoxicated. 

At 3pm another quarrel took place between the Brown's in Simpson's presence.  Mary-Ann told Simpson to take no notice as Kenneth was under the influence of drink. Kenneth picked up his double barrelled gun and told his wife to leave the room or he would give her the contents of the gun. Simpson took the gun off Kenneth and locked it away in a servant's room and gave the key to Mary-Ann.   Simpson then left with a load of furniture.

About 4pm another quarrel erupted between the pair in the kitchen, in front of Bridget Mountain.  It was heard by Alicia Kelly who was on her way to take the Brown's children for a walk. 

The quarrel spilled into another part of the house,  leaving Bridget in the kitchen.  
A few minutes later Mary-Ann came running towards the kitchen calling "Bridget, the gun!"
Bridget, looking out, saw Mary-Ann close to her, and Kenneth standing in the doorway with the gun levelled at his wife.
He fired, hitting Mary-Ann's right arm and side. Mary-Ann cried "Oh Bridget I am dying."  She got into the kitchen and Bridget shut the door, wrapping her arms around Mary-Ann's waist - but the terrified Mary-Ann immediately left the kitchen again,  seeking escape from the house .  Bridget again shut the door and heard the gun fire. She then went out and saw Mary-Ann lying by the door, shot in the head.
Constable James Haydon,  who was close by, heard the two gunshots and found Mary Brown lying on the doorstep of the house. Mary-Ann was said to be pregnant - "near her confinement" in one account.

The Fremantle Herald reported "Fearful Tragedy at Champion Bay" - "Mr Kenneth Brown, the head of  one of the most important families in the country, has shot his wife . . ."

At  trial Kenneth Brown refused to provide an explanation.  His family mounted a defence of diminished responsibility.  His devastated  mother was brought into court by the defence for the purpose of proving  the probability of hereditary insanity.  Kenneth's grandmother had threatened a friend with an axe and had been in an asylum for many years. There were two hung juries before Kenneth Brown was found guilty of wilful murder and sentenced to death by hanging. 

He was executed at Perth Gaol on 10 June 1876, aged 39.  His body was delivered to his family for private burial.

Cablegrams were received in Thames advising that the former proprietor of the Courthouse Hotel had been hung for the murder of his wife. 

Six weeks after he was executed,  in Thames, wild weather blew in the front door of the Courthouse Hotel.

The broken man who left Thames was once  a noted  explorer and pastoralist.   Kenneth Brown was born in England in 1837.  The family emigrated to Western Australia, arriving in March 1841, when he was four.  The family took up land in the Champion Bay area (424 ks north of Perth) and established Glengarry, a sheep station, in 1850.  Kenneth Brown managed  Glengarry when the rest of the family moved to Fremantle.  During the 1850s Kenneth Brown spent most of his time at Glengarry station, often being the only family member there.

Between 1852 and 1863, while in his teens and early twenties,  Kenneth Brown went on a number of exploring expeditions.  He explored the country behind Glengarry with Major Logue
and was part of Robert Austin's expedition of 1854 . He explored up the Murchison River with others and helped mount an expedition  to Glenelg River.  

In 1859, aged 22, he married his first wife  Mary Eliza Dircksey Wittenoom.  The couple had five children - Blanche, Edith, Kenneth, Clarence and Ernest.

By 1860, Kenneth Brown was manager of the Glengarry horse breaking establishment.  Horses were sent to India and Glengarry became the main supplier to the India trade.  Glengarry went on to be one of the most successful  racehorse breeding establishments in  the colony. 
Kenneth and his brothers would  employ 100 convicts there  between 1862 - 1876. 

In June 1863 Kenneth's father died while he was away with an exploring party on the Glenelg River.  Kenneth, along with his brothers, Aubrey and Maitland,  then formed a partnership under which they managed Glengarry.

In 1868 tragedy struck when Mary died during childbirth.  By then the Champion Bay area had, over the years, been decimated by drought, wheat rust and sheep scab.  By 1871, heavily mortgaged, Glengarry was running at a loss. 

In 1872 Kenneth withdrew from the partnership, left Glengarry and moved to Melbourne to follow his interest in horse racing. He was the first Western Australian to enter the Melbourne Cup with the horse Victorian in 1873.

But the once flourishing settler began to lose considerable sums of money and started drinking heavily.   His behaviour was erratic, once crunching a wineglass between his teeth, and he was given to outbursts of temper.  He was now  notable  for his fighting, boasting and gambling.   His descent into alcoholism and despair was said to be the result of his  wife's death. 

In 1873, at  Victoria,  he met and married Mary Anne Tindall, an English girl aged 24.

After her murder, the Melbourne Leader suggested that Kenneth Brown's behaviour was so offensive to  those of his standing that he began associating with those beneath him.  "He  seems to have been attracted by a woman in a lower station then that to which he was nominally entitled and to have married her," it tut-tutted. 

The Melbourne Leader also titillated its readers with a melodramatic reconstruction of events -  Kenneth Brown ". . . finding his marriage a burden . . .  followed the instincts of a nature at once cruel, brutal and selfish and sought relief by destroying that which irritated him....all this time as seen to be cool, self possessed and able to transact business. although absent and moody. . . 
he allows the fatal weapon to be taken away from him, smiling at the uselessness of removing it . . . she flies shrieking from his presence and when he sees the shot is not fatal, follows her . . . she crouches before him in terror . . . all this occurs in open daylight in the middle of a town . . . "

When he was not drinking, Kenneth Brown was a shrewd, hard headed, practical man.
At the time of his trial he had considerable pastoral holdings including Tah Mah Lee (Tamala) station.  He had also been involved in the Camden Harbour venture - an ill-fated attempt to establish a new town north of Port Hedland.  Lacking practical experience,  it was a disaster for many who died due to swamp conditions and lack of water.

What brought Kenneth Brown to Thames? 
 Probably it was an attempt to start a new life in New Zealand in the vain hope of escaping his troubles. 

Years later, after the execution of her father,  Rose Burges, the eldest daughter of Kenneth and his second wife  Mary-Ann, claimed that while travelling in America she had met him  in a hotel.  
A story still  persists that Kenneth's brother,  Maitland, a politician,  had arranged Kenneth's escape to the United States and he wasn't executed at all. 

Intriguingly, I was unable to find any mention of the Brown's time in Thames or New Zealand  in Australian newspaper reports or  Australian information sources.  All reports say the Brown's spent that year or so in Melbourne before returning to Champion Bay, ten weeks before Mary-Ann's murder.  

Kenneth Brown's second child by his first marriage was Edith Cowan - a suffragist and activist for disadvantaged children.  When her mother died in childbirth,  her father sent Edith to a Perth Boarding school run by the Cowan sisters.  Edith later married James, their brother.  Among many other achievements in her life, Edith was awarded the order of the British Empire and her portrait appears on the back of  Australia's $50 note.  Edith was 15 at the time of her father's execution and family sources note that the effect of Kenneth Brown's hanging  and the ensuing publicity and gossip was crippling and "extended into later generations."

Kenneth Brown's younger brother, Maitland,  became a politician, mainly remembered as the leader of the Le Grange expedition massacre  which searched for and recovered the bodies of three white settlers murdered by Aboriginals.  A large number of Aboriginals were then killed by expedition members - an incident that remains controversial. Maitland was significant in the Brown family's attempt to mount a defence of undiminished responsibility to save his brother from execution.

 Presumably, after their respective mother's deaths,  the other children were sent to boarding establishments or taken in by family.

Edith Cowan's  image on the Australian $50 note.

Sources Papers Past, Wikipedia, Murderpedia.

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014