Canberra Camps, Settlements & Early Housing


 Creative Commons License
Canberra Camps, Settlements & Early Housing-Deaths by Ann Gugler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at


Many of the men who lived in the camps were men who served in the trenches in World War One.  Many could not settle following the war and left home to wander through Australian. Many came to Canberra and some died without leaving information about families.  The sale of alcohol in the ACT was banned from 1913 until 1928.  The Hotels at Queanbeyan did well out of this ban and many men spent time and money on alcohol which at times contributed to the cause of death.  One of the most dangerous sections of road was theUriarra Road between Canberra and Queanbeyan.  Mill Creek is on the Canberra side of Fyshwick and Black Creek is roughly opposite Harman Naval Base closer to Queanbeyan.  Today this road is Canberra Avenue.

Trial of Charles Augustus Gale

1914 Death at Power House

Keith Ryan aged 5

Staples infant first death Molonglo Settlement

John Convine Molonglo Mess

Vernonica Convine

John Anthony Rose

Heazlett, Mugga Lane Camp

Charles Jackson No 1 Camp

Thomas Tracey White City Camp

James Baum worked for Mason of Queanbeyan

1926 Aeroplane Crash Ainslie

1926 Francis Okely of 45 Westlake

Deaths Northbourne Camp

Death No 1 - brothers meet

William Melville drowned Queanbeyan River

Death of Miley No 1 Camp December 1926

John Griffin

Mill Creek Death August 1927

Mill Creek Death November 1927

Uriarra Road Accidents 1926 1927

Simpson death on building site

Trial of Charles Augustus Gale for murder of his wife, Susan

The Sydney Morning Herald 13 October 1903: QUEANBEYAN TRAGEDY – ACCUSED SENTENCED TO DEATH.

GOULBURN, Monday. The Circuit Court was opened to-day before his Honor Mr Justice Pring. Mr WA Parker was the Crown Prosecutor.


Charles Augustus Gale pleaded not guilty to a charge of murdering his wife, Susan Gale, at Queanbeyan on August 23, and was defended by Mr AM Betts.


John Jordan, brother-in-law of deceased said that on August 23 he heard the children screaming and also the report of a gun. He ran across the street to Gale’s house and saw Mrs Gale lying on the floor in the front room. Accused was standing in the opposite doorway leading to the kitchen. He had a double barreled gun in his hand, with the muzzle pointing towards his heart.  The stock was on the ground, and he was in the act of pulling the trigger.  Witness took the gun from him. Witness’s wife recovered the deceased’s baby from underneath the deceased.  Accused said he would go for the police, but witness held him till constable arrived.


To Mr Betts: Accused and his wife lived happily together. Accused always appeared very fond of his wife.


Mary Jordan, sister of the deceased, after answering some questions, completely broke down.  At his Honor’s suggestion the Crown Prosecutor refrained from further examination as it had been admitted by Mr Betts that deceased died from a gunshot wound inflicted by a shot fired by the accused.


John James Oldfield who lived in a house adjoining that of the accused deposed he heard an altercation between accused and his wife. Both called one another liars. He heard accused say he would murder his children. Mrs Gale replied he would not. Accused replied, ‘Then you will get it.’  Witness then heard a shot fired followed by a fall. Witness went to the accused house. He heard accused say, ‘I have murdered my wife.’ Then he said, ‘I did not do it.’ Accused appeared to be stupid from drink.


To Mr Betts: Accused flew into a passion after the word liar was used.


Olive Gale aged …[8 or 9] daughter of accused was placed in the witness box and was accompanied by her aunt, Mrs Fallick.  The child was so affected that his Honor delayed proceedings for sometime. She deposed that on Sunday afternoon when coming home from Sunday School she saw her father in the yard of Byrne’s Hotel.  He was drunk. When he came home later he lay down for a time. She heard her mother and father speaking angrily. She saw her father pick up the gun and load it with cartridges. She ran to her aunt’s.


To Mr Betts: Witness was very fond of her father. He was always kind to her sister and mother. She never knew him to strike her mother even when drunk.


Doris Gale, aged 7, daughter of the accused deposed she heard her father say he would shoot her mother.


Dr Blackall of Queanbeyan, gave medical evidence.



To Mr Betts: The man who had had sunstroke would probably be more affected by drink than a man not so affected. Concussion of the brain would possibly cause the drink to have a greater effect than it would otherwise have.


Constable McMullen deposed that on arrival at the accused house on August 23 he saw accused lying on the ground outside sobbing. When the sergeant asked Gale if it were true he had shot his wife, Gale made no reply, but again lay down and began to sob. Subsequently accused told witness he had no recollection of what occurred after he had lain down in his house, and that he could not say whether his wife was in the house.


Sergeant Willis deposed accused was slightly under the influence of drink when he was arrested by he could walk all right.


To Mr Betts: He did not charge accused at the house because he appeared to be stupid.


To the Crown Prosecutor: A quarter of an hour later he seemed to understand the charge quite well.


Accused deposed that he was a printer and journalist. He had been eight or nine weeks in Queanbeyan before the death of his wife. He was previously living at Hillston. On the Saturday previous to August 23 he was out shooting in the afternoon. He left the house at 7 that evening and did not return till midnight. He was then the worse for drink. He went out about 10 the next morning, and was twice at the Royal Hotel, and had drink there.  He had no recollection of going home nor what happened after he got home. The first thing he remembered was talking to a policeman going along the street. He had always lived on the best of terms with his wife. On one occasion three years ago his wife told him that he had tried to shoot himself while drunk.  He had no knowledge of that occurrence except what his wife told him. For about 16 years he had suffered from concussion of the brain, the result of an accident. In January last he had sunstroke whilst walking from the station to Hillston. He was unconscious for three hours from the effects.


To the Crown Prosecutor: He was two months incapacitated after receiving concussion of the brain, which was caused by falling from a horse.  He was employed for 13 years in editorial work after the fall.


To Mr Betts: He had tried to overcome the drinking habit at Hillston and it was that object he went to a station there.


John Gale, father of the accused, and a retired journalist, said that on his son’s return from Hillston witness noticed for the first time he was addicted to drink. Before he went there he was a bright and intelligent and on his return dull, stupid and quite unfit for his work.


A document was here read, being on a demand on the accused from the Crown for the payment of £39 16s 2d arrears due on the station for which the accused had become surety, and threatening proceedings.


Mrs Fallick, sister of the accused, deposed that on August 14 she received a letter from Mrs Gale stating she could not understand her husband who was moody, and snapped at her when she spoke to him.


To the Crown Prosecutor: witness found he was worried about a notice from the Crown to say nothing about the letter, as her husband seemed himself again.


William John Alexander and John Callinan deposed that accused was quite drunk on the afternoon of August 23.


Mr Betts said the answer of accused to the charge was that the unfortunate occurrence was the result of Mrs Gale to take the gun from him. He contended accused was suffering so much from the drink, the effects of which were intensified by concussion of the brain and sunstroke, that he was temporarily insane, and he asked the jury to return a verdict of manslaughter.


The Crown Prosecutor held that accused through his recklessness had rendered himself to be convicted of murder. 


His Honor when summing up, pointed out that before the jury could accept the plea temporary insanity they must be convinced that accused was in such a state that he could not distinguish between right and wrong.  He commented strongly on the shameful breach of the Sunday closing law which had been disclosed.


The jury returned a verdict of guilty with a strong recommendation for mercy. Sentence of death was passed.  Accused during the trial sat in the dock in a dazed condition, occasionally sobbing. He was much affected when his daughters gave evidence.


Another article in a later paper noted that the death sentence was converted to 20 years.



Lyall Gillespies Cards add the following information:



Charles Augustus Gale, bachelor, printer of Hillston married Susan Hazlewood, spinster of Queanbeyan at Elm Grove, Queanbeyan on 1.4.1890. Henry Hazlewood (father) gave consent and the witnesses were Mary Hazelwood and John Gale. Rev RA Steel officiated. Reconstructed Register of Marriages St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church Queanbeyan


Daughter, Luchleen May born to Charles Augustus Gale and Susan Hazlewood at Hillson on 26.6.1903 and baptised at Queanbeyan on 3.8.1903 by Rev Wm Michael Smith. Register of Baptisms St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church Queanbeyan


A terrible tragedy took place 6.15 pm Sunday night at a house in Crawford St near the Bank of NSW and occupied by Charles A Gale, 36, his wife Susan 31 and children, Olive, Doris, Jack and Laochleen May aged 8,7 and 5 years and 2 months respectively. Charles Gale had lately come Hillston having been engaged as editor of the Observer and was joined by his wife three weeks ago. He was addicted to drinking bouts and in one of these he shot his wife. Queanbeyan Observer 25.8.1903


At Goulburn Circuit Court Charles A Gale was found guilty of the murder of his wife and sentenced to death. Queanbeyan Observer 16.10.1903


Died at Tara Vale Station NQ after a brief illness aged 47 years Charles Augustus third son of John and Lorna Gale of ‘The Retreat’ Queanbeyan. Queanbeyan Age 30.11.1915



1914 Death at Power House

The Queanbeyan Age 4 December 1914: SUDDEN DEATH – CORONER’S INQUEST

On Tuesday last the Coroner was informed of the sudden death of a man named Harry McEwan, a plasterer working at the Power House Canberra. The Senior Sergeant at once sent Mounted Constable brown out to take charge of the body and procure what evidence would be necessary for the investigation of the case. The Coroner fixed 3pm on the same day for the inquest and accompanied by the Government Medical Officer and Senior Sergeant proceeded to the Power House. Viewing the body which appeared to be that of an elderly man of powerful physique and bore no signs of external injury the Coroner directed Dr Richardson to pursue a post-mortem examination of the body and directly thereupon opened his court and took evidence material to the case.  The testimony tendered was very voluminous and from the following history of the affair is compiled.

Deceased was a leading plasterer working at the Power House since 16th September last. Two other plasterers were working with him on Tuesday morning; they were RP Jones, and WJ Hatchett. Mr G Franklyn, clerk of the works at the Power House shortly after the day’s work had begun, asked the deceased to come down from the scaffolding where he was at work to look at some sand brought there for plastering and which lay about 27 yards distance; from the inspection of the sand deceased at Mr Franklyn’s request went down to the river, about a quarter of a mile away to inspect some gravel which lay there. About half past nine o’clock deceased got up on the scaffolding to resume work. Jones, one of his co workmen was working about 9 feet and Hatchett, the other, about 3 feet distant from where decease’s work lay – all on the same scaffolding which was about 5 feet from the ground.  Both of them saw deceased in the act of falling. Jones called to Hatchett to catch him, and Hatchett from being the nearer succeeded in getting hold of the falling man when he was within a foot of the flooring of the scaffold, and thus eased his fall.  They laid him down, believing he was in a fit of some kind, and tried in vain to revive him. The only sign of life he gave was a faint moan, and within a few seconds it was plain to them that McEwan was dead. They called to Mr Franklyn who had only just gone to the back of the building, the scaffolding where the three men were working being at the front and when he came round to the front he saw Hatchett and Jones attending to the deceased as he lay on the floor of the scaffolding. Believing McEwen was in a fit, he directed them to raise him to a sitting posture and at once telephoned for Dr Thompson, who was soon on the spot.  Dr Thompson at once pronounced McEwant dead and by the doctor’s directions he had the body removed to the watchman’s room.  It was there that the body was inspected by the Coroner and post mortem operation was performed.

In the course of his evidence the witness Jones stated that he had known the deceased for the past 25 years and had met him in Melbourne, Perth, and Natal and the Transvaal in South Africa, also in several parts of new South Wales.  Deceased by a plasterer by trade and went by the name of Harry McEwan. He had told witness that he was a single man and that he was born in Melbourne.  Witness had been working with the deceased at the Power House for about five weeks, and during almost the whole of that time deceased had been constantly complaining of pains in his chest, which he attributed to indigestion.  Some short time ago (he told witness) he had consulted a doctor in Sydney about the pins, but he did not say what the doctor said they arose from. Deceased was a man of temperate habits.  He had told witness he had some considerable means; but never told him anything about his friends or relatives, or whether his life was insured or not.

To Hatchett: On his return from the river that morning he made the remark that the walk had knocked him out, by which the witness understood him to mean that he was exhausted. Deceased had just commenced to wet the wall he was at work on with his brush when he fell back, as already described.  This witness knew no relative of the dead man, but he knew an intimate friend of his a man named McKean, residing on the Hawkesbury River. Witness also bore testimony to the fact that deceased had recently been frequently complaining of what he called indigestion.

Mr Franklyn said he knew nothing of deceased’s antecedents. He had, however told him that he had a brother-in-law named Barry, an architect residing Kangaroo Road Oakley near Melbourne. He had wired to that gentleman announcing deceased’s sudden death; and while giving evidence a reply had come signed William Barry stating that he would be at the Power House next (Wednesday) morning.  Witness had no knowledge as to whether the deceased left a will.

To obtain further information if possible, the Coroner adjourned the court for an hour to enable the police to search deceased’s tent for documents or any other things that might throw light on the case, the result being the production of the following: Tow £5 notes, two £1 notes, 4s 8½d in silver and copper, and four 1d postage stamps; three Savings Bank Books (two State and one Commonwealth) the latter numbered 7363 and showing credit of £41 12s 8d and with it a bank deposit receipt for £300 and one of the State Savings Bank books numbered 153385, showing a credit of £319 17s.  There was also found several letters bearing the signature of Mr Barry and a letter written by Mr Barry, but never posted bearing the signature of Harry McEwan.

Bearing of the cause of this awfully sudden death, R JRM Thompson, medical practitioner of Canberra and officer in medical charge of the Federal Capital Territory, stated that he knew nothing whatsoever of the deceased, who was dead when he examined the body, on which there were no marks of violence or other external signs which could lead him to form an opinion as to the cause of death, but the circumstances were such as to be consistent with death as the result of heart failure.  But Dr Richardson’s evidence, as the result of an autopsy may be given thus: Deceased was an elderly man about 60 years of age. I found no marks of violence on his whatsoever.  By the order of the Coroner I proceeded to perform a post mortem examination on the body. I examined first the abdomen, but found nothing wrong on any organs except that the stomach appeared small and unused.  I found the lungs to be very much spotted and congested, the heart was very much enlarged and full of blood, there was very much fat about the heart. I opened the brain and found only venous congestion. I am of the opinion that Harry McEwan died from enlargement and engorgement of the heart.

The Coroner’s finding was death from natural causes as defined by the medical evidence.

The funeral took place on Wednesday the remains being interred in the Canberra Cemetery  [St John the Baptist Church Reid]. The deceased’s fellow employees and a number of other residents of Acton followed the remains to their last resting place.  The Rev Mr Berry officiated at the graveside and Mr H Lazarus conducted the funeral arrangements.  Deceased leaves four sisters and two brothers who reside in Victoria and Tasmania.

There appears to have been some error in the message that it was Mr Barry, deceased’s brother-in-law who was coming from Victoria as wired.  The gentleman who arrived was deceased’s own brother. Mr Wm McEwan from Melbourne and who to-day accompanied Senior Sergeant Wood to the Power House to further investigate into deceased’s affairs.  It is believed he died intestate, though the search may possibly reveal the will or other important papers connected with the estate. – Editor.


The Queanbeyan Age 20 July 1915


The information given in Friday’s issue of the AGE under the heading of ‘A Strange Fatality at Duntroon’ was incorrect in certain particulars, as evidenced by the inquest proceedings at the Queanbeyan Hospital on the afternoon of that day.  In the first place the name of the deceased was Frank Fitch and not Fritz; and secondly the case was treated at the Medical Service Hospital on the Federal Capital Territory at Canberra and not at Duntroon, and at the former place death took place.  The deceased was a native of Dalesford, Victoria, 47 years of age, unmarried and resided in New South Wales for the last 13 years. He followed mining pursuits for some years, but at the time of his death was employed by the Department of Home Affairs at Duntroon in the construction of the sewer.  The following summary of the evidence was taken before Mr Coroner Gale will give a true and reliable version of the affair.

Edward Henry Clark, caretaker at the Home & Affairs Camp at Duntroon, was the first witness examined and he stated that on the 4th July instant he saw the deceased who was suffering from a bad eye, the result, deceased had said, of a piece of stone which struck him a day or two previously while he was at work in a sewer in course of construction at Duntroon. The injury was on the ball of the eye and witness bathed and otherwise treated the injury. On his advice deceased went and consulted Dr Thompson of Canberra and afterwards ascertained that he (deceased) became an inmate of the hospital at Canberra.  Witness had known the deceased for about four years, during which time he was a man of strictly sober habits.  Deceased had never complained of anything wrong with his eyes, or of any other indisposition except that he had what is known as miner’s cough.  In answer to Mr Hansen deceased’s brother-in-law, who had come from Gundagai to watch the case on behalf of deceased’s friends, witness said the only illness deceased had suffered whilst at Duntroon was from boils on the hands which incapacitated him from work for four or five weeks.

Mr Hansen himself then gave evidence. He said his name was Frank Hansen and he was a constable of police stationed at Gundagai.  His wife was sister to the deceased. He recognized the body then lying in the morgue as that of Frank Fitch his brother-in-law.  He had known him for about 15 years. In consequence of telegrams received by his (witness’s) wife from Dr Thompson of Canberra stating that her brother was lying dangerously ill in Canberra Hospital he proceeded to Canberra, and arrived there on Wednesday morning last. He saw the deceased in the hospital ward. He was unconscious. Witness remained with him until his death which took place on the afternoon of the following day. He never regained consciousness. When he saw him about five years ago, deceased was following the occupation of a miner and was in robust health.  Deceased was a single man, of strictly sober habits. He had no real estate that witness was aware of. His bank pass book at the Commonwealth Bank Canberra showed a credit balance of £6 and he understood there was £5 coming to him for services as a returning officer for the Railway Workers and General Labourers Association. The sum of 13/1 was handed to him by the matron  of the hospital, found on deceased on his entrance into the hospital; and about 30/- was due to him for wages by the Home and Affairs Department.  In company with last witness and others witness searched the deceased’s tent at Duntroon, and in a portmanteau there found the sum of £9/6/6 of which sum £5 was held by deceased handed to him by George Moore of Yarralumla as having been collected in aid of one John Hardy to recoup him for the loss of a horse. Deceased was 47 years of age, and to the best of witness’s belief died intestate.

The next witness called was John Rae Menzies Thompson who stated that he was the medical officer of the Federal Territory Medical Service Hospital at Canberra.  He said the deceased came to him on the 3rd instant for medical treatment for an inflamed eye, which he said had been caused by a blow from a stone or piece of earth a few days before, he was thereupon admitted to the hospital where he remained under treatment, and the inflammation subsided so that he was able to leave his bed on the 9th instant. But early on the morning of the 10th he was attacked with severe pains in the head accompanied by fever.  In spite of very anxious and careful treatment his symptoms became more severe, so that he lost consciousness on the 13th and died on 15th instant. Witness did not consider the blow on the eye had any direct connection with the inflammation of the brain from which death ensued; but on account of the deceased having received an injury a short time before his death witness reported the matter to the Coroner and refused to issue a certificate as to death being the direct result of the recent injury, and having some doubt with respect thereto.  Witness had since been present at the post-mortem examination of the body, and was now quite satisfied that the brain inflammation was not caused by the injury to the eye.

Dr SL Richardson, Government Medical Officer of the Queanbeyan District gave the result of his autopsy as follows:- By order of the Coroner I have to-day made a post-mortem examination of the body of a man in the Queanbeyan hospital.  I first examined him outwardly and found no marks o violence about the body at all; even the eyes appeared to be well. I opened the skull and found a huge abscess on the merringes of the brain on the right side. I did not trace this to the eyes or anywhere else about the brain.  The absolute cause of death was abscess on the brain causing unconsciousness, coma and death. I opened the other portions of him – chest and abdomen – and found the organs healthy for a man of his age about 50 years.  There was a little congestion about the bowels and stomach like old standing indigestion.

The Coroner, on this evidence found that death resulted from inflammation of the brain the result of natural causes.  The deceased was buried on Saturday afternoon in the Queanbeyan General Cemetery, the Rev Gordon Hirst officiating, Mr O’Rourke having charge of the funeral arrangements. A number of deceased’s fellow workmen followed the coffin to its resting place.

Death infant daughter Staples Molonglo Settlement

Queanbeyan Age 15 February 1924: MOLONGLO CAMP (from our correspondent)

The first death at the Settlement since it had been used for residential purposes occurred last week when the infant daughter of Mr and Mrs Staples died. The school children followed the cortege from the Settlement to the Uriarra Road under the supervision of Mr Holloway.  The epidemic of sandy blight is still in evidence, although many affected are well on the way to recovery.  It seriously affected the school attendanace after the holidays. Suspected cases of diptheria among children were eventually diagnosed.  Work is proceeding a pace in converting storehouses on the hill into a mess for single men. A start has been made on the caretaker's quarters...

Keith Ryan aged 5

 Below - Ryan's cottage at Acton 1915

The Queanbeyan Age 23 December 1919: FATAL SNAKE BITE - About 11.30 last night, Mr and Mrs Edward Ryan of Canberra heard their only child, Keith, aged 5 years, calling out.  The immediately went to his bed and were dumfounded to see a large tiger snake on the bed quilt.  They also noticed the boy's hand bleeding from snake bite. The little chap was at once taken to the matron of the Canberra Hospital who rendered first aid. The boy rallied somewhat under her treatment. Mr PL Sheaffe also gave valuable assistance before the arrival of Drs Blackall and Christie.  For several hours the doctors resorted to artificial respiration, putting up a wonderful fight, but death came at 5 o'clock this morning. We extend out deepest sympathy to the bereaved parents in the sad blos that has come to them in the midst of the festive season.

Documents in the National Australian Archives give a more detailed story. The family lived at Acton in a condemned old farm cottage and as a result of this tragedy were allocated a 'new' home which used to be one of the buildings at the Molonglo Internment Camp removed from there and placed at Acton. The family story added to the details - including that Mrs Ryan - Alice nee Blundell - was expecting another child - a little girl who was born too early and did not live.  The couple had no more children. A framed photograph of Mr and Mrs 'Ned' Ryan and little Keith is in Blundell's cottage now a museum on the north side of Lake Burley Griffin.

1925 John Anthony Rose

The Queanbeyan Age 15 December 1925: CORONER’S INQUEST – SUDDEN DEATH AT CANBERRA

Mr Coroner Gale conducted an inquest at the Canberra Hospital on Friday last as to the cause of the death that morning of a man named John Anthony Rose, the investigation resulting in the recording of a verdict that death was due to myocardial degeneration (a form of heart disease), accelerated by the excessive use of ardent spirits, mainly rum. On receiving the police report to the effect that in the opinion of Dr Finlay who was sent for as soon as the man was found to be seriously ill the cause of death could not be ascertained otherwise than by post mortem examination, the Coroner directed the necessary autopsy. In the absence of Sergeant Cook, the officer in charge of police affairs in the Federal Territory on his holidays, Constable Foster had charge of the inquiry.


On examination of the body of the deceased he found no external marks of violence.  AT his camp he found a bank pass book with a credit to deceased’s account of £26/16/-s with some loose coin amounting to 8/2 and a military badge. There was also a quantity of man’s clothing and a couple of bottles that contained rum, with a smaller one still containing rum.  There was also a tobacco tin contained a white substance resembling arsenic, the paper wrapped around which having the word, ‘poison’ written on it.


John Rogers who lived nearby deceased’s hut, stated that about 7am the day he went as his custom was, into deceased’s kitchen to light his fire. Having done this he called to deceased who was in bed in an adjoining room say, ‘Jack, would you like a cup of tea?’  Getting no reply witness went into the bedroom and looking at him saw that his face was purplish and that he was breathing heavily. Witness thereupon called in a fellow-workman named Daley and suggested ringing up for an ambulance and the doctor. This was done and both arrived as quickly as possible. Witness had known the deceased for over two years. He was much addicted to drink, his favourite beverage being rum.


On last Sunday deceased and his mate returned from Queanbeyan with £4 worth of rum in their possession and they drank it within a day, also a quantity of beer. Dr Finlay’s evidence was to the effect that his autopsy resulted in the discovery of the malady named and that from the condition of the kidneys and liver, it was apparent that deceased had long been addicted to the inordinate use of alcoholic beverages, this habit aggravating the condition of arterial sclerosis.  The other organs examined by witness were in a condition compatible with his age, which appeared to be between 50 and 60 years.


In answer to the police in charge of the case witness said he found no trace of poison in the stomach or elsewhere.  Nothing had been known of deceased prior to his coming to Canberra except that he was a returned soldier, a native of Sebastopol Victoria, and had travelled, he said, through all the States of the Australian Commonwealth. He had stated that he was a married man and a grandfather, but there was no proof forthcoming to verify this. It was ascertained that he had a brother residing at Brunswick West Victoria, from whom for registration purposes further information could be obtained.


1925 John Convine Molonglo Mess


Above: Jacky Convine at Molonglo Settlement 2 weeks before his death. Photograph courtesy of Bill Convine

The Queanbeyan Age  28 April 1925: CORONER’S INQUEST

Mr Coroner Gale held an inquest at the Courthouse yesterday concerning the death on Friday morning last at Queanbeyan Hospital of a child named John William Convine.


Dr H McCreedie, assistant to Dr Blackall, Government Medical Officer at Queanbeyan stated that the deceased child was brought to his residence about 7pm on 21st April and he took him to the Hospital. On examination he found the patient suffering from severe scalds of the back and extending from the shoulders to the buttocks. He attended the child for three days at the hospital, and the child died on the morning of 24th instant. The cause of death was shock, consequent on the injuries he had received. From when he first saw the child he considered the case hopeless, from the extensive nature of the injuries.  The child was well nourished and about 2 years and 3 months old.


William Isaac Convine stated he was a caterer and resided at Molonglo Settlement with his wife and two children.  Deceased was his second child, aged 2 years and 3 months. On the night of 21st instant he was at the Tradesmen’s Mess, Molonglo Settlement, and was going into the dining room when one of the girls (Mary Clear) handed him the child who she said had fallen into a tub of hot water which was on the floor.  It was there for washing up purposes. He saw the child was badly scalded and took him into the kitchen, partly undressed him and applied flour to the injuries. He then handed him to his wife who took him to Queanbeyan Hospital. The water was in a galvanised iron tub; the children usually played at the back of the Mess and rarely came into the kitchen. The whole thing must have been the work of a moment, and no one was to blame the affair being purely accidental.


Mary Clean employed as a waitress at the Mess-room Molonglo Settlement gave evidence that she was washing up in the dining room with her back to the tub, when she heard one of the girls cry out, and looking round saw the child in the tub of hot water, which was there for washing up purposes. She immediately took the child out and handed him to his father who came in just then.


The Coroner found that deceased died from the effect of burns accidentally received through falling into a tub of scalding water at the Tradesmen’s Mess Molonglo Settlement Canberra on 21st April 1925, and that no blame was attachable to anyone for his entering the room where the accident occurred.

Veronica Convine

The Convine family had another loss in the death of their daughter, Veronica. The Queanbeyan Age 9 November 1926: DEATH OF A LITTLE GIRL FOLLOWING SCALDING ACCIDENT.  Yesterday morning the death took place in the Queanbeyan Hospital of a little girl named Veronica Convine aged two years. About 5pm on Saturday deceased was accidentally scalded on the arm below the shoulder to the elbow while her uncle, Mr JW Worster was pouring water from a kettle to make tea. She was taken to Dr Christie where a nurse dressed theinjuries and the doctor gave a prescription which was made up for the relief of burns. The child was taken home, but later removed to Hospital where she died as stated.  At the inquest held this afternoon the Coroner Mr Gale, returned a verdict of death from shock and convulsions, the result of accidental burning.

Heazlett, Mugga Lane Camp

The Queanbeyan Age 26 January 1926: SUDDEN DEATH – INQUEST AT CANBERRA

Last Saturday morning, the District Coroner, Mr John Gale, JP held an inquest at the Canberra Hospital with the object of ascertaining the cause of the death of an employee at the Mugga Lane Camp who on the previous afternoon died with awful suddenness. The evidence disclosed that deceased who was a native of Major’s Creek, Braidwood, had been employed for about four months in the capacity of powder monkey at the works at Mugga Lane. On returning to his work after dinner he complained of being unwell and said he had retched up his dinner. He thought it was indigestion, and saying he would leave off work and go to Jim Keogh’s tent and get a dose of carbonate of soda.


A witness who accompanied him stated that the deceased failed to find the tin of carbonate of soda and fell forward on the table and appeared to be dying.  Calling some mates they laid Heazeltt on the floor of the tent and sent for a doctor. The last words he made use of were to the effect that he had a burning pain in his breast that seemed to go down to his legs and arms.


Sergeant Cook and Doctor Finlay were soon on the spot, made a superficial examination of the body, finding no marks of violence and there were no suspicious features about the case. On the matter being reported to the Coroner he directed a post-mortem examination the result of which was explained in the medical evidence, which showed that in the abdominal region there was great congestion. The thyroid gland was much enlarged and diseased; and the glands of the neck were also greatly enlarged, especially on the left side and extended into the thorax where the trachea was involved. Death in the doctor’s opinion was due to asphyxia resulting from presence of new growth. The Coroner returned a verdict of death from natural causes as particularized by medical evidence. Deceased was unmarried, about 48 years of age, left no property, nor was his life insured. It is intended to take the remains to Major’s Creek for internment.

Charles Jackson No 1 Camp

The Queanbeyan Age 29 June 1926: ANOTHER SUDDEN DEATH AT CANBERRA –

At an inquest held yesterday morning at the hospital Canberra, Mr Coroner Gale returned a verdict of death from natural causes accelerated by the immoderate use of intoxicants, in the case detailed below.


According to the evidence of Francis Joseph O’Rourke, a laborer employed at No 1 Mess at Canberra, witness and the subject of the inquiry, a man known at Canberra as Charles Jackson but according to papers found in his possession a returned soldier who entered the army under the name of Charles Bruce, and had served in the army in India and afterwards in the Great War, were drinking together in witness’s tent on the night named, when near midnight witness fell into a dose. On waking he found the tent in darkness and the deceased missing. Witness wouldn’t admit it, but from what could be ascertained the two of them had been in Queanbeyan that day and had taken out with them a quantity of intoxicating liquor. It was from this supply they had been drinking when O’Rourke awoke and missed his companion. He noticed a tear in the tent caused evidently by the missing man having fallen through it.  On going outside he discovered the deceased lying face downwards on the ground.  Going to the next tent he aroused its occupant, a man named Powell and together they went to look at the deceased, whom Powell pronounced to be dead.  O’Rourke had known the deceased for the past twelve months and said he was periodically given to drinking to excess, and that night had been drinking liberally of the drink in their possession. There had been no squabbling between them and they were on their usual friendly terms.


Sergeant Cook deposed that at about 1 o’clock on the 26th instant in response to a telephone call, he went in company with Dr Finlay to No 1 Mess at Canberra and there he saw the dead body of a man he had known for the past three years as Charles Jackson. He had the body removed to the Canberra Hospital morgue and in Dr Finlay’s presence made external examination of the body on which there were no marks whatever of violence in evidence. Witness knew him to be subject to periodical bouts of drunkenness.


There was no evidence of his having ever been married and he left no estate. Deceased had been employed during the last four or five years as a builder’s labourer. Dr JA James, medical superintendent of the hospital at Canberra said that in response to instructions from the Coroner on Saturday last he conducted a post mortem examination on the body of a man locally known as Charles Jackson. He appeared to be well over 50, probably nearer to 60 years of age. There were no marks of external violence except a few small scratches on one arm and little bits of gravel on the face as if he had been lying downwards. The organs of the body showed extensive fatty degeneration, especially the liver. The heart, while not extensively diseased showed definite evidence of fatty change. The stomach contained a small amount of party-digested food, but showed nothing abnormal. The result of his examination was in favour of heart failure from fatty degeneration, and this in his opinion was the cause of death. The appearance of the organs generally suggested chronicle poisoning such as would be produced by alcohol. There was no fracture of the skull or injury to the brain.


Charles Jackson Bruce is buried in St John the Baptist Church Cemetery.  He was 52 years of age and his grave paid for by his workmates is unmarked.



Thomas Tracey White City Camp

The Queanbeyan Age 1 June 1926: DROWNED IN THE WEIR –

Still another man has met his death by drowning in the weir.  On Sunday at mid-day a fisherman discovered the body of a man floating in the river below the bridge and at once acquainted the police of the fact.  Mr Coroner Gale held an inquiry at the Courthouse yesterday at which the following evidence was taken:-


James Archibald Goiser stated –I am a labourer and reside at Queanbeyan. Yesterday morning, 30th instant, at about 12.30pm I was on the river bank about 200 yards below the bridge. I saw something floating in the water, which I thought was a coat, and threw out a line with a hook on it, and drew the object to the bank, when I saw it was a man fully clothed. I left the body there and reported the matter to Sergeant Clarke. I returned with the police to where the body was lying and in the presence of the p0olice saw them take it from the river and convey it away. I have no knowledge of the deceased.


Patrick Blackall stated: I am a legally qualified medical practitioner and Government Medical Officer at Queanbeyan. According to instructions received from Sergeant Clarke I this morning examined a dead body at the Hospital Morgue. It appeared to be that of a man about 50 years old. I could find no marks of violence on the body. There were no tattoo marks or other things which would lead to identification. His teeth were natural and some of the back ones were missing. The hair was gray but appeared to have been originally black. The eyes were gray, and the eyebrows dark brown. The face was clean shaven with long features. The suffocation was in my opinion the result of drowning. (At this stage the inquest was adjourned till three pm for the purpose of identification.)


On resuming, Edward James McKay stated: I am a labourer and reside at White City Camp, Canberra. This morning I went to the Queanbeyan Hospital Morgue and there saw a corpse which I identified as that of an old friend of mine named Thomas Tracey, whom I have known for the past 30 years. He was a single man, as far as I know, and a native of Port Melbourne. He was a miner and we worked together at Rutherglen gold mine for about ten months. We worked together at Leeton and boarded together for about 20 months. I since met him last February on the Federal Capital Territory; he was working on Fox’s gang road-making, and I was working in Mulligan’s gang pipe-laying. My tent was nearly opposite his at White city and he was in and out of my tent nearly every night. I last saw him alive in Queanbeyan last Saturday afternoon about three 0’clock. He was absolutely sober but he is man that did take a drink. He was pretty deaf. He was a Roman Catholic and about 52 years of age. I saw his dead body and identified it as that of Thomas Tracey I speak of. As far as I know he owned no property nor was his life insured. He was always known as a quiet ‘boozer’. I know nothing about his relatives. A man named Paddy Quinlan who was a ganger on the Leeton works at Griffiths and under whom he (deceased) was employed for some years would probably know something about his relatives. A man named Harry Taylor who is working under Mr Dillon on the Canberra Sewerage Works knew the deceased for about 15 years.


Peter Sullivan stated: I am a carpenter and reside at Queanbeyan. This morning I saw a dead body at the Hospital Morgue and recognized it as that of Thomas Tracey whom I had known for about 10 years. I met him first at Leeton about ten years ago, and afterwards at Canberra before last Christmas. He was a labourer. I was speaking to him recently in Queanbeyan and saw him for the last time in Queanbeyan about three months ago. I should take him to be about 50 years old.  He was addicted to drink, and was also very deaf. As far as I know he was a single man; I know nothing of his relatives, nor do I know whether he owned property or that his life was insured.


Sergeant WA Hargrave stated: About 15 minutes to 1 o’clock yesterday 30th instant in company with other police I recovered from the Queanbeyan River the body of a man whom I did not know, but have this day heard him identified him as a man by the name of Thomas Tracey. The body was close to the river bank when we took it out, and was fully clothed except for the hat. We searched the deceased’s clothes on the river bank and found 13/9 in silver, a silver watch (a Waltham) which was going at the time and at the correct hour, one handkerchief, and an empty tobacco pouch, and a sale slip of Hayes & Russell showing that a hat had been purchased there on 29th instant for 35/-. The hat has not been found.  I took the body to the Queanbeyan Hospital Morgue and stripped the body and searched for any marks, but could find none on the body anywhere. There was a bottle of Black and White whisky in the pocket of the deceased’s clothes. I emptied the bottle so as to refill it with water to wash deceased’s face and head which were covered with sand. I believe him (deceased) to be one of three men that I removed from under the bridge about 9.30pm the previous night. I saw the three men walk towards Morrissett Street and turn and walk down to the willows on the river bank below the bridge where the deceased’s body was found.


The Coroner returned a verdict that deceased was accidentally drowned in the river while in a state of intoxication.

James Baum - worked for Mason of Queanbeyan

The Queanbeyan Age 28 May 1926: ANOTHER SUDDEN DEATH AT CANBERRA

Referring to the sudden death at Eastlake FCT, the fuller particulars collated from the Coroner’s inquest hed yesterday will be read with interest. In response to a telephone call, Sergeant Cook, of Molonglo Settlement on the afternoon of Wednesday last proceeded to the building under construction at Eastlake by Mr WH Mason where he saw the body of an elderly man whose name was given as James Baum.


While it was yet warm the Sergeant had it conveyed to the hospital morgue at Canberra where in the company of Dr James he made an inspection of the body on which no marks of violence externally were discovered. Searching deceased’s pockets resulted in the finding of three pounds in money. Proceeding to Queanbeyan where deceased had been staying the previous night (at the boarding-house adjacent to the railway station) search was made amongst his effects but this revealed nothing leading to his identity, other than the name James Baum and that he had recently resided at 124 Palmer St Wooloomooloo. Getting in touch by ‘phone with the Sydney police information was gained to the effect that deceased had left the residence named to proceed to Canberra in search of work.  Further information conveyed was that deceased was of a very reserved disposition and that consequently nothing more was known of him than he said he was a bachelor, was 64 years of age and a native of Melbourne.

The local police were fortunate in discovering a witness who had a long acquaintance with deceased. This witness JJ Barrett, a carpenter residing in Queanbeyan, who identified the body in the morgue as that of James Baum whom he had known upwards of 20 years, said he last saw him alive on 16th instant, at Queanbeyan as he was leaving by motor car for Canberra. He noticed a marked change in him since he had last seen him last Easter.  He was sober, quiet and reserved in demeanor.  Witness understood that he was a bachelor and never heard his say where he came from, whether his life was insured, or whether he owned any property. By occupation he was a hod-carrier.

Another witness, a hod-carrier employed on the same job as deceased and working for Mr WH Mason on a building being erected at Eastlake, said he came onto the job on the 26th instant, but throughout the day complained of feeling unwell, saying he would knock off only it would seem bad. At about 3pm deceased was working close to this witness when without warning or word of any kind he suddenly fell and gave a couple of gasps. When he had been carried a distance of about 15 yards he died. Witness saw that he was dying as his face was blue. Deceased was a perfect stranger to him.

The cause of death was explained by Dr James who had been instructed by Mr Coroner Gale to make a post-mortem examination of the body. The result of the autopsy was to find the internal organs healthy with the exception of the kidneys which showed evidence of chronic nephritis, and the heart was larger than normal and the coronary arteries very diseased, one of them being completely blocked by a clot of blood. This in the doctor’s opinion was the cause of his sudden death. Upon this evidence of the Coroner found a verdict of death from natural causes.

Mr Francis Okely 45 Westlake


The above photograph taken in the 1940s of members of the O'Rourke family show in the background their home 45 Westlake. This is the house in which Frank Okely died in 1926. 


The Queanbeyan Age 27 April 1926: DEATH AT WESTLAKE.

The death took place on Thursday last of Francis Thornton Okely at the age of 39 years, after an illness extending over three months. The funeral took place the same afternoon the internment taking made in the Anglican Cemetery Canberra. The funeral was largely attended, as the deceased was very popular on the Territory being secretary of the Amalgamated Carpenters & Joiners’ Association. Six secretaries of different Unions acted as pall bearers, while Rev FG Ward officiated at the graveside and Messrs Mason Bros of Queanbeyan were the funeral directors.


Messrs HR Waterman, representing the Industrial Board; Hoare, Office Staff,  Canberra Commission; F Brown Carpenters & Joiners; F Norrell, Plumbers; P Gallagher, Builders Labourers; J Gure, Plasterers; CA Martin, Painters; PJ Byrne, Bricklayers; FW Brill under secretary Carpenters & Joiners were present at the funeral obsequies.


A large number of beautiful floral tributes were laid on the grave, which included: From his beloved Wife and Family, Mother, brother-in-law and sister, Mr and Mrs Law and family: Mrs Arbuckle and family; Mrs Tufor [Tucker?] and family; Mrs Champ and family; Mrs Butcher and family; Mrs Les Brill and family, Mrs Hart and family, Mrs K and S Spooner and family; Industrial Board, Carpenters & Joiners of Australia, Federated Builders’ Labourers and WH Mason.


A widow and three children are left to mourn their loss, to whom the deepest sympathy of the community is expressed.


The Queanbeyan Age 30 April 1926: THANKS – MRS FT OKELY, FAMILY AND MOTHER of 45 Westlake, Canberra, desire to return their Sincere Thanks to Dr James, Rev FG Ward, the Chairman of Commission, Industrial Board, Mason Bros, Friends, Relatives, and the following Unions – Carpenters & Joiners, Plumbers, Builder’s Laboureres, Painters, Bricklayers and Plasterers for wreaths, telegrams and letters, also for their greast kindess shown in our sad bereavement owing to the death of the late Frank T Okely.


The Queanbeyan Age 18 May 1926: GUOOF – STAR OF CANBERRA LODGE BENEFIT SOCIAL. A Dance and social was held under the auspices of the above Lodge on Wednesday 5th May, for the benefit of Mrs Okely, widow of the late Frank Okely, Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, and a much respected resident of Canberra.


The whole of the proceeds are to be given to the widow, no deduction whatever is to be made from the receipts. Every one of the 400 tickets printed were sold; more could have been disposed of, but it was not convenient to get them printed in time. In one case a ticket was resold six times producing 12/-/ The total receipts of the effort were £43-14/-. 


Arbuckle’s Orchestra kindly supplied the music gratis for the evening which was very much appreciated by all present. Thanks are due to Mr Normal Farrell for kindly lending his car.


Mr Arthur Dowsett is well worthy of mention for the manner in which he disposed of so many tickets.


Bro WH Kelly, social secretary, assisted by Bros JG Porter, Secretary, Bob Harrison, NG, WH Williams, PNG and WH Williams Jun, Vice G acted on the committee and rendered yeoman service.


It was a noticeable fact that there were amongst the throng of nearly 200 visitors who were reflecting and thinking about Frank, who had been called from their midst. By the quiet demeanor of many of the men and ladies present one could present one could plainly see that they were really sorry and were chiefly in attendance to perform one noble duty, if only in a small way, to assist the widow and children of the man who had endeavoured to do what he could for his fellow workmen.


The Canberra Times 21 April 1928: IN MEMORIAM – OKELY – In loving memory of my dear husband and our dear father who passed away April 22nd, 1926.  Peacefully sleeping, resting at last, Life’s weary trails and suffering past; In silence he suffered, in patience he bore, Till God called him home to suffer no more.  Inserted by his loving wife and children.


It is an old saying and a true one, ‘that where one cannot help many, many can help one,’ and it appears that the evening was not lost to Oddfellowship, because the Secretary, Bro JG Porter, was kept busy all evening, in an ante-room, giving advice as to membership and filling out proposal forms for new members.


Bro Bob Harrison made a very apt little speech at the conclusion of the dance and invited all men and women present to fortify for the further and join up as Oddfellows and reap the grand benefits already enjoyed by thousands. His remarks were fully endorsed by the company present.


The hope of the members of Star of Canberra Lodge is that the little benefit dance will be the forerunner of others should the necessity arise. The members of the Lodge wish to thank all those who kindly assisted in this noble cause.


Mr Okely is buried in St John the Baptist Church Cemetery at Reid ACT in an unmarked grave.Jean Salisbury in her book 'St John's Churchyard' adds further information. Frank (Francis) was the son of Christopher and Lizette Okely of South Australia where he was born.  He married Veronica Constance Kell of Cobar NSW.  The family moved to Sydney. 


1926 aeroplane crash at Ainslie - two dead


We are indebted to the courtesy of Mr Coroner John Gale for the promptitude with which we are able to supply the dreadful details of the aeroplane disaster at Ainslie on Thursday last and which has shocked the community as seldom before any fatal contingency has done. This morning (Friday) the Coroner opened his Court at Canberra Hospital, and thereat took voluminous evidence of which the following is a summary.


The inquest was on view of one body only. In accordance with the law which, in the case of two or more deths resulting from a single and common cause requires inquiry into one only.  It was that of Flying Officer Phillip McKenzie Pitt, a second death from the one cause have resulted in that of William Edward Callander – concerning which the Coroner thought it advisable to take professional evidence in order to be certain that this death was the result of one and the same casualty.


The view of the bodies revealed that of a charred and blackened mass of human flesh and bone – all that remained of one who but a few minutes before the transmutation took place was fined and ready to be hermetically sealed for transmission to its final resting place. On another slab in the morgue was a dead body with no marks of external injury, lying as it in the composure of natural sleep. It was that of William Edward Callander, the other occupant of the wrecked aeroplane.


Before taking evidence the Coroner accompanied by Sergeant Cool proceeded to the scene of the disaster. There the nose-dive of the ‘plane was distinctly visible by the dent it had made in the sunburnt soil. Nought remained of the aeroplane save some wood ashes and scraps of molten aluminium. The fire which burst out in the fallen place had set fire to the surrounding grass, but the Canberra Fire Brigade came promptly on to the scene and effectively extinguished it.


The story of the disaster is thus summarized from the evidence taken:-

Flight Lieutenant Hepburn, Director of Works and Buildings of the Royal Australian Air Force Melbourne who had arrived in Canberra by ‘plane from Richmond in the afternoon of Wednesday last said he had previously instructed Flying Officer Pitt and Air-mechanic Callander to report to him at the Canberra landing ground on Thursday 11th instant at 9.30am. he was at the hour named waiting for these people on the landing ground named. Their aeroplane arrived shortly after this hour and its engine appeared to be in good working order.  He saw the machine proceeding from the south past the landing-ground and attempting to land on the north-west. The pilot shut off his engine and proceeding to turn but the aeroplane stalled and spun into the ground from a  a height of approximately 100 feet. After about 30 to 45 seconds later it burst into flames. At the time of the crash witness was on the south side of the landing ground, and about a mile away from the site of the accident.  In company with a Mr McConnell and Mr Moss, Lieutenant Hepburn proceeded by car to the scene of the accident. On arrival he found that Callander had been extricated from the wreck and that the pilot was lying partly out of the machine and was apparently quite dead and badly burnt.  The aeroplane which was the property of the Federal Government, was totally destroyed. Its value was about £3,000. The machine was a de Haviland No 9.


Witness continued: I could not recognize the body as that of Pitt – not even now after having seen it in the hospital morgue. I am of opinion that the cause of the accident was an error of judgment on the part of the pilot. The majority of serious aeroplane accidents are due to the same cause. If the machine had stalled at a higher altitude – say, 1,000 feet – the pilot would have been able to recover control of his machine. I myself have done exactly the same thing whilst at sufficient height to recover control. In this cast the pilot had only completed his flying course about last October. Callander was merely in the machine as a passenger.


Further light was thrown on the mishap by the evidence of a farmer residing with and working for Edward Shumack at Ainslie. He said: I was ploughing in Mr Shumack’s paddock yesterday at about 10.30 am. I heard the sound of an aeroplane. It came over the hill and made for the landing ground. She was flying very low and came straight towards where I was ploughing. As it passed me the machine turned. The engine appeared to be running very smoothly; but just as it turned it stopped.  In my opinion the plane was travelling too slowing to keep itself going and suddenly the left hand wing dropped and the machine crashed.  It spun round once and then crashed to the earth.  The man who had been driving the machine was lying half in and half out of it and appeared to be quite dead. The other man was alive and struggling. I broke away a piece of the machine and just as I got hold of the man who was alive the machine burst into flames. I rescued the man (whose name I have since learnt was Callander) from the back of the machine. To the other man it was now impossible to render any assistance. I carried the living man to a place some yards distance. On the way he muttered something and tapped his forehead with his hand, but I could not understand him…After that the Fire Brigade came and extinguished the fire and the ambulance removed both the living man and the dead one.


Constable Botterill gave corroborative evidence and detailed the part he played in removing the injured man from the scene of the accident to the hospital and the morgue. He also produced some small cash, two military buttons and a wrist watch, recovered from the debris and which the Coroner directed should be handed over to Captain Macgillicuddy, Instructor of Engineering at the Royal Military College Duntroon. The wrist watch had stopped at 10.41 am.


There was some difficulty in the way of identification of the deceased Pitt. This however was surmounted by a description of his teeth as given by Captain Macgillicuddy to Dr James, medical superintendent of Canberra Hospital. The doctor though saying is was utterly impossible from its scorched and disfigured stare to identify the blackened corpse, on examination of the teeth the peculiarity described by the Captain was quite apparent to him and he had not the slightest doubt as to the identity of the corpse as that of Pitt.


Further proof of identity was given by probationary Nurse Morrow, who attending to Callander heard him frequently ask after ‘ Mr Pitt’ and how he fared in the mishap.


Callander’s identity was an easier job. Both Captain Macgillicuddy and the nurse named as well as others placed that beyond doubt. Amongst other things he said in his lucid moments, was this: ‘M y wife is at Richmond with our two children. Don’t worry her with urgent wires.’


The Coroner’s verdict was that in accordance with expert evidence given, viz. That death resulted from an error of judgment on the part of the deceased Pitt.


Queanbeyan Age 11February 1926: AEROPLANE CRASHES AT AINSLIE - FLYING OFFICER PITT KILLED - OBSERVER SERIOUSLY INJURED. This morning at Ainslie was the scene of the first aeroplane accident in the Federal Territory when the Haviland aeroplane No 9 which was on survey work and was about to land, crashed from a height of about 150 feet. The accident occurred about 10.30 o'clock.  When the plane crashed it burst into flames and Flying Officer Pitt of No 3 Squadron RAF was killed and the observer, named Callander, was badly injured, being rescued with difficulty from the wreckage. The injured man was conveyed to Canberra Hospital. Flying-officer Pitt  was formerly a cadet at the Royal Military College Duntroon.



Deaths Northbourne Camp

 Below Men of Northbourne Camp and the Mess Caterers c1926.  Mr Biddle is second row, second from right and Harold Lasseter is top row second from right. Photograph courtesy of Biddle family. Whether or not the men who died are in this photograph is not known. Note the white foreheads - the men wore hats.



CANBERRA, Monday, - The district coroner (Mr John Gale) held an inquest today into the deaths to Alexander Beveridge and Samuel Palmer who were burned to death in a fire at Northbourne Camp on Sunday.  Evidence was given that the men had periodical bouts of intemperance and that they appeared to be under the influence of liquor at half-past 7 o’clock on Saturday night.


The coroner returned a verdict of accidental death.


The fire has directed attention to two important questions, the necessity for increased fire fighting facilities and the reconstruction of the camping areas.  It is certain that Northbourne Camp would have been completely destroyed yesterday if the slightest wind had been blowing. The matter of replacing unsightly tents with uniform cubicles has engaged the attention of the Federal Capital Commission for sometime, and in the last few months extensive improvements have been effected at Eastlake and Ainslie camps. Officers of the commission indicated today that early action was contemplated with regard to the reconstruction of Northbourne Camp. It is expected that within three months the 400 [or 100?] men at the camp will be housed in cubicles instead of tents.


The authorities are also planning an extension of a new and modern station at civic Centre have been prepared, no definite move towards the execution has yet to be made.  The fire chief (Mr PF Douglas) has three permanent men and six part time men. The brigade’s headquarters are at Eastlake, nearly five miles from Ainslie. Ainslie is growing rapidly but because there is no convenient fire station hundreds of houses are practically without protection. 



Two men are dead as a result of a fire which destroyed the hut [sic tent] in which they were sleeping at Northbourne Camp early Sunday morning.  One succeeded in breaking through the hessian wall of the blazing hut, and was dragged through by a fellow camper and carried to safety, but died in hospital later the same day.  The charred remains of his companion were found on a bed in the burnt out hut when the fire had subsided.  There were no signs of a struggle, the unfortunate man apparently having died of suffocation.


The dead men are:-

ALEXANDER BEVERIDGE, aged 55 of Lane Cove Road North Sydney

SAMUEL PALMER, AGED 56, a native of Belfast Ireland.


Northbourne Camp, the scene of the tragedy is a camp established for the accommodation of workmen employed on construction works in the city. It is situated at the extreme northern end of the city and consists principally of huts constructed of bagging and canvas. About 130 men are accommodated in the camp. [The site today is inner city in the area of the pines in Haig Park through which Northbourne Avenue crosses].


William Henry Harrison who occupied a hut about ten yards distant from that occupied by Beveridge and Palmer was awakened at about 12.40 am on Sunday morning by screams. Emerging from his hut he found the other tent in flames and upon closer investigation saw Beveridge struggling desperately to break through the wall of the hut, in which he was trapped. Regardless of personal safety, Harrison attacked the wall from the outside, and in a few seconds enlarged the opening sufficiently to enable him to drag Beveridge from the inferno within the hut and carry him out of reach of the flames, where willing hands ministered to him.  A lorry was hurriedly commissioned and he was taken to the Canberra Hospital where he died at 2.15 on the afternoon of the same day.


By the time Harrison had rescued Beveridge the remainder of t he camp was awake, and had congregated about the blazing hut. Efforts were made to extinguish the flames with the assistance of a length of hose, but the fire soon burnt itself out, and it was then that the charred body of Palmer was found reposing on a smouldering bed.


An inquest into the occurrence was conducted yesterday by the District Coroner (Mr John Gale). From evidence given at the inquest it appears that both Palmer and Beveridge had visited Queanbeyan on Saturday afternoon and were under the influence of liquor when they returned to the camp about 7.30pm.  When seen in their hut about an hour later they were engaged in cooking a meal, but had built a very large fire in the corrugated iron fireplace at the end of the hut.  Although still showing signs of intoxication liquor they conversed rationally, and appeared to be on friendly terms. The hut was clean, and there were no bottles of drink in evidence. This was the last occasion on which both men were seen alive.


Beyond the suggestion that the extraordinary large fire in the hut was left to burn untended when the men fell asleep, and a spark set fire to t he inflammable material of which the structure was built, no light could be thrown on the origin of the fire.


The Coroner accepted this suggestion, and in recording a verdict of accidental death, said he could arrive at no other conclusion. Palmer had evidentially died of suffocation and Beveridge from shock and extensive burns.


Evidence was given by Sergeant Cook of the Canberra Police; Dr Alcorn who attended Beveridge in Hosptial; Charles Reynolds, laborer of Northbourne Camp; William Harrison engine driver of Northbourne Camp and John Richard Jones, caterer of Northbourne Camp. Hilton Raymond Beveridge gave formal evidence of indentification of his father’s body.


Two Brothers Meet One died in Blaze No 1 Labourers Camp


Two brothers met accidentally in Canberra several months ago after a separation of ten years, during which neither had seen or heard of the other.  The reunion however was soon to be terminated by tragedy, for on October 17 one of the brothers was badly burned when his tent at No 1 Labourers’ Camp was destroyed by fire and on Wednesday afternoon he died in Canberra Hospital.


William Joseph Ogilvy left his home in Victoria ten years ago at the age of 16.  After many wanderings he came to Canberra about twelve months ago and found employment as a labourer taking the name of Campbell. Several months ago his brother James Egerton Ogilvy, who had also secured employment in Canberra as a tiler encountered him after not having seen him since the day he left home in 1917.


Early on the morning of Monday October 17 several men occupying quarters in the No 1 Labourers’ Camp on the sloped of Capitol Hill were awakened by the crackling and glare of fire, and found that the tent occupied by William Joseph Ogilvie was in flames. Two of the men entered the blazing hut and found Ogilvy attempting for force his way out of the rear.  As they entered he collapsed and they carried him out. He was admitted to hospital, but after lingering on for over a week succumbed to the injuries he had recived.


An inquest into his death conducted this morning the District Coroner (Mr John Gale) found that deceased died from injuries resulting from burns accidentally received through the upsetting of a candle at No 1 Camp.


The Coroner added a rider strongly advising that telephonic communication to be established in every camp in the Territory. It was stated in evidence that No 1 Camp was not connected to the telephone system.  Evidence was given by Patrick Casey and John Herbert Bain, the two men who rescued Ogilvy from the blazing hut. Casey expressed the opinion that the fire was caused by the candle used in the hut being probable that the candle was knocked over by a movement of the arm of the deceased who was known to be a restless sleeper.  Bain sad that upon investigating the fire later on the morning of October 17 he found the candlestick still on the table. The table however was tilted against the back of the tent.  Witness was of the opinion that deceased could have knocked the table into this position by his efforts to get out the back of the tent.


James Egerton Ogilvy brother of the deceased also gave evidence, in reply to a question by the Coroner, said there was no delay on the part of the ambulance in arriving upon the scene of the fire. In response to a further question he said he thought it was important that all the camps in the Territory should be connected by telephone.


Dr Finlay said the cause of death was shock and toxaemia following the severe burns received in the fire.


Drowned in Queanbeyan River - William Melville


At about 8.30 o’clock on last Sunday morning as Mr WM Barber painter of Queanbeyan was walking in the vicinity of the weir wall he noticed what appeared to be the head of a man in the water above and about six feet out from the weir wall and about 20 feet from the river bank.  Walking along the weir wall to get a better view of the object, he saw it was a body of a man fully clothed, which had apparently been in the water for sometime.  Reporting the matter to the police, First Class Constable Tait assisted by Constables Fordham and McNeal came and took the body from the water and conveyed it to the hospital morgue. The body showed no marks of violence.  Beyond a few dockets representing purchases made by the deceased in a local store, there was found nothing of value or importance.


Constable Tait said he had no previous knowledge of deceased except having seen him recently about town. He produced a lock-up charge book wherein there is an entry of one William Melville having been arrested for drunkenness on 3rd April inst and discharged on the 3rd. Possibly the men were identical. Deceased was apparently about 60 years old 5ft 10in high, medium build, grey hair and moustaches, beard inclined to be reddish, somewhat bullet-headed.


A mate of the deceased’s named George Dawson identified the body at the morgue as that of William Melville whom he better knew as ‘Scotty’,  He last saw him alive on Monday morning 6th instant at their camp at Red Hill, Canberra. Deceased then told witness that he was going to Deane, a builder at Canberra, to look for a job.  Witness first met deceased at Ariah Park about three or four months ago. The met casually and travelled together in search of employment.  They parted at Narranderra. Next met him at Red Hill about six weeks ago. Deceased told the witness he had a brother who was a watchman at a warehouse in Pitt-st Sydney, also that he had been a ship’s fireman and had been all over the world. Deceased had admitted to him that he always drank all the money he earned. Deceased had tattoo marks on his left arm, but witness did not know what they were.  The body whom he saw it that morning was dressed in the same clothes he wore on the 6th instant.


First-class Constable Cook, stationed at Canberra, deposed to having searched the records kept by the time-keeper at Acton, Canberra and found entered therein the name of one William Melville 109 Pitt St Sydney. The record showed that deceased started work at Canberra on 22.11.’24 and left voluntarily on 29…24.  He was re-employed on 3.3.’25 and again left voluntarily on 1.4.’25. Witness made search of a tent that day at Red Hill, said to have been previously occupied by deceased and found therein a Commonwealth Bank of Australia pass-book No 083572 issued at Campbelltown NSW to William McNally Melville showing a balance of one shilling. He also found in the tent an Australian Workers’ Union ticket for 1923-24 No7076 issued to William Melville of Cordeaux on 5.10.23.  No other property of value was found.


On this evidence the Coroner (Mr Gale) who on account of the advanced stage of decomposition the body was in held the inquest on Sunday afternoon, returned the following verdict: - I declare and find that the dead body of William McNelly Melville, at Queanbeyan in the State of New South Wales, was found in the Queanbeyan River on 13th of April 1925 without marks of violence appearing on the body and that the said William McNelly Melville died of asphyxia by drowning on or about the 6th of April 1925, but how or by what means he came to be drowned the evidence addressed does not enable me to say.


Death of Miley No 1 Camp 1927


 No 1 Labourers Camp is the camp mid right at the bottom of the photograph.  The curved road is the part of State Circle erected at that time.  The building on Commonwealth Avenue - road from State Circle - is Hotel Canberra and the other large building top right is the Provisional Parliament House.  This photograph c1926 probably at the time Miley and Goodrich lived in the camp.




The inquest into the death of John Miley who was the victim of a camp stabbing affray on December 21 gave an insight into the heavy drinking which is carried on in some of the camps at Canberra and incidentally showed the farce of the no licence ordinance of the Federal Territory.  As a result of the evidence the coroner Mr John Gale, committed Charles Goodrich for trial on a charge of manslaughter.


The inquest concerning the death of John Miley in the Canberra Hospital on the evening of December 21 was held by the Coroner (Mr John Gale) at the Queanbeyan Police Court last Thursday.  Mr KC Waugh appeared for the Federal Capital Commission and Mr WT Tucker for Charles Goodrich who had been charged with feloniously slaying the deceased.


The principal witness was Sergeant Cook of Canberra. Sergeant Cook stated in evidence that at 9.30am on December 21 he visited Canberra Hospital and saw the deceased who gave his name as Jack Miley and Charles Richard Goodrich. Both men were in the same ward. He said to Miley, I have come to inquire into the cause of your injuries. He replied, ‘I was pretty drunk last night, and got into a row. I can’t remember what happened.’ Sgt Cook asked whether he wanted any police action taken. Miley said, No.  The sister in charge of the ward said that neither Goodrich nor Miley were in any danger. Sgt Cook then spoke to Goodrich who was in a bed about 20 paces away from Miley. He asked Goodrich how he came to be injured, and Goodrich replied he got into a bit of a fight on the previous night and was pretty drunk and didn’t remember too well what happened. On being asked whether he wanted any police action taken, Goodrich said, No.


About noon I spoke to Dr Finlay who was attending both patients.  He said neither of the patients was in any danger.  About 5.15 I had a telephone message from Dr Finlay informing me that Miley was dead.  I visited Canberra Hospital and saw Miley’s body. About 7 o’clock the following morning the Sergeant again visited the hospital and said to Goodrich, ‘I am inquiring into the cause of the death of Jack Miley.’  He asked, ‘Is he dead?’ and was told that he had died the previous day. Goodrich then made a statement concerning the matter.


Goodrich’s statement was as follows: ‘I am 32 years of age. Am a labourer employed by Geo Vincent and reside at No 1 Camp. M y permanent address is 106 Palmer St Balmain where my wife and five children reside.  Sergeant Cook has informed me that he is inquiring into the death of Jack Miley which occurred at this hospital yesterday, and that if I desire to make a voluntary statement he will cause it to be taken down in writing, that such a statement will be given in evidence and that I am not obliged to make it unless I like. I desire to tell all that I remember about the affair which resulted in Miley’s death.



About 8pm on December 20 I went to the tent occupied by Jackie Walker. When I arrived there Walker and a man named Ted were there. Jackie Walker asked me to have a drink of whiskey which I had, and went to my own tent, which is the third one from Walker’s.  I wrote a letter and about an hour later I returned to Walker’s tent. The same two men were there then. After having the whisky I decided to return the drink and asked ‘Nimitybelle’ who was going into town by car, to bring me back four or five bottled of beer and gave him ten shillings. When ‘Nimitybelle’ came back he said he had forgotten the beer and handed me a bottle of wine instead which I accepted. Walker, Ted, Nimity and myself finished the bottle of wine.


A chap they called ‘Julia’ Gray came into the tent with more beer and wine – about two bottles of wine and four or five bottles of beer. We were drinking and two more chaps came in. I remember now that Ted left his tent and a man named Ryan came in and it was he and Walker and myself who drank the bottle of wine. One of the last two men who came in was Hibline Hayes and the other man’s name I do not know. We went on drinking and Tom Sheridan came in and he brought a bag containing some more beer.



We all got very jolly and drunk and I was entertaining the men step dancing and singing. Walker in the meantime was getting very quarrelsome and arguing with different men in the tent. I tried to pacify Walker and the others he was arguing with, and If I remember right he pulled his shirt off and wanted to fight me. I forgot to say that in the meantime, Miley, who lives in Walker’s tent came in. I think he came in about 11 o’clock.  Miley was arguing with Walker and trying to pacify him.  When Walker became violent and took his shirt off I walked out of the tent to leave him: he followed me out, and insisted on fighting me. He struck me a blow. Before this I did not want to fifth him and told him so and pushed him off. He came at me three or four times and grabbed hold of me and when I was pushing him off he scratched my arms. I then sat down and told him I did not want to fight him, when I was sitting on the ground, and then got annoyed with him and struck him a number of blows.  We got separated and he went into his tent.



When I was dancing I took my coat off and put it on a bed in his tent. I went to enter Walker’s tent to get my coat and just as I entered the door I received a severe blow across the forehead with a bottle which I think smashed over my head. I was dazed and the blood rushed down into my good eye, and I thought I was gone: I am partly blind in the other eye.  My recollection of what happened then is very hazy but I have an idea that I ran into my tent and I must have grabbed the knife now shown to me by Sergeant Cook. It does not belong to me and was in the tent when I went there. I went back towards where I had been assaulted with the knife in my hand and as I got to door of the tent Miley met me and  grabbed me. The blood from my head was blinding me and I could not see who held me, and I thought I was being attacked again and would get some more of the bottle and I think I struck out with the knife then to defend myself. I then was in a dazed condition from loss of blood and excitement and the next thing I remember was sitting on the ground and the doctor was there and Miley was lying on the ground and somebody was holding his head. We were then both taken to the hospital in the ambulance. I was on good terms with Miley and when I was caught hold of in the doorway I did not know it was he who held me. I talked with him in the hospital yesterday morning and he said he knew it was not my fault and he did not have any animosity against me as he knew I was defending myself an when he grabbed me it was to stop any further trouble and not to assault me.


In concluding his statement Goodrich expressed regret on account of his wife and children and stated that the deceased was a ‘quiet and good fellow’ and that he never had a quarrel with him.


The statement and the knife referred to in the statement were tendered as evidence.  Resuming his evidence Sgt Cook said that on December 23 Goodrich was discharged from hospital and was then arrested and conveyed to Queanbeyan lockup. He was charged with feloniously slaying John Miley and was again cautioned and made no reply.


In reply to Mr Tucker, Sgt Cook said that Miley declined to say how he come to be injured and said he didn’t want any police action taken. He was quite rational. No post mortem was held on the deceased.



James McGrath, a labourer employed by the Federal Capital Commission residing at No 1 Mess, gave evidence that shortly after 10pm on December 20 he was in his tent and a few men were drinking in Jack Walker’s tent. They were having what is called a ‘jollo’ drinking reciting and dancing. About 1am witness heard Walker talking fight. He was of a quarrelsome nature in drink only. Walker invited Goodrich to fight. They had a few scuffles in the tent and then came outside. They went up a few yards on level ground and continued to fight. During the fight Goodrich said to those present, ‘Take him away, this is only slaughter.’ The men returned towards Walker’s tent. Goodrich was trying to avoid fight. Outside Walker’s tent they came to blows again. Walker then went into his tent and the men were still abusing one another. Goodrich went to go into the tent when someone inside the tent hit him with a bottle, but witness did not know who struck the blow.  Goodrich immediately ran out of the tent and said, I’ll go and get my gun.’  He went somewhere and returned in a few seconds. As he came running back to Walker’s tent Jack Miley came out of the tent. Goodrich and Miley collided with one another and at the same instant Walker came out of his tent and ran away.  When Goodrich and Miley collided I saw Goodrich had something in his hand but witness did not know what it was only it was about a foot long. It could have been a knife produced in court, but it could also have been a newspaper folded up or anything else.


In reply to Mr Tucker McGrath said that after Miley and Goodrich collided he noticed that Goodrich was bleeding. He saw Miley put his arm around Goodrich. They never struggled and he saw no blow struck. Goodrich was pouring with blood.  The blow Goodrich received was a violent one and the bottle smashed.


After hearing further evidence the Coroner committed Goodrich for trial on a charge of feloniously slaying John Miley, bail being at £40.



It does seem a terrible thing that men, hard working and industrious men can reduce themselves to the stare of wild beasts by drink for the purpose of amusement… I do not know whether something is wrong with out social standards or whether it is because of defective education, but we cannot close our eyes to the fact that drink is consumed in enormous quantities in excess of that required for refreshment.  Judge White.


he article then continues with witness statements that follow closely to the earlier article. However one person not interviewed in the earlier article was Walker – following is the section in this article re Walker.


John Howard Walker proved a very sullen witness, and answered in a low voice. He appeared ill at ease in the box. He said he returned from work at about  5pm on the afternoon of December 20 and had a number of drinks with Miley and others. Late in the evening witness and accused had a fight near G Sykes’ tent. It was  a fair fight and witness got the worst of it. Witness told the accused that he had enough and went into his tent. Witness was very drunk.  Witness took up a bottle and struck accused on the head with it.  He then went to railway and did not see any more of the accused that night.


Mr Tucker: Did the bottle break when you struck the blow? – I don’t know.

It was an ordinary bottle was it not? – I don’t know.


What kind of bottles were there there?  It would be a beer bottle wouldn’t it? – Yes I suppose so.


That closed the case for the prosecution and Mr Tucker asked the Bench to apply section 24 of the Crimes Act and discharge the jury or apply a nominal sentence.  His Honor state that the case was one in which he could not take that action, and Mr Tucker addressed the jury.  Mr Tucker’s address to the jury lasted ten minutes and he stressed the point that Goodrich was not in his proper senses for sometime after he had received a very severe blow from Walker, which shivered a bottle on the accused head. It was only natural for a man who had been assaulted when grabbed shortly after, to think that he was going to be assaulted again. The accused in his own statement said that he thought that was what was going to happen. It can be reasonably said that he did what he did in self defence.



Judge White’s summing up lasted over half an hour, in which time he went through all the evidence and left the matter wholly to the jury. In concluding he said: ‘If you find and are satisfied that the accused was only semi-conscious when he inflicted the wounds you will find him not guilty of manslaughter. If on the other hand you find that he was not severely injured and not seriously deprived of his senses when he went for his knife you would be entitled to bring in a verdict of manslaughter.’


The jury retired for 40 minutes and returned a verdict of not guilty and Goodrich was dismissed.


[‘Nimitybelle’ was the nick-name of George Sykes who moved into 29 Westlake following the departure of the Gates family.  He remained in this house until 1965 when it was finally removed – or rather the remains were removed- it was burnt down.  This was the last house to go in Westlake.  George and his brother Gay were the first taxi owner drivers in Canberra.]


1926 Death John Griffin

The Queanbeyan Age 26 March 1926: FATAL ACCIDENT AT EASTLAKE [KINGSTON]

Yesterday the District Coroner, Mr John Gale JP, conducted an inquest at the Canberra Hospital on view of the body then lying in the morgue there, of a young man named John Patrick Griffin, who had succumbed the previous day to the injuries received on the 18th instant, the details of which will be gathered from the subjoined resume of the evidence taken at the inquiry.


Gerald Sheehan, who identified the body stated that deceased had been for the previous three years in his employ as a carter. He was of strictly temperate habits, so much so that he had never known him even to taste intoxicating liquors.


James Victor Bissaker, a plumber residing at Canberra, said that on the 18th instant he was driving a motor-car along Interlake Avenue [Wentworth Avenue] Eastlake, and when near the printing office he noticed deceased Griffin coming towards him riding a bicycle. Both he and Griffin were on their correct sides of the road. When about 15 years from deceased’s bicycle its rider seemed to falter and came right across the road. Noticing this, witness turned his car towards the post-office to avoid a collision. Nevertheless, the bicycle hit the mudguard of his car, also the running-board. The rider of the bicycle then fell backwards and hit his head against the wind-deflector and fell to the ground. Witness had stopped his car, and immediately left it to procure assistance. Dr Finlay who resides close by, came and the ambulance was got and in that deceased was taken to the Canberra Hospital. He was quite unconscious. What appeared to witness to be the cause of the fall of deceased from his bicycle was the displacement of a small sugar-bag containing some parcels which fell between the fork and the wheel of the bicycle. Deceased was travelling at the rate of about 10 miles per hour at the time.  Witness was travelling at between 15 to 20 miles an hour when he first saw the deceased, but his car was practically at a standstill when the collision happened. Witness observed that deceased was engaged with both hands at the handle of his machine when he first saw him.


George Leslie Guy, a storeman residing at Canberra, said at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon of the 18th instant he saw deceased riding a bicycle along Interlake Avenue at Eastlake. At the same time he saw a motor car proceeding in the opposite direction to that taken by the deceased in the same locality. Both vehicles were on their correct sides of the road.  When the bicycle was within 10 yards of the motor cycle it faltered and crossed the road, when it ran into the car and the rider fell back on to the road. The car had practically stopped when the bicycle struck it. He saw deceased removed to the Canberra Hospital in the ambulance and he seemed to be unconscious at the time. Witness examined the bicycle and found a small flour-bag ground between the fork and wheel of the bicycle. The bag contained parcels.  To the best of witnesses believe, the displacement of the bag cause the bicycle to falter. The driver of the car was perfectly sober, as also the deceased appeared to be.


Dr JA James, Medical Superintendent at the Canberra Hospital said that about 3.30 in the afternoon of the day named the subject of the inquiry was brought to the hospital and at once admitted. He was unconscious and suffering from severe shock. There was a scalp wound at the back of his head on the right side. Shortly after the patient’s admission he vomited some blood stained material. His condition remained much the same for the following two days. On the 22nd he was more rational and remained so on the 23rd although he never fully regained consciousness. On the 24th he became worse and died at about 2pm. Witness conducted a post-mortem and found an extensive fracture of the base of the skull with injury to the brain itself. This, was, in his opinion, the cause of death. The injuries described could have been caused by striking some hard substance or object.  The fracture was on the opposite side of the head to that of the site of blow witness had mentioned.


Upon the evidence adduced the Coroner returned the following verdict:- That death occurred on the 24th March instant from a fracture of the skull, accidentally received on the 18th instant by being thrown from a bicycle he was riding crashing into a motor-car, and falling on to the road on the back of his head.


It is understood that the mother of the deceased is a widow, and that he was her main support. His remains were interred yesterday in the RC section of the Queanbeyan General Cemetery.


Mill Creek Death  August 1927


the photograph below was loaned by a member of the Gallagher family and is a record of one of the accidents in the vicinity of Molonglo Settlement.  The buildings in the background are part of the Molonglo Settlement which also suggests that this accident may have taken place on an entrance road into the settlement.


The West Australian [Perth WA] 29 August 1927: CAR FALLS INTO CREEK – PASSENGER CRUSHED TO DEATH.

CANBERRA. Aug 28 – Swerving from the road between the Molonglo workmen’s settlement and Queanbeyan early on Saturday afternoon a motor containing three men fell 12ft over an embankment into Black Creek. One of the men died as a result of his injuries and another is in hospital. Their names are:-

            WILLIAM WATSON (58), married plasterer of Molonglo Settlement – Killed.

            JOHN FROST (52), plasterer, of Molonglo Settlement – Fractured ribs and shock.


The police have been told that the car which was owned by Thomas Herbert Ford, and driven by John Weston Walker, both of Molonglo, was travelling from the settlement along the Uriarra road to Queanbeyan. It is said that a defect developed in the steering gear, and the car, out of control left the roadway and fell into the creek. In falling the car turned over crushing Watson and Frost who was pinned beneath it, in shallow water and mud. The car was wrecked, Walker the driver, escaped almost without injury. Frost and Watson were released from underneath the overturned vehicle by other motorists and taken to the Queanbeyan Hospital where Watson died last night. Frost’s condition is not serious. Both men were employed by a private contractor working within the Territory. Watson’s wife, it is understood, lives in Adelaide. An inquest will be held in Queanbeyan.

Mill Creek death November 1927


Attention was drawn to the bad condition of the main Canberra Queanbeyan road between Mill Creek Bridge and the Molonglo at the inquest upon the death of Norman Hunter, the young man who was killed on Saturday evening when a motor cycle and sidecar crashed into a post supporting the railings flanking Mill Creek bridge.


On returning a verdict of accidental death, the Coroner, Mr John Gale JP, added as a rider, ‘that the bad condition of the centre of the road between the bridge upon which the accident occurred and Molonglo is such as to demand immediate repair.’


Archibald Thompson who was an occupant of a car which was passed by the motor cycle ridden by the deceased a short distance away from the bridge said the motor cycle and side car was travelling on the extreme right of the road whilst the car in which the witness was travelling was on the extreme left.


Witness was of opinion that Hunter chose the extreme right hand side of the road when passing because the centre of the road was in a bad state of disrepair, whereas the extreme sides of the road was comparatively smooth. Witness added that Hunter had a clear view of the road, and there were no vehicles coming towards him or otherwise obstructing his free passage.


Earlier in evidence Thomson, a small goodsman by trade residing at Capitol Hill said he was travelling in a can in company with others along the Uriarra Road at about 6pm on Saturday. The motorbike and sidecar  passed the car when they were about 130 yards on the Queanbeyan side of Mill Creek bridge. The horn of the motor cycle was blown as it approached and the combination passed the car comfortably. It did not appear to be speeding and witness did not think the speed was increased after it passed. A few seconds later he saw the motor cycle strike the end support post of the right hand railings of the bridge, which would mean that Hunter was travelling on the wrong side of the road. The man in the sidecar, Davies, was thrown out violently and shot forward landing on the bridge about 15 or 20 feet away. The rider of the cycle Hunter, disappeared over the side of the bridge and was found to be hanging by one foot. With the help of others, witness lifted him into the car and conveyed him to hospital. In the opinion of witness, death was instantaneous.



The story of the happenings immediately prior to the commencement of the fatal return ride from Queanbeyan to Canberra was related by George Davies who occupied the sidecar and was thrown out violently when the vehicle struck the bridge. In company with Hunter he set out from Canberra for Queanbeyan about 2.30pm travelling in the motorcycle combination with Hunter in control.  Arriving in Queanbeyan both young men went into an auction sale room and later had a drink at Richardson’s Hotel. They then parted company, Hunter proceeding to the barber’s shop for a haircut and shave. Hunter returned later and they had another drink after which Hunter again parted saying he would bring the motorcycle around to the hotel.  Witness said he would be ready at 5pm and at that hour joined Hunter outside the hotel. They then left, with another passenger riding on the carrier of the motor cycle. They had a couple more drinks at the new hotel on Station Hill and immediately left for Molonglo Settlement. Here they set down the man who had occupied the carrier and set out for Manuka at about 5.30pm. They passed several cars after leaving Molonglo, and Hunter seemed quite capable of managing the motor cycle. They were travelling at about 30 mph. Witness had no recollection of passing any vehicle near Mill Creek bridge. He had no idea of how the accident occurred; however as everything seemed to be all right when they were a few feet distant form the bridge.  He had known Hunter for two months and had found him to be of a quiet disposition not addicted to drink. At the time of the accident he was far from being drunk.



Andrew John McDonald, a painter residing at Molonglo he said he had known Hunter for about two years, and knew him usually to be of temperate habits. He, with George Davies came to witnesses’ house at about 5.40 pm on Saturday and left again about 5.50 pm, Hunter riding the motor cycle and Davies occupying the sidecar. Bothe men were under the influence of intoxicating liquor but neither of them was really drunk. Hunter was not a good motor cycle rider particularly with a sidecar attachment. In addition the sun would be in the eyes of a rider travelling in the direction of Eastlake at that time of day.


Dr Alcorn, in evidence said he examined the body of Hunter at Canberra Hospital. There was no evidence of life. There was a deep wound over the right eye extending into the eye socket, and the skull was fractured. There were several contusions on the left side of the chest and he noted multiple facture of a number of the ribs on that side in the region of the heart. He was of the opinion that the cause of death was shock following upon severe contusion of the heart.  The injuries were such as could have been caused by a person riding a motorcycle coming into violent contact with an upright post.


The Coroner returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence adding the rider direction attention to the necessity of repairs to the Uriarra Road between a bridge and Molonglo.


Uriarra Road Accidents 1926 & 1927


 Below: Photograph of the bus following the accident on the Uriarra Road. [Courtesy of Mrs Morris who was injured in the accident.]  The bus was a char-a-banc.




Three motor accidents occurred on the Uriarra Road between Canberra and Queanbeyan on Sunday last. One woman was killed and four occupants of a bus were injured when on Sunday afternoon the vehicle left the road and turning a somersault was completely wrecked.  One motorist drove his car off the road to avoid collision with the bus, and his vehicle sustained some damage.


A collision between a Buick and a Ford car on Sunday afternoon occasioned injuries to two persons, and resulting in the wrecking of the Buick and serious damage to the Ford.


Tragedy marred the ‘busman’s’ picnic to the Cotter River on Sunday last, resulting ultimately in the institution of a charge of manslaughter against the driver of one of the buses. Three Commission buses were used to convey the picnickers and the trip was without incident until the return journey.


A big crowd left the Cotter at about 5.30pm and the third bus left on the return journey about half an hour later, in charge of Robert Baines. Several people were taken to Queanbeyan and only five were left for the return to Canberra.


While on the Uriarra Road, at the foot of Hamilton Hill about two miles from Queanbeyan, the driver attempted to negotiate a turn, but his bus left the road and hit a culvert. It somersaulted, ad threw out the five occupants. Fortunately most of them were thrown clear, but Miss Vivian Rouse aged 21, a visitor from Haber…[section missing] shortly afterwards. The other travellers, Miss M Rouse, Mr and Mrs Morris and the driver, Robert Baines, were taken to Queanbeyan Hospital. Their injuries were not serious but all suffered bruises, abrasions and shock. [I interviewed Mrs Morris, who had a broken pelvis and had to lie still in a bed for 6 months. She and her husband had shared a cottage with another family at Causeway, but because of her injuries were allocated a house at Westlake.]


The bus after leaving the road turned a complete somersault and when it came to rest it was headed in the opposite direction to which it had been going, and the front portion was resting on the culvert.  The road was strewn with cushions and fragments of the upper structure of the car, which was completely wrecked.


A pathetic feature of the case is that the deceased is the fiancée of the driven and was in Canberra on a fortnight’s holiday. She was to have been married at the end of the year.


A sequel to the accident was the arrest of Robert Baines on a charge of manslaughter. He was brought before the Queanbeyan Court on Tuesday, and remanded to the Coroner’s Court which was opened in the afternoon. Bail was allowed at £200.  The parents of the victim of the accident came to Queanbeyan from Sydney immediately on hearing of the accident, and the remains were taken to Sydney for internment.



[The part of the Uriarra Road referred to in this article is now Canberra Avenue between Canberra and Queanbeyan.  This was a very busy road used not only by shoppers but the many men in the camps and other locals who had to visit Queanbeyan to buy alcohol.]


A series of motor accidents occurred during the weekend to the already lengthy list of fatalities which have occurred on the Uriarra Road between Canberra and Queanbeyan when William Watson of Molonlgo died in hospital on Saturday night as a result of injuries received when a car in which he was a passenger capsized  down the embankment into Black Creek. Other accidents occurred on the roads on Saturday. A car taken from outside the Causeway Hall on Friday night was found destroyed by fire on the Bungendore Hill on Saturday.


William Watson of Molonglo Settlement, is dead as a result of a motor accident on the Uriarra-road on Saturday afternoon. The car swerved from the road at Black Creek bridge and, falling over an embankment 12 ft in height, inflicted injuries on two passengers while  the driver of the car escaped unhurt.


The accident occurred at about two o’clock in the afternoon. John Weston Walker was driving and had with him two passengers, William Watson aged 58, and John Frost aged 52. Bound for Queanbeyan from Molonglo Camp the car got out of control while descending the steep hill at the foot of which is Black Creek Bridge. The road at the spot is perfectly straight, but the car swerved owing to what is said to have been a defect in the steering gear. Turning over as it fell, the car landed in the creek and Watson and Frost were pinned underneath in the shallow water and mud. Other motorists who arrived on the scene scaled down the embankment and released the injured men. Watson was found to be seriously hurt, while Frost had sustained a fractured rib.


Watson died in Queanbeyan Hospital at 10.0 pm. Frost’s condition is reported to be not serious. The driver was practically unhurt.  The deceased’s wife is reported to be living in Adelaide.



Frederick W Riley (17) of the Causeway was injured on Saturday when the motor-cycle he was riding was run down from behind by a car.  Riley sustained slight abrasions to the arms and shock, and his motor-cycle was badly damaged.


At about noon, Riley, riding the motor-cycle had turned into Interlake Avenue [now Wentworth Avenue] from the Causeway and was travelling in the direction of Eastlake when he was overtaken and run down by a car driver by HC Kanner of Molonglo Tradesmen’s Mess. The youth and his cycle were dragged under the vehicle.



Two cars were badly damaged on Saturday night when they met in collision on the Uriarra Road near Mill Creek bridge. The occupants of both vehicles escaped injury.


A car driven by Norman McKenzie of Northbourne Camp, was travelling from Queanbeyan to Canberra when near Mill Creek bridge the vehicle struck a culvert, swung across the road and collided with a car driven by Aubrey Anderson of White City Camp, which was travelling in the opposite direction.  The occupants of both vehicles escaped with a shaking.



A car reported as having been stolen from outside the Causeway Hall on Friday night was found destroyed by fire on the Bungendore Hill on Saturday.  William Edward Bailey of the Causeway parked his car near the hall at about 8.30 o’clock on Friday night and about 10.30pm it was found that the vehicle was missing.  Bailey did not treat the matter seriously at the time, being of the opinion that he was a victim of a practical joke. At 8.30am on Saturday, however, he reported his loss to the Canberra police, and at about mid-day the missing vehicle was found on the Queanbeyan Bungendore road about three miles from Queanbeyan.  It had crashed through a fence bordering the road at a sharp curve and was completely destroyed by fire.


Efforts by the Canberra police to trace the person or persons guilty of removing the car have to date proved fruitless. The only information available is that the vehicle was seen travelling in the direction of Queanbeyan between 9pm and 9.30pm on the night of the theft.  It was seen to travel through Queanbeyan and was lost sight of after it had proceeded a short distance along the Bungendore-road. It is stated that when seen, the car contained three or four persons and was being driven in an erratic manner which suggested that the driver was either intoxicated or inexperienced.


1926 Death of Simpson working on building near Hotel Canberra


 The Queanbeyan Age 16 November 1926: ANOTHER FATAL ACCIDENT AT CANBERRA.

The terrific force of last Saturday’s wind storm was directly responsible for the sudden death of a young man named Cecil James Simpson who was engaged by Hutcherson Bros, contractors at a new public building being erected near the Hotel Canberra, and not far from Parliament House.  About quarter past 11 that morning the deceased was searching for some iron on the scaffold of the south block of the building, for the purpose of ramming column boxes, and was in the vicinity of a newly erected brick wall on the second floor when a heavy gust of wind caused the wall to fall inwards carrying Simpson with it.  No one actually saw what had occurred, but a cloud of dust and the sound of cracking timber, led to an examination of what had occurred. The result was that Simpson was found in an unconscious condition, and that in that state he was taken to Canberra Hospital by the ambulance, where he died without regaining his senses, at about half past 12 midday. It is estimated that the fallen wall contained about 4,000 bricks, and weighed fourteen tons. The evidence of Dr James taken at the inquest held yesterday (Monday) was to the effect that the deceased’s skull was badly fractured in several places, and his body otherwise battered and bruised. The Coroner’s finding was to the effect that death resulted from in injuries accidentally by the falling on him of a brick wall, thought the force of high wind prevailing, and that the occurrence was due to no neglect on the part of anyone engaged on the works. The parents of the deceased who reside in Orange were advised of their son’s death and were present at the inquest and the body was taken the same night by train to his late home. Deceased was only 23 years of age, was unmarried and had not insured his life. The greatest sympathy is everywhere expressed for the bereaved family, of whom the deceased is the first born.