27 December 2015

What's in Store For Brisbane City Council's Cemeteries in 2016?

Learn about the planned changes for how the public can 'enjoy' Brisbane cemeteries in 2016.

This story can be read on 'South Brisbane Cemetery'.

23 December 2015

Remembering Old Queensland on Facebook

Just below this short article is a list of links to Facebook pages about the history of specific towns, cities and regions in Queensland. The kind of pages with the words ‘lost’ or ‘vintage’ or ‘remembering’ in their titles. The number of these pages seems to be growing all the time so I thought it would be handy to provide a 'one-stop shop'.

These pages vary in size and activity, but together they form a useful jigsaw puzzle of Queensland's photographic history. Apart from bringing people together to think and talk about their memories and local history, they can be incredibly useful for researchers. I wrote an article on this a few years aback for the Professional Historian’s Association, pointing out that Facebook pages can contain a lot of anecdotal material and unpublished photos, and allow researchers to directly connect to people with information.

The experience of some archivists and librarians, however, has not been so positive. I know from personal experience that the advent of the ‘town memories’ pages was met with disdain in some places, with archivist staff (rightly) concerned by the uncontrolled and uncredited online distribution of material that their institutions owned the copyright on. I was working in a municipal council’s digital archive department when a new local history Facebook page started sharing their photos, and I witnessed the archivist’s determined attempts to clamp down on the practice. The admins on that page ended up imposing strict conditions on photo sharing there.

At the same time I was regularly frequenting another Facebook page - for another place - which was having a similar experience with local librarians banning the online sharing of their local history photos.

In my opinion, many major libraries and archives have missed a trick here because these pages actually represent an opportunity to greatly expand their own collections and knowledge base. The true value of the Facebook pages is in (a) having people share old photos from private collections, and (b) people providing new background information for photos (such as names and dates).

I wrote to the relevant archivists about the second Facebook mentioned above, suggesting they implement a sharing scheme in which they make watermarked versions of their images available to share on Facebook, and in return they could harvest the comments for historical data. They might also get permission to access private collections of interesting photos. Unfortunately, I received no reply. In the subsequent years, many people on that page have shared brilliant photos from their family collections, giving new insights into life in the town in decades past. I feel that, for those archivists, it remains an opportunity missed due to professional snobbery.

"What is this 'Facebook' you speak of?"
Fortunately, more libraries seem to be embracing the potential of community engagement with their collections via social media these days.

Anyway, here is the list Queensland pages. I have attempted to locate as many examples of this type of page as I can, but I expect it is incomplete. The little blurbs come from the pages themselves. If you know of any pages that should be here, please let me know in the comments section below.

Please note: I am currently compiling a list of historical society pages separate to this. That article will appear soon.
  • Adavale Outback Queensland: ‘History, Heritage, Stories, Pictures and Memories from the great Pioneering Outback Town of Adavale and district, Western Queensland.’ 
  • Brisbane Memories: ‘Brisbane, a place to live, visit and remember. Regardless of how long you have spent here in this fair city, there are memories that can be shared...’ 
  • Central Queensland Old Pictures and Yarns: 'Old pictures and yarns from Central Queensland'. 
  • Darling Downs of Yesteryear: ‘A blast from the past! Please place your old photos of the Darling Downs here for everyone to see what has changed and what is still the same!’ 
  • Disappearing Queensland: ‘This page is for anyone to share photos or stories of places in Queensland that are disappearing or could disappear at some time in the future.’ 
  • Early Faces of Queensland: 'Sharing Photos of Early Queenslanders Taken by Local Photographers. Brisbane and Beyond. If you recognise anybody in the photos we upload please contact us.' 
  • Gladstone: Remember When: (Closed Group): ‘We all have enjoyed the reflection down memory lane and the current events. So, here is a page for the Gladstone region to your stories, photos, events, history of the region. Please create albums to add your photos, video’s too, share your school Tonkas, find your old school mates and teachers or maybe colleagues you have worked with. Please share your photos for all to enjoy and don’t forget to LIKE the page and SHARE away.’ 
  • Have You Seen the Old Gold Coast: ‘Lets see the old Gold Coast.... Do you have any old pics of The Coast ?’ 
  • Have You Seen the Old Mackay: Promoting the rich history of Mackay and District and preserving the history we have left so it is saved for future generations 
  • Historical Gympie: ‘A place for historical information and photos of the Gympie Region.’ 
  • I Grew Up in the Redlands: 'A place to find your old class photos.Every Redlands shire school has it's own album here.Please look in your old schools album.Sporting Team and old pics of life in the Redlands are most welcome..!' 
  • Ipswich Leftovers: 'Putting photos from Ipswich's past and putting them into photos of Ipswich now. Showing what's gone and what is left of this wonderful historical city.' 
  • Lost Brisbane: ‘Photos of forgotten Brisbane. See if you can recognise the places in the photos, and tag them if you wish. Please feel free to add photos, make comments or relate any memories you might have about the places in the photos. Enjoy.....’ 
  • Lost Cairns: ‘Photographs of Cairns and district, Queensland - in times gone by.’ 
  • Lost Gold Coast: 'Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Please share your Photos and Stories , lets keep the memories alive!' 
  • Lost Ipswich (Public Group): ‘This is a group for remembering what Ipswich has lost. Not to be negative but more to celebrate this towns Past in Stories and Pictures.’ 
  • Lost Logan: ‘Welcome to Lost Logan. Discover a bygone era of Logan. Everyone is welcome to tag photo's and post their own...enjoy!’ 
  • Lost Maryborough: ‘Photos of forgotten Maryborough (Queensland). See if you can recognise the places in the photos, and tag them if you wish. Please feel free to add photos, make comments or relate any memories you might have about the places in the photos. Enjoy’ 
  • Lost Queensland: ‘This page is for places, people and infrastructure no longer in existence or lost in the mists of time in Queensland. Please add anything you feel would be interesting to this page.’ 
  • Lost Sunshine Coast: ‘This group is for sharing, in any format, all the "lost" beings & characters, things, places, events, experiences, memories, memorabilia, & encounters with the Sunshine Coast of Queensland in our past.’ 
  • Lost Tiara District: Sharing local history through photos of the Tiaro District including Tiaro, Bauple, Gootchie and surrounds. Please feel free to add or tag photos, 
  • Lost Townsville: ‘A way for people to share images of Townsville in past times.’ 
  • Old Brisbane Album (Public Group): ‘Old Brisbane Album is a sister group to Old NSW Album, Old Melbourne Album and Old Sydney Album. It is a group to share your memories of days gone by in Brisbane and surrounds, including the Gold Coast.’ 
  • Queensland School Photos: 'Photos from Queensland Schools.' 
  • Remembering the Brisbane Tramways: 'This page is dedicated to the memory of the Brisbane Tramways, which ran from 1885 to 1969.' 
  • Rockhampton: Remember When: (Public Group): ‘…here is a page for the Rockhampton region to share your stories, photos, events, history of the region. Please create albums to add your photos, video’s too, share your school Tonkas, find your old school mates and teachers or maybe colleagues you have worked with. Please share your photos for all to enjoy and don’t forget to LIKE the page and SHARE away.’ 
  • Stanthorpe History: ‘This page has been created to share Stanthorpe History. Feel free to add your pictures, stories, memories and comments about Stanthorpe and its surrounds.’ 
  • Toowoomba: Remember When: ‘Our mission: to help people experience the joy of recalling forgotten, but happy, memories of Toowoomba’s bygone eras.’ 
  • Townsville 100 Years Ago: 'Breaking news from Townsville one hundred years ago.' 
  • Vintage Queensland: ‘If you appreciate vintage photos (pre 1980) ......you will love Vintage Queensland! Feel free to comment and add your own photos if you wish.’ 
  • Vintage Rural Australia: ‘Post your own photos on Vintage Rural Australia: an album of LIFE ON THE FARM, in times past. Share, and save the memories and history with others.’ 
  • Warwick - Pictures From the Past: ‘The history of Warwick, Queensland, Australia... in pictures. Displaying photographs dating back to 1840.’

21 December 2015

A Brisbane Suffragette in London

I recently published an article looking at the life of Constance Jane McAdam (1872-1951), an author who wrote as 'Constance Clyde' and who resided in Brisbane during the later years of her life. She spent a few weeks in the women’s prison at Boggo Road in 1935 after being convicted of ‘pretending to tell fortunes for payment’, but this was not her first time inside a prison cell. As a journalist living in London in the 1900s, she had participated in a major demonstration by Suffragettes outside the House of Commons, and was (deliberately) arrested for her troubles. She subsequently wrote two highly interesting newspaper articles on her experiences at the protest and inside prison, both of which are reproduced below.

The struggle for equal voting rights in Britain had gone on for decades, mostly by peaceful means, but by the 1900s the activist women were getting frustrated and turned to direct action. Their first demonstration directly outside parliament took place on 22 March 1907 after a Private Member's Bill to give (some) women the vote was defeated. Prime Minister Henry Campbell-Bannerman voted in favour of the Bill, but he allowed his MPs a free vote. The subsequent failure sparked a large protest outside the House of Commons, which was defended by 500 policemen. There was a prolonged and sometimes violent face-off that resulted in the arrest of 75 of the women.

Constance 'Clyde' McAdam was among those women. She had been born in Scotland, raised in New Zealand, and worked in Australia as a journalist before moving to London to further her literary career. A fiercely independent woman, she set out to get arrested that day so she could provide an insider's account of the protest and the conditions inside prison for the Suffragettes. The result is a fascinating record of those tumultuous days:

‘Through London with the Suffrage Procession.
(By Constance Clyde.)

Royalty excepted, London has raised but one statue to a woman; that woman be it noted, was a fighter. Opposite Parliament House stands that stone embodiment - Boadicea in full career. Is it not, perhaps, both an emblem and a prophecy? In the streets that surround it there was fought two nights ago a woman's battle, purely physical, for the fight to vote; ladies struggle with policeman; constables in that hysteria to which this class of men are liable, hustled and arrested innocent people - who did not even know that a suffrage riot was in progress! The papers have given but a mild account of the trampling and confusion that led to the arrest of fifty seven suffragettes on that historic evening, when some hundreds of women marched from Exeter-hall to present their petition to Parliament.

The authorised procession that took place the Saturday previous, however, has its own interest, though - a strange omission nowadays - the proceedings did not close with a string of ladies going to gaol. It is the custom of the suffragettes to give an occasional peaceful demonstration in order to show that their violence is of malice prepense, and not innate. On such occasions there come forward the gentler spirits, who, not caring to share in the aggressive methods yet wish to evince their sympathy whenever they can. For without exaggeration, sympathy is the general sentiment of English womanhood towards these twentieth century Boadiceas. That so many of such sympathisers are well to do middle-class women is, perhaps, the best omen for future success. One is not astonished that Lady Frances Balfour, and Lady Strachay rode in the procession, or that the Countess of Carlisle's daughter walked shoulder to shoulder with mill girls carrying a flag. Those women are accustomed to publicity, are conscious that their position permits unconventionality. It is when we see timid burgeois daughters, prim teachers, staid middleclass wives in the ranks that we think enfranchisement may be really at hand. ‘Club secretaries and leading literary lights walked in the procession,' said the 'Evening Standard’… and went on to wonder in somewhat 'servant gal' language 'how they could so 'demean' themselves.

The first few minutes of procession walking are certainly a little trying. The present writer slipped in a little beyond Hyde Park, and for sixty seconds' after felt that the eyes of all London were upon her. Then the newcomer takes courage, raises the head, talks to her neighbor, and glances at the mottoes on the various pink and blue banners - the gentle 'For Hearth and Home,' the more warlike 'We Demand Our Rights,' the insistent 'We ask not Indirect but Direct Influence.' A little later one glances past the file of policemen walking beside us to the crowds that line the footpath. Remarks reach our ears as we step forward.

It is difficult to gauge the London expression. There is generally the dawn of a grin; one sees only the dawn because by the time the smile is fullgrown we are level with the commencement of others further ahead. Sometimes when there is a stoppage, however, one will note a look of surprise as the masculine glance perceives so long a line of walkers - three thousand strong. Comments are frequent, and sometimes free. 'Go home and do housework' was a favourite admonition; it was heard first at Hyde Park, and met us again as we turned down Pall-Mall; later it cropped up once more by Trafalgar-square. 'What is England coming to?' was the disgusted observation of one 'Johnny,' who certainly gave the impression that England would not do much if it stopped at him. Well-known women come in for special comment. Miss Constance Smedley leans from her carriage to give an importunate beggar. 'Here, don't go wasting more of your dad's money,' called a loafer, in allusion to the princely Lyceum Club, organised by this little lady from her father's wealth. The policemen who walk beside us as guards do not know 'whether, to be proud' or ashamed of their position; nor are they quite certain how far to go in order to shield us from the impertinences of the onlookers. 'You musn't point at the ladies, but you can make remarks' is one constable's interpretation of his duties. So the rude; finger is put down, while the more or less rude tongue continues its criticisms.

Nevertheless, the onlookers on the whole are not-inimical; here and there, indeed, is raised a cheer, and the words ‘Good luck to you, ladies,' hearten our spirits. As we pass Pall-Mall there is, I must admit, a little inward shamefacedness. These interested faces at the men's club windows are known to some of us; we have dined with this one, or gone to the theatre with that. We move on, however consoling ourselves with the reflection that we are braver than Cleopatra; she died rather than walk in a precession; we should die rather than not do so!

'Suffragettes Storm the House - Desperate Encounter With the Police - Wholesale Arrests':
The front page of the Daily Mirror after the protests of March 1907.

So we get to Trafalgar-square at last, and Exeter-hall looms in sight; Boys are running about selling a Woman's paper. We are presented with pamphlets telling us to keep on our course; other pamphlets warning us of the horror in store tor us if we do. Portraits of leading suffragettes are handed about among the crowds, while the throng grows thicker, and the traffic ahead of us is stopped. 'Not often London has to give way to women,' says the processionists with glee; and then, guarded by policemen, we enter Exeter-hall, where Zangwill and Keir Hardie and other notabilities encourage us, while an overflow meeting finds inspiration at Nelson's statue.

Such was the peaceful procession. A few days later occurred the almost terrible contest between Caxton-hall and Parliament House, this being also necessary for the cause in the opinion of the suffragettes. As a consequence, today not only mill hands but women of good family find themselves in gaol; women such as Mrs. Despard, the sister of Colonel French, left alone by the police in previous riots because of her great popularity. Women who did not even know a suffrage revolt was in progress found themselves to their astonishment taken up for asking: an innocent question, This was the fate of a girl reporter who was in the precincts of the House on merely journalistic business. Similar to her doom was that which befell a shy little novelist who three days before complained that life was dull and bereft of excitement. She had no reason to complain now. She obeyed the historic injunction to 'ask a policeman,' and having refused to pay the magisterial fine is now in Holloway. That now fashionable residence also contains a member of a leading literary club, while at another such club a day later the debate fell through because the proposer was in durance. Under such circumstances, no suffragette now attends a meeting without first making all necessary arrangements should a fortnight's involuntary absence from home result.' (Gympie Times, 30 March 1907)

The following article is Constance's account of conditions inside Holloway Gaol:

‘In Holloway Gaol. A Suffragette's Life.

When I saw the startling notice "Fifty seven Suffragettes Arrested," writes Constance Clyde in the Sydney "Daily Telegraph," my resolve was taken to be one of the next batch who thus showed their desire for the franchise. Several motives influenced me; first, it was my only chance of getting into gaol respectably; secondly, I wished to show my admiration for those brave women who chose this method of warfare at a time when all England was against them. Nevertheless, I confess to a certain nervousness when I stood in Caxton-hall listening to Mrs. Despond (sister of Colonel French) inciting the women to attack the House of Commons. My nervousness increased when I followed close after Viscountess Barberton, as she swept out of the hall bearing the petition. It is difficult for an amateur to get arrested in the daytime, so, after sauntering round Westminster viewing the scene, I went back to Caxton-hall for tea and advice.

Here I learned the right mode of procedure. The best way to get into the clutches of the law is to try and get another woman out of them. The experienced suffragette leads the way, pushing and remonstrating till seized; the "amateur" catches her arm, saying, "Let go my friend" (in reality they may never have met till that moment). Robert, exasperated, then takes her in tow also. A knot of policemen forthwith rush down to prevent an escape, and follow along till called to frustrate some other attempt to enter Parliament by another entrance. By obeying those directions I duly found myself, towards the dusk of that spring evening, in the desired grip of the law, and marched to the adjacent Police Court, was cheered by a cup of tea, and a yellow paper, which affirmed that Constance Clyde had behaved riotously and obstructed the police in the execution of their duty.

Holloway Gaol, London, 1896.

Bailed out by Mr. Pethick Laurence, the well-known husband of one suffragist, the arrested one has a night in which to prepare for her fortnight's incarceration. Appearing at the Police Court at 10 next day, I found an interesting scene. First we assembled in a large room; thence, as our names were called, we moved out into a sunny yard. Here we waited for seven hours, with only one bench between us, while one by one we were called into court. We beguiled the time by consuming the refreshments sent us by the Women's Social and Political Union, and discussing the women's problem with our captors. Most of the policemen expressed themselves in favour of the suffrage. One seemed hurt at criticisms on their manner of arresting ladies, and explained that this was due to the fact that at raid time extra constables were called in who, belonging to the East End, did not yet know the West End method of going through this duly. "Did you see any roughness?" he asked anxiously. I cheered him up by affirming that it was the best-conducted riot I had ever witnessed…

In due time I appeared in court, pleaded guilty to having obstructed the police, and, having refused to pay the fine, was escorted upstairs and placed with my fellow-captives now behind a grating… About 5 p.m. we came down in batches of 12 or so to enter our respective Black Marias, on the steps of which we said good-bye to our friends in blue, and also to the crowd of small boys. Maria is not so black as she is painted, and the ride to Holloway was not the stuffy abomination I had expected. Unpleasant to the degree of misery, however, was our first evening in Holloway "Castle." During the night previous not one of us had slept, and one day in the court had been physically tiring. Now, from 6 till 9, we were locked up, three in each reception cell, with but one seat between us. Venturing to sit on the floor, we found grave objections to this proceeding, and, ringing for the wardress, produced the corpses of the slain. We were then removed into another cell, without any stool at all, and not daring to sit down on the floor, remained standing and walking for four hours longer. At last we were called out again to visit doctor, weighing machine, and bathroom, after which, clad in our loose prison clothes, we clumped in our heavy Holloway boots to a gallery, where each was locked into her cell. These compartments proved to be absolutely clean. Having ascertained this, I got down my legless plank bed, strewed mattress sheets, and blankets upon it, and heard the clock strike 2 as I went to sleep. At half-past 5 I was awakened by the rising bell sounding from far below.

A Day's Food and Work.
The first day in Holloway was most unpleasant; very few of us but complained afterwards of the harsh manners of the wardresses. Our advent, of course, throws much extra work on their shoulders, and as a result they would fling open our doors, shout something at us, and talk to us like naughty children because we did not understand. The day's procedure, once we knew it, was simple. At half-past 5 we rise, and, having washed in a tin basin, fold our bedding in a certain cart-wheel shape, and place it on the lower of two shelves. Then we attack the tin basin, dustpan, and jug with bathbrick and soap. This is the most unpleasant of our duties; we consider that, as we have not been sentenced to hard labour, our work should not be made difficult for us. Now, every housekeeper knows how much easier it is to keep clean enamelled ware than anything made of tin. At 7 we came out to fill our water-jugs, and, returning, place on the lodge tables near the door huge mugs, in which we receive in the morning nondescript tea, in the evening thin cocoa. Each time we receive also a roll of excellent wholemeal bread and butter; the latter, however, is an innovation, and was not enjoyed by the first batch of suffragettes.

Locked in again, we sweep the concrete floor with a handleless broom, and, later, receive into our cells a pail, mop, and brush, with which, every morning, save Sunday, we wash the two shelves, the table ledge, the plank bed, the hot water pipe, and finally the concrete floor. This work, however, is light compared with the tin-ware cleaning. Chapel and exercise fill up the rest of the morning. At exercise we walk round and round the courtyard in single file, and all at equal distances. "Reverse," cries the wardress, and we walk round the other way. During this time we are not allowed to talk, but, needless to say, we drop a word occasionally, the strictness of prison rule relaxing as we get near the close of our stay.

From half-past 11 till 12 we are locked in our cells once more, and at midday hear the clanking of tin cans, as some third-class misdemeanants (we belong to the first division), led by the wardress, come round with a waggon load of dinner tins. These hold potatoes with pea stew, boiled beef, pork, and beans, according to the day, and always a roll of brown bread. Save for an excursion to the gallery tap to wash our mugs, afternoon and evening are eventless. We sit in our cells, read, knit, or contemplate our surroundings.

'Self Portrait in Prison Dress', Sylvia Pankhurst 1907.

Physical Weariness.
What do we suffer from most? It is not till the second week that the monotony preys on our spirits, and for most of us, the food being wholesome, is agreeable enough. We suffer much from physical weariness. In chapel we sit on benches without backs, and, unlike the London cab horses, cannot lean upon one another. In the cells we have no heat but a stool, and we are not permitted to lay out our plank beds till after 6. These beds again are as hard as the concrete floor. We have excellent electric light, however, and our cells are well heated, too much so for my taste. In fact, I should really suffer if I did not get up on my stool occasionally and breathe into the ventilator. Every afternoon as the clock strikes 3 I take my little constitutional to that ventilator, while viewing as much of the scenery as I can through the closed window. Till March 31 our electric light is turned on from 6 till about half-past 8; but from April 1 no light is allowed. It is now the summer season, even though the dusk begins before 7, leaving us several hours of idle wakefulness in our comfortless cells. Very dreary were these hours, and we can quite realise that prisoners spend them in devising new means of wickedness.

Our chaplain has amused ns very much. He does not approve of the Suffragettes, and when a prisoner, asked her religion, pronounced herself a member of the Ethical Thought Society, answered abruptly, "Never heard of it." He has preached a sermon against us, counselling us to remember that a woman's best ornament is submission to authority. When he did this after a previous raid a suffragette was ill-advised enough to interrupt him. This, as a wardress explained to me, was very foolish, as it might have led the ordinary criminal women to revolt, and then "we should all for a time have been at their mercy.” We have the laugh at the chaplain, however, for did he not tell us of certain Biblical character that she was a "free agent," "as free as any of you, sisters!" At Easter time we have another chaplain, and he, quite accidentally, I believe, gives a stirring sermon on the necessity of fighting and striving, and disregarding the comments of the world. To which preacher shall we suffragists lend an ear?

Denuded as they are of ordinary furniture, our cells are amply stored with religious literature. Besides Bible, hymnbook, and prayer-book, I have a piece of cardboard with an evening and a morning hymn, and a book, "The Narrow Way," which tells me not to indulge in luxurious living. Besides these is a slate and slate pencil. When I apply for pen and paper, explaining that I am a journalist, the governor seems to think this slate should satisfy my requirements. However, I persuade him otherwise. It is very difficult to know what one may or may not have in gaol, as there are no definite rules except that mirrors, hair pads, and sharp instruments are peremptorily disallowed. The Women's Social and Political Union sends each of us a newspaper every day, and from these we learn what is happening in Holloway. I am allowed but two of the many visitors that apply to see me. It is curious that the first is forbidden to give me the rose she has brought, but the other is permitted to leave a book…

So the days pass on. The visiting magistrate, doctor, and governor come round occasionally, and on Wednesday we visit the baths, which are not quite so well kept as the rest of Holloway. Now, however, the day of freedom dawns. How early we wake, so pleased that we are hardly angry to find that our good clothes and hat have been wrapped in bundles, according to Holloway usage that they are not as neat as we would like them to be. Once again we are weighed, and receive back jewels, money, hair pads (if we wear them), and other accessories. As we march out we hear the band that has come to welcome us. Tickets are given us for the twopenny tube, another ticket for Eustace Miles's restaurant; arrived in London we form into procession again, and, guarded by our friends, the police (now our protectors) enter that well-known tearoom. Here we enjoy our first good breakfast, finding at each plate a bunch of narcissi, with Mr. and Mrs. Pethick Laurence's compliments. For others, as for myself, there are to be club dinners, reception teas, and other honours which, spite of certain unpleasantnesses of gaol life, we feel to be undeserved. Meanwhile give me an armchair!’ (The Mercury, 24 June 1907)

19 December 2015

Constance Clyde of Dutton Park: Author and Suffragette

In August 1951 a 79-year-old Brisbane woman died and was buried in the Hemmant Cemetery. No headstone marks her grave, no newspaper obituary marked her passing, and her life in Brisbane had been generally unremarkable. Yet Constance Jane McAdam had done much to be remembered for.

Constance Clyde, 1903.

I first came across Constance while researching the Brisbane Women’s Prison of the 1930s. She had spent three weeks in Boggo Road in 1935 after being convicted of ‘pretending to tell fortunes for payment’, and subsequently wrote a newspaper article about her experiences there. From that article, the breadcrumb trail of online information revealed a formidably independent woman who had been a writer in New Zealand, Sydney and London, producing a novel and numerous short stories for newspapers and magazines. In London 1907 she spent time in Holloway Prison for her part in a Suffragette protest at the Houses of Parliament. She even managed to get herself ejected from the New Zealand parliament after a one-person protest there. Clearly this was someone who lived a life worth recalling.

That life began in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1872 when she was born as the 11th child of William and Mary Couper. The family emigrated to Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1879. She began her literary career as a young woman writing poetry for the Otago Witness newspaper, and her first paid piece was a short story in the Dunedin Star. She moved to Sydney in 1898, where a major part of her journalistic career was spent writing for the Sydney Bulletin, particularly on the subjects of ‘social, feminist and literary questions’.[1] She wrote under the pen name ‘Constance Clyde’, no doubt a sentimental reference to the river than ran through the city of her birth. She also joined the ‘Yorick Club’, a somewhat bohemian collection of people with ‘a professional interest in literature, visual arts or science’.

Constance moved to London in 1903 to further her career. Her only novel, A Pagan's Love, was published there in 1905. Lawrence Jones provides this analysis of the book:
‘Clyde is explicitly contemptuous of Puritanism, which she dismisses as ‘this coarse, church-belled heathenism’. She sees it as a narrow, barren, blinkered creed suitable for the respectable conformists who live in the Presbyterian Otago community of Waihoa. The attractive alternative offering deliverance from this stultifying religion is paganism. For Clyde, this is a blend of atheism, sexual equality and a new morality. The novel charts the progression of the heroine, Dorothea Wylding, away from Puritanism towards paganism. Growing up in Waihoa, Dorothea is imbued with a strict sense of morality and a belief in respectability. This begins to be undermined when she travels to Sydney, the ‘laughing pagan city’. Here she meets the feminist Ascot Wingfield, an independent career woman and solo mother, who teaches Dorothea of the need for women to have both an intellectual and an emotional life. Dorothea is also reunited with childhood friend Edward Rallingshaw, the pagan of the title. A married man, he tries to persuade Dorothea to live with him in a free love union. Just as he wears the last of her resistance down he dies in a fire. While this at first appears to reinforce the Puritan theological code of transgression and punishment, it eventually results in the defeat of orthodoxy. Returning to Waihoa, Dorothea marries the Rev John Archieson. When she leaves him to return to Sydney he in turn discovers that the Puritan code is limiting. In a final sermon he questions whether ‘there is such a thing as sin’ and declares that ‘it is not the higher but the broader life that we want; we need our minds enlarged rather than our souls purified’. John’s heterodoxy reunites him with Dorothea. The ex-Puritan hero and heroine resolve to work together to free others from the religious and moral bondage they have experienced and to promote ‘a new morality and religion of love rather than law, of fulfillment rather than denial.’[2]
The novel did not find a large audience and I don’t know if Constance ever tried to write another one. Certainly after this time her output was largely confined to short stories for various newspapers, with the occasional piece of journalism, although in 1933 she co-authored a travel/history book titled New Zealand, Country and People.

Her political beliefs saw her make the news in 1907. Constance was naturally drawn to the cause of the Suffragettes and their long struggle for full voting rights for women. This led to her arrest and imprisonment in March 1907 for taking part of the first Suffragette protest outside the British parliament – which followed the defeat of another suffrage Bill - in which there was reported to be prolonged fighting between the protesters and the 500 police who were defending the House of Commons. 75 women were arrested that day. Constance wrote vivid newspaper accounts of these experiences, which I will reproduce in the next article on this website. I am unsure as to the direct and ongoing extent of her involvement in the Suffragette movement, and it is clear from her articles that she set out to get arrested just so she could report from inside the 'belly of the beast', but her writings show that she was clearly a very strong supporter of the struggle. Her actions also show that she was not afraid to see the inside of a prison cell, and like many Suffragettes she wore imprisonment as a badge of honour.

A young suffragette is arrested at the March 1907 protest.
A young Suffragette is arrested at the March 1907 protest.

Her life in Edwardian London seemed to become much quieter after this time, and in 1912 it was reported that she ‘was recently received into the Church by the Jesuit Fathers at Farm street, London.’ On the face of it, this appeared to be a surprising move for a person who had railed against the establishment and conformity for so long, but Constance lost none of her political combativeness.

Her short stories continued to appear various publications in the following years, but any dreams of literary stardom in London must have faded away. She returned to New Zealand - probably during the 1920s - and continued her love/hate relationship with that country. She was admonished in the pages of the Coffs Harbor Advocate in 1925 - with the suggestion that her ankles should be caned - for her article in the Empire Review criticising the people of New Zealand for their general submissiveness. Then, in 1931, Constance was making news again with another parliamentary protest. This time her concern was child abuse, while the New Zealand parliament was considering a Child Welfare Bill.
‘When the Speaker of the House of Representatives was reading prayers this afternoon a woman in the visitors' gallery suddenly and loudly protested against the Child Welfare Act. An attendant persuaded her to remain silent, but when prayers had concluded she recommenced her protest. She tore up a copy of the Act, throwing it to the floor of the House, She was ejected by the police. 
The woman stated subsequently that her name was Constance McAdam, and her pen name Constance Clyde. She said she was a member of the Women's International League of Peace and Freedom, and had not been aware that the House opened with prayer. "At all events, I am the first woman to speak in the New Zealand Parliament," she added.’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 19 March 1931).
Another short insight into her political and social activities was provided by a Brisbane newspaper in 1932:
‘Prominent among New Zealand writers is Constance McAdam Clyde. Articles written by her have appeared in the best English magazines, including the Contemporary and Empire Reviews. Her last publication is a history of New Zealand, in which she collaborated with Alan Mulgan, and which was brought out by Whitcombe and Tombs. Some of her most valuable work has been achieved, however, in assisting to place new writers before the public. Miss Clyde is an ardent advocate of physical culture for both the youthful and middle-aged. She is also, prominent in anti-vivisection matters.’ (Telegraph [Brisbane], 25 June 1932).

It was around this time that she moved to Brisbane and settled in the suburb of Dutton Park. This was the time of the Great Depression, and Constance was by now advertising her services in assisting with the preparation and publication of manuscripts, and she also sought a writing partner. However, in June 1933 she was living at ‘Lavinia’, on Dutton Street, Dutton Park, and subtly advertising her services as a fortune teller.

Constance also became a writer of regular letters-to-the-editor, usually under her birth name and espousing her views on various subjects. In 1933 she wrote about child protection, prison reform, her opposition to the forced sterilisation of ‘mental deficients’ (which she also wrote about in 1934). She also suggested that people should wear ‘a small piece of pale green ribbon’ on Sundays to show their support for ‘a better state of things financial’.

She continued telling fortunes under the name ‘Madame Lavinia’, and in 1935 (while living on Merton Road) she was arrested and charged with ‘having pretended to tell fortunes for a fee’. Constance faced the police and the court with characteristic defiance:
'She told me that she only did it as a sideline,' said Constable Davissen, of the Traffic Office. She said that she was a journalist, writing for 'Women's Weekly, 'Women's Budget,' ‘The Women's Mirror’ and several other papers. And before I left she said, 'You can tell the magistrate from me that I will not pay any fine, even if it's only sixpence.’ (The Truth, 7 April 1935)
She told the court that 'I thought that I could do some good in this depression by sympathy, kindness and advice, and especially by telling people that there is nothing wrong with this world except the monetary system.' For Constance, even reading tea leaves could become a political platform.

True to her word, she refused to pay the fine and so was confined inside the nearby Boggo Road prison for three weeks. She didn’t miss the opportunity to write about this experience, and I have already covered that work in this article.

Constance McAdam, 1935.

This proved to be Constance’s last brush with the law. Her newspaper letters now became infrequent and her concerns trivial. In a letter to the Women’s Weekly in 1935 she complained of children getting Christmas presents too early. In 1938 she was unhappy with the etiquette of people listening to household radios, and in 1939 she complained of an accident hotspot on Ipswich Road. In 1940, now aged 68 years, she suggested that the government could save money on pensions by asking rich families to help provide for their elderly relatives. In 1944 a rather insipid poem on the tragedies of love appeared in the Queensland Times. And then, nothing. This must have all felt like a long way from the dreams of the ambitious young writer who travelled by ship from Sydney to London in 1903 with an unpublished novel under her arm.

In the 1949 Queensland Electoral Roll she was listed as a journalist and living at 15 Deighton Road, South Brisbane.

Constance died in Brisbane on 30 August 1951, and was buried in the Hemmant Cemetery. The event passed without mention in the local newspapers. There was no obituary, no funeral notice. It was a quiet end to a life that had petered out in the mundane concerns of suburbia after such an ambitious foray into the bohemian literary circles of turn-of-the-century Sydney and London. Hopefully this article will help make more people aware of the achievements of Constance Jane 'Clyde' McAdam.

I set out here to put together the most complete online account of Constance McAdam’s life. While that general aim has been achieved, my research has been limited and holes remain. I would appreciate any further biographical information that can be added above.

List of the published writings of Constance McAdam (work in progress).
  • Consolation - Song Words, poetry (The Bulletin, 12 December 1896) 
  • Hypnotised, short story (The Bulletin, 9 January 1897) 
  • Dead, poetry (The Bulletin, 31 July 1897; 11 January 1933) 
  • To Save His Soul, short story (The Bulletin, 26 June 1897) 
  • A Woman's Promise, short story (The Queenslander, 11 December 1897) 
  • Mrs Murgan's Snake Bite Cure, short story (The Sydney Mail, 17 December 1898) 
  • Letters from the Grave, short story (The Queenslander, 17 December 1898) 
  • Dreams and Shadows, poetry (The Bulletin, 24 December 1898) 
  • A Woman's Love, short story (The Bulletin, 7 January 1899) 
  • Virgins, Wise and Foolish, poetry (The Bulletin, 28 January 1899) 
  • The Widow, poetry (The Bulletin, 11 February 1899) 
  • Night's Day, poetry (The Bulletin, 11 February 1899) 
  • A Glass of Beer, poetry humour (The Bulletin, 1 July 1899) 
  • A Boarding-House Idyl, short story humour (The Bulletin, 29 July 1899) 
  • The Test of Love, poetry (The Bulletin, 2 September 1899) 
  • Conversely!, short story (The Bulletin, 4 November 1899) 
  • The Saddest Song, poetry (The Bulletin, 9 December 1899) 
  • The Soul of David King, short story (The Bulletin, 9 December 1899) 
  • The Dream Child, poetry (The Bulletin, 23 December 1899) 
  • The Elopement of Lydia, poetry humour (The Bulletin, 6 January 1900) 
  • In the Night, poetry humour (The Bulletin, 20 January 1900) 
  • Love's Climax, poetry (The Bulletin, 24 February 1900) 
  • Why They Killed Mrs Saville, short story (The Australasian, 10 March 1900) 
  • For Ever, poetry (The Bulletin, 28 April 1900) 
  • Mrs Flynn's Sofy, short story humour (The Bulletin, 5 May 1900) 
  • Jones, the Genius Hunter, poetry humour (The Bulletin, 26 May 1900) 
  • The Cleverness of Douglas Fitzgerald, short story (The Australasian, 2 June 1900) 
  • Angela, the Good, short story (The Bulletin, 23 June 1900) 
  • Millar's Water, short story (The Australasian, 7 July 1900) 
  • The Broken Dove, poetry (The Bulletin, 28 July 1900) 
  • Stepmother Bessie, short story (The Australasian, 11 August 1900) 
  • The Man that Came Back, short story humour (The Bulletin, 25 August 1900) 
  • A Faithful Woman, poetry humour (The Bulletin, 8 September 1900) 
  • The Ballad of John Bigley, poetry (The Bulletin, 20 October 1900) 
  • Parson King's Happy Day, short story humour (The Bulletin, 3 November 1900) 
  • Sympathetic Miss Swanston, short story (The Australasian, 29 December 1900) 
  • Pirates, short story (The Bulletin, 29 December 1900) 
  • My Best Friend, short story (The Australasian, 29 June 1901) 
  • Her Good Father, short story (The Newsletter, 28 December 1901) 
  • Pan of the Seashore, poetry (The Australasian, 6 April 1901) 
  • Mr. Shannon's Choice, short story (The Australasian, 19 October 1901) 
  • The Chief Mourner, short story (The Australasian, 16 November 1901) 
  • The Forgiveness of Florence, short story (The Australasian, 14 June 1902) 
  • The Game Eileen Played, short story (The Australasian, 5 July 1902). 
  • An Appeal, poetry (The Bulletin, 19 July 1902) 
  • Mabel's Love Letter, short story (The Australasian, 20 September 1902) 
  • Lizzie's Lie, short story (The Australasian, 15 November 1902) 
  • The Ballad of John Ibbetson, poetry (The Bulletin, 21 February 1903) 
  • A Men's Refuge, short story (The Bulletin, 21 March 1903) 
  • The Diplomacy of Caroline, short story (The Bulletin, 16 May 1903) 
  • The Question of Beer, poetry (The Bulletin, 23 May 1903) 
  • The Enfranchised Woman, prose (The Bulletin, 20 June 1903) 
  • The Difference, poetry (The Bulletin, 27 June 1903) 
  • An Exemplary Mother, short story (The Australasian, 22 August 1903) 
  • The Marrying of Mr. Maxwell, short story (The Australasian, 24 October 1903) 
  • The Commonplace Men, poetry (The Australian Town and Country Journal, 9 December 1903) 
  • A Pilgrim of Love, short story (Colac Herald, 16 September 1904) 
  • His Strange Little Lady, short story (The Australasian, 26 March 1904) 
  • The Tragedy of the Spun-Silk Shawl, short story (The Australasian, 28 May 1904) 
  • Held Cheap, short story (The Australasian, 9 July 1904) 
  • The Ordeal of Mrs Holmes, short story (The Australasian, 26 November 1904) 
  • A Pagan's Love, novel (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1905) 
  • The Career of Jessica, short story (The Australian Town and Country Journal, 26 February 1908) 
  • The Plan of Elise Blanc, short story (The Australasian, 13 March 1915) 
  • The Pardoning of Jessie, short story (The Australasian, 11 March 1916) 
  • Soldier’s Wives, short story (The Australasian, 23 March 1918) 
  • The Flippancy of Felicia, short story (The Australasian, 3 September 1921) 
  • It's a Young Country Yet, short story (The Australasian, 28 January 1922) 
  • When the Dumb Spoke, short story (The Australasian, 11 February 1922) 
  • The Eyes of John Denne short story (The Bulletin, 27 January 1927) 
  • The Motor-Car Wife, short story (The Australian Woman's Mirror, 27 September 1927) 
  • Elimination, short story (The Australian Woman's Mirror, 3 January 1928) 
  • 'With Shop Attached', short story (The Australian Woman's Mirror, 14 February 1928) 
  • The Magic Dress, short story (The Australian Woman's Mirror, 12 August 1930) 
  • Change of Heart, short story (The Queenslander, 21 March 1935) 
  • Contrasts, poetry (Queensland Times, 3 March 1944)

[1] Kirstine Moffat, ‘The Puritan paradox: an annotated bibliography of Puritan and anti-Puritan New Zealand fiction, 1860-1940. Part 2: reactions against Puritanism’, Kotare: New Zealand Notes & Queries, Vol.3, No.2, 2000.
[2] Lawrence Jones, ‘Puritanism’, The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, ed. Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie, Melbourne, Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1998, p.130.

08 December 2015

A Suffragette Recalls Boggo Road Gaol

The following article about a female prisoner recalling her time inside Boggo Road is adapted from Brisbane's Daily Standard, April 1935. The subject is Constance Clyde, who was born in Scotland in 1872, moved to New Zealand as a child, and then on to Sydney in 1898. She wrote for the Sydney Bulletin, and penned the novel A Pagan's Love, in which ‘questions of women's dependence were raised, with the heroine considering an extra-marital relationship with a man’. As a reporter, she was imprisoned in England in 1907 as one of the suffragettes who ‘caused a disturbance’ in the House of Commons. A similar protest scene was depicted in the inspiring 2015 movie Suffragette. Clyde wrote of some her experiences as a protester in this 1907 article.

In 1935 she was living in Brisbane and was arrested for earning money by fortune-telling with tea-leaves. She characteristically refused to pay the fine and was sent to the Female Division at Boggo Road, which at that time was a small timber dormitory next to the main prison off Annerley Road. Upon her release she told the local Press of her time inside there:

Silver hunger-strike medal presented to the Suffragette prisoner Lady Constance Lytton, October 1909.

Little Colony That Is Forgotten

Forgotten women in an isolated colony in the heart of Brisbane is how an elderly woman, and a remarkable personality herself, views the women's section of Boggo-road Gaol, in which she recently spent three weeks. Her offence was fortune-telling with tea-leaves, and she refused to pay the fine.

Newspaper article confirming suffragette Constance Clyde's arrest in London, 1907She is ‘Constance Clyde,’ and is well-known by that name to readers of women's periodicals in Australia. Author of a novel, contributor to high-class English reviews, sometime social editress of a Christchurch (N.Z.) newspaper, and in 1906 one of Emmeline Pankhurst's Suffragettes, she indicts Boggo-road as a bleached version of what a woman's prison should be.

Constance Clyde speaks from experience. In her own words she says that she ‘has experienced several gaols,’ but it ought to be pointed out that since early womanhood she has been something of a stormy petrel in questions affecting feminine reforms. Holloway, one of England's famous gaols, housed her for a couple of weeks, giving her her first taste of prison life.

Although born in Scotland, she was brought to New Zealand at an early age, and returned in 1906 in time to become enthusiastic in the cause of women's suffrage. Mrs. Pankhurst and her famous daughters had espoused action where talk and entreaty had failed and in a still somewhat, conservative age had decided that only by violence could Englishmen be induced to concede Englishwomen their, rightful share in each triennial failure to elect an ideal Commons.

If nowadays the 'average' woman elector votes only under the dutiful pressure of her husband, and the threat of a fine, then it can only be advanced, in extenuation, that times have changed!

Anyway, one of the milder forms of suffragette exhibitionism during 1906 was a proposed gathering of the clan in Parliament Square. The intention of the Suffragettes was to march into Parliament House, and then let Providence be their guide. Miss Clyde was one of them.

On their arrival they found the Square well picketed by policemen, and, recalls Miss Clyde, she was one of about a hundred who were arrested and sentenced to Holloway. They were regarded by their sympathisers as martyrs, and when they came out were given brooches as a memento, the color-scheme being purple and green. This, however, was a mild form of martyrdom compared with those others essayed later by individuals; a peak sensation of the campaign occurred when a suffragette threw herself down, on the race track in the path of the thundering Derby field.

Miss Clyde remembers that as first-class misdemeanants they were given butter in Holloway; they were allowed to retain small personal possessions, such as hairbrushes; they were not denied the spiritual consolation of a minister of religion. None of these advantages, she says, was obtainable In Boggo-road, though the officials were kindness itself.

‘I realise perfectly,’ she said, ‘that a gaol is not intended to be a rest home. But Boggo-road impressed me as being run on a wrong principle. For instance, we were not allowed hairbrushes, but were provided with a big comb each, with which to do our hair 'in a nice, neat bun behind,’ according to framed regulations issued in 1890.’

(Australian Town and Country Journal, 18 November 1903)

There was not even dripping on the bread, and the food supplied was of a needlessly poor quality, declared Miss Clyde.

The tone of the section was neglect and decay. ‘It is as forgotten,’ she added, 'as an Aztec temple in ancient Peru.’

‘There is no regular weekly inspection, and the doctor to most of us was a rumor. He did not see everyone on entry. No members of women’s organisations, or other organisations, come to console or uplift. Sundays were like other days, without the vestige of a service.

‘On the second of my three Sundays our religious food was one bar of music faintly wafted to us from the men's prison, where the Salvationists held a service. No Salvationist came over to call us ‘sister.’

‘On one weekly evening the men were entertained to an uplift movie. It would have been- easy, as in other prisons, to send the women over to some hidden part of the hall, but we were not sent over.

Prison Clothes.
‘There were two sorts of prison clothes - garments crisply new, and others that crept down. The socks were past redemption. I found difficulty in obtaining from a mouldy Government box a pair of the heelless prison slippers that would stay on my feet.

‘I was seriously informed that if I couldn't find a pair, on no account would I be permitted to approach my suitcase for a pair of my own. Rather must I perambulate cell, veranda and yard, which comprised our ‘run’ in stockinged soles.

‘I 'did not mind this so much - being fairly Bohemian! - but the first pair of long, white garterless socks that I received had only a half a sole to each foot.

‘Completely deprived of our personal possessions, and of crochet and sewing, and unable to write or play games, we would gladly have mended these socks for pastime. But there is only one Government needle, and no mending wool! I admit there is a sewing machine, which is used for Government work.

‘We were not there to occupy ourselves. When Government work failed we loafed around the yard or sat on our backless benches. I spent part of the third day trying to show a fellow prisoner a certain crochet stitch with a piece of stick and some string. We did nothing in our leisure except read the few tattered and ancient stories of the Victorian era, and some American publications.

Gangster Yarns.
‘After our final lock-up at half past four I sat up till lights out at eight o'clock, perusing these gangster yarns, 'My Nine Years in Hell,' 'How I Became a Dope Fiend,' and other stories suitable for our condition.

‘Out of the 24 leaden-footed hours we spent nearly 17 in our cells. The authorities have forgotten to put stools in the cells. The furnishings comprise a bed, hard as a brick, without wire mattress, and a locker in which to keep simple provisions. When we took in our dinner stew, served in a dog tin, we might eat it sitting on the bed, twisting round to get at our meat on the locker, or give up the struggle and sit on the floor.

‘Our breakfast and tea meal consisted of a mug of tea with dry bread. We were allowed sugar, and our supply of milk was so abundant that to this moment, freedom attained, I have given this fluid a complete miss.

‘In New Zealand the women are given dripping, and also, every week, one pot of jam of a good brand. In Holloway in Suffragette times, misdemeanants at least received butter.

‘With mild malignancy, the Queensland Government did not allow us to buy anything for ourselves. This system is a hangover from the period when prisoners were held to be reformed by semi-starvation.

Kindly Officials.
‘The officials were humane - their kindly way of speaking, so important a matter to the incarcerated, perhaps saves many from a breakdown. But they do not understand. I heard of one declaring that the 'women were happy enough in gaol.' This is not true. We were all, educated or uneducated, always miserable.

‘The glory time is when a new prisoner enters. From her comes the news - but it is always underworld news. We were not permitted to hear real world news to counteract this evil. It would corrupt us to hear that Bishop so-and-so has laid a foundation stone, or that someone rescued someone else bravely from drowning at Sandgate. Only the evil of the world is permitted to come in.

‘I learned in this gaol how to make 'pinkie,' the names of a few Brisbane gangsters, and how possibly (if I want it) I might, after some hunting, obtain cocaine.

‘An ideal gaol is one that the world remembers, and in which the prisoner forgets. But this woman's gaol is one that the community has forgotten. Only its inmates will remember it and the lessons learnt within its dilapidated walls.’

Official Reply.
When told of ‘Constance Clyde's’ statements, Mr, J. F. Whitney, Comptroller-General of Prisons, said: ‘I would be the last person in the world to claim that the women's gaol is a 1935 model, but the truth of the matter is that there are so very few female prisoners that an expensive building is not warranted.’ He added that the place was perfectly clean and very comfortable, and all the inmates were satisfied with the treatment. ‘Truth’ was taken through the women's prison, and found conditions to be as the superintendent had stated. At present there are five inmates, and all were happily sewing and chatting together.

The building was scrupulously clean; there were five blankets on each bed, and the uniforms worn by the prisoners were neat and clean. Each prisoner, ‘Truth’ was told, is in her cell from 4.30 p.m. till 6.30 a.m. next morning - 14 hours. Visitors are allowed to see inmates frequently, and ‘Constance Clyde,’ the visitors' book showed, had two visitors in three days. A study of the reading matter allowed, revealed no gangster stories.'

27 November 2015

The Case For a Boggo Road Cultural Hub

With the Boggo Road redevelopment process now taking another step forward with the release of the draft application details, I’d like to gradually present a few articles on this website outlining my own ideas, beginning – as we always should – with the Big Picture.

What kind of a place do I want Boggo Road to become?

I’ve been continually involved in this planning process as long as anyone, and like to think I have a decent grasp of what is possible for Boggo Road. Unfortunately what is possible is the framework we have to work within, and so my ‘perfect world’ ideas for the prison are irrelevant.

If we have learned anything from the last four Queensland premiers - Beattie, Bligh, Newman and Palaczszuk - it is that there is no government magic pudding to fund the eternal upkeep of Boggo Road. This was an ideological decision taken way back when, and nine-figure legally-binding contracts were signed with the private sector years ago so there will be no u-turns. We have to make the best of what we have now, which is a private development company leasing Boggo Road from the state government and trying to create significant revenue from reusing the site (with retail and licensed dining facilities) while providing for a decent heritage/arts precinct within the walls.

This is not ideal (from my perspective) but the plans I’ve seen are largely palatable and the people behind them seem genuinely keen on making the heritage aspects work. This makes sense as the success of the licensed dining facilities would be partially dependent upon the rest of the site being a quality drawcard for the public.

My overall philosophy is that it would be a worthwhile achievement to take Boggo Road - an old prison ingrained with decades of negativity and pain - and transform it into a place of positive creativity and community life. In effect, to ‘rehabilitate’ the buildings themselves.

It is a place in need of healing, a scar in the psyche of the landscape. Some people recoil from it. There are some former officers and inmates who suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and have psychological and physical reactions to even being near the prison. I know of one old screw who had to quit his job after he couldn’t walk through the main gates anymore, and afterwards he would urinate in his pants if he was accidentally driven past the place.

This is not a happy place, and it can’t be healed by simply filling it with diners and artists and tourists and schoolkids. We must never forget or whitewash or diminish what happened there. That would be unfair on all those who experienced it when it was a prison, and unfair on those who can still learn the important lessons of that history.

What we need to do next is use the history as inspiration for telling stories of the old prison through live performance, visual arts, oral history, exhibitions and the written word. Boggo Road should become a centre for encouraging debate and research about Boggo Road itself. A place where we invite the community in to talk about what happened there, through (as I always say) ‘many stories, through many voices, in many ways’.

Not every artistic event that takes place there needs to address that history, but it is one of those places that inevitably adds deeper layers of meaning to any performance or installation. I would like to see a binding managerial commitment to encourage an ongoing creative discourse about Boggo Road through the arts.

In this way, Boggo Road will become a truly living cultural hub, a place whose own meaning and significance is being positively transformed and challenged through an ongoing process of creative engagement with its own history.

We now have an opportunity to create something great and unique at Boggo Road. Not just another by-the-book prison museum or yuppie/hipster dining Quarter, but an award-winning, living centre of culture that draws inspiration from and engages with the profound history that is soaked into the buildings themselves. And offers some pretty fantastic dining options along the way…

Putting the philosophical aspects of a Boggo Road creative hub aside, there is also a solid commercial argument that a dynamic and varied programme of artistic and History-related events is the best way to bring in repeat customers. It has been acknowledged by both the government and the developers that the potential of Boggo Road has not been realised. The prison has been underused in recent years, and although the buildings are the main drawcard and promote themselves (so even Bill Shorten could sell tours there[i]), it is currently dead space for most of the time. People do one tour and don’t come back.

A varied menu of quality arts and heritage events will get people coming back regularly to see something new. And take in a meal while they’re there. The Boggo Arts & Heritage Alliance has the ideas, talent and connections to make this concept work.

It makes financial sense, but the idea of a thriving, living cultural hub at Boggo Road also seems like a natural fit for the old prison. Let's hope the decision-makers have the vision and energy to make this happen.

[i] This was quite obvious one Sunday in 2011 when the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society volunteers started monthly clean-ups of the prison. The place had been closed for six years, was completely unadvertised, and yet we had about 20 curious visitors walk in that day, even though it was strictly members-only. We tried to keep people OUT and they kept coming in!

30 October 2015

Statement from the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society (Inc.) on the Boggo Road plans

(I post this here as a member of the management committee of the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society.)

We note that Calile Malouf Investments have recently lodged the Development Application for their Boggo Road Gaol plans for assessment by the Brisbane City Council and the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. This process could take a number of months.
We are pleased that the planning for the heritage pfrison is moving forward. We have long advocated that it should be transformed into a dynamic cultural hub with increased community access, and are broadly supportive of the current approach.

Our main concern is that there needs to be sufficient emphasis on the heritage and arts components. While we welcome the inclusion of a number of quality hospitality areas within the prison grounds, we hope that Boggo Road is viewed primarily as a heritage and arts venue with great dining options, and not a dining venue with a heritage backdrop. We will now be working to ensure the right balance is struck.

We are pleased that provision has been made for museums, tours and other heritage activities, and expect to see different organisations once again working side by side in offering a wide range of visitor services. The Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society is aiming to have a major role in providing tours and services, continuing an onsite tradition going back to 1994. We are also currently working with other organisations as part of the Boggo Arts & Heritage Alliance to finalise plans for innovative and unique ways of presenting the history of Boggo Road.

There are significant structural changes planned for Boggo and we hope to see some well-informed debate around this subject. We would prefer that structural changes were minimal, but without any commitment from successive state governments to pay to maintain Boggo Road, some compromise is needed to fund the revitalisation of the site and keep it open.

For those who are opposing the current plans, we anticipate the presentation of their alternative plan for funding the maintenance of Boggo Road through the coming decades.

We are quite happy with the level of consultation we have had with the companies involved so far, and right now we are still discussing the details of the Development Application with hundreds of members of the historical society. The plans are very detailed and there are a range of opinions on them, but we will be encouraging our members and also the public to arm themselves with the facts, have a rational discussion, make up their own minds, and have their say to the government departments currently assessing the plans for this public asset.

The Development Application can be read here.

Stephen M Gage (President, BRGHS)
Mick Kindness (Vice-president)
Chris Dawson (Secretary)

12 October 2015

The Hempen Halter: Criticising the Boggo Road Gallows

Some very resounding criticism of the Boggo Road gallows (and superintendent Vivian Williams) from a Brisbane tabloid newspaper of 1903.

This story can be read at 'A Scaffold High'.

Vivian Williams. (Truth, 12 July 1903)

17 September 2015

The Fabulous Creatures of Walter Henry Bone

Walter Henry Bone is one of the forgotten illustrators of Australian children’s literature, which is rather a shame. Writing around the turn of the 20th century, he was able to apply his knowledge as an expert bushman and naturalist to creating an imaginative menagerie of animal characters. His What Became of Them? stories featured an outback world populated by creatures both strange and familiar. They were ruled over by the kindly Bunyip, referred to by the rest of the animals as ‘the
King’ or ‘Your Majesty’.

Bunyip and Oopidoop (Sydney Mail, 27 December 1911)

Bone’s animals were neither European nor Aboriginal, except for the bunyip, which in these stories was clearly a land animal, as opposed to the freshwater creature of Aboriginal legend. The bunyip also had magical powers with which he could transform animals, which happens in most stories, and these transformative incidents give the tales something of an Aboriginal quality, while also recalling Kipling's 'Just So Stories'.

Being a big-game hunter, soldier of fortune, naturalist, and children’s author was perhaps an odd mix. As was the style of the time, Bone's writing was a bit wordier and more colloquial than would be used in children’s books now, and although they had a fair measure of violence and death, they also had a quaint charm that seems surprising when considering the background of the author himself.

Walter Bone, Megalong Valley, c.1900. (Blue Mountains City Library)

Born in 1863, Bone attended Sydney Grammar School before setting off to Africa for a taste of adventure. He found it, and by the age of 20 he was an expert swordsman, revolver shot, and was the officer in command of the cavalry of the Sultan of Zanzibar. Sometime around 1890 he returned to Australia and became joint editor of the Blue Mountains Express newspaper in Katoomba. He was a frequent contributor to the Sydney Mail for 35 years. Bone wrote and illustrated popular animal and bush stories for children, including, Hoppity: being the life of an albino kangaroo (1933) and What Became of Them? Australian stories for children. These books continued to be reprinted until the 1950s.

Bone had a sound knowledge of bush lore and was a member of the Royal Society, the Linnaean Society of New South Wales, and the Zoological Society, and he contributed articles to a number of journals. He inherited his father’s printing business, renaming it ‘W. H. Bone & Co.’, and died in 1934.

Walter Bone and his wife Frances camping in the Megalong Valley, NSW, c.1900. (Blue Mountains City Library)

Being very much a creature of his time, he unfortunately portrayed Aboriginal and African people as clownish caricatures (see here for an example), and more than anything else it is these illustrations and other casually racist tones that make a revival of his work unlikely.

The Bunyip

In Bone's world, the Bunyip was the King of the animals, and the central character in the What Became of Them? stories. He had some familiar features known from alleged 'bunyip sightings', such as a bird's beak or bill, horns on his head, and large eyes, but he was clearly a land animal as opposed to the aquatic nature of reported bunyips.

(Sydney Mail, 31 January 1912)
The Oopidoop 
Not so 'fabulous', perhaps, but the Oopidoop was an important character in the stories, being the 'Great Grandfather of the Frogs' and constant assistant and friend to the Bunyip. His origins are explained in this January 1906 story.

'You can dig another hole and commence business whenever you like'. (Sydney Mail, 27 December 1911)
'Of course you know as well as I do that the Oopidoop is the grandfather of all the frogs. Well, nobody who ever saw the Bunyip - who, as everyone is aware, is the King of Australian creatures - could understand how it is that he is invariably attended by the Oopidoop. As a matter of fact it was only through being on very friendly terms with most of our wild animals that I learned the reason myself. To make sure that what they told me was correct, I interviewed an old black-snake (with a shotgun), and as he said nothing to the contrary, of course the story must be true.' (Sydney Mail, 17 January 1906)
The Wongawhillilew
The Wongawhillilew was a strange pterodactyl-like bird who was not too clever and wanted to become a man after coming across an Aboriginal man in the bush one day. He appeared in this December 1902 story.

'The mischievous young animals would swing on his legs.' (Sydney Mail, 31 December 1902)
"The Wongawhillilew was discovered, when quite a little thing, sitting on a stone in the pouring rain, squawking piteously with cold and wet, and when the Bunyip found it and took it home with him he anticipated some difficulty in rearing it, but being blessed with a healthy appetite and strong digestion, it recovered from the exposure, and under the tender care which the King of the Creatures bestowed upon all his subjects, rapidly attained its full growth. It was 6ft. high, had big goggle eyes, leathern wings furnished with strong hooks at the shoulders, and its long legs terminated in hands instead of claws. In colour it was green." (Sydney Mail, 31 December 1902)
The Goanthaspike
This was a large goanna or monitor lizard with a huge spike on the end of its snout, which he liked to use to play 'policeman' among the other animals. From April 1910.

'"Here, don't you call me names," the Monitor hissed venomously.' (Sydney Mail, 6 April 1910)
‘At first the bush creatures fled in frantic haste when they saw the Goanthaspike coming, but by degrees they became accustomed to his appearance, and their natural antipathy to each other reasserted itself. Quarrels and fights arose, and then the Monitor would lumber forward, and gently quell the disturbance with a mild application of his spike.’ (Sydney Mail, 6 April 1910)
The Boomerangatang
This was a kind of flying orang-utan that would spin around wildly in mid-air, boomerang-style, causing other fascinated animals to break their necks as they tried to watch him. Dozens of animals died in this manner in this September 1911 story.

'The King commanded the Boomerangatang to alight.' (Sydney Mail, 20 September 1911)
‘The first intimation of the presence of the Boomerangatang which the Bunyip received was when he was awakened, one very wet afternoon, by a succession of maniacal shrieks and chuckles that seemed to encircle the hollow tree in which he was sleeping.’ (Sydney Mail, 20 September 1911)
The Swalleremole
This massive snake ('swallow 'em whole') with armour plating and legs featured in this November 1911 story. It was eventually transformed into a much smaller creature.

'The Bunyip struck furiously at the creature's head.' (Sydney Mail, 22 November 1911)
‘It was the Swalleremole - the black snake with the crimson motor-scales - that brought the death-juice to Australia; there were no venomous snakes in our country before that. But he was somewhat different in appearance to what he is now, before the Bunyip took the matter in hand - you'll notice that at once if you glance at his portrait.’ (Sydney Mail, 22 November 1911)
The Hlpmtl
This was some sort of a giant ant with a penchant for killing animals unfortunate enough to fall into it's hole. It was featured in this December 1911 story.

'A pair of monstrous callipers closed with terrible force around him'. (Sydney Mail, 27 December 1911)
‘With a tremendous heave the creature emerged from the loose soil in which it had embedded itself, and crouched against the opposite side of the pit. The monarch examined it critically. 'Ha,' he muttered, 'body grey, ten feet long, flat, heart-shaped; six short legs, big head, goggle eyes, huge nippers-ah. Come here. Stop! How dare you crawl backwards. What d'you mean by it?' 'I can't crawl any other way,' the Hlpmtl whimpered apologetically.’ (Sydney Mail, 27 December 1911)
The Googleoggle
An ancestor of the frogs, the Googleoggle lost his ears but gained an unwanted tail after a fierce dispute with the koala (who, in turn, lost his own tail).

'"Now, get off the earth," said the Bunyip. (Sydney Mail, 25 January 1911)
'As for you,' he continued grimly, turning to the Googleoggle, 'your malice has caused the bear to lose his beloved tail and you your ears. As a punishment you shall wear his tail, and have no ears at all. Now, get off the earth!' And with one mighty kick he sent him flying into the water.' (Sydney Mail, 25 January 1911)
The Tuniuniantipec
When Australia was still joined to south-east Asia, this 'yellow monster' used to migrate down from China to devour children (i.e. young animals). There was nothing subtle about the racism in this February 1904 story. The problem was solved after the Bunyip had the wombats dig a trench that caused Australia to physically separate from Asia.

'"I believe you've eaten him yourself," said the Tuniunianipec.' (Sydney Mail, 3 February 1904)
'Our King sought the Tuniuniantipec at the full of the moon and prevailed upon him to return to his own country on condition that 10 animals should be given up to him whenever he asked for them, provided the moon was at the full. Years passed, and the Yellow Fiend grew older, and instead of full-grown animals he demanded that they be young and tender. This was done, and, so that the loss should fall upon each in turn, he brings each time a list of those who must give up their young to be devoured. Behold, people of the bush, the moon is at the full, and to-night he comes!' (Sydney Mail, 3 February 1904)
The Triantiwollipede
This bird-headed, tentacled creature had a habit of eating other animals before he was rather horrifically killed himself in this September 1902 story.

'"No, no,", said the Wallaroo, "It's all a mistake." (Sydney Mail, 6 September 1902)
'The triantiwollipede (Scarum kiddibus) is one of those extinct Australian creatures which for some unaccountable reason find no place in the books of natural history, but as there was only one, I am not surprised at it. The only mention I can find of the beast is- 
"He's all jet black, and his big fat back
Is round as a geebung seed:
So don't go nigh when you hear the cry -
“Trianti - wolli - pede!”'
- Alexander the Great.'
(Sydney Mail, 6 September 1902)
Drought Bird
Mentioned in a story
about Oopidoop, the Drought Bird was held responsible for causing droughts to occur.

'That night, the Drought Bird swooped down out of the sky.' (Sydney Mail, 17 January 1906)
''You see, my friends,' he went on after a pause, 'it is all the fault of the wicked Drought Bird. As you know, the Drought Bird is a huge winged creature that flies out of the sun, and drinks up all the clouds by day and the rivers and creeks by night - that's why nobody ever sees him.'' (Sydney Mail, 17 January 1906)
The Locashell
This giant insect with a fondness for soft wood trees was eventually shrunk down to become a cicada-type creature in this story from January 1912.

'He emitted a yell that made the trees shudder.' (Sydney Mail, 31 January 1912)
'Almost asleep as he was, the Bunyip at first watched the thing with dreamy indifference, but as its bulk rose higher and higher from the earth, by degrees he became uneasily conscious of the two great eyes staring down into his. Unable to move, though now wide awake, he saw the huge claws groping for a firm hold upon the ground; his eyes widened, and his mouth gaped with astonishment, and - it must be confessed - apprehension, until the weird object, bending towards him, thrust forward a long, slender beak and touched him on the chest. Then he emitted a yell (and, mind you, I don't blame him) that made the trees shudder, and went over backwards.' (Sydney Mail, 31 January 1912)