Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Grisly Gawler - Part IV - Circus Strikers brawl

Grisly Gawler - Part IV

Circus Strikers Brawl

In 1931 after a successful string of shows in Angaston, Wirths Circus was on its way to Gawler via train to set up at the Circus at the Gawler Racecourse. Following close behind in a rented truck from Tanunda,. Were a group of men who had gone on strike during the Angaston leg of shows, wanting more money and better conditions.
The Tanunda Police had phoned ahead and warned the Gawler Police of the approaching truck and the state of anger and excitement of the men on board.
The truck rolled into Gawler and the men drove up and down the main street calling out obscenities about the circus and its owners. Constable Philips of the Gawler Police, intercepted the truck at Tramways bridge and ordered the men out. The men verbally abused the officer as they unloaded.
Police Sergeant Hansberry and Mounted Constable Hodgson were called to assist and it didnt take long until violence erupted with some of the men striking at the Police Officers. The men did not account for the Officers being more than willing reciprocate, striking back with their batons, knocking at least four men to the ground unconscious and causing extensive injuries with their batons. Blood was split and bones were cracking under the extreme willingness of the Officers to end the violence these men had started.
The Police eventually rounded up four of the most violent and abusive men and took them to the local station to charge them with Drunkenness, Indecent Language and Resisting Arrest.
Later in the day, several of the striking men from Angaston, turned up to the new Circus site at Gawler Racecourse, ready to cause a ruckus as to why their strike conditions were not being met. Mrs Wirth, refused to discuss the terms with the men and told them to leave the site.
Police continued patrols well into the night to stop any further trouble.
Unemployed men from Adelaide, who were on the Government listings, were brought down to fill the void the strikers had left, and to work for the Circus.
The men arrested were found guilty and duly fined. The other men did not return to cause any more problems that evening, due to the sudden rise in police visibility....

Perhaps a riot was stopped shot on that particular occasion!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Happy 2nd Birthday The Haunts of Adelaide

Happy 2nd Birthday
The Haunts of Adelaide

Tomorrow The Haunts of Adelaide turns 2!
 Many thanks to all our readers that have found us and stayed with us over those two years, as we have delved into some of South Australia's, Ghosts, Crimes and Eccentricities...

We appreciate your support and encouragement.

We would also like to thank
The National Library of Australia
The Library of South Australia
The PANDORA Archives
The Bunyip
The Kapunda Herald
The Advertiser
and all the Historians and Genealogists who have helped along the way

Below is some of our artwork from the past 2 years

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Grisly Gawler - Part III - Death in Custody

Grisly Gawler - Part III
Death in Custody

Life was hard in the late 1800's, but, just like now, there was no excuse for crime, and if you were caught, you'd sit in a police cell until it was your time to be judged and sentenced.
In Gawler, you would visit the police cells on Cowan street. In it's day, long before the modern Police Station we see now, there stood a stone building ( as shown in photo's below)
Much like now, back in the day there were rules and regulations Police had to follow whilst they had prisoners in custody, but those rules and regulations didn’t take in to account the human factor. If someone really wants something bad enough, they will find a way to do it, and with that, there were quite a few deaths in custody in the Gawler Police station in the late 1800's.
I am going to touch on one briefly in this article.

In 1872, a man by the Surname Docherty had been arrested in front of his own home for suspicion of stealing horse saddle three months earlier. The arrest was made by Sergeant Woodcock at 5am on
the 16th of October 1872 . He took the defendant back to the Gawler Police station on cowman street and placed him in the cells.
Precautions were taken to make sure the prisoner had no weapons upon his body and he was left alone in the cells, checked upon on a regular basis by the station officers, as was customary.
He was last seen alive at 9pm Saturday night when his dinner was brought to him by Constable Farrell.
Docherty had been totally sober and of no nuisance to the Police officers, not complaining about his situation nor offering any objection to his treatment.
He was found hanging from his belt the following morning by constable Farrell, who called on Sergeant Woodcock to come and assist in cutting down the man .
Docherty had climbed up on his night bucket, and slipped his belt loop through the top rails above the doorway, then fastened the belt,. He then made a makeshift noose, and hung himself.
Due to the extreme summer heat at the time, it was decided to make an inquest into Docherty's death that same day. His friends and Wife were called to the courthouse to offer witness statements as to the mental condition of the man. His wife told officers as of late, her husband, who was usually a quiet man who took no alcohol, had become much keen to drink, and was often out drinking and doing things in the scrub, but she was not aware of what, as he did not say.
The Police had to make a report and report Mr Docherty's suicide as 'The deceased, being of weak intellect, committed suicide in a fit of temporary insanity”!

There were many more reported suicides and attempted suicides in the Gawler Police Station, as well as many other Stations around Australia. In the era, for most people, being arrested was a much more serious thing than it is now. People liked to keep good reputations intact, and being arrested, or worse, gaoled, was the kind of thing that could cost not only livelihoods, but also social status and Church Status in serious jeopardy. Often people once released would move on to new areas to try and wash those old stains from their past.

The link below shows statistics for deaths in custody across Australia in the last few years: http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/mr/1-20/20/08_prison.html

The following link shows statistics for crimes over various decades.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Grisly Gawler - Part II - Fatal Tiger Attack

Grisly Gawler – Part II


On the 17th of June 1898, the Bunyip Newspaper in Gawler, South Australia reported a “sensational incident” that occurred at a circus event held in Gawler South, by travelling Circus “Harmston”.
The newspaper reported that on Saturday the 11th of June, the Harmston Circus had put on a great show, but at its closing act “Gomez” the Tiger trainer, otherwise known by his real name, John Issac, entered the tiger cage to put the Tigers through the finale escapes of the Circus event.
As Gomez finished the act and turned his back on the tiger to leave, it pounced on the South African trainer, and sunk its teeth into his neck just under the back of his head. The tiger carried Gomez over the division of the gate, possibly with the intention of pulling its prey to pieces and feasting on his meat.
The crowd, not knowing if this was part of the act or not, reacted slowly to the Tigers act, but soon blood was spotted by the crowd, and they realised this was not part of the act.
Fear and confusion reigned, and the crows ran for the exits, some jumping over the wall surrounding the seating to make a hastier escape. Whilst this was happening, a group of circus attendants began to beat the tiger with sticks to try and free Gomez, who was still caught within the animals jaws.
The attendants beat the tiger off and Gomez stood and walked out the door, but was soon overcome by his extensive injuries, and collapsed. He was immediately taken to Dr Dawes surgery where the good Doctor did all he could to stop the bleeding and ease the man's pain.
On Monday. Gomez had recovered enough to be taken to the Adelaide Hospital, but by Tuesday his condition worsened, and at 5pm on Tuesday the 14th of June 1898 he passed away.

Mr Love, the sole lessee of the show, offered his condolences for Gomez, and talked of him being a man of excellent character and kindness.
However, when questioned upon the safety aspect of how the Tiger act was run, he lay much of the blame on the head of the young, now dead, Tiger Trainer.
He stated that Gomez had not taken the necessary precautions which had been put in place by the circus, and had gone into the cage with only a small whip, which only antagonised the Tiger. Staff outside had metal forks and a pistol if anything occurred, and they had seen to the Tiger being beaten off the trainer.
Love pointed out one thing, that above all other things took the blame away from himself and the Circus, Gomez had not lit the fire which sat above the gate – in his words “an unprecedented act”. He stated “ the animal was cunning enough to see that it had the advantage. The brute was well used to Isaac's attentions, for he had been its regular warder for the past twenty months, and had performed with it as many as nine times a week”

An inquest was opened into the death of John “Gomez” Issacs, and it was noted by Dr Morris of Adelaide Hospital, that he entered the hospital on the Monday in a very fearful state, and also in a severe state of shock, his injuries included a two inch puncture wound on the left side with two smaller punctures also on that side, and two puncture wounds on the right side of his neck. He had lost all movement in his left arm. The wounds had already become inflamed, which the Doctor stated, was akin to being poisoned and his breathing was considerably affected by the strain.
A post-mortem examination was done and it was found one of the wounds had penetrated his spine, breaking the vertebrates, and the base of his spine was inflamed as well as the membranes of his spinal cord.

The Tiger:
“Duke” was the Tiger's name, an 8 year old native of Japan, who was sired by “Bromo” and “Kitty”, two tigers that had found a home with the Mikado.
Duke was a twin, his brother remained with the Mikado in Japan and became an attraction at the Royal Gardens at Uno Park Tokyo.
Duke was five years old when he was trained to appear in public, and in his three years as a circus Tiger, he had had five trainers. His first a Mexican, second a Chinaman and his third an Australia. The second and third men were both mauled by two jungle tigers, and were subsequently replaced.
The fourth trainer, a Singapore native, was recently training Duke, when the Tiger attacked and broke his jaw, through a “sever crushing”. Gomez, the fifth trainer, had only just stepped into the job, and believe it or not, the previous trainer from Singapore, was one of the first to rush into the cage to try and save Gomez from Duke!

Duke was not euthanised, he continued on with the Circus...and another trainer...