INSIDE THIS ISSUE
Blast From the Past
Volunteers in Action
Next Month's Meeting
John Martins Pagent 1974 .
Where did the last year go? Christmas 2008 approaches and November was another busy month of our volunteers, particularly with Community Christmas Pageants (See Report in this edition). As usual our vehicles were the centre of attention due, in no small part, to the efforts of Paul White of Stickers N’Stuff, at the Brickworks Market, who provided the vehicles striping and badging. Paul is one of our valued sponsors who generously give of their time and expertise in support of the Society.
The museum team is still hard at work in the badge gallery with John White providing advice and re-setting patches in frames made by Kevin Beare. There has been a flurry of activity with the walls now almost covered with international patches collected by our retired Deputy Commissioner John White. The room has become very impressive after painting and repairs.
The new medal security cabinet is due to be installed in the Dorothy Pyatt Gallery next Thursday and placed beneath the photographs of Commissioners of Police with the medals of Commissioners McKinna and Leane.
We have received yet another grant which will allow a conservation report to be produced on the PHS collection thanks to the efforts of Tony Kaukas. This grant will allow us to apply for further grants to conserve various important artifacts and will provide information about the temperature and humidity levels in storage areas including the museum.
A great deal of work has been done in the vehicle museum with the FJ Holden not far from registration, repairs to the Chrysler and Bedford and work on the motorcycles.
On Saturday the 6th December 93 members attended our Christmas Function at the Police Club and a great time was had by all. Heather, Greg and the Staff at the club have been very supportive and once again produced a fabulous Christmas Menu.
Six lucky members won the door prize draw. We sincerely thank all those who contributed prizes for our fabulous Christmas Raffle which raised $302.00 on the night.
This will be my last year as President of the Society. In consideration of my health and that of my wife I have decided not to contest the President Position next February.
This has been a difficult decision, I have enjoyed representing the members and greatly appreciate the wonderful support of the volunteers and the executive team.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a healthy and happy Christmas and look forward to seeing you at our Next Meeting The A.G.M. on the 6th February, 2009.
Passed away 7th November 2008
We extend our sincerest sympathy to
Stan & Family
By Life member Jim Sykes.
The question has often been asked of me and I guess of most people who have spent any time at all among the natives in the Australian outback. “Was capital punishment ever used as a penalty by the Australian aborigine for serious breeches of their tribal laws and customs?” and “Did aborigines ever resort to cannibalism, as was sometimes practiced by natives of other counties?”
I have some misgivings about turning the clock back to the mid 1950s, but in doing justice to these questions I need to go back even further to my introduction to the police force in 1942 and how through various appointments within the organization I was ultimately appointed Officer in Charge of the police station at Marree.
After an initial training period of nearly four years, I walked the beat, performed traffic control duty and then spent three years as a motor traffic constable riding solo motorcycles. I served 12 months at Blackwood, a little station in the Adelaide Hills and from there to Port Pirie where I spent the next two years on general duties and learning police station management.
Receiving a promotion to officer in charge of a one-man police station was not decided upon merit, but the position one gravitated to on a seniority list. I watched this position every month or two as being posted to a one man station usually resulted in an increase in salary and a lot more freedom. It goes without saying that it also gave one a lot more responsibility.
When I was one down from the top of the list, my best friend who was one day older than me was on the top of the list thus earning the right to select between the two postings, one at Fowlers Bay and the other Marree. My friend decided on Fowlers Bay and I was left with Marree. Later I discovered that Fowlers Bay which was on the West Coast of South Australia and was a seaport with plenty of beaches and fishing. It's patrol area was only a few hundred square miles.
Before applying for the position, I had never even heard of Marree nor had I any idea where it was. That day I hurried home to my wife and three small children, all boys. We dragged out a couple of old maps of South Australia and found Marree to be situated in the far north of South Australia at the head of the Birdsville Track. I hadn't heard of that place either. Then I discovered that the town was also to be the head of a new standard gauge railway line from Port Augusta through Quorn and Hawker. Marree was an important transhipping area for cattle coming down from the Northern Territory to Adelaide on the narrow gauge track. There were also “spelling yards” for cattle which came down the Birdsville Track on the hoof, prior to being placed on rail trucks for the Adelaide markets.
Having accepted the position I was told that my transfer would take place on the 20th of July of that year 1956 and a short wheel base Land Rover would be made available for me to drive from Port Pirie to Marree where it would remain for patrol work. A police transport truck with two men would be arriving on the day before to load my furniture. I was also advised that my family were not permitted to ride in the police Land Rover (Government policy) but would have to find their own way to Marree.
Wanting to know more about Marree, I asked the station Sergeant for permission to use the telephone to speak to the officer in charge at Marree. Initially this was refused as private calls could not be made on departmental telephones (Government policy) and I would have to use a public telephone. I protested and ultimately the Sergeant relented. He did however stand alongside of me, constantly reminding me to make the call short because of the expense.
I finally spoke to the policeman at Marree and was told that it was a very good posting, the house was large and airy and ideally suited for small children. He said he was being transferred to Kingscote on Kangaroo Island.
He also told me that the electric power at the police station was not strong enough to run a refrigerator. This was not good news and I had to purchase a kerosene refrigerator before leaving Port Pirie.
The day of shifting arrived and our furniture was loaded onto the truck. We stayed in a local hotel that night and the next morning I set off for Marree in the Land Rover and my wife and children had to wait until that evening when they were to board the Ghan train which would travel to Marree through Quorn, Hawker and Leigh Creek
I arrived at Marree late the same day at the same time as the furniture truck. The next day the unloading began and then the furniture of the outgoing policeman was loaded. This was all done in one day.
The train carrying my wife and children was due in Marree at 3 a.m. the next day. I slept on a bare mattress for a few hours and then shortly before 3 a.m. I walked in pitch black darkness (no street lights) to the railway station where I met my wife and children struggling across some broken ground being helped by the local butcher who had been a passenger on the same train. We walked on to the police station where everybody settled in.
That day I went through the formal handover with the outgoing policeman. Police property had to be checked thoroughly, the cash book balanced and the contents of the safe agreed upon. Having done this I uncovered some rather disturbing factors which I was unaware of and certainly did not expect. The low voltage electricity I was told about did not in fact exist. It was a 12 Volt system placed in the house by the other officer who had sold it to someone else in the town before my arrival. This meant I would have to use candles and kerosene lanterns for the entire house and the office. Running water came from a bore and was unsuitable for drinking or cooking and could not be used during the day because the steel pipes from the bore which was situated on the other side of the railway tracks, were laid on the surface of the ground and the water was subsequently too hot to use in daytime.
There were however, two large rainwater tanks which contained ample water for cooking etc.
Another disappointment was that there was a wood fire in the kitchen which was quite nice in July (winter month) but in the summer the temperature in the kitchen was about 130° (Fahrenheit). This excessive heat also caused the refrigerator (kerosene) to fail on many occasions with the consequent loss of most of the contents. There was however, a 6 X 8 foot cellar which was 20 deg (Fahrenheit) cooler than the rest of the house and it was to this area we (wife, three boys, budgerigar, cat, dog and myself) retreated on many occasions during my three year tenure. It was overcrowded to say the least, especially when we had a visitor or two.
On the plus side the District and Bush Nursing Society Hospital was adjacent to the police station on one side and the public school was on the other side. There were less than 200 residents in the town which boasted one hotel, one general store, a butcher shop and a post office. The railway line split the town with the “whites” on one side and the “aboriginals” and “Afghans” on the other. The Ghan (train) to Alice Springs arrived once a week with fresh food and vegetables etc.
My first day as officer in charge of the Marree police station finally came to an end but not before I found that my patrol district (area of responsibility) was somewhat larger than I had anticipated. Stretching 170 miles roughly north and 60 miles south (230 miles in total) and 350 miles towards Queensland on one side and 60 miles towards Andamooka (410 miles in total) resulted in my district covering somewhere between 94,000 and 100,000 square miles, my patrol boarders with other police stations being somewhat elastic at times depending on weather conditions etc.
My first night’s sleep was interrupted by the arrival of the stationmaster thumping on the office door at 2 am. He had come to say that a train had arrived from the north and the body of a man was in a truck. It appeared he had collapsed and died while working as a Fettler on the rail line at Edwards Creek some 170 miles or so north. The circumstances of his death as related to me appeared suspicious, but that is another story.
Next month : The family settles in at Marree & Jim starts his duties.
Christmas Celebrations 2008
Barry & Meredith Blundell
We Welcome you …….
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
6TH FEBRUARY, 2009
Election of Officers
Nomination Forms available on request.
Nominations must be received prior to 30th January, 2009
Yesterday morning being the time appointed for the execution of Yerr-i-Cha who was condemned in the Supreme Court last week for being engaged in the murder of William Duffell, and Wang Nucha who was condemned for the murder of James Thompson, at an early hour in the morning preparations were being made for the execution.
A scaffold had been erected in front of the iron stores on the Park Land, North Adelaide, to which, at eight o’clock, the criminals were conducted in a cart, guarded by a strong body of police. James Cronk the interpreter walked alongside the cart, to whom Wang Nucha kept talking most of the way from the jail to the place of execution.
By the time they arrived at the scaffold a considerable number of people had assembled round it. After the warrant for their execution had been read by the Sherriff, the unfortunate men were led, or rather dragged, upon the scaffold, and placed, by the executioner, on the fatal drop. They seemed quite aware of the fate which was overhanging them. Their countenances, especially that of Yerr-i-Cha, betrayed every symptom of terror – exhibiting none of that stern determination which despises to show a fear of death – a characteristic of the natives of some countries – but on the contrary evincing every symptom of apprehension and dread of dying.
Yerr-i-Cha’s limbs quivered and his whole frame was agitated; while Wang Nucha, though showing fewer symptoms of trepidation, made violent protestations in his own language, as we understood him, against being hanged.
On the signal being given by the Sheriff, the drop fell, and, after a few struggles, the unfortunate criminals ceased to live. After hanging the usual time the bodies were cut down, and afterwards interred within the jail in accordance with the sentence. By nine o’clock the persons who had assembled to witness the execution had dispersed, and in a short time every thing was again as quiet as usual.
One circumstance connected with this execution we must not neglect to notice. It seemed quite evident, from the remarks and conversation of the other natives, many of whom witnessed the execution, that they were aware of the cause of death of the criminals; and most of them seemed to agree in the justness of the sentence; and we have no doubt but the example thus shown them will act as a terror to them, and will be a means of deterring them in future from interfering in any way with the property or lives of the settlers.
On passing the native huts immediately after the execution, we found the women and children and many of the men lamenting, in a most piteous manner, and with their sable faces bathed in tears, [at] the death of the two men; thus showing the sympathy existing among them in their native state, not only among members of a family, but between all members of a tribe.
Evidence Left Behind
In the early 1950’s a large general store in Port Pirie was feloniously entered & a considerable quantity of goods, including drapery & grocery items, was stolen. Entry had been gained by prising open the front door. At some time after the entry, the offender must have had the urge to empty his bowel; he had climbed onto the manager’s desk & defecated in the middle of it.
Before this disgusting act, he had removed a gabardine rain coat when he had apparently been wearing & placed it on a chair. He left with the stolen property, but forgot to take the rain coat. The garment, which was identical to many other in common use at the time, was searched but no other items were found. However, inside the coat the name “Wright” had been written & some figures inside the pocket indicated that it had been labelled for identification when it had been given to a dry cleaning agent.
There were numerous separate dry cleaning businesses throughout the State, and many more agencies. Clearly it was necessary to try to identify the agency where the coat had been labelled, a time-consuming & laborious task. Enquiries were first made of the larger dry cleaning firms, such as Bronson & Tip Top, and then, one by one, with many firms & agencies. The name “Wright” brought no positive response & neither did the label. Weeks passed & there was still no identification. This is of course the kind of situation which leads to frustration.
Nevertheless, the detectives involved persisted & eventually it was found that small dry cleaning business had an agency in Wright Street, which was quite close to police headquarters, where they were based.
With the name “Wright”, the prospect of success was greatly enhanced, & a visit to the Wright Street shop was successful, not only in identifying the garment but also the person who had brought it in for cleaning.
It turned out that the offender was an habitual criminal & when his house, not far from the agency was searched, much of the property taken from the Port Pirie Store was found.
The offender was eventually charted & sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Thus persistence paid off.
During the investigation a card system was initiated to record the names of the dry cleaning outlets & the corresponding symbols used for the identification of garments. This card system was held by the Homicide Squad, & when the investigation was finished, new information was added as it came to hand. This initiative proved to be valuable; it was used successfully on a number of occasions, not only in the identification of offenders, but also in identifying persons who died suddenly in a public place.
Passed away 26th October, 2008
Our sincere condolences to Margaret & family
On Friday 7th November, we officially farewelled Holger & Ros Kruse., who will be spending Christmas in their new home in Mildura.
Birthday celebrations for Allen Cliff, Ros. Kruse & Stewart Munroe.
On the 17th November president Geoff Rawson spoke on the Sundown Murders to a very appreciative audience from the Blackwood Combined Probus Club. During November we had Museums tours by 82 visitors, including members of the Canadian International Friendship Force, the Sherlock Holmes Society, S.A. Police RSL & the Woodville Uniting Church Friendship Group.
Once again we are indebted to our dedicated band of volunteers who make these functions possible.
On Wednesday 19th November, 21 of our volunteers assisted SAPOL in their Behind the Badge Programme. as Part of Public Sector Week. Numbers were not quite as expected & but those who did attend obviously enjoyed their time with us.
With Christmas just around the corner our Vehicle team has been extremely busy participating in Community Pageants at Tea Tree Gully, Christies Beach, Port Adelaide, Glenelg & Norwood & once again there was a great deal of interest in our vintage vehicles.
The “HUE & CRY” is Published by the
South Australian Police Historical Society Inc.,
Thebarton Police Barracks
C/- G.P.O. Box 1539