In the 1880-90s in Melbourne, in just one morning, a busy abortionist could earn the equivalent of several years of a domestic servant’s wage.


On This Day ……. 25th of July 1910

Three prisoners will be transferred from tho Geelong gaol to Pentridge on this day in 1910. Two of them are for discharge, and the other, a man, who was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment for shooting, at Constable Salisbury at Portarlington
some years ago, is being taken down for medical examination.


On this day …….. 25th of July 1851

From the mid 1800s, writings about strange ape-like creatures in Australia abounded. One of these was a diary entry from the Connondale region of southeast Queendland, written on the 25th of July 1851, which stated:
“They are short, stout and of very muscular appearance. They are covered in thick black hair…Their hair and beards are long…They are completely naked…the stench of their body is unbearable…great hunters of the forests and jungles…They come and go without being seen. They can hide in the undergrowth in such a manner that one can be touched or struck without their person being visible. I am to wonder if these are the same people…who take people away when they dare enter the forests and jungles…the women made grunt-like expression during contact…the child hung to its mother on the breast in the manner of an ape. These were the Woningityan/Won-ingee-tyan – the shadow men creatures of the jungles and forests…”


Nurse Alice Mitchell from Western Australia was charged with the unlawfully killing of Ethel Booth in 1907. Mitchell become Perth’s notorious baby-farmer, and possible Australia worst Serial Killer with police believing that she killed 37 babies.

Alice Mitchell, a nurse and midwife, had been registered since 1903 with the Perth Local Board of Health to take charge of infants. Babies were boarded at her premises in Edward Street East Perth while their mothers worked to support themselves and pay for their children’s care. The case came to light after Mitchell was reported by a constable on duty in the neighbourhood when she casually mentioned during a conversation that she had a child lying ill in her house but could not afford a doctor. The police called Dr Davey to attend a 10 month old child who was in “an exceedingly emaciated condition”, and while at the house Dr Davey noticed a baby, Ethel Booth, who was in a similar condition. Both children were taken to Perth Public Hospital but little Ethel was too far gone and died the next day. At Ethel’s inquest her mother Elizabeth testified she gave birth to Ethel at the House of Mercy, a maternity home for unmarried mothers, and stayed to look after her baby for a further two months. Elizabeth then 16 resumed her occupation as a maid, for which she earned 15s a week, and relinquished her child into Mitchell’s care after agreeing to pay 10s. per week as well as any doctor’s fees. Elizabeth loved her daughter and had become increasingly concerned when Mitchell, with various excuses, had repeatedly prevented Elizabeth from visiting her baby.
As part of her conditions of registration Alice Mitchell was required to keep a register of infants placed in her care but there were no entries after 16 December 1904. Evidence given at the inquest revealed that the female Inspector for the Perth Road Board was apparently friendly with Mrs. Mitchell, and would chat at the door, but never went inside to visit the children or inspect the register. Dr Officer visited regularly, charging five shillings for each child seen, and had examined baby Ethel three days after her arrival, declaring she was in a very healthy condition. At the murder trial Edward Officer, while admitting he had signed 22 death certificates of babies dying at Alice Mitchell’s house, denied “that death was in any way assisted or was due to other than natural causes”. In further evidence the local Anglican priest, the Reverend Robert John Craig, testified going to Mitchell’s house to baptise a dying nine month old child, Harry Turvey. Craig noted that the baby was very thin and had an offensive smell. Just over a week after little Harry’s death, Craig was sent for again and complained that the children he saw were very smelly and criticised Mitchell’s ability to keep the children clean. Nevertheless he clearly did not feel the need to report the matter. Seemingly, no one in authority picked up on Mitchell’s treatment of the infants she had been paid to look after, and as the trial progressed, revelations emerged that over the six years she had been fostering babies, at least 35 had died in suspicious circumstances. As well as ‘baby-farming’ Alice Mitchell also ran a boarding house and another witness, Carl Roux, testified that he stayed there for a month late in 1906 and that Mitchell always had several fostered infants who apparently all slept in the same room as she. Roux said that he had overheard Mitchell’s adult daughter complain to her mother of the dirty state in which the house and the children were kept adding, ‘’Those people in the front room [Roux and his wife], know just as well as I do that you kill the babies.” Despite this, Roux did not feel obliged to alert anyone else. He also told the court that before the trial Mitchell told him that that if she fell, Dr Officer would have to fall too. The trial concluded on 13 April 1907 and the jury, after less than an hour, found Mitchell only guilty of manslaughter. The Judge in passing sentence of five years hard labour remarked that the jury concluded that Mitchell had no intention of killing baby Booth, but that her death was caused by criminal negligence. He told Mitchell; “… you have been, like many other women who carry on the same business, perfectly callous to the sufferings of these children who were entrusted to your care. All that can be said in your favour is that you are a woman getting on in life, and, therefore, whatever term of imprisonment I may pass upon you will affect you much more severely than it would a younger woman”. Alice Mitchell was lucky, for in a similar case in Victoria where a woman was convicted of the deaths of infants in her care, she was executed. No blame was attached to Dr Officer and no others were charged with neglect of their official responsibilities. The two inspectors were the only ones to suffer any sort of fallout from the case when the Perth Road Board decided to dispense with their services. It was difficult for people to accept that such cruelty could occur unnoticed in their small Perth community. Public outcry over the Mitchell case brought into focus the need not only to protect vulnerable children, but to ensure that all mothers and their infants were healthy and had access. to good medical, midwifery and obstetric care. Some very influential women took up the cause and the formation in 1909 of the Women’s Service Guild, led by women who had been active in other women’s organisations, crystallised the momentum for the establishment of what was to become the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women.


ON THIS DAY – July 24, 1884

The adjourned inquest on the body of Peter M’Ansh who was found shot dead near the Boundary-road Hotel, Lancefield on July 24 was resumed yesterday. William O’Brien, who is charged with the murder, was present in custody today. Jeremiah O’Brien, his son, in custody as an accessory, was discharged and put in the witness box. The evidence showed that O’Brlen had ill-feeling against M’Ansh, who occupied land formerly owned by O’Brien. Circumstantial proof strongly pointed that O’Brien fired the fatal shot. The inquest was adjourned until today.

ON THIS DAY – July 24, 1944

Noises were heard by a neighbour named McNally at the home of Mrs. Nellie Shears (50), yesterday, about three hours before her son Edward, aged 16, came home from work to find that his mother had been stabbed to death. McNally told the police that when he heard a noise he looked over the fence and saw a light burning in the bedroom. It was then about 2 p.m. He called out to Mrs. Shears but receiving no reply went to the front door and then to the back of the house. He saw no indication of anything wrong and returned home again. McNally did not realise what had happened until late In the afternoon when Edward Shears rushed into his house to say his mother was dead. Edward had lunch with his mother yesterday and left for work again about 1 p.m. Late In the afternoon when he came home be found the house locked but he climbed through an open window. In the kitchen he found his mother lying dead on the floor with gashes in her throat, face and hands. A bread-knife was lying near her. Last night they detained a local resident who was visiting another house in Tennyson-street and took him to the C.I.B, to be questioned.

On this day …….. 24th of July 1936

The world’s first ever “talking clock”, whereby people could ring a telephone number to find out what the time was, commenced operations in Paris in 1933. Australia received its first talking clock on the 24th of July 1936 in Sydney, serviced from the General Post Office. Previously, people wishing to know the time had to connect their call through to a young woman employed specifically for the purpose of announcing the time to callers. Coincidentally, in England, the talking clock started at Holborn Telephone Exchange also on the 24th of July 1936.


On This Day …… 24th July 1858

James Benson, a lunatic who escaped from Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum on the morning of the 24th of July. Description: 30 years of age, 5 feet 4 or 5 inches high, dark complexion, large moustache, a tailor, stupid looking, an Englishman. Wore a deep blue pea jacket, cord trousers, and wide awake hat, marked with the Asylum brand.



On This Day ….. 24th July 1954

A 16 year old “Houdini” managed to escape from Aradale Mental Hospital, on 24th of July 1954, by scaling a 20ft wall. This was his 10th time he has escaped from mental and other institutions in the last three years. The boy, who travelled 128 miles, was caught by police on the 28th of July, after a wild chase around Williamstown. When police went to the youth’s home in Fifth ave, Williamstown, just after 7am, he leapt from a side window and bolted toward the rear of the house. A hectic 30 minute chase followed, with the youth scrambling over fences, through barbed wire, a poultry pen, and dozens of other obstacles. Eventually at 8:30am Constables M. Keetley and E. Hancock trapped him in a backyard of a house after he had tried desperately to open a locked door. Exhausted, bleeding and covered in grime, he was taken to the City Watch house were he was charged with house breaking and stealing, he was taken to Pentridge Gaol.


On This Day ……. 24th of July 1910

John Williams, an elderly man, received on transfer in December last from the Ballarat Gaol, died in the Geelong Gaol on this day in 1910. On the 12th instant
he had a series of paralytic fits which deprived him of speech, and pleurisy after
wards developed. Dr. Croker certified that death was due to pleurisy and de
bility, and Mr. Murphy, P.M., who held an inquiry, found accordingly.



Some of Dickie Knee’s greatest moments
DICKIE Knee has opened up about his 29 years on Hey Hey It’s Saturday, revealing what Daryl Somers is really like and which celebrity guest was the best to work with.
In a world exclusive (to be fair, no one else was really chasing him), the cheeky schoolboy also spoke to (with the help of John Blackman) about a possible return to TV. Here are the highlights of our chat with the pint-sized Aussie star:
Where are you these days Dickie?

“I spend most of my time in the boot of Mr Blackman’s car. Sometimes he gets me out and uses me as a dipstick.”

Do you look the same or have you aged?

“Nothing has changed, not even my face which is horribly disfigured after a very nasty cooking incident where I asked mum if I could lick the beaters of her mix master and she let me and then accidentally turned it on.”

Do you miss Hey Hey It’s Saturday?

“I don’t miss it personally but Mr Blackman’s accountant does and his wife does and his entire family does. He has three dependants: his wife, me and the Australian Taxation Department.”

What is Daryl Somers really like?

“He could read this couldn’t he? Well in that case he was an absolute honey to work for. He was a sweetheart, a very kind, considerate, generous person.”

What about Red Symons?

“He’s the same off camera as he is on camera. I can’t say any more than that.”

And Molly Meldrum?

“Ah Molly, my arch-enemy. We still have a love/hate relationship.
“I was really concerned when he fell off that ladder a couple of years ago when he was putting up his Christmas decorations. But you’ll be happy to know, he’s back and he’s now actually able to put words together and form sentences which is really weird because he couldn’t do that before the accident.”

Who was your favourite celebrity guest on Hey Hey?

“Probably Kylie Minogue, mainly because she’s about the same height as me and she talks like me too.”

And the worst?

“Sheena Easton (singer). She was very grumpy. In fact she was on Hey Hey one day and she punched me right in the eye. I had a Sheena shiner for about a week.”

What was the best line you ever came up with on the show?

“I think my best line was when Mr Meldrum was on one day and he had Shirley Strachan (Skyhooks singer) on and they were doing Molly’s Melodrama and they were both dressed exactly the same.

“Shirley had a Molly Meldrum mask on and a hat so I stuck my head up and I said to Mr Meldrum, ‘I told you this would happen if you didn’t chlorinate your spa’.”

“Can I help you with something Dickie?”
Are you still available for work these days?

“Dickie knee is available for fabulously well-paid national television commercials if anybody’s interested… and I work cheap.”
And the big question, will Hey Hey It’s Saturday make another TV comeback?
“We can’t say too much at this stage but we are in talks with Channel 31.”


After rescuing an old man from a house fire and returning into the flames to lead others to safety, a Melbourne motorist found he had been booked for parking in a clearway.