ON THIS DAY……31st October 1889
Fredrick “Josh” Clark and Christopher “Christie” Farrell were both ex convicts transported from England to Van Demons Land. Once both men had received their tickets of leave they sailed to Victoria, arriving at the beginning of the Victorian gold rush. Both men found there way back to the lives thy once lived in England, preying upon those returning from the gold fields. By 1889 both Clark and Farrell were in there early to late 60’s and were serving 14 year sentences in Pentridge Gaol in Melbourne. Farrell was charged with the attempted murder of a police man during his arrest at Fitzroy in 1887 and Clark for being a systematic malingering. Due to the prisoners age and behaviour both prisoners were transferring Geelong Gaol. About midnight on Monday a warder named Cain commenced his shift at the Geelong gaol. At two minutes to 2am he hard a knocking, from cell 13 occupied by a prisoner named Frederick “Josh”Clarke. Cain unlocked the trap in the door and Clarke asked for a drink of water. The warder brought the water, and was handing it through the hole when he was seised from behind by Farrell. Clarke then came from his cell and seized Cain who saw that the other man was a prisoner named Christopher “Christie”Farrell who was holding a large stone in his hand. He threatened to beat out the warder’s brains if he uttered a single word. Clark had cleverly made a skeleton key, by melting coin into the shape of the key. Clark worked as a blacksmith in the confinements of the gaol. Once the warder opened the trapdoor and walked of to get a glass of water for the prisoner. Clark then simply reached his arm though the opening in the door and let him escape. Once free he quickly unlocked Farrell’s cell before returning to his own and waiting for Cain to return. The men gagged Cain and tied his hands and feet, and took off his boots and carried him to the cook’s house, and tied him to the table, and left him there. He was found just before 6am by the chief warder, who raised the alarm. The two prisoners had meanwhile scaled the gaol wall. Immediately the alarm was given the police who scoured the country in all directions without finding any trace of the escaped prisoners. Farrell was found first on the 16th of October and Clark four days later, both men were heading north to NSW. Warder Cain was confined to his bed, owing to the injuries he received. Four His throat was greatly Swollen, and he is only able to speak with difficulty. An inquiry into the escape was held on 31st October, 1889 which saw the governor of the gaol reprimanded and the warders on duty demoted – this despite Farrell’s saying that the warder Cain had fought like a lion and should not be punished for is failure to prevent their escape. In 1923 a large brass key which proved to be a master key from the era of Clark and Farrell’s escape was found when grounds west of the Geelong Supreme Court were being cleared. Its rough-cut appearance suggested that it was an illegal copy and it was widely believed that this was the key used by Clark and Farrell in their escape. A version of events described in the gaol display has an elderly Clark claiming that he threw the key into the grounds on his way to court however, it seems highly unlikely that having been found in possession of such a key, Clark would have been allowed to keep it. A report in the paper a few days after his arrest indicated that he was found with a skeleton key on his person which had been cut from a penny. At the time the authorities were quick to point out that the make of the key was not such as could have been made in the gaol. Clark died in Geelong Gaol on 4th August, 1904, at the age of 104. Clark had arrived in Tasmania in 1847 at the age of 18, he would go on to send a total of 85 years and 7 months in gaol, over half is life behind bars. Farrell also died in the gaol at the age of 70 on 1st September, 1895. Farrell was also transported to Tasmania, arriving in 1848 and by 1851 he was in Victoria” and joined up with the “Suffolk Gang” as the convict poet. The gang would held up several mail coaches and miners alike. Farrell spent 48 years in prisoned in Australia and 46 of those years were in iron changes.