On This Day – 31st August 1849

Such a phenomenon has been witnessed on several occasions, even in the heart of our great city. But only once and once only, has Melbourne had a snowstorm to equal the great old city’s of Europe. On the morning of the 31st of August 1849, the mercury dropped and snow began to fall, and soon old timers reminisced about their childhood as snow covered the streets, huts and tents. So deep was the covering that Melbourne came to a standstill, and the snowman population rivalled that of the inhabitants.


ON THIS DAY…… 31st August 1855

On Tuesday the 16th October 1855 John McCabe was found guilty of the wilful murder of Lewis Walker at Snake Valley. Lewis who was once an officer in the army had come to the diggings where he made a considerable sum of money, until the mine he was working with Sherwin collapsed, losing everything. On the 28th of August 1855 both Lewis and Sherwin stopped at John’s house where they resided for 3 nights. On the night of the 31st August, when Lewis was asleep, John struck him in the head with an axe, which caused instantaneous death. Sherwin at the time was very drunk and slept through the attack. Afterwards John went to the Bush Inn, and on being asked where Lewis and Sherwin were, he replied he had left them fighting in his hut. At first it was believed that Sherwin had murdered Lewis, and was taken into custody but later released and the sentence of death was passed onto McCabe. John was tried at the Supreme Court in Beechworth by the Honour Justice Williams and was found guilty by a jury of his countrymen, and was condemned to suffer the extreme penalty of the Law. However during the hearing John had no legal representative even though he had hired and paid for Mr Campbell as his defence. For some unknown reason, through want of time or through neglect, the solicitor did not make his appearance in time for the trial. At this point in time John had been in prison for thirteen days. On the day of the trial John had not been able to instruct a second Attorney. The prisoner attempted to obtain the services of Dr Mackey, barrister, but Mackey had no time to make himself acquainted even with the facts of the case at the time proceedings commenced. Dr Mackey applied, under the very serious nature of the charge, for a postponement of the trial until the following session of Court. His application was successfully opposed by the Crown prosecutor on the grounds of expense, the difficulty in securing all the witnesses at another time and the minute precognition that had been made before the magistrates at Beechworth. Dr Mackey then applied to have the trial postponed for a day, that he might have time to peruse the voluminous depositions, but with no better success. Dr Mackey next applied for an hour’s delay but this application was equally unavailing. Given the circumstances, Dr Mackey declined the responsibility of defending the prisoner. John then applied to the learned Judge to assign him counsel, but his Honor could not direct any counsel to undertake such a responsibility. Therefore, John did not obtain the services of counsel at all, while the full weight of the law was allowed to proceed.

John was sentenced to hang on the 24th of October 1855 in Central Gaol Melbourne. However due to the injustice carried out in the Court room, a petition was signed and delivered with a letter to the Governor General of Victoria, His Excellency Sir Charles Hotham. The petition urged the Governor General to extend the royal prerogative of mercy to the convict John McCabe. John was saved and released, returning once again as the local butcher.


On This Day ……. 31st of August 1920

Jason Carson, a laborer, aged 75 years, died at 3am on this day in 1920, at the Geelong Gaol. He was convicted at Ballarat on August 24th for being idle and disorderly, and was sentenced to six mouths’ imprisonment at the Geelong Gaol. He was received here on August 25th and since his arrival had been under the care of Dr. Croker. Mr. W. R. Anderson will hold a formal inquest this morning at 11.30 o’clock. The last death at the Gaol occurred a month ago, and pre- vious to that there had not been a. death for some years.


ON THIS DAY…… 31st August 1903

The charge of murder preferred by the police against Henry Stevens, in connection with the death of Elizabeth Johnstone, at Ballarat on August 31, has been withdrawn.

The charge of murder preferred by the police against Henry Stevens, a collector of marine stores in connection with the death of Elizabeth Johnstone, at Steinfeld street, on August 31, was withdrawn when the accused appeared at the city court this morning. Stevens had been arrested principally on a statement made by Mrs.Croft, a neighbour of the deceased. She said that between 6 and 7 o’clock on the evening of the day mentioned a man, whom she believed to be Stevens, quarrelled with Johnstone, when threats were made and a noise as of a fight, ensued. When the case was called on to-day, Superintendent Young stated that inquiries made by the police had satisfied them that Stevens was not in any way responsible for the woman’s death. The accused was then discharged.

Subsequently the inquest into Johnstone’s death was resumed, before Mr. W. Dickson, P.M., and a jury of seven. Several witnesses gave evidence, but nothing fresh was adduced. A further adjournment was then made till Tuesday.

ON THIS DAY…… 30th August 1923


Frederick Smith was sentenced to 15 years gaol with a private whipping of 10 lashes with the birch for the shooting of Constable Delaney. The funeral procession for Constable Delaney through the streets of Swan Hill in 1923. He was later buried in the Greta Cemetery.

Early on the afternoon of Thursday, 30th August, 1923 Constable Joseph Delaney went to Tyntynder (near Swan Hill) to interview Frederick James Smith, a 15 year old ward of the State, in relation to a burglary. On his entering Smith’s home the youth challenged Delaney and menaced him with a shot gun. Delaney advanced on the lad who shot and fatally wounded the constable. Smith fled the premises on Delaney’s horse, but surrendered himself to police later the same evening at Nyah West. Smith appeared before the Bendigo Supreme Court charged with murder. He was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. He was further ordered to receive a private whipping of 10 lashes of the birch.


ON THIS DAY…… 30th August 1898

An enquiry was opened, on the 30th August 1898 at Bendigo into a mystery attached to the finding of the skeleton of a man under an old blue blanket at Five-mile Creek. A patient at Bendigo Hospital said he knew two mates at Five mile Creek. They had a quarrel, and one bolted from the district. He supposes the skeleton must be that of the mate who probably was murdered. The medical evidence of the examination of the skeleton was to the effect that some of the bones of the jaw were missing, and one was indented as with slugs. The enquiry was adjourned until the following day .



On This Day ……. 30th of August 1894

An attempt to break into the Geelong gaol was frustrated, and a man named John Richardson arrested inside the gaol wall. He got over with a ladder, which broke on the inside, and the noise attracted the warders. The man had a confederate, who escaped, but the police expect to make further arrests and to get a swag. Richardson was only recently discharged.


On this day …….. 30th of August 1952

On the 30th of August 1954 Dr. K. Bowden, pathologist, and his deputy Mr McLeod traveled to Beechworth to examine a skeleton found in the bush. Police believe the skeleton which had been scattered by wild animals was a female patient by the name Frances Eileen Debson from the Beechworth Mental Hospital who escaped two years earlier. The remains were brought back to the hospital to be examined.


On this day …….. 30th of August 1938

Evelyn Marsden, was born on the 15th of October 1883, at Stockyard Creek about 80 km north of Adelaide, in South Australia. As a youth, she learned to row a boat against the tides and currents of the Murray River while visiting a farm at Murray Bridge, South Australia. Marsden was the only Australian female survivor of the sinking of the Titanic and was rescued in lifeboat 16. After the Titanic disaster She returned to that farm to thank the family for teaching her to row and handle a boat properly. Following the Titanic she married Dr William Abel James, who had worked for the White Star Line and moved to Bondi, Sydney, where my husband continued work as a Doctor. Marsden died on the 30th of August 1938, with my husband passing away soon after and we are both buried at Waverley Cemetery, Sydney. We had no children.


ON THIS DAY…… 30th August 1884

Ah Goon had come to Australia in the 1850s to make his fortune on the Victorian goldfields, like many of his fellow Chinamen. However Ah Goon worked out quickly that he could make more money in selling supply’s here in Melbourne, to the Chinese leaving for the Goldfields. On the 30th of August 1884, Ah Goon was found lying in a pool of blood on the floor of his bedroom. He had been punched in the face, knocking him to the floor. Ah Goon fell heavily onto an empty tea chest breaking his neck before being suffocated. He was then stabbed violently in the face. There was a lacerated wound 1 1⁄2 inches long on the right side of the face and both his eyes where blackened. Some Chinese business men offered a reward of £200 for the discovery of the murderer, $25,000 in today’s money. Yet no one come forward. A month later two men were arrested in Ballarat, Ah Lee on the charge of murder and Ah Sue, a Mongolian who was arrested on a charge of being concerned in the murder. Both men were found to have money and rings believed to belong to Ah Goon. As these items could not be proved to belong to Ah Goon, both men were released. This murder is still unsolved.



On this day …….. 30th of August 1835

The first cat to arrive in what would become the state of Victoria arrived on this day in 1835 on board the Enterprize. Enterprize set sail on her historic voyage from Launceston on July 21, 1835, stopping at George Town in northern Tasmania before arriving at the future site of Melbourne on August 30th. The cat belonged to Mary Gilbert with of James the blacksmith. The cat was known as Gilbert, the Tassie tabby.


ON THIS DAY…… 29th August 1869

Mr. Zincke, a solicitor practising at Beechworth, defended a man named Dunstan in an affiliation case brought before the local police court. The plaintiff, Caroline Bruce who is described as a fat, bloated woman of easy virtue, was subjected to a severe cross examination by the learned gentleman as to her personal history, and particularly with regard to the various babies whom she had previously fathered on different friends at Yackandandah. The lady, who appears to be a married woman, admitted the various soft impeachments, and the case was dismissed with costs.

Mr. Zincke went on his way to the Commercial Hotel to lunch, but had not been seated long before the immaculate Mrs. Caroline Bruce bounced into the room and deposited one of the very babies sworn to in court as being Dunstan’s and her own upon the dinner-table, and after telling Mr. Zineke that the baby was his, made a rapid retreat. Here was a fix for a respectable bachelor attorney. Mr. Zineke was, however, equal to the occasion, and, amidst a severe cannonade of chaff from friends present, rang the bell and handed the helpless infant to the prim feminine Ganymede in attendance. ” But what on earth shall I do with the child?” said the dismayed waitress. “Call a policeman, and make him find the mother, if the child is really not your own,” was the stony-hearted reply.

This was not the first time Caroline appeared in court trying to get some support for her children. But she was to die at the hands of her partner, Dunstan, 2 years after this court case. Caroline Bruce, who had for some years been living with Samuel Dunstan, a miner, at the Lower Indigo, died in Beechworth Gaol on the 29th August 1869 from being violently kicked in the stomach by her lover. The fight began over the health of their two year old daughter. With help from her neighbours Caroline left her partner, but was charged by police for deserting and being a vagrant, and sentenced to three months in the Beechworth Gaol. During the trial Dr Rohner examined Caroline and claimed that she was in a dangerous state but agreed with the Judge that she should be sent to prison with her daughter. Her child was suffering malignant scarlatina and also died in the Gaol.

Dunstan was charged with manslaughter.