We came across a reference to an unusual murder case the other day. And although it isn’t Australian, there is very definitely some Twisted History to it!

Pype Hayes Park in Erdington, Birmingham, England has been the scene of two murders – one in 1817 and another in 1974. Now you might not think that is particularly interesting but the parallels between these two cases is uncanny!

On May 27, 1817, the belle of the parish, Mary Ashford attended a dance at Tyburn House Inn with her friend Hannah Cox. The two young ladies left around midnight and would return to Hannah’s house.  Mary would leave and would not be seen alive again.  Her body would be discovered a few hours, where a worker discovered a puddle of blood and two sets of footprints leading to the muddy ditch.  Mary had been sexually assaulted and left to drown.

On May 27, 1974, childcare worker Barbara Forrest spent the night out dancing with her boyfriend at various pubs before he escorted her to the Colmore Circus bus stop.  It would be the last time anyone saw Barbara alive.  Her semi-naked body was found under bracken in a shallow ditch just 500 yards from her house on the edge of the park.  Barabara had been raped and strangled.

Two men would be arrested, one for each crime – Abraham Thornton in 1817 and Michael Thornton in 1974.  At their respective trials both men would be acquitted for lack of evidence.  In 1817, Abraham admitted to having sex with Mary but 3 witnesses gave him an alibi which saw the case dismissed.  In 1975, Michael was arrested after blood stains were found on his pants and an alibi proved false.  The case was dismissed.

Both cases remain officially unsolved to this day.

But there are a few interesting facts related to the 1817 murder. Firstly, Abraham Thornton’s boot print was matched to those leading to Mary’s body.  It was one of the earlist recorded cases of footwear identification.  Secondly, after the dismissal of the first trial, Mary’s brother William launched an appeal stating the evidence was overwhelming against Thornton.  Thornton was rearrested and claimed the right to trial by battle – a medieval law that had never been repealed by Parliament.  Ashford declined and Thornton was freed from custody.  The law was repealed in 1819.

But we will leave the final words to Mary Ashford’s family.  On her grave in Sutton Coldfield Churchyard is the following inscription:

 

“As a warning to female virtue and a humble monument to female chastity, this stone marks the grave of Mary Ashford who on the twentieth year of her age having incautiously repaired to a scene of amusement without proper protection, was brutally murdered on 27th May 1817”

A Country Practice was a television serial drama that ran on the Seven Network for 1,058 episodes at 7.30 pm Monday and Tuesday nights, from 18 November 1981 to 22 November 1993. 

Production was filmed both at ATN-7 at Epping, Sydney and on locations at Pitt Town and Oakville on the outskirts of Northwest Sydney. Several of the regular cast members became highly popular celebrities through their roles in the series. It also featured a number of native Australian animals adding to its enduring appeal both domestically and internationally. After the series was cancelled by the Seven Network in 1993 a reworked version of the series ran briefly on Network Ten and filmed on location at Emerald in Victoria, airing in 1994. 

The series followed the workings of a small hospital in the fictional rural country town of Wandin Valley as well as its connected medical clinic, the town’s veterinary surgery, RSL club/pub and local police station. The show’s storylines focused on the staff, and regular patients of the hospital and general practice, their families, and other residents of the town. Through its weekly guest actors, who appeared in the series portrayed differing characters, it explored various social and medical problems. The series examined such topical issues as youth unemployment, suicide, drug addiction, and terminal illness, as well as Aborigines and their importance in modern Australian society. Apart from its regular rotating cast, mainly among the younger personnel, A Country Practice also had a cast of semi-regulars who would make appearances as the storylines permitted. One of the more popular and frequent characters from its inception included the valley’s corrupt town councillor Alfred Muldoon (Brian Moll). 

The program as well would also showcase a number of animal stars and Australian native wildlife, most famously Fatso the wombat. Fatso was played throughout the series by three separate wombats, Fatso (1981–1986) replaced due to temperament issues with the cast, George (1986–1990) replaced due to early signs of wombat mange (a marsupial viral disease), and Garth (1990 through series end).  Originally “belonged” to Dr Simon Bowen but Shirley and Frank Gilroy took him in when Simon and Vicky moved to the U. S.

Iconic storylines over its lengthy 12-year run included the wedding of Dr. Simon Bowen, to local vet Vicki Dean, in 1983, and the later wedding of Dr. Terence Elliot to Matron Rosemary Prior amidst the series’ bushfire scenes that marked the final episodes. The death of nurse Donna Manning in a car crash, the off-screen death of longtime resident Shirley Gilroy in a plane crash, as well as the final undoing of town councillor Alfred Muldoon, which were highly watched. 

The highest rating episode however featured the death of beloved farmer Molly Jones from leukemia in 1985. After being diagnosed, receiving treatment and battling the terminal illness, Molly retires to her garden, watching her husband nurse Brenden and young daughter Chloe flying a kite and passes away peacefully as the screen fades to black. Molly’s death storyline was originally written for an 11-week script, but producers realized that her death was proposed in a week the ratings were not being monitored, hence the storyline lasted 13 weeks and an extra two episodes.

In 1994 the series briefly returned for 30 more episodes with Robyn Sinclair and James Davern as Executive Producers on the Ten Network but with wholesale changes made to the format and the location change from New South Wales to Victoria and the only original cast members to return were Esme Watson (Joyce Jacobs) and Matron Margaret “Maggie” Sloan (Joan Sydney) the show never really stood a chance, it went to just one episode per week, before being cancelled altogether.

Over A Country Practice 13 year run the show became renowned for its long list of guest cameos, totalling over 1000 stars.  Some actors became more prominent during the series runs, and were classified as semi-regulars, appearing as the storyline permitted, such as Baz Luhrmann, Smokey Dawson, John Meillon, Sir Robert Helpmann, Nicole Kidman, Paul Kelly, Toni Collette, Delta Goodrem, Peter Phelps and Simon Baker. At the program’s height even the then Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, appeared as himself.

When filming finished in 1994, A Country Practice was the longest running Australian drama. At its height the show attracted 8–10 million viewers weekly, when the population of the time was a mere 15 million, and was eventually sold to 48 countries.  A Country Practice is also the third most successful television program in the history of the Logie Awards, after Home and Away (1st) and Neighbours (2nd), having won 29 awards during its twelve years of production.

James Davern creator, writer and original executive producer of A Country Practice was inducted into the Logie Hall of Fame in 1991 and was honoured as an Order of Australia recipient in 2014.  A Country Practice was ranked 14th in the 50 Years 50 Shows poll in 2005. Read more

Annie’s Coming Out (also known as A Test of Love) is a 1984 Australian drama film directed by Gil Brealey. It is based on the non-fiction book Annie’s Coming Out by disability activists Rosemary Crossley and Anne McDonald. The book tells the story of McDonald’s early life in a government institution for people with severe disabilities and her subsequent release.

The plot is around Annie O’Farrell (based on Anne McDonald) a 13-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who is unable to communicate and has been living in a government institution from an early age. Jessica Hathaway (based on Rosemary Crossley) is a therapist who learns to communicate with Annie using an alphabet board and comes to believe that although physically disabled, Annie is not intellectually impaired. When Annie turns 18, Jessica begins a legal fight to get her released.

Film rights to the book were bought by Film Australia and Gil Brealey was assigned to direct. It was originally intended that Ann McDonald play herself but she had grown too big by the time she left hospital so 9 year old Tina Arhondis was cast instead. Shooting started in September 1983 and went for four weeks, mostly at the Convent of the Good Shepherd in Melbourne.

Annie’s Coming Out won three 1984 Australian Film Institute Awards for Best Film, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Lead Actress (Angela Punch McGregor). It was nominated for four other AFI awards. The film won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 1984 Montréal World Film Festival.  The film was not a large commercial success but it screened in the US as A Test of Love.

Acropolis Now is a cult Australian television sitcom set in a fictional Greek cafe in Fitzroy, Melbourne. The title of the show being a play on the film Apocalypse Now. Its brand of cross-cultural humour still resonates today in such shows as Pizza and Here Come The Habibs.

The show was produced by Crawford Productions and ran for 63 episodes from 1989 to 1992, airing on the Seven Network. It was created by Nick Giannopoulos, George Kapiniaris and Simon Palomares, who also starred in the series. They were already quite well known for their comedy stage show, Wogs out of Work.  Each episode was 20 minutes in length and was filmed in front of a live audience. Although the Acropolis cafè/hotel was filmed at HSV-7 Studios the exterior is still standing and looks almost identical to the show, being located at 251 Brunswick Street, and corner of Greeves St, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Victoria Australia.

The premise of the show is based around Jim’s father Kostas “Con” Stefanidis (Warren Mitchell) asking Jim to run the family business, the Acropolis café, when he suddenly leaves Australia to return to his homeland of Greece. The series centres on the activities of the cafe staff.  Greek Jim Stefanidis (Giannopoulos), is the immature owner and his best friend, Spaniard Ricky Martinez (Palomares) is the sensible manager (seasons 1-2 only). Memo (Kapiniaris) is the traditional Greek waiter, while Liz is the liberated Australian waitress. Skip is the naïve new cook from the bush and Manolis is the stubborn cook from the old cafe. ‘Hilarity’ prevails from the clash of cultures and beliefs.

Jim’s hairdresser cousin Effie, played by Mary Coustas, became a hugely popular and enduring character during the run of the show. Coustas later reprised the role for several TV specials and series including Effie, Just Quietly, an SBS comedy/interview show, and Greeks on the Roof, a short-lived Greek Australian version of the British talk Show The Kumars at No. 42.  Although the show itself did not win any awards, Mary Coustas won the 1993 Logie for Most Popular Comedy Performer for her role as Effie.

With the ethnic popularity of the show, Acropolis Now helped popularise the term “skippy” or “skip” to refer to Anglo Celtic Australians and others of European but non-Mediterranean descent. This term (inspired by the iconic 60’s TV series Skippy The Bush Kangaroo) became popular with Mediterranean-Australians, and to a lesser extent non-Mediterranean people, especially in Melbourne.

There are many New Years Day traditions from around the world! How many of these did you and your friends celebrate?! What are some of your traditions? Twisted History would love to hear!

Make Some Noise

Making a lot of noise—from fireworks to gun shots to church bells—seems to be a favorite pastime around the world.

  • In ancient Thailand, guns were fired to frighten off demons.
  • In China, firecrackers routed the forces of darkness.
  • In the early American colonies, the sound of pistol shots rang through the air.
  • Italians let their church bells peal
  • the Swiss beat drums
  • North Americans sound sirens and party horns to bid the old year farewell.

Eat Lucky Food

Many New Year’s traditions surround food

  • The tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight comes from Spain. Revelers stuff their mouths with 12 grapes in the final moments of the year—one grape for every chime of the clock!
  • In the southern US, black-eyed peas and pork foretell good fortune
  • In Scotland people parade down the streets swinging balls of fire.
  • Eating any ring-shaped treat (such as a donut) symbolises “coming full circle” and leads to good fortune. In Dutch homes, fritters called olie bollen are served.
  • The Irish enjoy pastries called bannocks.
  • In India and Pakistan, rice promises prosperity.
  • Apples dipped in honey are a Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) tradition.
  • In Swiss homes, dollops of whipped cream, symbolising the richness of the year to come, are dropped on the floors—and allowed to remain there!

Have a Drink

Although the pop of a champagne cork signals the arrival of the New Year around the world, some countries have their own beverage-based traditions.

  • Wassail, a punch-like drink named after the Gaelic term for “good health,” is served in some parts of England.
  • Spiced “hot pint” is the Scottish version of Wassail. Traditionally, the Scots drank to each others’ prosperity and also offered this warm drink to neighbors along with a small gift.
  • In Holland, toasts are made with hot, spiced wine.

Give a Gift

New Year’s Day was once the time to swap presents.

  • Gifts of gilded nuts or coins marked the start of the new year in Rome.
  • Eggs, the symbol of fertility, were exchanged by the Persians.
  • Early Egyptians traded earthenware flasks.
  • In Scotland, coal, shortbread and silverware were traditionally exchanged for good luck.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

In Scotland, the custom of first-footing is an important part of the celebration of Hogmanay, or New Year’s Eve day.

After midnight, family and friends visit each other’s home. The “first foot” to cross a threshold after midnight will predict the next year’s fortune. Although the tradition varies, those deemed especially fortunate as “first footers” are new brides, new mothers, those who are tall and dark (and handsome?) or anyone born on January 1.

Turn Over a New Leaf

The dawn of a new year is an opportune time to take stock of your life.

  • Jews who observe Rosh Hashanah make time for personal introspection and prayer, as well as visiting graves.
  • Christian churches hold “watch-night” services, a custom that began in 1770 at Old St. Georges Methodist Church in Philadelphia.
  • The practice of making New Year’s resolutions, said to have begun with the Babylonians as early as 2600 B.C., is another way to reflect on the past and plan ahead.

New Years Folklore

Some customs and beliefs are simply passed down through the ages. Here are some of our favorite age-old sayings and proverbs.

  • On New Year’s Eve, kiss the person you hope to keep kissing.
  • If New Year’s Eve night wind blow south, It betokeneth warmth and growth.
  • For abundance in the new year, fill your pockets and cupboards today.
  • If the old year goes out like a lion, the new year will come in like a lamb
  • the darkest person would renter the house first – a tradition relating to coal mining days
  •  No washing clothes on the last day of the year as you will wash someone out of your life! 

 

Some Information courtesy of www.almanac.com