On This Day…….8th of July 1934

George Fairburn, alias Fuller, 41, a Pentridge prisoner, escaped from the Creswell Sanatorium at Mont Park on the 11th of July 1934. The penal authorities, who have appealed for public co-operation in recapturing Fairburn, state that he had been placed in the Sanatorium because of illness. He was suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, which in its present form in Fairbuir, is highly infective. The escape was certified as having but a short while to live, and, for this reason, it was not thought necessary to place a prison guard over him.

07On This Day……7th July 1870

James Geary was committed to Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum on the 24th of November 1867, and was discharged on the 12th of October 1868. Geary was committed for a second time on the 26th of October of the same year. On the 7th of July 1870, Geary escaped by walking out of the Asylum and into the bush.

On This Day……. 7th July 1910

Another patient has escaped from Yarra Bend, and has taken advantage of her liberty to end her existence in the river, placed conveniently for this purpose. The inquiry into the matter opened the eyes of the public to the fact that the lunatic asylum is as easy and accessible as an ordinary villa. Outsiders can get in, and insiders can get out just whenever they feel disposed. True, outsiders do not as a rule try to get into Yarra Bend as fervently as they strive to get into Parliament, but, insiders do try to get out. The patient mentioned above was a woman, and she had no difficulty whatever in getting over the garden wall and into the river. Possibly the policy of “the institution is that mad patients are much better out of the world but, if this is really the case, it would be wiser to extend the asylum grounds, and take in a strip of the river for the convenience of those lunatics who are ambitious to go to Heaven in a hurry.

On This Day……7th of July 1925

A dangerous lunatic escaped from Mont Park Hospital on this day in 1925, and was recaptured by an attendant a few miles from the institution. He gave no trouble, and returned quietly withhis captors – Another escapee said to be dangerous was still free.

On This Day…….. 7th of July 1900

James M’Cormick, an old miner escaped from the Ballarat Lunatic Asylum on the 7th of July 1900. M’Cormick walked though the garden and out the gate of the Asylum.

On This Day ………7th July 1883

The notorious Captain Donegan, who was imprisoned for a variety of offences, and was sent to the Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum, escaped cleverly, and has defied all attempts to find him. He had been confined in the asylum, for five years and got away twice before.

On This Day…….6th of July 1902

Riddell’s Creek

One of the inmates of the lunatic asylum at Sunbury escaped on the 6th of July 1902, but was caught at Riddell’s Creek by one of the warders, assisted by Mr. J. Keiley. The man had been out all Saturday night, which was a rough and wet one. He said he was anxious to go to Sydney.

On This Day…… 5th July 1883

William Blurke, a criminal lunatic, escaped from the Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum, on the 5th July 1883. Blurke had scaled the stone walls to freedom.

On This Day…..4th July 1966

Two youths escaped from Langi Kal Kal training Prison, near Ballarat in the prison-owned station sedan this on this day in 1966. Neither the youths nor the Government vehicle had been found. Prisoners where believe to have headed to Melbourne.

4th June 1946

State-wide search for four criminals who are missing from Beechworth gaol was renewed. One of the men disappeared late last year, two in April, and the fourth a week ago. The men sought are: George Albert Wilson, 36, 5ft 6in, auburn hair, brown eyes, fresh complexion, and stout build. He is a native of New Zealand, and an engineer by occupation. Russell Stanley Kirby, 36, 5ft 8in, dark hair, brown eyes, fresh complexion, medium build. He has a big scar on the back of his left hand. Albert Charles Han is. 27, 5ft 10in.l dark brown hair, brown eyes, fresh complexion, and slight build. He is William John Clarke, 42, 5ft 6in. dark hair, blue eyes, fresh complexion, and medium build. He is an Englishman. Wilson, who broke free on December 22, 1945, is believed to have left the country for New Zealand, but, the other three fugitives are considered likely, to be in Victoria still. Because of this there has been a renewal of police raids on houses where the men may be harboured. Police said that any report of the whereabouts or movements of any of the fugitives would be treated as confidential. Kirby and Harris, who escaped together on April 26, are expected to have separated. Clarke, the latest escapee, is believed to have now disappeared from the dense bush surrounding the gaol where he obviously hid immediately after getting clear of the prison.


William John O’Meally was a career criminal who was convicted of the murder of Constable George Howell at Caulfield in 1952

O’Meally was born in 1920 as Joseph Thompson in Young, NSW.  The family moved to Sydney when he was 11 but his parents marriage dissolved not long after, and up to 14 years of age, O’Meally was a ward of the state.  O’Meally claimed to be the grandson of Johnie O’Meally, a member of the infamous Ben Hall gang.

O’Meally began his life of crime early and by 16 years had recorded his first assault against a police officer.  He was labelled as uncontrollable and sentenced to the Gosford Reformatory.  He made his first escape from here and became lost in the mangroves for a week before being recaptured.

By the time of Constable Howell’s murder in 1952, O’Meally had racked up 42 convictions including 5 for assault against police.

O’Meally claimed to be innocent of the policeman’s murder claiming he had been home with his wife at Bonbeach, a claim his wife supported.  He also claimed that Howell knew him and so would be able to identify him.  Despite these claims, O’Meally was found guilty and initially sentenced to be executed for the murder.  The newspapers reported that he cried when the verdict was read and again declared his innocence.

O’Meally would have his sentence commuted to life imprisonment without the benefit of parole.  He would be taken to Pentridge prison where he would escape in 1955 from H Division.  He would only be at large for a day before being recaptured in Coburg.

In 1957, O’Meally again attempted to escape from Pentridge, this time with an accomplice John Taylor.  Armed with a .38 pistol, the two men ran out of the main gates, shooting a warden in the process breaking his leg.  A gun battle ensued with other warders an the two men were recaptured just 13 minutes after escaping.

At the trial, the Judge stated “You are both clearly beyond hope of reform. Simply to sentence you to a further term of imprisonment would be to impose a totally inadequate form of punishment, and would provide no real deterrent against further attacks of a like character.”

Both had a further 10 years added to their sentences and were ordered to be given 12 strokes of the cat o nine tails in one session, the first flogging in Victoria since 1943.  On April 1st, 1958 the flogging sentence was carried out with O’Meally becoming the final man to be flogged in Victoria.  He would claim it had taken him 3 months to recover and no medical assistance was given.

O’Meally would become Victoria’s longest serving prisoner, serving 27 years before being released on parole on 5th July 1979.



Friday January 13, 1939 would go down in history known as Black Friday.  The day would later be described at the Royal Commission as “it appeared the whole of Victoria was alight”

In the days preceding Black Friday, some of the hottest temperatures to date had been recorded, but it was Friday that recorded a temperature of 45.6 degrees Celsius (114.1 Fahrenheit).  This temperature would remain the hottest on record for 70 years.

That summer had been hot and dry with several smaller fires burning, but on January 13 a strong northerly wind hit the state. This coupled with fires being lit by landowners, campfires, inappropriate sawmill operations and domestic fires,  All these conditions had the catastrophic effect culminating in several smaller fires joining, leading to a massive fire front.

By the time the fires were brought under control, they had led to the deaths of 71 people, several towns, 1300 homes, 69 sawmills and 3700 other buildings were destroyed.  It was estimated the three quarters of the state of Victoria was burning.

The fires would be brought under control with the help of rain that crossed the state on Sunday January 15.

The Royal Commission headed by Judge Stretton was held 3 weeks after the fires and attributed blame for the fires to careless burning, such as for campfires and land clearing. It made a number of recommendations to improve forest management and safety, such as the construction of fire towers and access trails. It also encouraged the creation of a regime of supervised burning, which still exists today.

The fires contributed directly to the passing of the Forests Act, which gave the Forests Commission responsibility for forest fire protection on public land. They were also a key factor in the founding of the Country Fire Authority in 1944.

Some of those killed in the fires included:

  • Forests Commission Overseer Charlie Demby, Toolangi
  • Forester John Hartley Barling, Toolangi
  • Baden Johnston, Rubicon Forest
  • Alfred Neason, Rubicon Forest
  • Peter Murdoch, Rubicon Forest
  • Forests Commission foreman, John West, Rubicon Forest
  • Joseph Cherry, Rubicon Forest
  • George Brundrett, Rubicon Forest
  • Vivian Argent, Rubicon Forest
  • Archibald Payne, Rubicon Forest
  • Geoffrey Wyatt, Rubicon Forest
  • Lemuel Sims, Rubicon Forest
  • James Cain, Rubicon Forest
  • Thomas Le Brun, Rubicon Forest
  • Ken Kerslake, wife Ellen and daughter Ruth, Acheron Way
  • Frank Edwards, Acheron Way
  • Chris Soldaris, Acheron Way
  • Antonio Igoshus and his brother Peter Igoshus, Acheron Way
  • Hugh McKinnon, Loch Valley north of Noojee
  • Ben Saxton, his wife Dorothy Saxton and a young timber worker named Michael Gorey, Tanjil Bren
  • W. J. Loosemore, Hill End
  • Nellie O’Keefe, Woods Point
  • Thomas Rusden, Frenchmens Creek
  • William Bolton, Aberfeldye
  • James Fitzpatrick, Matlock
  • Cecil Fitzpatrick, Matlock
  • George Fitzpatrick, Matlock
  • Joseph Rodgers, Matlock
  • James Knuckey, Matlock
  • James Howitt, Matlock
  • Thomas Crowley, Matlock
  • Walter Gladigau, Matlock
  • John Wallace, Matlock
  • George Osterman, Matlock
  • Kevin Kearns, Matlock
  • Alexander Kent, Matlock
  • Michael Rogers, Matlock
  • Henry Illingworth,  Matlock
  • William Illingworth, Matlock
  • Prospector James Lowry and his nephew Ronald Lowry, near Bright
  • Walter Scammell and his mother Margaret Scammell, Kiewa Valley
  • John Edeny, near Homans Gap
  • Ernest Richards, north of Bairnsdale
  • Theresa (14), Mary (12), Vera (10) and Paul Robinson (8), Barangarook
  • Freda, Eric and Rex Habel, near Stawell
  • Charles Cattenach, Moyston
  • Albert McGinty, Casterton
  • Frederick Topping, Warrandyte
  • Ernest Shafter, Warrandyte
  • Albert Dudley Pentreath, Strathewan
  • William Doig, Black Forest District
  • W, Angus, Black Forest District
  • William House, Drummond