ON THIS DAY – December 14, 1935

Someone cut through the lock on the outer door of the tower at Geelong Gaol with a hacksaw on the 14th of December 1935, to gained access to the prison yard and vegetable garden and subsequently escaping. The prison authorities were staggered on finding the door unlocked the following morning and a careful search failed to disclose anything missing or any contraband. A heavy lock, half an inch thick had been cut, and a grille gate leading from a street to the tower was forced open, giving access to a spiral stairway leading to the lookout tower over the exercise yard. The intruder used a rope to lower himself 30ft to the garden below. A black cloth bag and a bottle of vaseline were found near the tower in the Supreme Court yard, which adjoins the gaol. Some vaseline had been put on the lock to facilitate cutting. The police are perplexed at the motive for the escapade as it is the first instance in modern times of an adventurer gaining access to a gaol and making his escape. Footprints were found leading to the office window of the governor Mr. N. E. Touhill, but no attempt had been made to force the window. Recent thefts of cage birds in Geelong raised the theory that there had been an attempt to steal a valuable collection owned by the senior warder Mr. R. Thorley.

On this day …….. 11th of December 1792

Due to poor health Arthur Phillip, first Governor of Australia return to England. He departed for his homeland on the 11th December 1792, sailing in the ship “Atlantic”. Phillip resigned his commission soon after arriving back in England, and died on 31 August 1814. Arthur Phillip was born in London on the 11th October 1738. He joined the Royal Navy when he was fifteen, and alternately earned a living as a navy officer and as a farmer. In October 1786, Phillip was appointed Governor-designate of the proposed British penal colony of New South Wales. He was a practical man who suggested that convicts with experience in farming, building and crafts be included in the First Fleet, but his proposal was rejected. The First Fleet left Portsmouth, England, on the 13th May 1787, and arrived in Botany Bay on the 18th of January 1788. Phillip immediately determined that there was insufficient fresh water, an absence of usable timber, poor quality soil and no safe harbour at Botany Bay. Thus the fleet was moved to Port Jackson, arriving on the 26th of January 1788.


On This Day ….. 26th September 1803

Joseph Samuel was born in England and later transported to Australia after committing a robbery in 1801. Samuel then became involved in a gang in Sydney and robbed the home of a wealthy woman. A policeman who had been sent to protect her home was murdered. The gang was soon caught and at the trial Joseph Samuel confessed to stealing the goods but denied being part of the murder. The leader of the gang was released due to lack of evidence and Joseph Samuel was sentenced to death by hanging. In 1803, Samuel and another criminal were driven in a cart to Parramatta where hundreds of people came to watch the hanging. After praying, the cart on which they were standing drove off, but instead of being hanged, the rope around Samuel’s neck snapped! The executioner tried again. This time, the rope slipped and his legs touched the ground. With the crowd in an uproar, the executioner tried for the third time and the rope snapped again. This time, an officer galloped off to tell the Governor what had happened and his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. The Governor and others believed that it was a sign from God that Samuel should not be hanged.


ON THIS DAY – July 18, 1859

Yesterday morning at ten o’clock was the time fixed for the execution of Chew-a-Key, the Chinaman convicted of the murder of the late Mr. M’Elligott, at Ironbark Gully, Bendigo, On Sunday evening however, he contrived to evade the sentence of the law by committing suicide. He was last seen alive by Mr. Winkle, the Governor of the gaol, and the turnkey in whose immediate custody he was placed, at about four o’clock on Sunday afternoon. There are two doors to the condemned cell in which Chew-a-Key was confined, the outer one similar to those in general use in the gaol, and an inner one composed of perpendicular and transverse iron bars, so as to form a sort of grating, through which the prisoners might be observed by the turnkey on duty. At a quarter to five o’clock on Sunday afternoon, the turnkey went to the cell in which the condemned prisoner was confined, for the purpose of lighting the gas. On opening the outer door, he saw him hanging from one of the transverse iron bars of the inner door. The alarm was immediately given, the prisoner cut down, and every means employed for his resuscitation, but without avail. It was apparent that Chew-a-Key must have premeditated self-destruction for some time from the particular care which he had taken that the attempt should be effectual. He had torn up one of his blankets, and twisted it into a rope for the purpose; and it was evident that he must have managed so to raise himself from the floor of the cell as to obtain a seat on one of the bars of the door, whilst he fastened the rope with which he hanged himself. He had also tied his feet together, and had then connected his hands with his feet by means of a piece of the blanket twisted into a rope in such a manner as entirely to prevent any attempts which he might have made to save himself, supposing his courage to have failed him at the last moment. The Sheriff was not informed of the occurrence until he arrived at the gaol yesterday morning, shortly before ten o’clock, to see the sentence of the law carried into effect. An inquest was held on the body yesterday, at twelve o’clock. The Coroner then drew attention to the fact, that in England, from the time sentence of death was passed on a prisoner until that sentence was carried into execution, he was never suffered to be alone, and said he thought the recent occurrence would show the authorities the necessity of adopting a similar practice in the colony.


On This Day ……. 30th May 1914

Mr. W Furnell as governor of the Geelong gaol, was promoted to Melbourne to the Governor of the Melbourne gaol (old Melbourne gaol). Until his replacement Mr Finnish arrives from Beechworth, Mr. M. Hayward will take charge.

EXECUTED THIS DAY – April 20, 1891

The execution of Cornelius Bourke, convicted of the murder of Peter Stewart at the Hamilton lock-up, took place in the Ballarat Gaol at 10 o’clock on Monday morning. It will be remembered that after sentence was pronounced, some doubts arose as to the sanity of the prisoner, and he was examined by medical men who failed to find any evidence of mental aberration beyond imbecility consequent on old age. The law was therefore allowed to take its course, and on being informed of the determination of the Executive, Bourke listened without emotion, and has since looked calmly upon his fate, his only solace being his pipe and tobacco. He has been most diligently attended by the Rev. Father Rogers, who at first appeared to make little impression upon the condemned man, but within the last few days he was more attentive to his ministrations. However, Bourke was quite resigned to his fate, and when spoken to on the subject on Saturday last said he might as well die now as at any future time, as life was only a few minutes strung out, and that he was now an old man and had nothing to live for. On Sunday he was visited by Bishop Moore, and he slept soundly on Sunday night. On Monday morning he was engaged in religious devotion with Father Rogers in the condemned cell, and punctually at 10 o’clock the Sherriff (Mr Anderson) demanded the body from the Governor of the Gaol (Mr Gardiner) in the usual manner. Shortly afterwards Bourke emerged from his cell with his hands securely bound behind him. He was given over to the custody of Jones, the hangman. The melancholy procession proceeded towards the scaffold, the clergyman, at the same time, pronouncing the service for the dead. There were very few spectators besides the officials and the representatives of the Press. On taking his place on the drop of the scaffold, and his legs being bound together, the Governor asked Bourke if he had anything to say, to which he replied, “No, I have nothing to say. What should I say ?” The white cap was then drawn over his face, and the rope adjusted by the hangman. This being done, Jones, the executioner, was proceeding to draw the fatal bar, when Bourke ejaculated, ” I am choking, I am choking” at the same time moving off the drop as well as he could with his legs pinioned together. A little excitement was caused by this incident, but Jones and some of the officials managed to place Bourke on the drop again, when the bar was drawn and he fell a distance of about 5ft. Death appeared to have been instantaneous, as there was not the slightest contraction of the body or other movement. Thus ended the career of Bourke, and at the formal inquest held it was decided that he had been hanged in a judicial manner. The body was buried within the precincts of the gaol, and destroyed as usual by quicklime.


On This Day ……. 20th April 1875

A letter was revived by the Governor of the Geelong Gaol, on this day in 1875, from the Minister of Lands and Agriculture, requesting to be informed when prison labor will be available for works in the Botanical Gardens.


EXECUTION THIS DAY …….. 5th April 1865

The execution of John Stacey, for the murder of a child named Daniel McDonnell, at Emerald-hill, on the 28th of February, took place at the gaol, in presence of a smell number of spectators. Since the lest execution a new “drop” has been constructed at the gaol, and the general arrangements materially altered. On a level with the gallery, in front of the middle tier of cells, a small platform, part of which is composed of a trap-door, has been erected, stretching across from the gallery on one side of one of the corridors to that on the other side. Above this platform a beam has been fixed, reaching from wall to wall, and to this the rope is suspended. The prisoners under sentence of death will be placed in the cells on a level with and immediately contiguous to this platform; the long distance which the convict had formerly to be conducted and the ascent of a ladder being by these arrangements avoided. The Rev. D. Lordon, by whom the convict Stacey has been constantly attended, visited him at an early hour yesterday morning; sad at the time of the execution the Rev. Dr. Bleasdale read the prayers of the church (Roman Catholic) to which the prisoner belonged. Punctually at ten o’clock the sheriff, accompanied by the governor of the gaol, had the door of the cell opened, and the unhappy man was informed that the hour had arrived. He stepped outside the cell, preceded by an attendant with a crucifix, and accompanied by the clergyman. The pinioning was done on the gallery in front of the cell, the prisoner the while keeping his eye fixed upon the emblem before him. Not more than two or three short steps ware required to bring him upon the centre of the trap-door before mentioned, and the prisoner stepped to the place indicated without any visible sign of trepidation. He was very pale, but had the expression of steady resolve, and his nerves did not fall him in the least while the rope was being adjusted. Thu only words spoken by him were now and then the repetition, in a low tone, of portions of the sentences recited by Dr. Bleasdale. The executioner, having completed the adjustment of the noose, stepped back to a lever handle, and released the bolt, allowed the drop to fall. Death must have been instantaneous; no struggling took place, and one or two slight movements, which lasted for perhaps a minute and a half after the drop, were evidently but the effects of a spasmodic action of the muscles after life had departed. Not more than about eighteen or twenty persons were present of whom the greater number were official. The prisoner stated at his trial that his true was Michael Casey. He is entered in the gaol books as thirty one years old, born at Bristol. He arrived in this colony in 1852, free, his calling as a stoker. He made no distinct confession of having committed the deed for which he was sentenced, unless he did so to the clergyman.


EXECUTION THIS DAY – April 4, 1853

Shortly after eight o’clock, the extreme sentence of the law was carried into effect upon George Whitfield Pinkerton, the murderer of the unfortunate Mrs Smith and infant at Brighton, the particulars of which must fresh in the recollection of our readers. From the moment of Pinkerton’s condemnation, the Rev. Mr. Hetherington, Presbyterian minister, has been unremitting in his attention to him, and it is to be hoped that the Rev. gentlelman’s exertions have not been without their beneficial effects. The same apparent indifference to his fate which was manifested by the prisoner at his trial, was however persevered in to the last moment; no expression of regret for his enormous crime escaped him, and to those around he frquently ridiculed the only plea which could have assisted to save his life. His health had become much improved since his trial, and there can be no doubt he would, under skilful medical treatment, have fully recovered from the inflicted injuries, which it was at first thought would have proved fatal within a few hours of their infliction. During the night previous to his execution, Pinkerton slept soundly and on waking immediately remembered and remarked upon that being his last day upon earth. He attired himself in the suit which he had worn upon his trial and at an early hour was visited by the Reverend Mr. Hetherington, to whom he apparently attended with great attention till within a few moments of eight o’clock, when the wretched man who was so soon to terminate his career upon the scaffold, appeared in the passage, when, upon a signal from the Governor of the Gaol the executioner, who had been for some time in the western extremity of the Gaol, made an appearance, and commenced the task of pinioning the prisoner’s arms. It has been remarked by persons in the habit of attending public executions that it is at this moment the courage of the prisoner usually gives way. Such was certainly not the case on the present occasion, the prisoner remaining as firm as a rock, and immediately afterwards the white cap having been adjusted, he expressed his readiness to meet his doom. On entering the yard in which the instrument of death was erected, the sight which usually strikes terror to the hearts of the most hardened, had no effect on him. He mounted the scaffold with a firm step, attended by the Reverend gentleman we have named, and on the very instant that he reached the platform, the rope was adjusted round the criminal’s neck, the bolt was drawn, and all was over. Death, to all appearance, did its work in a moment, without creating even the slightest appearance of a struggle in the victim. On gazing at the suspended and stiffened corpse, the thought intruded itself that such a scene was more adapted for the barbarous ages than an enlightened nineteenth century. The number of spectators was quite as large as usual on such occasions, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, and amongst them, to their shame be it said, we observed many females and children. The body, after hanging an hour, was cut down, and upon examination, the features were found to be distorted to a far less extent than is usually the case. It has been stated to us upon good authority, that Pinkerton within the last few days admitted to a person who visited him, that his original statement to the effect that the attack upon poor Smith was unpremeditated, was untrue. Doctors Youl, Barker, and Hutchison, held a post mortem examination on the head of the murderer, and gave a written opinion which could not fail to prove satisfactory to the Executive Council that the brain was in a sound healthy state, and denoting nothing to lead to the supposition that he had ever been deranged.


ON This Day – 31st March 1908

It was arranged by the Penal authorities, that Mr. R. Paterson, governor of the Geelong gaol, shall take over, the charge of the Melbourne Gaol on this day in 1908. He return to Geelong in the evening, and hand over the care of the Geelong gaol to Mr Furnell, of Beechworth, who has been appointed to succeed him. Mr. Paterson was extremely popular with his staff, who regret his departure from Geelong.


On This Day – 24th March 1866

Convict Jeremiah Lee was charged at the Geelong Gaol with disobedience of orders by Turnkey Sharry and was sentenced to be discredited from billet by the Governor.


On This Day – 23rd March 1875

On this day in 1875, Mr Peter Dwyer, Governor of the Geelong gaol, was asked upon what terms the labour of prisoners can be obtained for working in the Geelong Botanical Gardens.