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On this day …….. 28th of June 1880

Alexander Graham Bell’s demonstration of the first practical telephone in 1876 had ramifications worldwide within a very short period of time. For a continent separated by thousands of kilometres from Bell’s achievements, Australia was very quick to embrace telephony. The concept of one’s voice being carried over long distances, and the fact that a telegraph operator trained in Morse Code was no longer required to decode telegraph signals in order for messages to be relayed promised major benefits to the colonies which had grown up with a sense of isolation from the rest of the world. Experimentation with the telephone commenced in Australia between 1786 and 1788. Early tests were conducted by Charles Todd, South Australian Government Astronomer and Postmaster General, and a leading figure in the development of telegraphy and telephony in Australia. Transmissions enabling the human voice to carry over distances of up to 400 kilometres were successfully trialled. In 1877, Bell published the details of his telephone in the “Scientific American”. Following this publication, people from around the world – including the Australian colonies – were quick to develop their own telephones. Melbourne was the first Australian city to install a commercial telephone. This was undertaken by engineering firm Robison Bros between their office in Melbourne city and their South Melbourne foundry. The first telephone exchange was also opened in Melbourne on 28 June 1880. When the Melbourne Telephone Exchange Company was formed by W.H Masters and T.T. Draper, with 100 lines, line no. 1 was assigned to Robison Bros. Brisbane was the next city to open a telephone exchange, and by 1887 each of the capital cities had its own exchange.

60 years of Australian TV

Homicide premiered on the 20th of October 1964 and ran till 1977. The show was an Australian television police procedural drama series made by production firm Crawford Productions for the Seven Network. It was the television successor to Crawfords’ radio series D24. The series dealt with the homicide squad of the Victorian Police force and the various crimes and cases the detectives are called upon to investigate. Many episodes were based directly on real cases, although the characters (including the detectives) were fictional. 510 episodes were produced, and aired from October 1964 to January 1977. It remains as the longest-running Australian drama series to date. The police station was filmed at the Russell St Police HQ 336/376 Russell St, Melbourne.

On this day …….. 3rd September 1901

Following the proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901, the Commonwealth government held a design competition for a new national flag. There were 32,000 entries in the competition, and most featured the Union Jack, the Southern Cross, or native animals. Five almost identical entries were selected to share the 200 pound prize. The entries belonged to Ivor Evans, a fourteen-year-old schoolboy from Melbourne; Leslie John Hawkins, a teenager apprenticed to an optician from Sydney; Egbert John Nuttall, an architect from Melbourne; Annie Dorrington, an artist from Perth; and William Stevens, a ship’s officer from Auckland, New Zealand. On 3 September 1901, the new Australian flag flew for the first time from the top of the Exhibition Building in Melbourne. The flag was simplified, and approved by King Edward VII in 1902.

 

On this day …….. 19th of August 1856

On this day in 1856, the first two midwifery patients were admitted to Australia’s first public women’s hospital, in Melbourne.

 

On this day …….. 28th of June 1880

Alexander Graham Bell’s demonstration of the first practical telephone in 1876 had ramifications worldwide within a very short period of time. For a continent separated by thousands of kilometres from Bell’s achievements, Australia was very quick to embrace telephony. The concept of one’s voice being carried over long distances, and the fact that a telegraph operator trained in Morse Code was no longer required to decode telegraph signals in order for messages to be relayed promised major benefits to the colonies which had grown up with a sense of isolation from the rest of the world. Experimentation with the telephone commenced in Australia between 1786 and 1788. Early tests were conducted by Charles Todd, South Australian Government Astronomer and Postmaster General, and a leading figure in the development of telegraphy and telephony in Australia. Transmissions enabling the human voice to carry over distances of up to 400 kilometres were successfully trialled. In 1877, Bell published the details of his telephone in the “Scientific American”. Following this publication, people from around the world – including the Australian colonies – were quick to develop their own telephones. Melbourne was the first Australian city to install a commercial telephone. This was undertaken by engineering firm Robison Bros between their office in Melbourne city and their South Melbourne foundry. The first telephone exchange was also opened in Melbourne on 28 June 1880. When the Melbourne Telephone Exchange Company was formed by W.H Masters and T.T. Draper, with 100 lines, line no. 1 was assigned to Robison Bros. Brisbane was the next city to open a telephone exchange, and by 1887 each of the capital cities had its own exchange.

ON THIS DAY – May 7, 1970

ECHUCA

On May 7, 1970 members of the Victoria Police stationed in Echuca responded to an emergency call at a home in Mitchell Street. They found a heavily-pregnant woman, Beverley Ratten, lying dead in the kitchen from a shotgun wound to the torso. Her upset husband, Leith Ratten, was removed for questioning. Beverley would later be interred in the Cheltenham Memorial Park, Melbourne.

During interview Ratten said he was cleaning an old rusty double-barrelled shotgun brought in from the garage when it fired, hitting his wife under the left armpit while she was in the kitchen at lunchtime. Ratten could not explain how the gun discharged or how it came to be loaded. Subsequent investigations revealed that Ratten was having an affair with Jennifer Kemp, the wife of a family friend, and had spoken to her on the morning of the shooting. He had also applied for a twelve-month posting to a base in Antarctica.

In January 2012, Ratten died, aged 73 years. Ratten was committed to trial for murder and the hearing took place in August, 1970 in the nearby town of Shepparton, Victoria. Despite the assertions of Ratten’s defence counsel that the shooting was accidental and evidence against him was circumstantial, the jury found Ratten guilty and he was sentenced to death. This was later commuted to 25 years’ prison. Following the case, Ratten’s lawyers undertook four separate appeals on various grounds, one of which involved the exhumation of Beverley Ratten’s body in 1973. All four appeals were dismissed. Despite the failure of his appeals there was considerable doubt about Ratten’s conviction, many believing he was found guilty for the questionable morality of his marital infidelity rather than concrete evidence.

His case was widely discussed among the legal fraternity while his cause was taken up by many notable lawyers and politicians, such as Don Chipp. In 1978, the Free Leith Ratten Committee was founded by Monash University law undergraduate, Mark Cowie. Over the next five years, and until Ratten’s release from Her Majesty’s Prison Dhurringile, Cowie was involved in efforts to bring new evidence before the courts that questioned the legitimacy of Ratten’s conviction. He authored an unpublished manuscript on the case, Justice in Shame: The Leith Ratten Case Don Chipp said that in 1971 Henry Winneke had told him the convicted murderer Leith Ratten was innocent. In 1981 when Ratten had yet to be released, Chipp said Winneke denied the conversation had taken place. Later, a member of the Supreme Court at the time of Ratten’s trial, told Tom Molomby Winneke had wanted to remove the jury from the trial. Such a move would require a belief that the evidence would not support a guilty verdict. Ratten served his sentence, was a model prisoner and was released in 1983 (whereupon he worked as a surveyor in Queensland).

In 1981, two years prior to his release, Ratten was advised he would likely be released and was given time on regular day-release opportunities to find a job, which he did. Then he heard via the radio that he would not be released. Politicians making the decision had allegedly been pressured by Victoria Police to not release Ratten. Further examination of the unfired cartridge was undertaken, with the view that it was indeed a reload cartridge, and he was released soon after.

On This Day ……. 3rd May 1941

Leo Alexander Willard, of Newtown, was sentenced to one month’ imprisonment in Geelong for having stolen a bicycle, the property of Francis Martini. The machine was taken from a Geelong West industry. Constable Child, of Footscray, said that Willard called at the Footscray police station to give himself up, saying he had “pinched” a bicycle at Geelong West. Willard had said that he met a girl and prevailed upon her not to go to work, but to go for a bicycle ride in the country. They rode some miles out, became tired, and then left the bicycle and obtained a lift to Melbourne.

 

On This Day ……. 2nd April 1853

His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, accompanied by Captain Fyans and another gentleman, paid a visit of inspection to the jetties in Geelong. He also inspected the new gaol and quarters, and other public buildings during the day. It was reported that he would hand over to the Corporation £4000 voted for the repair of approaches to the wharves. His Excellency left Geelong in the morning for Melbourne, overland, attended by two orderlies. The new gaol Was proclaimed as soon as His Excellency returns to Melbourne.

 

On This Day……… 1st April 1958

On this day in 1958, William O’Mealley, become the last man to be legally flogged in Australia. This would happen in Pentridge Prison, Melbourne.

 

 

ON THIS DAY ……. 26th March 1910

John William Crabtree, a grocer who’s premises were destroyed by an explosion on this day in 1910. Crabtree was taken to the Melbourne Hospital where he died. During the inquest to his death, Crabtree was found to be an escaped prison. In 1885, Crabtree had been sentenced to 10 years in gaol from stealing horse in Christchurch, New Zealand, but escaped Mount Cook Gaol before arriving in Melbourne.

 

 

On This Day – 8th March 1907

Four prisoners, of the usual vagrant and feeble class, were received at the Geelong gaol on this day in 1907 from Pentridge, and the police escort took back two female prisoners to Coburg. Since the Penal authorities transferred the matron from the gaol, it has been necessary to engage an outside woman to attend to female prisoners until it is convenient to transfer them to Melbourne.

 

 

On this day ………… 5th February 1930

Three warders at the Pentridge penal establishment in Melbourne, were reprimanded and fined for not having exercised sufficient vigilance, when a prisoner, Lewis Spencer, attempted to escape. Spencer was sentenced to two years additional imprisonment for having damaged Government property by filing and breaking the cell lock and six months for having attempting to escape.