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On This Day……… 9th April 1867

John Christian Watson, 3rd Prime Minister of Australia was born on this day. He was the first prime minister from the Australian Labour Party, and the first prime minister from the labour movement in the world. He was of Chilean birth, with German and New Zealand ancestry.

Previously serving in state parliament for seven years, Watson was elected to federal parliament at the inaugural 1901 election, where the state Labour parties received a combined 15.8 percent of the first past the post primary vote against two more dominant parties. The Caucus chose Watson as the inaugural parliamentary leader of the Labour Party on the 8th of May 1901, just in time for the first meeting of parliament. Labour led by Watson increased their vote to 31 percent at the 1903 election and 36.6 percent at the 1906 election. From the first election, Labour held the balance of power, giving support to Protectionist Party legislation in exchange for concessions to enact the Labour Party policy platform. Watson’s term as Prime Minister was brief only four months, between the 27th of April and the 18th of August 1904. He resigned as Labour leader in 1907 and retired from Parliament in 1910. Labour, led by Andrew Fisher would go on to win the 1910 election with 50 percent of the primary vote, ushering in Australia’s first elected majority government, and also the first elected Senate majority. Watson with others were later expelled from the party he helped found over the issue of conscription for World War I.

According to Percival Serle, Watson “left a much greater impression on his time than this would suggest. He came at the right moment for his party, and nothing could have done it more good than the sincerity, courtesy and moderation which he always showed as a leader”. Alfred Deakin wrote of Watson: “The Labour section has much cause for gratitude to Mr Watson, the leader whose tact and judgement have enabled it to achieve many of its Parliamentary successes”.

 

 

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 ………… 20th February 1903

The Commonwealth of Australia was proclaimed on 1 January 1901. Shortly after this, in April of that year, the Commonwealth Government announced a Federal Flag design competition. There were 32,823 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. The first design of the flag was very similar to the current design, with differences being that the Federation Star, also known as the Commonwealth Star, had six points instead of seven, while the Southern Cross stars had between five and nine points according to their brightness in the night sky. Originally, the blue field was reserved for Government use only, so the main background of the flag was red. The new Australian flag flew for the first time from the top of the Exhibition Building in Melbourne in September 1901, well before it was formally approved by the Imperial Authorities in England. The Australian Government was formally notified that the flag had been approved by King Edward VII late in 1902, and this approval was officially Gazetted on 20 February 1903.

 

After the official closure of the penal settlement on Sarah Island, twelve Convicts, under the supervision of several soldiers and Master Shipwright David Hoy, remained behind to complete the fitting out of the brig, Frederick. Although the specific orders concerning the fit-out had been mysteriously mislaid, the men dutifully carried out their tasks with ‘great propriety, executing Mr. Hoys’ orders with promptitude and alacrity’. The Frederick was launched in January 1834 and ten of the Convicts celebrated the occasion by seizing control. They sailed it to New Zealand and then onto South America. It was abandoned off coast of Chile and the Convicts rowed the ship’s whaleboat the remaining 80 km to shore. Passing themselves off as shipwrecked sailors, they assumed positions as shipwrights and became respected members of the community. Several married local women, while six of the men made a further escape to America and Jamaica. The four who remained in Chile were eventually caught and brought back to Hobart for trial as pirates. As the boat was seized from the harbour rather than the high seas, they escaped the charge but had to live out their days on Norfolk Island.

 

Edward Wyndham was born in 1888 in New Zealand. In Victoria he spent time in Melbourne, Pentridge and Geelong Gaol. On the 16th of August 1934 Wyndham was charged with larceny and spent 3 months in Geelong.