From the headlines…Patrick Kenniff

Patrick Kenniff

Over the past few months we have talked about the bushranger Patrick Kenniff who was executed in old number one division Boggo Road Gaol on 12th of January 1903, 115 years ago this past week.

THE TWO GAOLS AT BOGGO ROAD

THE TWO GAOLS AT BOGGO ROAD. – NUMBER ONE TO THE LEFT.

Patrick Kenniff

This article we share here today outlines the end of the life of Patrick Kenniff but also the extraordinary lengths that the community went to in order to prove him innocent right up until the last moments.

So let’s back track a little…

What happened?

Patrick and his younger brother James Kenniff were charged with the murder of Constable George Doyle and Stationmaster Albert Dahlke at Lethbridges Pocket.

The Kenniff brothers, being expert horseman were also experts at stealing them.   Wanted for the theft of a horse, they were pursued by Constable Doyle, Stationmaster Dahlke and an aboriginal tracker named Sam Johnson.

Corporal Sam Johnson

After days of hard riding, they came across the brothers in camp; where they managed to overpower and arrest them.  Tracker Sam Johnson was sent to retrieve handcuffs from the constable’s horse, when suddenly shots rang out, Sam fearing for his life went off for help.

A later search party found the constable’s horse wandering through the scrub and the burnt remains of the constable and station master in its saddlebags.  The brothers were tracked down again and following a shootout, both were captured and tried for murder.

Throughout the trial Patrick maintained his innocence and was denied his final right to appeal to the Privy Council in London, by the Judge Samuel Griffith.

The day of execution..

A great deal of agitation was going on in the streets surrounding the gaol.  Titters and tatters on every street corner.  By the time the gaol gates were reached there were hundreds of men, women and children waiting for the dreaded moment to arrive.   The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U) and other religious organisations had tried in vain to secure the commutation of the death sentence.  They too now had to wait.

The Prison Bell Tolled

Patrick was sent to the gallows of Boggo Road Gaol, protesting his innocence to the very last. His final chilling words were saved for one man, the Chief Justice, now Sir Samuel Griffith: “I am as innocent as the judge who sentenced me.” He was swiftly executed by the deathly accurate, Hangman Samuel Hudson.

Just ten short minutes later.

 The gates opened and the Hearse containing the remains of Patrick Kenniff made its way through the crowd.  Some 60 vehicles of all kinds and some 400 people were in the cortege to the South Brisbane Cemetery. Something quite unusual in the respect to the gaol funeral of executed prisoners.  When the cortege reached the cemetery it was found that there were considerably over a thousand people present.  

The Rev. Father Baldwin took up his stand at the grave and read the usual Roman Catholic service over the dead. It was an intensely solemn and-earnest-service, and as the body was lowered into the grave hundreds of the spectators began to weep.

Altogether, it was a most remarkable spectacle, one that has probably never been witnessed here before.

James Kenniff

So what happened to James Kenniff?

James’s life was spared, but he was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour; eventually becoming a cook in the prison kitchen. Being released in 1914, he refused visitors and lived out his life alone. Some say he was the one who pulled the trigger. He took this secret to his grave. He was the last bushranger in Queensland.

This story is still one of Queensland’s most enduring mysteries. It is the subject of numerous written and visual publications.  Most recently it was the subject of one of the episodes of LAWLESS a Foxtel Australia Production filmed in part at Boggo Road Gaol.

I link here a number of articles relating to the case for you the reader to peruse and decide for yourself.

Was Patrick Kenniff…Guilty or Innocent?

 


Want to hear more amazing stories about life inside Boggo Road? Our experienced guides would be delighted to lock you up for a while! Visit us for our History Tour

Do you want to make your own movie or documentary inside Boggo Road Gaol? Did you know you can? Click here  

This article was contributed by Research Coordinator Sue Olsen as part of the ongoing research program for Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd.  The aim of the program is to bring to light and share articles relating to Boggo Road for the purposes of review and study.   Do you have a story to share or something you would like us to know about?  You can contact the research team here

Prisoner Stories 1

D16 – One of the many cells Zim would call home

“Zim” Arthur Sully

Ex Prisoner

Crime 

Armed Robbery

Time served

14 Years 9 Months

1977-1984 and 1986 – 1992

Cells   

D16, E3, E7, E24 and F25

 

Background

Arthur Sully known as Zim was born in Tubu, Papua New Guinea (then an Australian territory) to an English father and a Papuan Mother.

His father having been in the British Navy and part of the Pacific War had settled in Papua just at the end of the Second World War.

Zim was raised in Tubu up until he was ten years old.  Having made a few trips to Brisbane, his father decided to relocate the family in 1970, Papua having moved towards becoming an independent state (officially granted in 1975).

On a holiday to Brisbane in 1968 the family were residing at Venner Road in Annerley.  Driving down Annerley Road one morning, riding in the back of the family car a then eight year old Zim spied Boggo Road from the top of the hill.

Dad! Is that a castle? Who lives there?  His father simply replied: Son, that castle belongs to the Queen, and you don’t wanna go there!

 

Little did he know, less than ten years later Zim would be visiting “The Queen’s Castle” for the very first time…

Zim describes himself as an adventurous kid not having ever been much for watching TV or indoors activities.  He had learning difficulties as a child, what we would now be known as ADHD. Though back then there was no such thing.

The adventurous kid found himself outside all the time. Never being out of trouble in school, He was fidgety and just didn’t want to be there. In fact, he didn’t particularly want to be in Australia at all.  He never understood why the family had moved from a peaceful, beautiful spot to the big smoke.  Really, it was complete culture shock.

Zim started rebelling, and before you know it, got swept up in the wrong crowd. He began stealing bikes at school. Not really knowing what he had got himself into, he was smoking and drinking at a young age and generally playing up.

First Conviction

Zim was arrested at 17 years of age having tried to snatch a purse from a lady. She fell and received injuries. His first charge was Robbery with Violence. He was subsequently convicted and was to sentenced serve seven years in Boggo Road.

His first few minutes inside the gaol were just as you would expect – one of complete shock. First moment out of the prison van he was made to face a picture of the Queen and salute (Zim had never seen a picture of her before) so he had no idea what he was doing.  The prison warders, having none of this, immediately labelled him a potential trouble maker; where, he was just a kid, with no idea!

First placed in the boys’ yard, he was soon taught a few lessons! Though being a cheeky kid, he certainly figured out how best to keep from doing as much as possible.

My first eighteen months inside, I basically carried a clipboard around, I bluffed my way past guards asking to go to this section or another, for a particular “job” I never actually was meant to be doing any of those things. Eventually, they caught up with me though and I got into quite a bit of trouble for that one. I ended up being put in a yard with some of the “worst” trouble makers until I begged a guard to give me a job.  My first official “job” inside was in the tin shop. Task number one was to make 500 rubbish bins. You know the ones with the little foot peddle! I had no idea what I was doing.  Thankfully some of the other older inmates quickly sorted me out… and taught me a few things.

I learned a lot from those blokes, but the best thing I learned was to play the guitar. I didn’t much like the card games, I referred to them as “Bored games” I found them boring.  I made a request for a guitar, I loved music.   It was denied.  I tried again.  – It only took me three years before I was finally granted a guitar… under the condition that it was only played in my cell. I suppose this was around 1981. Of course, I was a rule breaker and quickly figured out how to get my guitar into the yard.  I never actually knew how to play the guitar, but some of the other inmates taught me a few things. And I quickly picked it up.  I still play the guitar to this day.

 

Zim was released in November 1984. It was a complete culture shock. Brisbane had changed so much.  “It had electric trains!  It was certainly not the town I knew.”

Second Conviction

He didn’t stay out of trouble for long. Having difficulty getting back on track and finding a job, Zim quickly found himself in with the “wrong crowd” once again.  He and a mate decided they should get some serious money and get out of town.  This began the first of ten bank robberies.  They stole a car, held up the bank, went on the run, dumping the car and hiding out.  One after the other, they quickly got a name for themselves. Eventually they lead police on a chase and shoot-out that would rival a scene out of any Hollywood movie. Thankfully no one was injured.

He was tried and convicted on five of the ten charges against him (the others failing due to lack of evidence).  He received a sentence of 10 years for each of the first four and 12 years for the final charge involving the shoot-out with police.

As I was tallying it up in my head… I was thinking… that’s close to 60 years!! Holy hell! And then the judge ordered that they be served concurrently.  I sighed a breath of relief and was sent off again to Boggo Road

My second stay inside was different. There were drugs, and the prison itself was going through lots of riots, troubles and protests. I was there for all of them.  I unfortunately became involved in drugs and had a heroin addiction. It was everywhere. Drugs came in over the walls, in through the mail; and were even brought inside by people. Heroin was cheaper and easier to get inside than it was on the street.  The easiest way for anything to come in… and therefore the best job you could have is the reception store.  Just like in the movies, there was an underground prison economy. But, for the most part I tried to stay away from all that.

I was in both divisions of Boggo Road. Number 2 gaol was harder for the officers to control and therefore the easiest for us to move stuff around.  I was moved around a lot in 2 Div.  My cells were, D16, E3, E7, E24 and F25 as well as time in the dormitories. We had the night cans, and the showers were just as they are now, in the yard.  It was a filthy, horrible place to be for sure.

Release

Zim was moved from Boggo Road Gaol when it closed and released from Woodford Prison in 1993.

I served a total of eight years and five months of my sentence, and have been clean ever since.  I learned a lot while I was inside, perhaps more than I ever would have out in the free world.  Boggo Road taught me so many lessons.

Since I have been released, I have been involved in various community orientated projects. Mostly, I am working with former prisoners and youth on back to work programs and drug rehabilitation.  I am a sought after public speaker in political circles and university programs talking about life inside prison, and the ongoing drug problems. My life has since been researched for a Philosophy PhD Thesis. Prior to all that the only public speaking I had done was that I had been part of the debating team at Boggo Road; in 1982 we actually won the B Division Championship. I find it amazing that a kid that never finished the 9th grade can possibly be talking to people at a University. Boggo Road taught me to talk like that.

After serving parole, in 1999, I went back to Tubu.  I was welcomed into to the village. It was overwhelming. I had served my time, and now I was home.

Tubu has many problems, just like other places in the world. But the one that stood out to me the most was that none of the kids could speak English. They had no school to teach them. In the last eighteen years I have helped to build a school there. I am proud to have a house in Tubu.  I feel like my life has come full circle.

Regrets?

I often get asked, Zim, if you could turn back time, would you do anything different?  The answer is truthfully “No, I wouldn’t.  I believe that everything that I have done or that has happened in my life happened to bring me where I am today. I believe I was meant to help people.

As I said before, I think Boggo Road taught me a lot more than I would have learned in the free world.  I only want to give back.  I will continue to work with people with drug addictions and people that have been released to help bring back peace in the community.

This interview was completed by Research Co-ordinator Sue Olsen as part of the research program being undertaken by Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd.  The primary goal in completing these interviews is to make these stories available to the wider community for review and study. Parts of these stories are also used to bring authenticity to our tours and publications. Want to submit your story?  You can do this via our website! Click here.

Want to see what the Gaol was like from a Prisoner’s perspective? Join us on one of our Prisoner Tours.  Click here for more information, times, dates and availability.

From the headlines…..A Bright Day for Prisoners!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from everyone here at Boggo Road Gaol!

We hope that 2018 is a safe and prosperous one for you all.

A new year brings new things!  Look out here for some new articles and interesting tid-bits over the coming weeks!  We are excited to continue creating new and exciting experiences for our readers and our guests.   So that said…

Ever wonder what did the prisoners in Boggo Road do on New Year’s Eve?

Safe to say there was no champagne or fireworks!

But what did they do?

Read on to find out!


From the headlines…Daily Mercury: Monday 3rd January 1938 Page 6.

 

“BRIGHT DAY FOR PRISONERS” Daily Mercury: Monday 3rd January 1938 Page 6.

James Francis Whitney

BRIGHT DAY FOR PRISONERS.

COMMUNITY SINGING AT

BOGGO ROAD.

BRISBANE, Jan. 2. — Community singing in which the long service men joined with zest was a feature of the New Year party given In No. 2 prison of Brisbane gaol on Saturday afternoon. Archbishop Duhig was present.

The Comptroller-General (Mr. J. F. Whitney) welcomed the Archbishop, and thanked the Roman Catholic chaplain, Father J. Butler, and his sister, Miss Butler, for arranging the party.

Archbishop Duhig commended the Government and the Comptroller-General for extending humane treatment to prisoners, ‘which, he said, was’ more beneficial than the old system of durance.

Archbishop James Duhig

The community singing was led by Mr. E. Sheridan. Mrs. Sheridan played piano accompaniments and marches, and Misses Nancy and Babe Bridges and Mr. Clifford Bridges Introduced varied entertainment. Refreshments provided by Miss Butler were distributed. The huge hamper contained 1000 home-made, cakes, 301b of peanut toffee, and seven cases of fruit.

Archbishop Duhig spoke to inmates individually, and wished them a happy New Year.

Mr. R. Rapson, acting superintendent of the gaol, supervised the arrangements.


Want to hear more amazing stories about life inside Boggo Road? Our experienced guides would be delighted to lock you up for a while! Visit us for our History Tour

This article was contributed by Research Coordinator Sue Olsen as part of the ongoing research program for Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd.  The aim of the program is to bring to light and share articles relating to Boggo Road for the purposes of review and study.   Do you have a story to share or something you would like us to know about?  You can contact the research team here

BOGGO ROAD OFFICIALLY CLOSED 25 YEARS AGO

BOGGO ROAD OFFICIALLY CLOSED 25 YEARS AGO

BRISBANE CORRECTIONAL CENTRE CLOSES – 27 JULY 1992

 

25 years ago, on Monday 27 July 1992 Corrective Services Minister Glen Milliner closed the gates of Number One Division of the Brisbane Correctional Centre, officially ending the era of Boggo Road Jail Australia’s most notorious prison. In May 1988 the Kennedy Report had recommended the closure as well as a new focus on rehabilitation rather than retribution.

Over 119 years of operation, thousands of men and women served time behind its red-brick walls.

There were many infamous inmates including the “Houdini of Boggo Road” escapologist and jail-breaker “Slim” Halliday and the Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub fire-bombers James Richard Finch and John Andrew Stuart. Forty-two prisoners were executed by hanging – the last in 1913.

In the 1980s Boggo Road was the scene of dramatic escapes, riots, hunger-strikes and roof-top protests which led to the prisons official closure 25 years ago in July 1992.

Heritage-listed No. 2 Division – the remaining section of Boggo Road – is as it was when it closed. It is part of the new Boggo Road Urban Village redevelopment.  Since 2012 Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd has conducted guided tours, events and experiences at the historic site.

SPECIAL EVENTS: Thursday 27 July 2017 – 10.30am outside the prison gates to commemorate 25 years since Boggo Road Gaol’s closure + History. Saturday night – Ghost Tours. 28 / 29 July – Hourly History Tours with re-enactments by the Prison Players.

 

Jail Open 7 Days – HISTORY tour (11am)  

Book Group Tours and Jail Hire / Events

RSVP bookings@boggoroadgaol.com

 

PRISON’S FIRST TALKIE

FROM THE HEADLINES…PRISON’S FIRST TALKIE

Eighty-Two years ago… The prisoners of Boggo Road Gaol got a very rare treat.  They saw their first ‘Talkie’!  that may not sound like much to you and I but these are men who had never seen a motion picture with sound. Something that today is unheard of with the advancements in technology, surround sound, multidimensional extravaganzas that we see each week…. Not to mention the equipment we have in our very own living rooms and even on our mobile phones!  Some would say they should have never received such an opportunity. Some would say it was about time that prisoners were treated as human beings and witness some of the outside world.  All of this was very controversial at the time…

There were no better films at this time than Charles Dickens’s “David Copperfield”. It was and still is a masterpiece of its generation. If you haven’t seen it…I can highly recommend it.  So this Friday the 7th of July, get out the popcorn, and catch a ‘talkie’… in the comfort of your very own lounge chair.

Or, if you want a truly authentic experience…Join us at Boggo Road Gaol for the Prison Movie Series.  For dates and times visit www.boggoroadgaol.com/movies/

 

PRISON’S FIRST TALKIE
Boggo-Road Men See First Local Release of Film
“DAVID COPPERFIELD” IN GAOL

Some Brisbane residents who previously had never heard or seen a talkie, yesterday of seeing such as had the privilege yesterday of seeing such a picture for the first time in their lives.
Unique in many ways was the occasion. For it marked the first showing of films in 10 years at Boggo-road Gaol, and the first exposition of talkies in that institution at any time.

One hundred and ten prisoners comprised the audience, among them many of the most famous criminals in the State – men who had seen nothing but the inside of the gaol since long before the first talkie was shown in Brisbane!

SILENT films were shown to the prisoners about a decade ago, and concert parties have visited the gaol on regular occasions, but many of the long-termers have never witnessed a talking film.

The program yesterday commenced with a colored “Silly Symphony”, after which the film version of Charles Dickens’s immortal “David Copperfield,” which has not yet been released to the public in Brisbane, was screened, and the show concluded with one of the famous Laurel and Hardy comedy shorts.
The effect on the 110 members of the motley audience was astounding. Men like Jeynes, Turner and Fountain-men whose crimes had shocked a nation- sat enthralled by the movements and voices of the silver figures on the sheet as the “David Copperfield” story was unfolded.
Like a well-ordered class of school boys at their first picture show they sat… Murderers, thieves, knockdown men, “con” artists, criminals of all descriptions… laughing uproariously at the antics of the comedians…charmed by the beauty and simplicity of Dickens’s famous creations.
Permission for the prisoners to see the films was obtained from the Home Secretary (Mr. E.M. Hanlon). The Comptroller of Prisons (Mr. J.F.Whitney) was host to a party of visitors that included Mr. Les. Andrews (MGM Films), F Mussared (Cremorne Theatre), G. Campbell (R.C.A Photophone), and Mr. McLeod a Brisbane engineer. “The men’s reactions to the films were a most extraordinary sight. “ Mr. Mussared said last night. “And it was an experience that one doesn’t have very often.

In the front row sat three men convicted of murder. In other seats, were men convicted of other crimes of violence. Yet the effect of the pictures on them was- well as far as was observable, the same as the effect on any ordinary, average, theatre audience.” “Mr. Micawber must have caught their fancy,” he went on, “for every time he appeared they burst into laughter. It was good to think that the pictures helped them to forget their own troubles for a little while, at least.”

10 out of 10

Went on the Ex-Inmate Tour at Boggo Road Gaol on Sunday 6th March, 2016, with an Ex-Inmate by the name of Wayne, and it was brilliant.

Was amazing to hear about what life was like being locked up in prison straight from a former prisoner’s mouth!

Did the History Tour a few weeks ago too, another brilliant tour. Was fascinating to hear the stories and information that was shared.

Highly recommend both tours to everyone, you wont be disappointed!!

Next Tour, the Escapes Tour, cant wait!

Matthew – Gold Coast

Boggo Road Gaol Redevelopment Update 26.10.2015

The redevelopment at Boggo Road Gaol has entered into the next stage.

Calile Malouf Investments, who have the rights for the redevelopment, lodged their development application (DA), on Tuesday 20th October.

Boggo Road Gaol is the last undeveloped heritage site in the inner-city. Its value to the people of Queensland and Australia is immense.

Boggo Road Gaol Pty. Ltd. has held a license to operate tours and events at this historic site, for the past three-years. Boggo Road Gaol Director, Jack Sim – and his staff – have been associated with the jail for 18 years.

To date, we have had more than 50,000 people visit the Gaol on tours, functions and events, Mr. Sim said.

“Over the past-three years, we have developed the Gaol into a vibrant community space”.

“We’ve been in a unique position to gauge the public’s thoughts, as to what they want for the future of Boggo Road Gaol”.

“Visitors and locals want the Gaol to be a major tourist attraction for Brisbane and Queensland – like Port Arthur and Old Melbourne Gaols”, Mr. Sim Said.

To make Boggo Road Gaol a fantastic tourism experience, comparable to these heritage attractions, the remaining cell blocks and cells must be retained, to convey the sites historical significance.

“The proposed markets and entertainment precincts are great ideas. However, the balance between how much of the gaol is adaptively re-used for entertainment, café’s and bars, versus the retainment of cultural heritage tourism is not right”, Mr. Sim Said.

Excellent access for visitors, especially – senior citizens, schools, students and disabled groups – is essential.

The ability to drop these groups literally at the gates, will end with the current proposal.

The Gaol belongs to the people of Queensland. We encourage the public to play their role in Boggo Roads future, by examining the plans and submitting their thoughts.

You can comment on the development application (A004241967), to Brisbane City Council by going to this link http://bit.ly/1QZevwQ

Boggo Road Pty. Ltd. will submit a proposal, in line with the development application process.

We will continue to work with the developers and Brisbane City Council to achieve a positive outcome for all stakeholders.

We have been greatly involved in the process to date. We will continue our liaison, as part of this process, and to share feedback from visitors and tourists alike.

Alternatively, you can contact council directly by:

Phone: 3403 8888

Website: www.brisbane.qld.gov.au

Or Post:

Brisbane City Council GPO Box 1434 Brisbane Qld 4001

You can follow our latest updates at the Boggo Road Gaol Facebook page: www.facebook.com/boggoroadgaol/

Tours at Boggo Road Gaol will continue to operate.

To book, visit www.boggoroadgaol.com/tours/ or call (07) 3844 0059.

To view this release online visit www.boggoroadgaol.com/media-releases/

Ends//

Media Contacts:

Jack Sim

Boggo Road Pty. Ltd. Director

P: 0409 617 394

E: manager@boggoroadgaol.com

W: www.boggoroadgaol.com

Kayla Pratt

Boggo Road Gaol Marketing Coordinator

P: 0478 191 901

E: marketing@boggoroadgaol.com

W: www.boggoroadgaol.com

 

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO BOGGO ROAD GAOL

Boggo Road Gaol will be closing for tours & events late 2015. The Gaol is to be redeveloped in 2016. The heritage-listed Gaol will be adaptively reused and the modern sections of the prison will be demolished to make way for bars, restaurants and cafes. Visitors will be able to eat and dine where prisoners served life sentences. Current plans are that one of the three original cellblocks will be retained in its original form; a new museum will tell the Gaol’s story with artefacts and displays. Please support Brisbane’s history and take a tour of Boggo Road before it closes. This is the public’s last chance to see the Gaol as it is.

Please join our Boggo Road Gaol Facebook page to be kept informed about the Gaol’s redevelopment HERE

Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd will be keeping you regularly updated with news on the development here on Facebook.
Please share this post with your friends.

THE FRAZER VAULT : ROOKWOOD CEMETERY (1974)

Jack Sim recently visited the city of Sydney, and explored the Necropolis that is Rookwood Cemetery, – it is literally the City of the Dead and has lived up to its name. Parts of the cemetery are wild, overgrown with a bizarre combination of bushland and exotic flowers, vines, trees and shrubs. Wildlife abounds. It has been the scene of sorrow, reunion, salvation, sadness, tragedy, violence, crime, murder and death.

Rookwood was created to accommodate a growing population, the old cemeteries of Sydney had filled up. It would be a great gothic theme park, designed to entertain the living and honour the dead.

In 1868, far from the city of Sydney (so property values were not affected) the new cemetery was opened to the public. The first burials took place in 1867; the first cremation in 1925. The “crem‟ as it is known is the oldest operating crematorium in Australia. The original cemetery was 200 acres, the cemetery today has grown to cover 699 acres (283 hectares). The remains of approximately a million people are either buried or held here.

Mausoleums, crypts and vaults dot the landscape. Grand gravestones and memorials of the rich and powerful sit side by side with more modest tombstones. Many have been damaged by more than a century of vandalism, neglect or decay.

One of these graves is the Frazer Vault – Built in 1894, this grand mausoleum dominates the Rookwood Necropolis. It once belonged to the Frazer family. The largest mausoleum in Rookwood, this vault was once the resting place of seven members of the Frazer family:

John – died 27 October 1884, aged 57 (founding father)

John – died 15 December 1878

Arthur Griffiths – died 8 November 1900

Sarah & Alice Mary – died 21 February 1901

Elizabeth – died 2 July 1914

They are no longer there.

It was commissioned by John Frazer prior to his death. Born in Ireland in 1824, Frazer immigrated with his brother and two sisters to Australia in 1842. In partnership with them, he built John Frazer & Co into one of Sydney’s biggest businesses.

Though John Frazer died relatively young, aged only 57, in 1884, he died very wealthy – the third richest man in the country, leaving an estate worth over 400,000 pounds.

Before his death he commissioned the building of an elaborate and theft-proof mausoleum to contain himself and his family for eternity – forever. It was never meant to be disturbed. In reality, it was to hold them all less than a century.

In 1974, Mr Mervin Manning, who was then the Manager of the Independent Cemetery here at Rookwood, received a bizarre telephone call at his office.

A funeral director requested permission to remove the coffins of the Frazer‟s from the vault. Apparently a distant relative of John Frazer wanted to have their remains cremated at the crematorium.

The undertaker was merely following the directions of the relative. Unable to believe that anyone would want to do such a thing, Merve decided to meet the person. The lady seemed nice enough – she was the great granddaughter of John Frazer – but determined to have her ancestors removed, no matter the cost.

A whole crew of people assembled on the day that the bodies were to be exhumed. It took a week for the experienced mason to dismantle each onyx sarcophagus. Each had been designed to never be opened after being sealed. Despite this, great care was taken to ensure that nothing was damaged. Mr Manning made the mason number each section in the hope one day maybe somebody would put them back together again.

When the first crypt lid came off a strange smell filled the room. It was not decay for the occupants had been dead for years. It was some kind of gas, perhaps methane. One by one, as each tomb was opened, the sweet smelling vapour, sealed for decades inside the stone vessels, drifted out.

The lady was adamant that every person was to be removed. Armed with records of who was buried there, each coffin had to be identified, opened and matched to the old registers.

When the lids were removed, the coffins inside were found to be in very good condition, but they discovered something unsettling.

A Boring Escape: Joseph Alexander Raymond Valentino (1927)

The name Valentino was making headlines in 1927, nearly a year after the death of silent screen actor Rudolph Valentino. He was regarded by his legions of female fans as the personification of sex. Joseph Alexander R. Valentino, on the other hand, was certainly not in the headlines.

In Boggo Road Gaol for vagrancy, this young man had only just started serving his sentence when he decided it was time to return to the outside world. As he was deemed a low risk prisoner, he was given work outside the prison walls, often unsupervised.

There was nothing sensational about Valentino’s escape. His actions were so commonplace that no notice was taken when he simply downed his garden tools and casually walked out of the prison grounds. When out of sight, he quickened his pace to a run and the subsequent search failed to find him. He did not stay in one place, moving from Spring Hill and the Valley, but he was eventually recaptured in Woolloongabba.

He finished his time and was discharged on the 25th of August 1927 and once again disappeared into the public.

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