Monthly Archives: March 2018

Coming Out Of The Dark Ages! (The UK Fight For LGBT Rights).

Originally published in the UK Guardian, 24 June, 2007. By Geraldine Bedell.

For most people the Sixties was a time of sexual awakening and experimentation. But it wasn’t until 1967 that gay and bisexual men could share that freedom. On the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, we revisit the appallingly repressive atmosphere of the Fifties and Sixties that ruined lives, destroyed reputations and finally sparked a campaign for change.

Forty years ago in Britain, loving the wrong person could make you a criminal. Smiling in the park could lead to arrest and being in the wrong address book could cost you a prison sentence. Homosexuality was illegal and hundreds of thousands of men feared being picked up by zealous police wanting easy convictions, often for doing nothing more than looking a bit gay.

At 5.50am on 5 July 1967, a bill to legalise homosexuality limped through its final stages in the House of Commons. It was a battered old thing and, in many respects, shabby. It didn’t come close to equalising the legal status of heterosexuals and homosexuals (that would take another 38 years). It didn’t stop the arrests: between 1967 and 2003, 30,000 gay and bisexual men were convicted for behaviour that would not have been a crime had their partner been a woman. But it did transform the lives of men like Antony Grey, who had fought so hard for it, meaning that he and his lifelong partner no longer felt that every moment of every day they were at risk.

It is hard for us to imagine now how repressive was the atmosphere surrounding homosexuality in the 1950s. ‘It was so little spoken about, you could be well into late adolescence before you even realised it was a crime,’ says Allan Horsfall, who campaigned for legal change in the north west, where he lived with his partner, a headmaster. ‘Some newspapers reported court cases but they talked of “gross indecency” because they couldn’t bring themselves to mention it, so young people were lucky if they could work out what was going on.’

Antony Grey, who later became secretary of the Homosexual Law Reform Society (HLRS), describes having to make ‘painstaking circular tours through the dictionary’ to articulate the feelings he’d had since he was nine. The one thing he did manage to pick up was that ‘there was a hideous aura of criminality and degeneracy and abnormality surrounding the matter’. Grey, a middle-class boy, fearful of breaking the law, remained ‘solitary, frustrated and apprehensive’ until he met his partner at the age of 32.

Grey is now 89 and has a civil partnership with that same man (Grey’s partner has always remained anonymous and prefers to do so now). I met them at their house in north-west London, where we talked in a room overflowing with books. Grey is tall and used to look distinguished; he has had leukaemia and is gaunt now. But his memories of the period are precise. In the early days, they tell me, living together was a dangerous business. When a drunk coach driver crashed into their car outside their house in the night, ‘the first thing we had to do was make up the spare bed. We knew from experience that if you called the police and they suspected you were homosexual, they would ignore the original crime and concentrate on the homosexuality.’

This was what happened to Alan Turing, the mathematician and Enigma codebreaker. In 1952, he reported a break-in and was subsequently convicted of gross indecency. Though he escaped prison, he was forced to undergo hormone therapy and lost his security clearance; he later committed suicide by eating an apple laced with cyanide.

For all that the law was draconian, it was also unenforceable. As a result, arrests often seemed to have an arbitrary, random quality. When Allan Horsfall became a Bolton councillor in 1958, he discovered that a public lavatory used for cottaging was well known to police and magistrates, yet there hadn’t been a conviction in 30 years. On the other hand, there would be intermittent trawls through address books of suspected homosexuals, with the result that up to 20 men at a time would appear in the dock, accused of being a ‘homosexual ring’, even though many of them might never have met many of the others.

A case of this kind, involving eight men in Bolton, spurred Horsfall to set up the North Western Homosexual Law Reform Society (later the Campaign for Homosexual Equality). He explains: ‘In this case, there was no public sex, no underage sex, no multiple sex. Yet they were all dragged to court and a 21-year-old considered to be the ringleader was sentenced to 21 months. I wrote a letter to the Bolton Evening News. They had four more letters in support and none against and the deputy editor was visited by the local police, who wanted to know if he thought this was what the people of Bolton really thought about the enforcement of this law.’

Horsfall thought it probably was and set up his campaigning group, which would play an important role in demonstrating to politicians that reform wasn’t merely the preoccupation of a metropolitan coterie. When the objection was made, as it often was, that the powerful miners’ groups wouldn’t stand for legalisation, Horsfall was able to point out that he ran his campaign from a house in a mining village where he lived with another man and had never had any trouble with the neighbours.

In the mid-1950s, there was an atmosphere of a witch-hunt (probably not unrelated to what was happening in America with McCarthy), with consequent opportunities for blackmail. Leo Abse, who eventually piloted the Sexual Law Reform Act through Parliament, recalls that, as a lawyer in Cardiff, his fees from criminals suddenly all started coming from the account of one man. He investigated and found he was ‘a poor vicar. The bastards were bleeding him. I sent for one of the criminals and told him if I had another cheque from this man, I’d get him sent down for 10 years. I sent for the vicar and told him to come to me if they approached him again.’

MPs on both sides of the House began to demand action. One or two newspapers ran leaders. And then there was another high-profile case in which the police were called on one matter and ended up prosecuting another. Edward Montagu, later Lord Beaulieu, contacted the police over a stolen camera and ended up in prison for a year for gross indecency. Two of his friends, Michael Pitt-Rivers and Peter Wildeblood, got 18 months. Their trial in 1954 probably played into the decision of the Home Secretary, David Maxwell-Fyfe, to establish the Wolfenden Committee to consider whether a change in the law was necessary.

As Lord Kilmuir, Maxwell-Fyfe led the opposition to law reform in the Lords, so it was ironic that he started the process. Perhaps he thought, by handing over to a committee, to shelve the issue. Perhaps he assumed Wolfenden would find against, in which case, he chose a curious chairman, because Wolfenden had a gay son, Jeremy. Antony Grey told me that when Wolfenden accepted the job, he wrote to Jeremy saying it would be better if he weren’t seen around him too often in lipstick and make-up.

Allan Horsfall believes homosexuality was tacked on very late in the day to the business of a committee that had already been set up to look into the legal status of prostitution. (Certainly, its remit covered both; its findings were popularly referred to as the Vice report.) That would make sense of the choice of chairman, although it is also possible that, given the secretive atmosphere of the time, Maxwell-Fyfe didn’t know Wolfenden had a son who wore make-up.

The Wolfenden Committee sat for three years and recommended that homosexual acts between consenting adults in private should no longer be illegal. Setting the tone for the discussion about law reform that would follow, it made no attempt to argue that homosexuality wasn’t immoral, only that the law was impractical. The age of consent should, in the committee’s view, be set at 21 (it was 16 for heterosexuals). The weedy reasoning behind this was that young men left the control of their parents for university or national service. In fact, it seems to have reflected a general prejudice that homosexuals were even more simple-minded than girls.

I met Leo Abse at his beautiful house overlooking the Thames at Kew where, he says, he is kept alive by his young wife Ania. He is 90 now and deaf, but mentally acute and still writing books. We talked in his first-floor drawing room as swans floated by outside. For all its shortcomings, the Wolfenden report is usually regarded as the key turning point in the fight for legalisation, the moment at which a government-appointed body said unequivocally that the law should change.

Abse insisted that its importance has been exaggerated. ‘People talk sloppily about Wolfenden, which was not by any means a key turning-point. A myth has grown up: the myth of pre-Wolfenden and after. It was only a staging post. When I arrived in the Commons after Wolfenden, the vote against it was overwhelming. Ten years of struggle came after.’

It’s true that an awful lot of lobbying remained to be done. The HLRS got off the ground in 1958, following a letter to the Times signed by 30 of the great and the good, including former Prime Minister Clement Attlee, philosophers AJ Ayer and Isaiah Berlin, poets C Day Lewis and Stephen Spender, playwright JB Priestley and various bishops. (From our perspective of the early 21st century, when the churches seem so afraid of homosexuality, it’s interesting that in this period they consistently and visibly backed reform.)

Antony Grey became secretary in 1962, using the pen name he used for any letters he had published (his real name is Anthony Edward Gartside Wright): ‘My father was dying. I didn’t tell my parents I was gay until I was nearly 30 and they thought it was some foul disease. They were never comfortable with it.’

A long campaign ensued of talks to the WI and Rotary Clubs, university debates, public meetings and letter-writing. The meagre amount that the HLRS could afford to pay Grey was supplemented by means of a Saturday sub-editing job on The Observer, offered him by David Astor, then the paper’s owner and editor, who was a supporter of reform.

The campaigning work was exhausting and often thankless and the opposition a mixture of vituperative and mad. Grey once caused consternation at a Rotary dinner when asked what homosexuals were really like, by answering, ‘rather like a Rotary Club’. An opponent in a Cambridge University debate, Dame Peggy Shepherd, asked him over a nightcap at their hotel, ‘Tell me, why are you so concerned about these unfortunate people?

Various stabs were made at bringing the matter before Parliament, but the first really promising development came with a bill in the Lords in July 1965. It was sponsored by Lord Arran, an unlikely reformer: known to his friends as Boofy, he kept a pet badger. Grey recalls going for tea with him, with the creature in his lap. He had inherited the title because his older brother, who was gay, had committed suicide.

‘He wasn’t the sort of person you’d think would do it,’ Grey says. ‘But he was invaluable. He was related to everyone and was always saying things like, “I’ll have a word with Cousin Salisbury about that.” He was a bit mad – he referred to the bill as William – and he became an alcoholic while he was doing it. He more or less had to be dried out afterwards.’

For the opposition, Lord Kilmuir warned against licensing the ‘buggers’ clubs’ which he claimed were operating behind innocent-looking doors all over London. But Arran, supported by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, won his third reading by 96 votes to 31.

In the Sixties, the Lords led the way, quite unlike the situation in 2000, when the age of consent was finally equalised after the government invoked the rarely used Parliament Act to overrule a House of Lords that had thrown it out three times. Like the churches, the Lords has become more conservative about homosexuality over the years. The Catholic Archbishops of Westminster and Birmingham argued for exemptions in the 2007 Equality Act which would have allowed homosexuals to be turned away from soup kitchens and hospices.

Arran’s bill ran out of parliamentary time, but its success meant the pressure was now on for the Commons. A Conservative MP, Humphrey Berkeley, tried to sponsor a bill in the lower house. He was gay and in many ways, the lobby, certainly Grey, would have preferred him. ‘He was a nice person and not as quirky as Leo,’ Grey says now. ‘Both Arran and Abse thought that having got so far, they needed to make concessions, placate the implacable. It seemed to me that most people weren’t worried about the details.’

Abse takes a different view. ‘The House didn’t like Humphrey Berkeley. He was gay and everyone knew. He was an enfant terrible who never grew up. I don’t think he could have got it through.’ Berkeley ran out of parliamentary time and then lost his seat at the 1966 general election. Back in the new Parliament, Abse gave notice in the July that he intended to move a 10-Minute Rule bill. By his own account, he was not the man the Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins (who wanted reform, fought for it in cabinet, guaranteed parliamentary time and assiduously sat through all the debates) would have chosen to pilot it through. ‘We had a reconciliation before he died, but when Roy Jenkins talked to me in those days, he used to shut his eyes, as though he wanted to blot me out.’

Abse believes Jenkins would have preferred Michael Foot, for two reasons. First, he says, Jenkins wanted ‘to bog down Michael’, whom he saw as a potential rival in any leadership contest; and second, he ‘thought I was too dangerous a character. I was too colourful’. He points to a shield on the wall, given to him by the Clothing Federation for being the best-dressed MP in Parliament. ‘I used to dress up. My wife – my first wife – used to dress me up. By God, they needed some colour in Parliament! It wasn’t only my narcissism. It was a part of opening up society. But I think Jenkins found it somewhat… he didn’t feel comfortable.’

Abse’s story is that he and Foot, who were and are great friends, outmanoeuvred the Home Secretary. Foot didn’t want the job. ‘He hadn’t specially involved himself in the homo issue’ (even allowing for the fact that he is 90, Abse’s language seems a bit odd here), and when he realised what was involved, politely backed off. Jenkins did then give his support, Abse acknowledges, ‘although on the way there were a couple of occasions when he lost his nerve and I didn’t’.

Human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell points out: ‘The tone of the parliamentary debate alternated between vicious homophobia on one side and patronising, apologetic tolerance on the other.’ The Earl of Dudley’s contribution in the Lords sums up the level of the opposition’s argument: ‘I cannot stand homosexuals. They are the most disgusting people in the world. I loathe them. Prison is much too good a place for them.’

But, as Tatchell suggests, the tone of the supporters is, from this distance, hardly less cringe-inducing. No one mentioned equality or love. The consistent position was that homosexuals were pitiful and in need of Christian compassion. Abse argues now that much of this was tactical. ‘The thrust of all the arguments we put to get it was, “Look, these people, these gays, poor gays, they can’t have a wife, they can’t have children, it’s a terrible life. You are happy family men. You’ve got everything. Have some charity.” Nobody knew better than I what bloody nonsense that was.

‘My inspiration was ideology. It’s a dirty word these days, but I was and am an ideologue. I am a Freudian. And I had been taught by Freud that men and women are bisexual. People should come to terms with their bisexuality, not repudiate it and become homophobic. You knew you were doing more than releasing thousands of people from criminality,’ he explains. ‘It was the start of opening up society to be more caring and sensitive. One was battling for all men and women to have a greater freedom.’

Commentators have argued over whether Abse was sufficiently ambitious with the substance of the bill, but there is no doubt that he was an adept tactician. He kept the mining MPs away from all the votes, ‘calling in my debts’. He used his friendship with the chief whip, John Silkin, to ensure there was enough time and he drew the opposition’s sting by gingering up a row over whether the law should apply to merchant seamen.

For a bit, it looked as though this arcane dispute might scupper the bill, but then Abse produced a compromise which, though patently absurd (merchant seamen could have homosexual sex with passengers and foreign seamen, but not each other) wrong-footed his opponents at a crucial moment. Right at the end, in the report stage, he managed to keep the required 100-plus supporters in the chamber all night so as to call for closure on the various amendments. On the last of these, he had 101 people there, which was all he needed but which, he says, ‘shows how precarious the bill was, and it’s why I get so damned annoyed when people say Wolfenden was a watershed. We got that bill through on one vote.’

Perhaps Abse is so anti-Wolfenden because his bill has been accused of being even more tentative than that report a decade earlier. Certainly, for those who had been lobbying, the act was a disappointment in several respects, not least in its confirmation of Wolfenden’s age of consent. ‘Of course, 21 was absurdly high,’ Abse acknowledges now, ‘but I wouldn’t have had a hope of getting it through under that.’ This does not seem to be his entire thinking though because he also says: ‘Adolescence is a difficult time and many young men go through a homosexual phase. Great care is needed in that you don’t corroborate them in their fixation.’

To make matters worse, the maximum penalty for any man over 21 committing acts of ‘gross indecency’ (which included masturbation and oral sex) with a 16- to 21-year-old was increased from two years to five years. Same-sex relations were also legal only in private, which was interpreted, as Tatchell says, as being ‘behind locked doors and windows and with no other person present on the premises’.

While sex may have been legal, most of the things that might lead to it were still classified as ‘procuring’ and ‘soliciting’. ‘It remained unlawful for two consenting adult men to chat up each other in any non-private location,’ Tatchell says. ‘It was illegal for two men even to exchange phone numbers in a public place or to attempt to contact each other with a view to having sex.’ Thus the 1967 law established the risible anomaly that to arrange to do something legal was itself illegal.

We shouldn’t think this provision was quietly ignored either. In 1989, during the Conservative campaign for family values, more than 2,000 men were prosecuted for gross indecency, as many as during the 1950s and nearly three times the numbers in the mid-Sixties.

So, is Abse right that he got as much as he could in the circumstances? Antony Grey thinks certainly not; Allan Horsfall is more equivocal. It is hard to judge at this distance, although the experience of recent years suggests there is a lot to be said for moving swiftly to consolidate positions gained, as Stonewall has done in sweeping on from Section 28 to civil partnership to protections for sexual orientation legislation. Stonewall’s chief executive, Ben Summerskill, acknowledges that in recent years, MPs with trade union backgrounds like John Prescott or Alan Johnson have been prepared to assert that equality means equality, which simply wasn’t the case in the 1960s. Other Labour ministers of the recent past have been susceptible to arguments about their legacy, where Harold Wilson’s government was mainly preoccupied with economic troubles and international crises.

Abse was disappointed in a different way by the aftermath of his Sexual Offences Act. ‘Those of us putting the bill through thought that, by ending criminality, we’d get the gays to integrate. But I was disconcerted and frightened at first because they were coming out and turning themselves into a self-created ghetto.’ Abse’s views of integration sound rather more like wholesale capitulation to majority behaviour. But, in any case, he is wrong. Horsfall says: ‘Nobody in the circles I moved in realised things had changed. It was 1970 before the Gay Liberation Front appeared and we were well into the Seventies before the Labour Party campaign for gay rights.’

Abse is disappointed that ‘the gays’ weren’t more grateful. ‘On my 90th birthday, I had lots of telegrams. I never had one word of thanks from any gay activist or lobby. When I’ve shown any reservations about the gays, they haven’t forgotten. The ghetto suggests they are not at ease. They’ve got to have a gay world. Perhaps it was presumptuous to think they would integrate and become part of society. They use the excuse of external pressure and discrimination, but really it’s not good enough.’

He is, unfortunately, taking a partial view. The single thing that more than any other has ‘normalised’ gay relationships has been civil partnerships. They could only have come about through lobbying, not by bien pensant intellectuals as before 1967, but by gay people themselves. And while it seems inconceivable now that we could ever go backwards, it is worth remembering the discrimination Abse dismisses was unchecked only recently.

Summerskill points out that recent events in Russia when gay activists, including Tatchell, were beaten up, possibly by plainclothes police, ‘were not unthinkable in Britain 20 years ago’. Those archbishops arguing for the exclusion of homosexuals from hospices in 2007 offered a glimpse of a grimy homophobia that still sits mouldering on the underbelly of some British institutions.

The 1967 act was terribly flawed, but the world changed overnight for those like Antony Grey and Allan Horsfall who lived with their partners. The law also emboldened them and others to campaign for the right for those partnerships to have the same standing in law as any other marriage and for other rights to be themselves and have the same freedoms as everyone else. Mealy-mouthed, half-hearted, embarrassed by itself as it was, the act made possible the equality that has since been so painstakingly fought for.

A 40-year journey from shame to pride

1967 Sexual Offences Act in England and Wales decriminalises homosexual acts between two men over 21 years and in private. Scotland legalises it in 1980; Northern Ireland in 1982.

1971 First ever gay march in London, finishing with a rally in Trafalgar Square.

1976 Tom Robinson releases ‘Glad to be Gay’, which reaches No 18 in the singles chart.

1979 First ever gay television series Gay Life commissioned by LWT.

1982 UK’s first HIV/Aids charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust launched.

1983 Labour Party candidate Peter Tatchell defeated in Bermondsey by-election after anti-gay campaign by tabloid press and local Liberals.

1984 Chris Smith, the UK’s first openly gay MP, comes out while in office.

1988 Section 28, preventing the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality, introduced as part of the Local Government Act on 24 May.

1992 London hosts the first international Europride festival with a crowd of 100,000.

1994 Age of consent lowered to 18 from 21, despite unsuccessful campaign to lower it to 16, the consensual age for heterosexuals.

1998 Waheed Alli, one of the world’s few openly gay Muslims, becomes the youngest and first openly gay life peer in Parliament.

2000 Government lifts ban on lesbian and gay men in the armed forces.

2001 Age of consent lowered to 16.

2003 Section 28 successfully repealed on 18 November.

2005 First civil partnerships take place.

Gordon Agar

· The following correction was printed in the Observer’s For the record column, Sunday July 1 2007. The article above referred to Allan Horsfall as ‘a former Bolton councillor’. Although in 1963 he was a resident of Bolton when he set up what became the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, he wasn’t a councillor there. He was, however, a councillor in Nelson, Lancashire in the late 1950s.

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Gay History: Alan McKail, Designer, Melbourne (1888-1931).

Alan McKail

b. 31 January 1888,

Beaumont, Hay, New South Wales

d. 5 November 1931

Warrandyte, Victoria

Buried Box Hill, Melbourne, Victoria

Also known as Hugh John Alan McKail, Alan M’Kail, Allan McKail

Designer (Textile Artist / Fashion Designer), Designer (Theatre / Film Designer)

A Melburnian auctioneer, fashion and theatre designer known for his costumes at Melbourne’s Artists’ Balls. Contemporary police and media reactions to his more flamboyant costumes give an insight into attitudes towards gay male and transgender identity in early twentieth century Melbourne.

AS EARLY AS 1868, the Block on Collins Street’s north side, stretching from Elizabeth to Swanston Street, was fashionable: ‘ablaze with its crowds of colonial fashionables and celebrities . . . passing the hour in an easy, careless, lounging, gossipy manner’. Whilst ‘doing the block’ on Saturday mornings, middle-class Melbourne showed that it was the best dressed in Australia. So popular indeed, that soon this celebrated stretch was sold, demolished and replaced, as it has been twice since.

Back then, the most desirable place to be seen in Melbourne was Café Gunsler on the Block, later known as the Vienna Café. In 1916 it was remodelled as the splendid, spacious Café Australia, and in 1927 became the Australia Hotel. In 1939 this was demolished and replaced by the larger, glamorous Hotel Australia, some of whose bars immediately became the most popular meeting place in Melbourne for homosexual (‘camp’) men, particularly the Collins Street first floor cocktail bar and the basement public bar, which from 1970-80 became the Woolshed. In 1992 the Hotel Australia and an adjoining hotel were demolished and replaced by Australia on Collins. This site has a significant architectural history in which creative women played a strong role, but after briefly tracing its development, I want to explore the much less known experiences and memories of its gay clientele, mainly from 1930-1992, as far as evidence allows.

Most of the rich experiences of gay men recounted in this article were concealed from the community and straight historians at least until the 1970s, and even today. Most of the gay men whose stories are quoted here seem to have led happy lives and did not feel oppressed, but they knew the limit of their behaviour, without exposing themselves and their friends to risk. So describing their lives openly for the public record was risky. Aberrant lives are known from court records, but until ALGA oral history interviews, the social experience of ordinary lesbians and gay men in Melbourne before about 1980 remained systematically unexplored. For instance, although it describes other underworlds and minority behaviour, Andrew Brown-May’s Melbourne Street Life, published in 1988, only once mentions homosexuality, and that as a nuisance in public urinals.

There is only the slightest evidence of whether the Café Australia, or the pre-war Prince of Wales supported a gay culture, or even that one existed in private. Other than the legal records and Truth’s prurient histrionics, the earliest evidence of generalised gay social life is from c.1930, from the gays born during the Great War who lived long enough and were courageous enough to record their memories on tape.

The eminent architect Lloyd Tayler designed Harrington’s Buildings (1879-1939) for the new owner and in 1891 the first building of the ambitious Block Arcade was completed. Soon after, Café Gunsler’s (to its left) was bought by Austrians who renamed it the Vienna Café (1890-1915). It remained fashionable and popular: theatre celebrities and famous men gathered there and its Melbourne Cup festivities were the highlight of the year, when Collins Street was thick with hansom cabs and often the vice-regal party attended. Oral history interviews can take us back as far as living memory allows (to about 1930). Before that often the only information about unconventional behaviour we have comes from court records. On 22 September 1908, Alan McKail (aged 20), Douglas Ogilvie (22) and Tom Page (25) were three young men-about-town who decided to dress as fashionable ladies, and have a champagne supper at the Vienna Cafe on the fashionable “Block” of Collins Street. The three were observed “going the pace” at the Vienna Cafe on the evening of 22 September, 1908. According to their statements, the three had come into the city that Saturday night in disguise to attempt to gain entry to the Scandinavian Ball. When refused entry to that function, they went to the theatre and decided to finish off their evening with supper at the most fashionable restaurant in Melbourne. Apparently, while there, “their behaviour was such to attract attention.” As they left the restaurant, a hostile crowd gathered in the street and the three were roughly handled by some of the toughs in the crowd. The police were called and the three found themselves in the City Court. They were charged with behaving indecently in a public place, Collins Street.

The presiding magistrate was unsure as to whether the defendants were “sexual perverts or brainless young idiots who needed to be brought up with a round turn.” He was of the firm opinion that “such conduct as theirs was a menace to every respectable woman, and not only a riot, but even murder, might take place if young men were permitted to carry on in that manner in a public cafe” and stated that the difference between male and female apparel was one of the “cornerstones of civilisation and no-one could be allowed to flaunt that convention.” Page and Ogilvie worked for the Melbourne Steamship Company, whilst McKail was ‘well connected’, had £500 a year and trained as a fashion designer in Paris.

Mr. Fogarty, for defendants, without calling any evidence in defence contended that not the slightest testimony had been given that defendants had behaved in an improper or an indecent manner. Their disguise was obvious. If they could not go to a fancy dress ball in female costume the’ University students’ precession and characters in this Eight-hours demonstration,were also illegal.

Mr. Dwyer, P.M., said the suggestions made against the defendants in the case had not been justified by the evidence. They had not conducted themselves improperly, nor taken other undue advantages of tho costumes they were wearing. Unless there was a law which forbade man to assume the garb of woman, or vice versa, there seemed to be nothing against defendants. Still, they wore silly young donkeys, and he (Mr. Dwyer) did not for a: moment regard their action as a proper proceeding, which only tended to raise scandal and injure their reputations; They were treading on thin ice, and might get themselves into trouble without the intervention of the law if they were not more careful.

‘Defendants were discharged.

In late 1915, the significant Chicago architect of Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin (1876-1937) and his wife Marion Mahony (1871-1961) redesigned and rebuilt the interiors as ‘the most beautiful café in Australia’, and our earliest architectural modernism. When it opened in November 1916 Australia was at war with the Austro-Hungarian Empire whose capital was Vienna, so the name was sensibly switched to Café Australia. Six o’clock closing had been imposed that October, substantially reducing its opening hours. At least one patron remembered the Café Australia as being ‘slightly gay’ in the 1930s.

In 1927 it was renamed the Australia Hotel and by 1932, sold to hotelier Norman Carlyon’s company, The Australia Hotel Pty Ltd.10 Later, Carlyon owned the freehold with Frederick Matear (1888-1968). The State Library of Victoria holds an evocative mid-1930s street photograph looking east, depicting the Block Arcade, the Australia, the Tatler Bar and their neighbours.

The twenties: the decline and fall of our hero Alan McKail.

After getting so much unwanted attention parading around Melbourne’s ‘Block’ dragged-up as a Gibson Girl in the Edwardian years, then charming the social pages as a cubist Pierrot during the Indian Summer of the pre-war era, one would have imagined the Roaring Twenties would have been Alan McKail’s crowning glory. But, although our Alan could obviously still turn heads in the Jazz Age, noted among the well-dressed patrons of the Moonee Valley racecourse in ‘Table Talk’ in January 1925, he seems to have been falling out of the social spotlight.

The twenties began with McKail in a sound enough position to help out friends in need, purchasing ‘The Robins’, artist Penleigh Boyd’s Warrandyte retreat, after Boyd’s tragic death in a car accident in 1923 had left his family in financial limbo. McKail’s company, Decoration Co., who had worked with Penleigh Boyd on the sale of his studio contents only a few month earlier, handled the sale of Boyd’s estate. As Steve Duke pointed out, the security afforded by McKail’s purchase and the estate sale ensured that Boyd’s youngest son Robin would go on to write ‘The Australian Ugliness’, his influential book about poor aesthetic standards in local architecture and design, among many other career highlights.In February 1926 the Decoration Co. auction business, whose shareholders included Alan McKail, his former life partner Cyril John McClelland and his aunt Effie Eliza Ball, was valued by Melbourne ‘Herald’ at £20,000 (about A$1,500,000 in today’s money). Later that year ‘The Herald’ reported that McKail was about to head off to Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), for a holiday.

But things weren’t all going well in The Robins. Steve Duke often speculated that Alan McKail’s poverty-stricken death from tuberculosis in 1931 may have been caused by the renowned excesses of the age. Evidence has recently emerged from Victoria’s health records which, sadly, confirms Steve’s theory.

In November 1925 Alan McKail checked into the Pleasant View licensed house in his childhood home suburb of Preston, staying there for a week. The idyllic name of the house, which looked across the Lower Yarra Valley towards the Dandenongs, disguised its purpose; it was a clinic for recovering alcoholics. Nineteen months later, and not too long after his return from Colombo, McKail voluntarily checked into the less euphemistically-titled Lara Inebriates Retreat, north of Geelong, for another week’s drying out.

On the 2nd July 1927, Alan McKail checked out of the Lara Inebriates Retreat. At the time of writing, there are no further known references to him in the Melbourne press until his death notices appeared in November 1931. [1]

There is an Alan McKail Day cemetery walk at Box Hill cemetery in January (see link in References) which visits LGBT graves in the cemetery and plants rainbow flags on them.

Citation [1] The twenties: the decline and fall of our hero Alan McKail by Steve Duke BA FRGS (1957-2017) and Eric Ridder. By permission, and with thanks to Eric Riddler, and the Three Mullets Club https://www.facebook.com/threemulletsclub/?fref=ts

References

The Demon Dentist of Wynyard Square – Henry Louis Bertrand.

Originally published in the Daily Telegraph, March 10, 2015. By Naomi White.

HENRY Louis Bertrand was many things. Husband, father, dentist, self-proclaimed mesmeriser, philanderer… murderer.

His tale of murderous desire and betrayal took place on the streets of Sydney 150 years ago, but is proving intriguing today, revived in an exhibition of historical crime held at the Justice and Police Museum, the former site of the Water Police Courts that operated from 1856-1924, whose walls Bertrand would have passed through after his arrest.

Portraits of Mrs Bertrand, Henry Louis Bertrand and Mrs Kinder, from the Illustrated Sydney News, circa 1865. Picture: NSW State Library

Bertrand, a native of London, had moved to Australia as a young man and set up a dentistry practise in the CBD, building a thriving business on claims he could mesmerise patients so they would feel no pain.

But it would be one of these patients who would be his undoing, after he struck up an affair with a married woman that ended with the murder of her husband in 1865.

“It’s one of those really incredible stories in criminal history and one that not only the Australian public were really interested in, it also ignited quite a bit of interest overseas in New Zealand and London and throughout Europe because it just had so many unusual and dramatic twists and turns in it,” exhibition curator Nerida Campbell said.

As his obsession intensified, his assistant took to arming himself with an axe

“And Bertrand himself was such an unusual character, you know, he was larger than life. The things he said were quite often just remarkable and the way he acted was also. One of the journalists at the time thought he had been influenced by reading too many romantic novels and that was part of the character he had chosen to create for himself.”

THE AFFAIR

Maria ‘Ellen’ Kinder had been married to Henry Kinder, 35, a heavy drinker and teller at City Bank who was in financial strife, for five years when she booked in as a patient at Bertrand’s dental practice.

The two quickly began an affair, with 25-year-old Bertrand imposing himself and his wife Jane and their two children into the Kinders’ lives, striking up a friendship with Mr Kinder and making regular calls to their north shore home over 10 months on the pretence of cards and suppers.

But it would not be the only visits he’d make, with Bertrand regularly forcing his dental assistant, a young man known as Byrne, to row him across the harbour for midnight reconnaissance missions to spy on the couple.

Henry & Ellen Kinder in early undated portrait, Ellen allowed lover Henry Bertrand to kill her husband in 1865 before she moved in with him and his wife.

He reportedly went as far as breaking into their home to survey its layout as part of his master plan to dispose of Mr Kinder.

As his obsession intensified, his behaviour became increasingly erratic, so much so that Byrne, in fear of his own safety, had taken to secretly arming himself with an axe.

Bertrand continued to force him to do his dirty work, dressing as a woman and accompanying Byrne as he visited a gun-shop and negotiated the purchase of two pistols to use in the murder.

Sydney dentist Henry Louis Bertrand in early undated portrait, mastermind of one of the most bizarre ‘crimes of passion’ in Australia when he killed his lover Ellen Kinder’s husband. Picture: Supplied

He then bought a pig’s head which he kept at the surgery to practise his aim on.

“He fell in love, heavily in love with her and she returned his affection and they started an adulterous affair,” Ms Campbell said.

“This went on for a period of time until it became clear to Bertrand that he needed her, that he had to have her, that he wasn’t prepared to share her with her husband any longer. And his plan was to kill her husband, Henry Kinder and divorce his own wife Jane so that the two of them could be together”.

THE CRIME

After travelling to the home several times with the intent to murder him, he finally found the courage to fire a single shot at Kinder’s head, as he sat on a chair in his home, in front of both his wife Jane and his lover.

But it failed to kill him and Kinder was carried to his bed to recover, while Bertrand, with the help of both women, convinced police Kinder’s financial woes and drinking had got the better of him and he had tried to kill himself.

Looking down Margaret Street to George Street showing Wynyard Square on the right where Bertrand worked as a dentist. Picture: NSW State Library

“So Kinder is upstairs in bed and the police have visited, they’ve accepted the story of this attempted suicide, but he’s not dying, he seems to be getting better. It’s at this stage that Bertrand apparently convinced the two women to poison Kinder and apparently it was his own wife Maria that allegedly fed him the poison which ended his life.”

The coroner assessed his death on the evidence of a past suicide attempt and ruled it non-suspicious.

“I am satisfied, thus once more I perish my enemies”

A diary entry from Bertrand

However it brought him no closer to Maria Kinder, who moved to her parent’s home in Bathurst to preserve her reputation. Bertrand at least appeared to have got away with it.

THE BLACKMAILING

That was until a past lover of Maria Kinder’s turned up, got wind of Bertrand’s involvement and sent him a note demanding 20 pounds (more than $2,000 AUD today) for his silence.

“And Bertrand then showed what kind of a daring and quite heartless criminal he could be. He took that letter to the police and said ‘look, this man is attempting to blackmail me, smirch my reputation’ and they charged him. So Francis Jackson actually went through the Water Police Court, which is the current Justice and Police Museum, on trial for attempted blackmail and he was convicted to spend time in prison.”

Water Police Court at Phillip Street, Sydney. Picture: NSW State Library

Bertrand noting in his diary, kept to communicate with Maria Kinder, that “’I am satisfied, thus once more I perish my enemies” after Jackson was handed a 12 month gaol sentence.

And so he may have if it wasn’t for his own boastings that he had murdered Kinder.

This got back to an original juror of the blackmailing trial, who took it to the police who arrested both Bertrand, his wife and Mrs Kinder, charging all three with murder.

THE TRIAL

The cases against the women were dismissed quickly, Mrs Bertrand’s as she could not give evidence against her husband, Mrs Kinder due to lack of evidence.

But Bertrand’s trial was a long and messy affair that captured headlines.

It was said Bertrand had several uncles who had been committed to asylums and there was much speculation that Bertrand, too, was ‘mad.’

“It was really he who stood trial and during that trial of course the media were incredibly interested. It was very salacious, there were stories about the three of them sharing a bedroom and poison and mesmerism and how he could control people and make them do his will through his mesmeric powers. There were all kinds of rumours and I suppose to an extent the journalists beating up the story and making it even more sensational than it was,” Ms Campbell said.

Bone carving by Henry Louis Bertrand while in hospital. Picture: NSW State Libra

Not only the details of the affair, but the cruel treatment of his own wife was exposed in the trial, showing a history of “dreadful” domestic violence, beatings, whippings, control and humiliation in Bertrand inviting Mrs Kinder to live in their home.

“One of the things about Bertrand, one of the things that shocked many people was the way he treated his wife,” Ms Campbell said.

“At that time, because her family had disowned her when she married him, she had two young children and she really had nowhere else to go, there was a lot of sympathy for her and for what she had endured.”

DARLINGHURST GAOL

Bertrand was found guilty of Kinder’s murder, but controversially, spared the nominal punishment of the day — hanging, sentenced instead to 28 years at Darlinghurst Gaol.

The murderer spent his prison time honing his artistic side, producing accomplished watercolours of the inside of the gaol and making intricate bone carvings.

Until his release in 1893 when he slipped into obscurity after boarding a boat to London, believed to have been en-route to live with a well off aunt.

A watercolour of the inside of Darlinghurst Gaol painted by Henry Louis Bertrand in 1891, two years before his release Picture: State Library of NSW

While Jane Bertrand, overwhelmed by the public attention of the case, moved to New Zealand with their two children to begin a new life.

Mrs Kinder is also believed to have settled there, where she had lived previously with late husband.

The two pistols, along with two pen holders carved by Bertrand during his prison term can be seen at the Notorious Criminals exhibition currently on show at the Justice and Police Museum.

A photo of Henry Louis Bertrand by the Zimmer Brothers. National Library of Australia.

The following are newspaper accounts of the life, times, crimes and trials of Henry Louis Bertrand. The details are repeated in many of them, but I am posting them because of the many differences in how individual papers and journalists handled the facts, both at the time, and further down the line.

Sydney Morning Herald, 16 October 1865

Empire, 8 December 1865

Goulburn Herald and Chronicl, 28 February 1866

Illustrated Sydney News, 16 March 1866

Empire, 17 September, 1866

Sydney Mail, 7 September 1867

Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser, 11 January 1889,

Truth, 17 June, 1894

Evening News, 18 June 1894

Newcastle Morning Herald, 18 June, 1894

Crookwell Gazette, 20 June, 1894

Armidale Express and New England General Advertise, 6 July 1894

Zeehan and Dundas Herald, 4 July 1894

Evening News, 16 May 1891

Herald, 18 June 1894

Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertise, 15 February 1895.

Queensland Times, 29 April, 1916

Smith’s Weekly, 16 August 1919

Truth, 28 December 1924

Truth, 15 March, 1925

Daily Standard (Brisbane), 28 April 1934

Truth, 17 October 1937

Wellington Times, 2 September 1937

Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion, by Wang Xizhi

The Orchid Pavilion Gathering of 353 CE was a cultural and poetic event during the Six Dynasties era, in China. This event itself has a certain inherent and poetic interest in regard to the development of landscape poetry and the philosophical ideas of Zhuangzi. The gathering at the Orchid Pavilion is also famous for the artistry of the calligraphy of Wang Xizhi who was both one of the participants as well as the author and calligrapher of the Lantingti Xu, or Preface To The Poems Composed At The Orchid Pavilion, not to mention the literary mastery of this introduction.

The Orchid Pavilion Gathering of 42 literati included Xie An and Sun Chuo, and Wang Pin-Chih at the Orchid Pavilion (Lanting) on Mount Kuaiji just south of Kuaiji (present-day Shaoxing in Zhajiang), during the Spring Purification Ceremony on the third day of the third month, to compose poems and enjoy huangjiu. The gentlemen had engaged in a drinking contest: rice-wine cups were floated down a small winding creek as the men sat along its banks; whenever a cup stopped, the man closest to the cup was required to empty it and write a poem. This was known as “floating goblets” (流觴, liúshāng). In the end, twenty-six of the participants composed thirty-seven poems.

蘭亭集序 lán tíng jí xù

王羲之 Wáng Xīzhī

永和九Y年, Yǒnghé jiǔ nián

歲在癸丑, suì zài guǐ chǒu

暮春之初, lán tíng jí xù

會于會稽山陰之蘭亭, huì yú Guìjī Shānyīn zhī lán

修禊事也。 xiūxì shì yě

群賢畢至, qún xián bì zh

少長咸集。 shào zhǎng xián jí

此地有崇山峻嶺, cǐdì yǒu chóngshānjùnlǐng

茂林修竹, màolínxiūzhú

又有清流激湍, yòu yǒu qīngliú jī tuān

映帶左右。 yìng dài zuǒyòu

引以為流觴曲水, 列坐其次; yǐn yǐ wéi liú shāng qū shuǐ, lièzuò qícì

雖無絲竹管弦之盛, suī wú sīzhú guǎnxián zhī shèng

一觴一詠, 亦足以暢敘幽情。yī shāng yī yǒng, yì zúyǐ chàngxù yōuqíng

是日也, 天朗氣清, shì rì yě, tiān lǎng qì qīng

惠風和暢, 仰觀宇宙之大, huìfēnghéchàng, yǎng guān yǔzhòu zhī dà

俯察品類之盛, 所以遊目騁懷, fǔ chá pǐn lèi zhī shèng, suǒyǐ yóu mù chěnghuái

足以極視聽之娛, 信可樂也。zúyǐ jí shìtīng zhī yú, xìn kě lè yě

夫人之相與俯仰一世, fú rén zhī xiāngyǔ fǔyǎng yī shì

或因寄所托, 放浪形骸之外。huò yīn jì suǒ tuō, fànglàngxínghái zhī wài

雖趣舍萬殊, 靜躁 不同, suī qǔshě wàn shū, jìng zào bùtóng

當其欣于所遇, 暫得于己, dāng qí xīn yú suǒ yù, zàn dé yú jǐ

快然自足, 不知老之將至。kuài rán zìzú, bùzhī lǎo zhī jiāng zhì

及其所之既倦, 情隨事, jí qí suǒ zhī jì juàn, qíng suí shì qiān

感慨係之矣。gǎnkǎi xì zhī yǐ

向之所欣, 俯仰之間, xiàng zhī suǒ xīn, fǔyǎng zhī jiān

已為陳迹, 猶不能不以之興懷; yǐ wéi chén jī, yóu bùnéngbù yǐ zhī xìng huái

況修短隨化, 終期于盡。kuàng xiū duǎn suí huà, zhōng qī yú jìn

古人云: [死生亦大矣。] gǔrén yún: sǐ shēng yì dà yǐ

豈不痛哉! qǐbù tòng zāi

每覽昔人興感之由, měi lǎn xí rén xìng gǎn zhī yóu

若合一契, 未嘗不臨文嗟悼, ruò hé yī qì, wèicháng bù lín wén jiē dào

不能喻之于懷。bùnéng yù zhī yú huái

固知一死生為虛誕, gù zhī yī sǐ shēng wéi xūdàn

齊彭殤為妄作。qí péng shāng wéi wàngzuò

後之視今, 亦由今之視昔。hòu zhī shì jīn, yì yóu jīn zhī shì xī

悲夫! 故列敘時人, bēi fú! gù liè xù shí rén

錄其所述, 雖世殊事異, lù qí suǒ shù, suī shì shū shì yì

所以興懷, 其致一也。suǒ yǐ xìng huái, qí zhì yī yě

後之覽者, 亦將有感於斯文。hòu zhī lǎn zhě, yì jiāng yǒu gǎn yú sī wén

Translation

Preface to the poems composed at the Orchid Pavilion/ (by Wang Xizhi)/ It is the ninth year of Emperor Mu of Jin‘s Yongheera (20 Feb 353 – 8 Feb 354)/ The year of the Yin Water Ox/ At the beginning of the third lunar month (after April 20, 353),/ We are all gathered at the orchid pavilion in Shanyin County, GuijiCommandery,/ For the Spring Purification Festival./ All of the prominent people have arrived,/ From old to young./ This is an area of high mountains and lofty peaks,/ With an exuberant growth of trees and bamboos,/ It also has clear rushing water,/ Reflecting the sunlight as it flows past either side of the pavilion./ The guests are seated side by side to play the drinking game where a wine cup is floated down the stream and the first person sitting in front of the cup when it stops must drink./ Although we lack the boisterousness of a live orchestra,/ With a cup of wine here and a reciting of poetry there, it is sufficient to allow for a pleasant exchange of cordial conversations./ Today, the sky is bright and the air is clear,/ With a gentle breeze that is blowing freely. When looking up, one can see the vastness of the heavens,/ And when looking down, one can observe the abundance of things. The contentment of allowing one’s eyes to wander,/ Is enough to reach the heights of delight for the sight and sound. What a joy./ Now all people live in this world together,/ Still others will abandon themselves to reckless pursuits./ Even though everyone makes different choices in life, some thoughtful and some rash,/ When a person meets with joy, he will temporarily be pleased,/ And will feel content, but he is not mindful that old age will soon overtake him./ Wait until that person becomes weary, or has a change of heart about something,/ And will thus be filled with regrets./ The happiness of the past, in the blink of an eye,/ Will have already become a distant memory, and this cannot but cause one to sigh./ In any case, the length of a man’s life is determined by the Creator, and we will all turn to dust in the end./ The ancients have said, “Birth and Death are both momentous occasions.”/ Isn’t that sad!/ Every time I consider the reasons for why the people of old had regrets,/ I am always moved to sadness by their writings,/ And I can not explain why I am saddened./ I most certainly know that it is false and absurd to treat life and death as one and the same,/ And it is equally absurd to think of dying at an old age as being the same as dying at a young age./ When future generations look back to my time, it will probably be similar to how I now think of the past./ What a shame! Therefore, when I list out the people that were here,/ And record their musings, even though times and circumstances will change,/ As for the things that we regret, they are the same./ For the people who read this in future generations, perhaps you will likewise be moved by these words.

Lantingji Xu is Wang Xizhi‘s most famous work, which described the beauty of the landscape around the Orchid Pavilion and the get-together of Wang Xizhi and 41 literati friends. The original is lost. Some believed that it was buried with Emperor Taizong of the Tang dynasty in his mausoleum. This Tang era copy by Feng Chengsu (馮承素), dated between 627-650, is considered the best of all the subsequent copies.[4] It is located in the Palace Museum in Beijing. The scroll is meant to read right to left.

References