Category Archives: biography

John “Happy Jack” Scaddan – Western Australia Premier 1911-1916. (Great Grand Nephew of Richard Scaddan (Convict))

Despite notes on the Scaddan family tree that “Happy Jack” Scaddan was the Prime Minister of Western Australia, he was, in fact, Premier.

John Scaddan (1876-1934), miner, engine driver, premier and businessman, was born on 4 August 1876 at Moonta, South Australia, second youngest of twelve children of Richard Scaddan, hard-rock miner, and his wife Jennifer, née Smitheram, Cornish migrants. The family moved to Woodside where John attended primary school. When he was 13 the family moved to Eaglehawk, Victoria, where he worked in the mines, read widely, attended the Bendigo School of Mines part time, and gained an engine driver’s certificate. He played football and was a Methodist Sunday school superintendent.

In 1896 Scaddan went to the Western Australian goldfields and operated a stationary steam-engine at a mine. On 9 May 1900 at Boulder he married Elizabeth Fawkner, who died on 21 September 1902 of Bright’s disease. On 1 September 1904 he married Henrietta Edwards.
A member of the Goldfields Amalgamated Certificated Engine-drivers’ Union, he won Ivanhoe for Labor at the State election of 28 June 1904, when the party’s strength in the 50-man Legislative Assembly rose from 6 to 22; he had been out of work and thought he ‘might as well have a fly’. He spoke mainly on gold-mining issues, principally mine regulation and the inspection of machinery, but by 1906 began to debate more widely. In 1906-11 he was secretary of the Australian Labour Federation (Western Australian Division); in that post he helped to arrange the building of the Perth Trades Hall.

By 1909 Scaddan was one of Labor’s main parliamentary speakers, prone to make speeches of up to three hours. On 3 August 1910 he was elected party leader, succeeding Thomas Bath. His first major controversy as leader was his attack on an electoral redistribution by Frank Wilson’s Liberal government. It was alleged to be a gerrymander, but the October 1911 election was a Labor triumph.

Scaddan campaigned on a wide-ranging radical policy, largely as laid down by the 1910 State congress. His victory, by 34 seats to 16, made him the first Australian to lead a State Labor government with a substantial majority; it has never since been equalled by a Western Australian Labor premier. At 35 he was also the youngest premier the State had seen. The government’s main strength lay in the goldfields and metropolitan working-class areas. In almost five years, the eight-man cabinet saw only one change of personnel.

Scaddan was also treasurer; he led a reformist government which did much to aid the State’s economic development, while implementing policies benefiting wage-earners. It set up a Workers’ Homes Board, modified the arbitration system to help unionists and increased workers’ compensation benefits. It abolished secondary-school students’ fees, raised the land tax, and in 1912 introduced a graduated income tax, which it greatly increased on the outbreak of World War I. It also amended the laws relating to divorce, the criminal code and irrigation. Thus its relations with the rank and file were much more harmonious than in New South Wales. Scaddan’s achievements came despite opposition from the Liberal-dominated Legislative Council, which blocked or amended at least forty bills, including one to end alienation of crown land.

The government rightly saw the wheat industry’s development as the key to the State’s growth, as gold-mining declined. The area sown to wheat trebled in 1911-16, as did production. 

Scaddan expanded facilities for technical advice to farmers, and greatly liberalized the lending terms of the Agricultural Bank. Railways were built at the highest rate—239 miles (385 km) a year—in the State’s history and most construction was in the wheatbelt. By 1914 Western Australia had a far higher ratio of mileage to population than any other State, but in 1914-15 the railways ran at a loss for the first time in twenty years. In the 1914 drought, which severely cut average wheat yield, Scaddan set up the Industries Assistance Board; seed-wheat, superphosphate and fodder were distributed to needy farmers. He was rewarded with a record harvest in 1915-16; however, heavy expenditure brought the government deficit to the unprecedented total of £1 million; Scaddan was dubbed ‘Gone-a-Million Jack’. He responded, ‘As if the workers hadn’t got the deficit in their pockets!’

Scaddan’s most spectacular move was to establish many state trading concerns, part of the party policy of creating ‘state socialism’. To circumvent the Opposition-dominated Legislative Council, he used executive rather than legislative methods. During the parliamentary recess of 1912 he spent £100,000 from the loan suspense account to set up these enterprises, principally the State Shipping Service with the purchase of four steamers. By the end of his term the government had also set up a brickworks, an agricultural-implement works, sawmills and a fishing business, and entered every phase of the meat industry from breeding stock to the retail trade. It had taken over Perth’s tramway and ferry system, and ran a dairy farm, abattoirs, a quarry, and hotels.

Premier John Scaddan toured the south east of Western Australia in 1915. His party visited the towns of Norseman, Salmon Gums, Grass Patch, Esperance, Gibson, Ravensthorpe, Kundip and Hopetoun.

Scaddan’s was a doctrinal approach to specific problems. The shipping service was to prevent northern pastoralists exploiting southern meat consumers through a shipping ring. The sawmills supplied sleepers for the transcontinental line and developed unused forest resources. The brickworks countered a price-fixing racket and provided cheaper, better bricks for workers’ homes. The agricultural-implement works were in response to farmers’ complaints about costly machinery. Dissatisfaction with Perth’s private tramways was so great that some of Scaddan’s fiercest critics strongly supported his government’s takeover, the details of which he concluded in England in 1913. The dairy farm supplied unadulterated milk to hospitals and doctors testified that it saved lives.

The formation and early life of most of these trading concerns was surrounded by controversy; opponents objected to them on principle. Most had serious operating problems and their standing suffered because they had no proper accounting system. The State Shipping Service and the agricultural-implement works were the most plagued by inefficient management, losses and shoddy work, but the implement factory was defended because it helped farmers in 1915-16. Scaddan declared that profits were of secondary importance. Even the tramway purchase caused him trouble, as services barely improved. Some Labor men saw the enterprises as unemployment relief projects. Scaddan’s cabinet became angrily disillusioned that so many of the government’s employees were lazy and unco-operative and acted as if the business had been created for their benefit, rather than the community’s.


One of Scaddan’s last enterprises, the Wyndham meat-freezing works, helped to destroy his government. In 1914 he had accepted an offer from S. V. Nevanas, a London financier, to build the works at a price which departmental experts insisted was unrealistically low. Nevanas had to abandon the work, receiving compensation when the contract was cancelled. As Scaddan’s ineptitude was revealed, criticism abounded; this was significant as his majority had been cut to two at the October-November election, which saw the newly created Country Party win eight seats. Labor’s only wheatbelt member, Edward Johnston, led caucus criticism of Scaddan’s handling of the issue. He was also angry at Scaddan breaking an election promise to sell farm land cheaply. Scaddan survived a caucus crisis in the spring of 1915. Then he lost his majority when J. P. Gardiner, a Labor member, mysteriously disappeared from parliament; Johnston left the party and retained his seat as an Independent; and the Country Party fashioned an alliance with the Liberals. During the January-July recess of 1916 Scaddan remained in office without a parliamentary majority. When parliament resumed on 25 July he was defeated, Wilson becoming premier again.

Scaddan lost to one of Wilson’s ministers in a metropolitan seat at the consequent ministerial by-election, then resumed his goldfields seat. Although the new government retained nearly all the state enterprises, Scaddan was prominent in the dispute over legislation which introduced proper accounting methods and made the establishment of future enterprises subject to a parliamentary veto.

He had lost office just as the controversy over conscription for overseas military service was developing. He campaigned for conscription and his deputy Philip Collier, against. After conscription was rejected at the October plebiscite, Scaddan and Collier were confirmed as leader and deputy leader of State Labor. That party, with great common sense, tried to prevent a permanent breach between conscriptionists and anti-conscriptionists, but in the eastern States the rival factions would not compromise. When Labor’s former Federal leader W. M. Hughes and new leader Frank Tudor campaigned against each other at the Federal election of May 1917, Scaddan was forced to choose between them. He had supported Hughes’s attempts to conscript men to serve in a just war; he could not now abandon him. So he resigned from the party and Collier became leader.

Grass Patch people admiring Premier John Scaddan

Scaddan formed the National Labor Party in Western Australia, negotiated with the Liberals, and joined the National Party coalition government formed by (Sir) Henry Lefroy in June, but lost his seat in the July ministerial by-election. He was again defeated (by Labor preferences) when he stood for National Labor in Albany in the Federal election later that year but represented Albany in the Legislative Assembly in 1919-24.
Turmoil in Lefroy’s government led, on 17 May 1919, to (Sir) James Mitchell becoming premier. He chose Scaddan as a minister, but he did not re-enter parliament until 31 May, ranking fifth in the ministry. His portfolios were railways, mines, police, industries and forests. In 1920 he moved from the National Party to the Country Party, becoming its de facto parliamentary leader, although loyal to Mitchell.

Scaddan improved the means of coping with miners’ phthisis; his brother had died of it in 1915. He improved working conditions in shops, factories and mines and took steps to counter the illicit traffic in gold. One of his Acts specified rules to apply if oil was discovered. He was appointed C.M.G. in 1923.

In 1924 Scaddan rejoined the National Party and left parliament at the general election. For three years he managed Westralian Motors, Perth, and then became a stock, farm and estate agent. In 1930 he returned to parliament as representative of Maylands and in Mitchell’s 1930-33 ministry held the same five portfolios as in 1919-24. He organized Depression unemployment relief, involving sustenance payments and large camps. In 1931 when the State Savings Bank was made over to the Commonwealth Bank, anxious clients stormed the bank’s Perth office. Scaddan’s booming voice addressed them: ‘If the bank fails, you can lynch me’. They did not. He complained of the neglect of Western Australia by the Commonwealth and was on a six-man committee which prepared the case for secession. The busy minister also brought in special help to men incapacitated in the mining industry and restricted the sale of firearms.

Scaddan lost his seat at the 1933 election, partly because his party stood two other candidates against him. He now had more time for bowls, homing pigeons and watching football, as his only public office was chairman of the Perth Roads Board (1931-34). He died suddenly, of cerebral haemorrhage, on 21 November 1934 and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery. His wife, daughter and son survived him; his estate was valued for probate at £132.

Despite the controversies and changes of party, Scaddan was remembered as ‘Happy Jack’, a large, jovial man of great energy who wore a flowing moustache as premier, but was later bald and clean-shaven. Although he had once declared, ‘The Trades Hall is my Church and Labour is my Religion’, he kept a lifelong allegiance to the Methodist church, advocated temperance, and was a Freemason. A good family man, he said that he disagreed with equality between the sexes, not having asked his wife to chop the wood. As early as 1909 he opposed capital punishment for murderers. He opposed the employment of Asians in his State, but was not as uncompromising as some Labor men. His industrious, pragmatic, humanitarian approach suited a pioneering State in need of industry and development.


  1. V. Courtney, All I May Tell (Lond, 1956)
  2. G. C. Bolton, A Fine Country to Starve In (Perth, 1972)
  3. West Australian, 22, 24 Nov 1934
  4. J. R. Robertson, The Scaddan Government and the Conscription Crisis 1911-1917 (M.A. thesis, University of Western Australia, 1958)
  5. private information.

Citation details

J. R. Robertson, ‘Scaddan, John (1876–1934)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 26 July 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Tim Alderman (2017)


CONVICT: Richard Scaddan – Spouse of Catherine Penhale (My Maternal GGGG Aunt)

Richard Scaddan was born in Gwinear, Cornwall, England in c1775. He was the son of Henry Scaddan & Jane Clemens. He was baptised in Gwinear on 30 July 1775. He married Catherine Penhale, in Gwinear, in 1802. They had 4 children – Richard (1803); William (1809); Sphia (1815); and James (1817).
Richard  was found guilty at the Cornwall Assizes at Bodmin on 4.8.1817 of stealing “one ewe sheep of the price of twenty shillings of the goods and chattels of William Roberts”. On trial with him were John Wills and Richard Bath and the three were sentenced “to be severally hanged by the neck until they are dead”  It is reported that the judges reprieved the capital offenders and sentenced them to transportation for life. The trial papers are stored at Chancery Lane, London.

England & Wales Criminal Register 1791-1892. Richard Scaddan – Death Penalty

Richard was received onboard the Prison Hulk “Captivity”, moored at Portsmouth, on 24 October 1817. He was sent to NSW on 26 August 1818. 

UK Prison Hulk Registers & Letter Books 1802-1849

The convict ship “Globe” departed Portsmouth on 9 September 1818, and arrived in Sydney on 8.1.1819 with 140 other male convicts (139 landed). The ships Master was Joseph Blyth, and ships Surgeon was George Clayton. Convict records state that he was a native of Cornwall, his trade was ship’s carpenter, sawyer and boat builder, his age was given as 42, height 5’5″, fair to sallow complexion, brown to grey hair and grey eyes

On the 3 March 1819 (Colonial Secretary’s Papers), Richard  was listed as a runaway, captured near Newcastle. He was forwarded to Sydney. Then on 3 April 1819, he absconded from a dockyard in Sydney with a J. Burton. On the 10 April 1819, he eas forwarded to Sydney. On the 17 April 1819, he was sentenced to 100 lashes, and confined to the Gaol Gang in double-irons for 12 months for escaping from the Colony in an open boat, captured off Newcastle. 

From the Sydney Gazette & NSW Advertiser, Saturday 17 April 1819, Page 2

In the convict records for 8 September1821, he is listed as a “Shopwright, victualled HM Magazines (NSW State Archives, Reel 6016′ 4/5781 p75). In 1822 the Muster of Convicts listed Richard as a government servant appointed to William Thurston of Sydney. He appears in the 1822 NSW general convict Muster. In the Colonial Secretary’s Papers, event dated 28 April 1824, it is noted that Richard “Carpenter. On return of bonded mechanics.”. The Colonial Secretary’s Papers record an event dated 1 October 1824 “On monthly return of convict’s assigned in the counties of Northumberland & Durham, to William Evans.”. 

From the Census & Population Books, noted in yhe District Constable’s Notebook, that from 1822-1824 he resided in Parramatta (Baulham Hills 1822). The 1828 Census showed that he was a government servant to William Evans at Bellevue, Pattersons Plains. His age was given as 61 and he was working as a boatbuilder. The entry in the 1828 Census is under the name of SEADON not SCADDEN but it is definitely Richard Scadden from other details given.

 In the Convict Records – Assignment & Employment of Convicts – 1810-189, and dated 13 May 1830, it is noted that due to his wife now being here he is given a “Ticket of Exemption from Govt Labour 1830-1831″.”. The same exemption is granted 6 January 1831. On the 2 January 1832 he is granted a further exemption from Govt Labour from 1831-1832. On a petition to Governor Darling in 1831 it was stated that he had been in Mr Evans’ service since November, 1823. The petition was for his son Richard & Richard’s wife Grace, and their son Thomas to join the family in the colony. It is not known if Richard came to Austealia, thiugh he appears to have died in Cornwall.

His wife Catherine, son James, and daughter Soohia, came to Australia on a ship “Lady of the Lake” which left England on 12.9.1829 and arrived in Hobart on 1.11.1829. From Hobart Catherine, James and his sister Sophia travelled on the “Calista” which arrived in Sydney on 5.12.1829. Catherine had come to Australia to join her husband Richard nearly 11 years after he had arrived in Sydney as a convict. 

It is sad to relate that Catherine, Richard, James & Sophia were not to be together for long as Richard is noted in the Convict Death Register for 1826-1879 as having died on 29.1.1833 at Matiland at the age of 65, buried in the Parish of Newcastle, County of Cumberland.

 After her husband’s death Catherine [aged 48] remarried on 27.8.1833 to William Pregnell, a widower aged 46 in the Parish of Maitland. Catherine had been born circa 1785 and was baptised in the Parish of Gwinear, Cornwall on 22nd May, 1785 the daughter of John Penhale and his wife Eleanor Hooper who were married in Gwinear on 7th February, 1785. Eleanor had been baptised in Gwinear on 26.7.1761 the daughter of John Hooper and his wife Jane. No record has been found of Catherine’s death (up to 1905).

James married Margaret Arnold on 3.9.1860 according to the rites of the Church of England at Grafton. No record of James’ arrival in Grafton is known and he died in Killean Street, Balmain on 19.5.1887. To date no arrival in Australia has been found of Margaret Arnold or her mother & father, William Arnold, a farmer, and his wife Jane Griffith[s. 

James & Margaret had 7 children, William, Jane (Sophia Jane) Emily, Bessie Martha, Sarah & Louisa, all living when their father died in 1887. The informant on the death certificate was aged 17 and gave James’ age at death at 87 but this is not correct. James was a shipwright and boatbuilder and it is assumed he worked in Grafton at this trade. Margaret Scadden married again in Balmain in 1888 to a William Green but no death date is known. Her age in 1888 was given as 43.

Sophia Scaddan married James Moy (Convict) on 20 December 1832. They had 8 children – Henry J, Rebecca, Richard, Rebecca, Eliza Jane, Eleanor C, William E & Sophia.

Tim Alderman ©2017

Gay History: The Vere Street Coterie

 There is a plethora of information on the Vere Street Coterie, and it is a matter of sieving  through it all to put this article on the event together. Considering the historic impact of the trial & punishment of members of the coterie, it is remiss that knowledge of it is not more widely spread. The 1810 conviction of London’s Vere Street Coterie led to the most brutal public punishment of homosexuals in British history.

The Vere Street Coterie began in 1810 when a man named Yardley introduced himself to James Cook. Yardley advised Cook that much money could be made by supplying the men of London with a male brothel. Cook, a self-proclaimed avaricious heterosexual, agreed to join Yardley in operating the White Swan in Vere Street, Clare Market.

The White Swan had a number of features designed to please its customers. The lower part of the house had one room with four beds, a ladies’ dressing room complete with every type of cosmetic, and a chapel for weddings.

Yardley and Cook followed the tradition established by the molly houses of the eighteenth century by allowing visitors to engage in sexual relations with each other free of charge. The upper section of the brothel housed prostitutes who lured casual customers in the manner of heterosexual brothels, presumably by wearing little clothing and offering various skills. No unusual interests, such as sadomasochism, were served.

The White Swan had been open for less than six months when the police raided it on July 8, 1810. Almost 30 of the inhabitants found themselves under arrest, including Cook. The police proved less of a problem than the mob, mostly female, who nearly killed the prisoners as they were transported in coaches from the watch house of St. Clement Danes to Bow Street for examination.

Most of the men were eventually set free for lack of sufficient evidence for prosecution. All seven of the men who were convicted belonged to the lower middle class, including William Amos, alias Sally Fox; Philip Kett; William Thomson; Richard Francis; James Done; and Robert Aspinal. Cook, found guilty of running a disorderly house, was never charged with sodomy.

All of the men except Aspinal were sentenced to stand an hour in the pillory. Aspinal had less culpability than the others and received a sentence of imprisonment for one year . Amos, for his third conviction on similar charges, received three years imprisonment, in addition to the pillorying. The others received terms of two years imprisonment, in addition to the pillorying.

The White Swan, The Gay Brothel in Vere Street – Lucy Inglis

Standing in the pillory involved locking the head and hands of a convict through one wing of a four-winged frame. The prisoner walked in a circle as the device rotated on an axis. The arrangement offered no means of protection to the convict.

On the day of the pillorying, September 27, 1810, the streets surrounding the Old Bailey were completely blocked by thousands of spectators. Shops were shut with the windows and roofs of nearby houses crowded with humanity. The mob, particularly the women, had built pyramids of mud balls that resembled shot. As the convicts moved in a wagon toward the pillory, the crowd hurled mud, dead cats and dogs, rotten fish, spoiled eggs, dung, offal, potatoes, turnips, brickbats, and verbal abuse. Several of the men began to bleed profusely from wounds.

Once placed in the pillory, the men walked for one hour while the violence continued unabated. About fifty women were permitted by authorities to form a ring among the men and pelt them incessantly. Cook and Amos, placed on the pillory without the protection of two additional prisoners’ bodies, suffered the worst, with Cook beaten almost insensible.

T wo members of the coterie, who were not present during the raid of July 8 but who were implicated by the testimony of an informer , were charged with buggery . Thomas White, a sixteen-year-old Drummer of the Guards in a Portugal regiment, and John Newbolt (or Newball) Hepburn, a forty-two-year-old ensign in a West India regiment, were captured after an acquaintance reported their involvement with the White Swan to a drum major . The officer arranged for both men to be brought for trial.

The Vere Street Gang at the pillory in 1810

Both soldiers were convicted and sentenced to death. They were hanged at Newgate prison on March 7, 1811.

The fate of the Vere Street Coterie terrorized the gay community in England. Part of a general crackdown on immoral behavior , the horrific punishment meted out to the group undoubtedly forced many gay men to re-evaluate their public activities.

Newspaper Reports of the Raid & Arrests

Tuesday, 10 July 1810

POLICE. Bow-Street, July 9. – In consequence of its having been represented to the Magistrates of the above office, that a number of persons of a most detestable description, met at the house of James Cooke, the White Swan, in Vere-street, Clare-market, particularly on a Sunday night, a privy search-warant was issued, and was put in execution on Sunday night last, when 23 persons, including the landlord of the house, were taken into custody, and lodged in St. Clement’s watch-house, till yesterday, at eleven o-clock,w hen they were brought before Mr. Read for examination; but the circumstance having transpired, a great concourse of people had collected in Bow-street, and which was much increased by the mob that followed the prisoners when they were brought from the watch-house. It was with the greatest difficulty the officers could bring them to and from the Brown Bear to the Office; the mob, particularly the women, expressing their detestation of the offence of which the prisoners were charged.
         The following persons were first put to the bar, and gave their names and description:-

         Esau Haycock keeps a shop near the Yorkshire Stingo, New Road.

         James Amos, alias Fox, lodger, at the White Swan, (the house in question) a servant out of place, disabled in the arm. N.B. He was convicted and pilloried some time since for unnatural practices.

         William Thopson, waiter at a hotel in Covent-garden.

         Henry Toogood, servant to a gentleman in Portland-place.

         Robert Aspinall, lodger, at No. 1, Brewer’s Court, Great Wild-street, taylor.

         Richard Francis, a corporal in the 3d Regiment of Foot Guards.

         James Cook, landlord of the house, and Philip Hot, the waiter.

         Samuel Taunton, the officer, who had the executio of the warrant stated, that he and other officers went last night to the house about eleven o’clock, and apprehended the before-named persons, except the landlord and waiter, in a back parlour.

         Two of the Patrole gave an account of their being in the house last night previous to the execution of the warrant [i.e. as infiltrators in disguise], and stated the particulars of the conversation and actions that passed while they were in the parlour, but it is of too horrible a nature to meet the public eye.

         These witnesses also stated their having seen similar proceedings in the same parlour on the night of Sunday week, and identified several of the Prisoners as having been present at that time.

         They were ordered to find bail for the misdemeanour, and in default were committed to prison.

         James Spittle, a servant, in Chancery-lane; Matthew Saunders, of Duke-street, Aldgate; James Done, of Curran-road, shoreditch, bricklayer; William Barrow, of Furnival’s-inn; John Reeves, of Castle-street, Leicester-fields, traveller with goods, James Griffiths, Union-court, Holborn, servant out of place (well known at Bow-street); Edward Quaiffe, a soldier in the 3d Guards; George Boat, a waiter, out of place, lodging at the White Swan; John Clarke, Union-court, Holborn, a servant out of place; Timothy Norris, of Temple-street, Whitefriars, a servant out of place; Bernard Hovel, a soldier in the 1st Guards; Thos. Dixon, a soldier in the 3d Guards; Michael Hays, a servant out of place.

         All these prisoners, except Dixon and Hays, who were in a dark kitchen, were found in a room on the first floor, but there being no evidence of what took place, they were all discharged except Done, who was proved to have been in the back parlour with the others, on the night of Sunday se’nnight. He was committed.

         The crowd had, by this time, become so great in Bow-street, particularly facing the Office, that it was almost impossible to pass, and most of those who were discharged, were very roughly handled; several of them were hunted about the neighbourhood, and with great difficulty excaped with their lives, although every exertion was used by the constables and patrole to prevent such dangerous proceedings; and, in doing which, many of them were very roughly treated.

                                    (Morning Chronicle; this newspaper cutting was pasted in William Beckford’s scrapbook now held in the Beinicke Library.)

Tuesday 10 July 1810


On Sunday night, in consequence of some private information received by the Bow-street Magistrates, a strong party of police officers repaired to a public-house, the sign of the Swan, in Vere-street, Clare-market, said to be the rendezvous of a society of miscreants of a detestable description. The officers proceeded to search the house, where they found a company of 21 persons, the whole of whom, together with the landlord of the house, they apprehended, and lodged for the night in the watch-house of St. Clement’s parish. The house was a place of call for coffee-house and tavern waiters, and most of the persons taken were of that description. There were also amongst them some private soldiers of the Guards.

          Yesterday morning, at eleven, the Bow-street officers proceeded with three coaches to the watch-house to bring up the prisoners for examination; but the concourse of people was so great that the carriages could scarcely proceed. Bow-street, and all the avenues leading to it, were also immensely crowded, and so continued till past 5 in the afternoon.

          The prisoners underwent a long examination. Several were discharged, the proofs against them not being sufficiently strong to warrant their detention for trial; but their liberation was instantaneously productive of the most dangerous consequences. The multitude, male and female, fell upon them as they came out. They were knocked down, kicked, and covered with mud through every street in their endeavours to escape. The women, particularly those of Russel-street and Covent-garden market, were most ferocious in the application of this discipline; but the lower order of the male spectators were by no means lax in their exertions to mark their detestations of these wretches.

          Out of the whole number, eight were ordered to find bail for the misdemeanour, and in default were committed to prison. They were housed for a time at the Brown Bear, in Bow-street, until the crowd should disperse. The crowd, however, continued to block up the Street and its avenues. A coach was drawn up before the door of the Brown Bear, for the conveyance of a part of the Delinquents to prison. This afforded a fresh signal to whet the eagerness of the mob, who pressed close round the carrige, and could not be kept off by the constables. It was, therefore, seen that any attempt to convey the Prisoners that way, must have exposed them to extremely rough handling, if not to urder. It was in consequence deemed prudent to detain the coach there, and by that means to fix the attention of the multitude, while the Prisoners were taken, about half-past four, over a wall at the rear of the Brown Bear, and into a large yard behind, which has an avenue to Russell-street, through which, after some time, they were conducted, hand-cuffed three together, to coaches, and conveyed to prison.

Tuesday 10 July 1810


On Sunday night, in consequence of some private information received by the Bow-street Magistrates, a strong party of police officers repaired to a public-house, the sign of the Swan, in Vere-street, Clare-market, said to be the rendezvous of a society of miscreants of a detestable description. The officers proceeded to search the house, where they found a company of 21 persons, the whole of whom, together with the landlord of the house, they apprehended, and lodged for the night in the watch-house of St. Clement’s parish. The house was a place of call for coffee-house and tavern waiters, and most of the persons taken were of that description. There were also amongst them some private soldiers of the Guards.

          Yesterday morning, at eleven, the Bow-street officers proceeded with three coaches to the watch-house to bring up the prisoners for examination; but the concourse of people was so great that the carriages could scarcely proceed. Bow-street, and all the avenues leading to it, were also immensely crowded, and so continued till past 5 in the afternoon.

          The prisoners underwent a long examination. Several were discharged, the proofs against them not being sufficiently strong to warrant their detention for trial; but their liberation was instantaneously productive of the most dangerous consequences. The multitude, male and female, fell upon them as they came out. They were knocked down, kicked, and covered with mud through every street in their endeavours to escape. The women, particularly those of Russel-street and Covent-garden market, were most ferocious in the application of this discipline; but the lower order of the male spectators were by no means lax in their exertions to mark their detestations of these wretches.

          Out of the whole number, eight were ordered to find bail for the misdemeanour, and in default were committed to prison. They were housed for a time at the Brown Bear, in Bow-street, until the crowd should disperse. The crowd, however, continued to block up the Street and its avenues. A coach was drawn up before the door of the Brown Bear One of those committed is a soldier; the reset of them flashy dressed fellows, in coloured clothes, with nankeen trowsers, silk stockings, &c. all hale robust fellows, the oldest not above 33.

Tuesday 10 July 1810


On Sunday night, in consequence of some private information received by the Bow-street Magistrates, a strong party of police officers repaired to a public-house, the sign of the Swan, in Vere-street, Clare-market, said to be the rendezvous of a society of miscreants of a detestable description. The officers proceeded to search the house, where they found a company of 21 persons, the whole of whom, together with the landlord of the house, they apprehended, and lodged for the night in the watch-house of St. Clement’s parish. The house was a place of call for coffee-house and tavern waiters, and most of the persons taken were of that description. There were also amongst them some private soldiers of the Guards.

          Yesterday morning, at eleven, the Bow-street officers proceeded with three coaches to the watch-house to bring up the prisoners for examination; but the concourse of people was so great that the carriages could scarcely proceed. Bow-street, and all the avenues leading to it, were also immensely crowded, and so continued till past 5 in the afternoon.

          The prisoners underwent a long examination. Several were discharged, the proofs against them not being sufficiently strong to warrant their detention for trial; but their liberation was instantaneously productive of the most dangerous consequences. The multitude, male and female, fell upon them as they came out. They were knocked down, kicked, and covered with mud through every street in their endeavours to escape. The women, particularly those of Russel-street and Covent-garden market, were most ferocious in the application of this discipline; but the lower order of the male spectators were by no means lax in their exertions to mark their detestations of these wretches.

          Out of the whole number, eight were ordered to find bail for the misdemeanour, and in default were committed to prison. They were housed for a time at the Brown Bear, in Bow-street, until the crowd should disperse. The crowd, however, continued to block up the Street and its avenues. A coach was drawn up before the door of the Brown Bear The crowd was not dispersed from Bow-street and its vicinity till near six o-clock, and appeared to be extremely mortified at the escape of their intended victims. (The Times, Issue 8029)

Thursday 12 July 1810

ON Monday, the 9th day of July, 19810, as one of the Prisoners, that was taken up for an unnatural crime, was gong up Tavistock-street, Covent-Garden, after being acquitted by the Sitting Magistrate ofBow street Police Office, THOMAS HAYLETT, a young Man in the employ of a respectable Tradesman, in Tavistock-street, did assault and beat the above-mentioned acquitted person; and upon Mr. Rt. Shearsmith, Watch-maker, of No. 41, Stanhope-street, Clare market, from motives of humanity, requesting the said Thomas Haylett to desist from beating the man, he (T. H.) branded Mr. Shearsmith with being one of the disgraceful party, and did without any other provocation, strike Mr. Shearsmith a violent blow on the mouth, by which blow he nearly lost two or three teeth; for which unwarrantable attack the said Thomas Haylett doth thus publicly ask pardon of Mr. Shearsmith, in consideration of which, and the good character he bears, Mr. S. has condescended not to prosecute him. 

  &nsp; &nsp; &nsp; &nsp; THOMAS HAYLETT. 

Witness – M. K. SUPPLE.

Morning Advertiser)

Monday, 16 July 1810

Bow-Street. – On Friday evening Esay Haycock, who was apprehended with a number of other persons at the White Swan public-house, in Vere-street, Clare-market, where they met, it was supposed, for the purpose of committing a most detestable offence, was brought to the Office from New Prison, Clerkenwell, and was admitted to bail himself in 100l. and James Smith, of Buckingham-street, New Road, in 50l. and John Colley, of York-street, Blackfriars-road, to 50l. for the prisoner to answer for the offence with which he is charged at the Sessions.

          Henry Toogood, another of the persons who was apprehended at the same house with the same persons, was also brought from the prison, and was admitted to bail in 100>l. and two sureties, Wm. Baker, of Silver-street, Clerkenwell-green, and Wm. Wye, of Bunhill-row, in 50l. each.

         Application was made on Saturday night to bail Cook, the landlord of the public house, but it was put off till this day.

                   (Morning Chronicle. From this report we can see how risky it was for any friends to provide sureties for a suspected sodomite, for their names would be published in the newspapers. Incidentally, according to the Morning Chronicle for 17 July 1810, Mr Nares the Magistrate refused Cook’s application for bail. Also incidentally, the Morning Chronicle for Thursday, 26 July 1810, reported the suicide “yesterday morning” of Mr Tranter, a footman in the service of the Prince of Wales, in Carlton House.)

17 July 1810

          JOHN BARLOWE and WOLFE LYON, the latter a Jew, about 60 years of age, were indicted as accomplices in a high misdemeanour, with intent to commit a detestable crime, on the night of the 24th of April last. The Prosecutor, Scranton, having cause to suspect the intention of the Traversers, watched them from George-street, behind the Mansion-house, to a dark alley leading from Bearbinder-lane, into Lombard-street, where he detected them in the fact; he secured on the spot. But Lyon made his escape; and the Prosecutor apprehended him some weeks afterwards, in St. Paul’s Church-yard. The Prisoners were both found guilty. Lyon had been already twice convicted of the like offence. The first time in 1796, for which he was imprisoned in Newgate three years, and held in recognizance, hiimself in 100l. and two sureties for 50l. each, for three eyears after the expiration of his sentence; and the second time in 1805, when he was sentenced to four years imprisonment and similar recognizances. The Court, in consideration of his being thus shewn to be an incorrigible offender, ordered his second recognizance to be estreated [i.e. forfeited], and himself to be iimprisoned five years in Newgate: and to find the like recognizance for seven years after the expiration of his sentence.

          Barlowe, who is a young man, and had been a Gentleman’s servant, was sentenced to two years imprisonment, and the same recognizances as Lyon.

          THOMAS SINEY was indicted for an assault with the like intent upon a youth, named Nicholson, in Moorfields, on the 29th April. The assault was clearly proved. The prisoner, in a sanctified tone, made a long speech in his defence. – said he was coming from a place of worship, and that it was the prosecutor who made the assault upon him. He said he had been but three weeks in London, and was going from the Tabernacle to his lodgings in Tash-street, Gray’s-inn-lane, but he produced no witnesses even to character.

          Verdict Guilty.

          the Court sentenced him to two years imprisonment, and the like recognizance as in the preceding cases. (The Times, Issue 8036)

18 July 1810

At the Clerkenwell Sessions yesterday, four persons, of the names of Ramsey, Clarke, Goff, and Hill, were found guilty of an attempt to extort 10l. from T. Fitzhugh, a gentleman’s servant, by threatening to charge him with an unnatural offence.

Friday, 27 July 1810

Yesterday at Bow-street, the Ensign brought up by Revett, the officer, from the Isle of Wight, in consequence of a charge agaisnt him of an inhuman offence, at the Swan public house in Vere-street, underwent an examination before Mr. Justice Birnie. It is horrible to hear of the multiplied instances of this detestable crime; and in none have the circumstances been more atrocious, or the charge more distinctly proved. We, of course, abstain from all detail. The prisoner’s name is Hepburn, an Ensign belonging to a West India Regiment. He was fully committed to Newgate to take his trial, on the oath of a drummer in the Guards. (Morning Chronicle, Issue 12859)

Wednesday 1 August 1810

Yesterday at Bow-street, the Ensign brought up by Rivett, the officer, from the Isle of Wight, in consequence of a charge against him of a detestable offence, at the Swan public-house, in Vere-street, underwent an examination before Mr. Justice Birnie. It is horrible to hear of the multiplied instances of this detestable crime; and in none have the circumstances been more atrocious or the charge more distinctly proved. We, of course, abstain from alldetail. The prisoner’s name is Hepburn an Ensign belonging to a West India regiment. He was fullyi committed in Newgate to take his trial, on the oath of a drummer in the Guards. (Hereford Journal)

Saturday, 4 August 1810

Wednesday Dickinson, who was convicted at the last Westminster Sessions, of an assault upon a drum boy in the Guards, was exhibited, for an hour, on the pillory, at Charing-Cross; and received a most pitiless pelting from the indignant multitude, with mud, eggs, turnips, and other missiles. He is a well looking young man, about 22, and was a waiter at Hatchett’s hotel, Piccadilly. In the course of the first 10 minutes he was so completely enveloped with mud and filth, that it was scarcely possible to distinguish his back from his front; and it was with the utmost difficulty that the peace officers could prevent him from being torn to pieces by the mob, on his return from the pillory to the prison. (Ipswich Journal, Issue 4013)

Saturday, 18 August 1810

CHELMSFORD, August 17.
At our Assizes, . . . Samuel Mounser was convicted of an unnatural crime, and received sentence of death. (The Ipswich Journal, Issue 4015)

20 September 1810

          John Newbold Hepburn, aged 42, Ensign in a West India regiment, and Thomas White, a drummer in the guards, aged 16, were put to the bar on a capital indictment for a most detestable crime. but on the application of Hapburn founded on his affidavit that two drummers, now with their regiments in Portugal, were material witnesses for his defence, the trial was postponed until next session. (The Times)

Saturday, 29 September 1810

Seven of the detestable club of Vere-street, viz. Wm. Amos, alias Fox, James Cooke, Philip Ilett, Wm. Thompson, Richard Francis, James Done, and Robert Aspinal, were tried for conspiring together at the Swan, in Vere-street, Clare-market, for the purpose or exciting each others to commit a detestible offence. Mr. Pooley stated the case for the prosecution, and the witnesses against the prisoner were Nichols, and another of the Bow-street patrole, who were sent to the house by the Magistrates, to watch the proceedings of persons assembled there. They gained admittance into the back parlour, which was the principal rendezvous of these miscreants, and were considered as persons of the same propensity, and treated without reserve. For three nights they witnessed such disgusting conduct and language, as to place beyond all doubt the intentions of the company. They gave information of all they had seen, and the prisoners, with a number of others, were brought before the Magistrates. The evidence being closed, Mr. Gurney, who had cross-examined the witnesses while giving their testimony, said that he was placed in the aukward [sic] situation of Counsel for the defendants, and had undertaken that task because he felt himself bound to do so by his oath, and duty as an advocate. In the course of the evidence he had done that duty to the best of his judgment, by giving the defendants every benefit of cross-examination. But he found the testimony so clear and uncontradicted, as to leave no ground of palliation upon which to make any appeal to the Jury, upon circumstances, which, if true, would go to excite an idea that the horrors of Sodom and Gomorrah were revied in London. He must therefore decline trespassing on the time of the Jury, and leave them to form their own conclusions. If the prisoners had any thing to offer in their defence, he had no doubt they would meet with every indulgence. The prisoners being then called on, each told his story, but it could have made no impression on the minds of any discerning Jury, and all the prisoners were found Guilty. Amost, having been trice before convicted of similar offences, was sentenced to three years imprisonment, and to stand once in the pillory in the Hay-market. Cooke, the keeper of the house, Ilett, Thompson, Francis, and Done, were sentenced to two years imprisonment, and the pillory in the same place; and Aspinal, to one year’s imprisonment only.

          On sentence being pronounced they were all handcuffed, and tied to one chain in Court, and ordered to Cold Bath-fields prison. On leaving the Court, a numerous crowd of people, which had collected at the door, assailed them with fists, sticks, adn stones, which the constables could not completely prevent, although they were about 40 in number. The prisoners perceiving their perilous situation, immediately ran in a body to the prison, which they reached in a few minutes, and the constables, by blockading the streets, prevented the most fleet of their assailants from molesting them during their inglorioius retreat. (Jackson’s Oxford Journal, Issue 2996)

26 September 1810

An exhibition on the pillory of one of the wretches recently convicted at Clerkenwell took place yesterday, at 12 o’clock, opposite the Mansion-house when this human monster suffered all that could be inflicted by mud, rotten eggs, and potatoes.
          The concourse of people collected upon this occasion was immense. Amongst other places particularly crowded was the ballustrade surrounding the Mansion-house, which, notwithstanding the exertions of constables placed there to keep off the crowd, was filled with spectators, some of whom had melancholy reason to regret their too eager curiosity as several of the rails and a great part of the coping stone gave way from the great weight of those clinging to it, and falling on some of the persons beneath, severely injured three, one of whom is not expected to recover; they were all taken to the Hospital. (The Times, Issue 8098)

Saturday, 29 September 1810

MIDDLESEX SESSIONS. — Unnatural Crimes. Seven of the infamous club of Vere-street, viz. Wm. Amos, alias Fox, James Cooke, Philip Islet, William Thompson, Richard Francis, James Done, and Robert Aspinal, were tried on Saturday, and all found Guilty.

          Amos having been twice before convicted of similar offences and punished, was sentenced to three years imprisonment, and to stand once in the pillory, in the Hay-market, opposite Panton-street.

          Cooke, the keeper of the house, Ilett, thompson, Francis and Done, were each sentenced to two year’s imprisonment, and the pillory in the same place; and Aspinal, as not having appeared so active as the others, to one year’s imprisonment only.

          Four other wretches of the same description were found Guilty. (Leeds Mercury, Issue 2358)

27 September 1810

Notices were yesterday issued by the Sheriffs of Middlesex to all their officers, to appear this morning with their javelins at Newgate, for the purpose of escorting the Vere-street squad to the Haymarket, where they are to exhibit their faces precisely at 12 o’clock. (The Times)

Friday, 28 September 1810

PILLORY. – Yesterday William Amos, alias Fox, James Cook (the landlord), Philip Bell (the waiter), William Thomson, Richard Francis, and James Done, six of the Vere-street gang, stood in the Pillory, in the centre of the Hay-market, opposite Norris-street. They were conveyed from Newgate in the open caravan used for the purpose of taking the transports [i.e. those sentenced to transportation] to Portsmouth, in which they were no sooner placed, than the mob began to salute them with mud, rotten eggs, and filth, with which they continued to pelt them along Ludgate-hill, Fleet-street, the Strand, and Charing-cross. When they arrived at the Hay-market, it was found that the pillory would only accommodate four at once. At one o’clock, therefore, four of them were placed on the platform, and the two others were in the meantime taken to St. Martin’s Watch-house. The concours of people assembled were immense, even the tops of the houses in the Hay-market were covered with spectators. As soon as a convenient ring was formed [i.e. a space around the pillory], a number of women were admitted within side, who vigorously expressed their abhorrence of the miscreants, by a perpetual shower of mud, egs, offal, and every kind of filth with which they had plentifully supplied themselves in baskets and buckets. When the criminals had stood their allotted time, they were conveyed to Coldbath-fields Prison. At two o’clock the remaining two were placed in the Pillory, and were pelted till it was scarcely possible to adistinguish the human shape. The caravan conveyed the two last through the Strand, then to Newgate, the mob continuing to pelt them all the way. Notwithstanding the immense concourse of people, we are happy to learn that no accident occurred.
         The horrible exhibition of yesterday must prove to every considerate spectator the necessity for an immediate alteration in the law as to the punishment of this crime. It is obvious that mere exposure in the pillory is insufficient; – to beings so degraded the pillory of itself would be trifling; it is the popular indignation alone which they dread: and yet it is horrible to accustome the people to take the vengeance of justice into their own hands. We avoid entering into the discussion of a crime so horrible to the nature of Englishmen, the prevalence of which we fear we must ascribe, among other calamities, to the unnecessary war in which we have been so long involved [i.e. the Napoleonic Wars]. It is not merely the favour which has been shown to foreigners, to foreign servants, to foreign troops, but the sending our own troops to associate with foreigners, that may truly be regarded as the source of the evil. For years we have observed with sorrow the progressive reovlution in our manners; and we have uniformly and steadily opposed all the innovations that have been admired in our theatres and our select places of amusement, as destructive of their character of the country.

         Many of the most illustrious persons who at first charged us with illiberality, are now convinced of the right view which we took of the subject, and are zealously disposed to exert themselves in stemming a torrent of corruption that threatens to involve us in the gulph of infamy as well as ruin. We trust that the very first object of Parliament, on its meeting, will be the revision of this law.

                   (Morning Chronical. This newspaper cutting was pasted into William Beckford’s scrapbook, now at the Beinicke Library)

28 September 1810

Yesterday [i.e. 27 Sept.], Cooke, the Publican of the Swan in Vere-street, Clare-market, and five others of the eleven miscreants convicted at Clerkenwell Sessions last Saturday, of detestable practices, were exhibitedin the Pillory in the Hay market, opposite to Panton-street. Such was the degree of popular indignation excited against these wretches, and such the general eagerness to witness their punishment, that, by ten in the morning, the chief avenues from Clerkenwell Prison and Newgate to the place of punishment were crowded with people; and the multitude assembled in the Haymarket, and all its immediate vicinity, was so great as to render the streets impassible. All the windows and eventhe very roofs of the houses were crowded with persons of both sexes; and every coach, waggon, hay-cart, dray, and other vehicles which blocked up great part of the street, were crowded with spectators. 
          The Sheriffs, attended by two City Marshals, with an immense number of constables, accompanied the procession of the Prisoners from Newgate, whence they set out in the transport caravan, and proceeded through Fleet-street and the Strand; and the Prisoners were hooted and pelted the whole way by the populace. At one o- clock four of the culprits were fixed in the pillory, erected for and accommodated to the occasion, with two additional wings, one being alloted for each criminal; and immediately a new torret of popular vengeance poured upon them from all sides. The day being fine, the streets were dry and free from mud, but the dfect was speedily and amply supplied by the butchers of St. James’s- market. Numerous escorts of whom constantly supplied the party of attack, chiefly consisting of women, with tubs of blood, garbage, and ordure from their slaughter-houses, adn with this ammunition, plentifully diversified with dead cats, turnips, potatoes, addled eggs, and other missiles, the criminals were incessantly pelted to the last moment. They walked perpetually round during their hour [the pillory swivelled on a fixed axis]; and although from the four wings of the machine they had some shelter, they were completely encrusted with filth. 

          Two wings of the Pillory were then taken off to place Cooke and Amos in the two remaining ones, and although they came in only for the second course, they had no reason to complain of short allowance, for they received even a more severe discipline than their predecessors. On their being taken down adn replaced in the caravan, they lay flat in the vehicle; but the vengeance of the crowd still pursued them back to Newgate, and the caravan was so filled with mud and ordure as completely to cover them. 

          No interference from the Sheriffs and Police officers could refrain the popular rage; but notwithstanding the immensity of the multitude, no accident of any note occurred. (The Times, issue 8100; Most of this report was reprinted verbatim in the Annual Register, vol. 52, Chronicle entry for 27 September 1810)

28 September 1810

The disgust felt by all ranks in Society at the detestable conduct of these wretches occasioned many thousands to become spectators of their punishment. At an early hour the Old Bailey was completely blockaded, and the increase of the mob about 12 o’clock, put a stop to the business of the sessions. The shops from Ludgate Hill to the Haymarket were shut up, and the streets lined with people, waiting to see the offenders pass. Four of the latter had been removed from the House of Correction to Newgate on Wednesday evening, and being joined by Cook and Amos, they were ready to proceed to the place of punishment. 
          A number of fishwomen attended with stinking flounders and entrails of other fish which had been in preparation for several days. 

          The gates of the Old Bailey were shut and all strangers turned out. The miscreants were then brought out, all placed in the caravan. Amos began to laugh, which induced his companions to reprove him, and they all sat upright, apparently in a composed state, but having cast their eyes upwards, the sight of the spectators on the tops of the houses operated strongly on their fears, and they soon appeared to feel terror and dismay. 

          At the instant the church clock went half-past twelve, the gates were thrown open. The mob at the same time attempted to force their wayin, but they were repulsed. A grand sortie of the police was then made. About 60 officers, armed and mounted as before described, went forward with the City Marshals. The caravan went next, followed by about 40 officers and the Sherriffs. The first salute received by the offenders was a volley of mud, and a serenade of hisses, hooting, and execration, which compelled them to fall flat on their faces in the caravan. The mob, and particularly the women, had piled up balls of mud to afford the objects of their indignation a warm reception. 

          At one o’clock four of them were exalted on a new pillory, made purposely for their accommodation. The remaining two, Cook and Amos, were honoured by being allowed to enjoy a triumph in the pillory alone. 

          Upwards of fifty women were permitted to stand in the ring [in front of the pillory], who assailed them incessantly with mud, dead cats, rotten eggs, potatoes, and buckets filled with blood, offal, and dung, which were brought by a number of butchers’ men from St James’s Market. These criminals were very roughly handled; but as there were four of them, they did not suffer so much as a less number might. 

          After an hour, the remaining two, Cook and Amos, alias Fox, were desired to mount and in one minute they appeared a complete heap of mud and their faces were much more battered than those of the former four. 

          Cook appeared almost insensible, and it was necessary to help him both down and into the cart, whence they were conveyed to Newgate by the same road they had come. As they passed the end of Catherine Street, Strand, on their return, a coachman stood upon his box, and gave Cook five or six cuts with his whip. 

          From the moment the cart was in motion, the fury of the mob began to display itself in showers of mud and filth of every kind. Before the cart reached Temple Barm, the wretches were so thickly covered with filth, that a vestige of the human figure was scarcely discernible. They were chained, and placed in such a manner that they could not lie down in the cart, and could only hide and shelter their heads from the storm by stooping. This, however, could afford but little protection. Some of them were cut in the head with brick-bats, and bled profusely. The streets, as they passed, resounded with the universal shouts and execrations of the populace. (The Times)

Note: For a long report about this incident in the pillory, see Newspaper Reports for 3 October 1810.

29 September 1810

The Bow-Street officers and patrol apprehended many pickpockets in the crowd during the pilloring of Cook et al., including Samuel Brooke; William Hall; John Fregeur, a porter at the Saracen’s Head, Snow Hill; George Cohen. (The Times)

29 September 1810

We understand that in consequence of a proposition from Cooke the Publican, and one of the miscreants who were pilloried in the Hay-market on Thursday, there was a meeting of the Westminster Magistrates on Wednesday evening, to consider his offer for discovering a number of his accomplices in the same abominable system, but in a very different rank in life, provided his punishment of the Pillory was remitted; but that the Magistrates, after full deliberation, deemed it more for the advantage of public morals to reject his proposition, and let the sentence of the law take its course. (The Times, Issue 8101)

Monday, 1 October 1810


PILLORY. — Six of the monsters of the Vere-street Club were exhibited in the Pillory, in the Hay-Market, on Thursday. Between 30 and 40,000 persons were present. The indignation of the populace was so great that they scarcely escaped with their lives. (Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, Issue 573)

Tuesday, 2 October 1

James M’Namara, a low vulgar Irishman, seemingly a bricklayer’s labourer, and Thomas Walker, a squalid looking lad of about 17, a soldier in the first regiment of Guards, were tried for a similar crime, on the 14th ult.; and George Horiby, a cobbler, and John Cutmore, a soldier, were indicted for a similar crime, at the Star and Crown public-house, in Broadway, Westminster, on the 21st July. All four were found guilty. – Sentence deferred. (The Hull Packet and Original Weekly Commercial, Literary and General Advertiser, Issue 1238; the full report of the trial was otherwise identical with that reported by Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 29 September. The same brief report appeared in the Morning Chronicle for 24 September, which added the sentence “All four were caught in the fact.”)

Wednesday, 7 November 1810

—— Haycock and —— Cooley, two of those miscreants who were apprehended at the Swan, in Vere-street, in July last, were convicted and sentenced to be imprisoned in the House of Correction for two years. (Morning Chronicle, Issue 12947)

6 December 1810

Yesterday the Sessions commenced before the RECORDER of LONDON, Mr. NATHANIEL GROSE, and Baron GRAHAM.

          John Newbold Hepburn, formerly an officer in a West India regiment, and thomas White, late a drummer in the guards, (whose trials had been put off at the last and preceding sessions), were capitally indicted for perpetrating with each other a detestable crime, at Vere-street, Clare-market,, upon tesmony of another drummer in the guards, named R. MANN, and both found guilty. Hepburn is aged 42; White only 18. (The Times, Issue 8159)

Thursday, 6 December 1810


These Sessions commenced yesterday before Mr. Justice Grose, Mr. Baron Graham, the Lord Mayor, Recorder, and Common Serjeant.

Thomas White and John Newball Hepburn stood capitally indicted for having committed an unnatural offence on the 17th of May last.

         It was formerly mentioned, that the two delinquents were apprehended, shortly after the discovery of the detestable society in Vere-street, upon the accusation of a drummer, named James Mann, belonging to the 3d Regiment of Guards.

         It appeared, from the testimony of Mann, that the Prisoner Hepburn accosted him on the Parade in St. James’s Park, a few days before the day on which the offence charged was committed: he told him that he was very anxious to speak to the boy who was then beating the big drum, meaning White, and said he would reward him if he would bring the lad to his lodgings, at No. 5, St. Martin’s Church-yard. Mann said he would tell White what he had said, and they then parted, Hepburn presenting him with half-a-crown. In the evening Mann and White went to Hepburn’s lodgings, who received them with great cordiality, and informed them that he belonged to a veteran regiment and was shortly going to the Isle of Wight. – Mann then went on to state that Hepburn invited them to dine with him on the ensuing Sunday at his lodgings, but to this White objected, observing it was not a good place, and proposed at the same time that they should meet at the Swan, in Vere-street. To this Hepburn agreed, and an appointment was accordingly made, which was punctually observed by all parties. On their arrival at the Swan, on Sunday, they were shewn into a private room where they had dinner; before and after which, conduct the most vile and disgusting passed between the two prisoners, the particulars of which it is impossible to detail without a gross violation of decency. It was on the detection of the monsters in Vere-street that Mann communicated the facts already stated to his Drum Major [presumably Mann had been linked to those arrested at the White Swan, and had agreed to testify against White and Hepburn to save his own skin], in consequence of which information White was instantly confined, and an officer was sent to the Isle of Man for Ensign Hepburn, the particulars of whose apprehension have already been stated.

         The charge was most clearly and indisputably proved, and the Prisoners were both found Guilty – DEATH.

                   (Morning Chronicle. This newspaper cutting was pasted into William Beckford’s scrapbook, now at the Beinecke Library)

Monday, 10 December 1810

On Wednesday Ensign John Newbolt Hepburn, of the 4th West India Regiment (whose apprehension at the Barracks at Newport was stated in a former paper) and T. White, a drum boy, were tried at the Old Bailey, for a detestable crime. The prisoner Hepburn accosted Mann, the boy, whose evidence supported the prosecution, while on parade in the Park, promising to introduce him to White. The witness and White afterwards received an invitation to dine with him, and they met at the house in Vere-street, where the detestable gang was discovered some time since, and dragged to punishment. In consequence of information communicated by Mann to the Serjeant-Major of his Regiment, the prisoners were apprehended. Hepburn called several persons to speak to his character, but they did not attend. One witness, however, (Colonel Grant) stated that the prisoner had served in the same Regiment with him in 1794, and during that time Colonel G. had not heard any complaint against him. The other prisoner, White, also called a witness, who gave him a good character for orderly behaviour in his Regiment. The Jury found both prisoners – Guilty. the prisoner Hepburn is 42 years of age. (Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, Portsmouth, Issue 583)

The following description of the White Swan was written by the lawyer Robert Holloway, in his remarkable but trustworthy account The Phoenix of Sodom, or The Vere Street Coterie (London, 1813):

The fatal house in question was furnished in a style most appropriate for the purposes it was intended. Four beds were provided in one room – another was fitted up for the ladies’ dressing-room, with a toilette, and every appendage of rouge, &c. &c. A third room was called the Chapel, where marriages took place, sometimes between a “female grenadier”, six feet high and a “petit maitre” not more than half the altitude of his beloved wife! There marriages were solemnized with all the mockery of “bridesmaids” and “bridesmen”; the nuptials were frequently consummated by two, three or four couples, in the same room, and in the sight of each other. The uper part of the house was appropriated to youths who were constantly in waiting for casual customers; who practised all the allurements that are found in a brothel, by the more natural description of prostitutes. Men of rank, and respectable situations in life, might be seen wallowing either in or on beds with wretches of the lowest description.
It seems the greater part of these quickly assumed feigned names, though not very appropriate to their calling in life: for instance, Kitty Cambric is a Coal Merchant; Miss Selina a Runner at a Police Office; Blackeyed Leonora, a Drummer; Pretty Harriet, a Butcher; Lady Godiva, a Waiter; the Duchess of Gloucester, a gentleman’s servant; Duchess of Devonshire, a Blacksmith; and Miss Sweet Lips, a Country Grocer. It is a generally received opinion, and a very natural one, that the prevalency of this passion has for its object effeminate delicate beings only: but this seems to be, by Cook’s account, a mistaken notion; and the reverse is so palpable in many isntances, that Fanny Murry, Lucy Cooper, and Kitty Fisher, are now personified by an athletic bargeman, an Herculean Coal-heaver, and a deaf Tyre-Smith: the latter of these monsters has two sons, both very handsome young men, whom he boasts are full as depraved as himself. These are merely part of the common stock belonging to the house; but the visitors were more numerous and, if possible, more infamous, because more exalted in life: and “these ladies”, like the ladies of the petticoat order, have their favorite men; one of whom was White a drummer of the guards, who, some short time since, was executed for sodomy with one Hebden, an ensign.

White, being an universal favourite, was very deep in the secrets of the fashionable part of the coterie; of which he had made a most ample confession in writing, immediately previous to his execution; the truth of which he averred, even to his last moments.
That the reader may form some idea of the incontrollable rage of this dreadful passion, Cook states that a person in a respectable house in the city, frequently came to his pub, and stayed several days and nights together; during which time he generally amused himself with eight, ten, and sometimes a dozen different boys and men!
Sunday was the general, and grand day of rendezvous; and to render their excuse the more entangled and doubtful, some of the parties came a great distance, even so much as thirty miles, to join the festivity and elegant amusements of grenadiers, footmen, waiters, drummers.


Yesterday, at one o’clock, his Royal Highness the Prince Regent held a Court and Privy Council at Carlton House. Soon after one his Royal Highness gave audiences to the Lord Chancellor, Earl Camden (the Lord President of the Council), Sir Joseph Banks, and Mr. Pinkney, the american Minister. . . . His Royal Highness afterwards held another Council, which, in addition to the above, was attended by Lord Ellenborough, for receiving the Recorder of London’s report of the capital convicts at the December and January Old Bailey Sessions (except those for forgery), including Ensign Hepburn, and White the drummer, for an abominable offence, who were ordered for execution next Thursday; the others were respited during his Royal Highness’s pleasure. (Morning Chronicle, Issue 13045)

Friday, 8 March 1811

EXECUTION. — Yesterday morning, about five minutes efore 8 o’clock, Ensign Hepburn, and —— White, the drummer, a lad, only 16 years of age, for the perpetration of an unnatural crime, were brought on the scaffold, in front of the Debtors’ door, Newgate, and executed pursuant to their sentence. Their conduct since condemnation has been such as to evince a sincere contrition, and a just sense of the heinousness of their offence. They behaved in a manner becoming their unhappy situation; and after spending a few minutes in fervent prayer and devotion, with the Rev. Dr. Ford the Ordinary of Newgate, were launched into eternity, amidst a vast concourse of spectators. (Morning Chronicle, Issue 13051)

Saturday, 9 March 1811

The Duke of Cumberland, Lord Sefton, Lord Yarmouth, and several other Noblemen, were in the Press Yard, when Hepburn and his associate were executed. (Morning Chronicle, Issue 13052)

Monday, 11 March 1811

EXECUTION. — On Thursday, J. N. Hepburn, late an Ensign in a Veteran Battalion, and Thomas White, late a drum-boy in the Guards, were executed in the Old Bailey, pursuant to their sentence in December Sessions, for a crime of the most revolting nature. — Hepburn was 42 years of age, and White 17. White came out first; he seemed perfectly indifferent at his awful fate, and continued adjusting the frill of his shirt while he was viewing the surrounding popoulace. About two minutes after Hepburn made his appearance, but was immediately surrounded by the Clergyman, Jack Ketch [i.e. the hangman], his man, and others in attendance. The Executioner at the same time put the cap over Hepburn’s face, which of course prevented the people from having a view of him. White seemed to fix his eyes repeatedly on Hepburn. After a few minutes prayer, the miserable wretches were launched into eternity. Hepburn spoke to the Shieriff in a very firm and impressive manner, stating that the person who had sworn against him had perjured himself, and that every inta [? piece of evidence?] that he (Hepburn) had said, to prove the perjury, was perfectly correct. The Duke of Cumberland, Lord Sefton, Lord Yarmouth, and several other Noblemen, were in the Press Yard. (Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, Portsmouth, Issue 596)

Wednesday, 13 March 1811

EXCESSIVE GRIEF. — The mother of White, the Drummer, who was executed on Thursday, with Hepburn, the Ensign, died of a broken heart on the day subsequent to her son’s untimely end. She never left her bed after having taken farewell of the culprit on the evening previous to his execution. (Morning Chronicle, Issue 13055)

1811 – Thomas White & John Newbolt Hepburn of the Vere Street Coterie

Two centuries ago today, two men were hanged at Newgate Prison for buggery as a result of one of 19th century England’s most notorious anti-gay police raids.

Brits whose sexual palate ran beyond the stiff upper lip braved the force of the law to frequent molly houses, private clubs catering to homosexuality, cross-dressing, and the like.

In 1810, bobbies* busted mollies at one such establishment at the White Swan in London’s Vere Street. A press which evidently preferred its nicknames as vanilla as its coition dubbed these apprehended sodomites the Vere Street Coterie.

According to Phoenix of Sodom, a lasciviously queer-loathing account of the Coterie’s misadventures and of “the vast geography of this moral blasting evil” infesting London,

The fatal house in question was furnished in a style most appropriate for the purposes it was intended. Four beds were provided in one room – another was fitted up for the ladies’ dressing-room, with a toilette, and every appendage of rouge, &c. &c. A third room was called the Chapel, where marriages took place, sometimes between a “female grenadier”, six feet high and a “petit maitre” not more than half the altitude of his beloved wife! There marriages were solemnized with all the mockery of “bridesmaids” and “bridesmen”; the nuptials were frequently consummated by two, three or four couples, in the same room, and in the sight of each other. The upper part of the house was appropriated to youths who were constantly in waiting for casual customers; who practised all the allurements that are found in a brothel, by the more natural description of prostitutes. Men of rank, and respectable situations in life, might be seen wallowing either in or on beds with wretches of the lowest description.

It seems the greater part of these quickly assumed feigned names, though not very appropriate to their calling in life: for instance, Kitty Cambric is a Coal Merchant; Miss Selina a Runner at a Police Office; Blackeyed Leonora, a Drummer; Pretty Harriet, a Butcher; Lady Godiva, a Waiter; the Duchess of Gloucester, a gentleman’s servant; Duchess of Devonshire, a Blacksmith; and Miss Sweet Lips, a Country Grocer. It is a generally received opinion, and a very natural one, that the prevalency of this passion has for its object effeminate delicate beings only: but this seems to be, by Cook’s account, a mistaken notion; and the reverse is so palpable in many instances, that Fanny Murry, Lucy Cooper, and Kitty Fisher, are now personified by an athletic bargeman, an Herculean Coal-heaver, and a deaf Tyre-Smith: the latter of these monsters has two sons, both very handsome young men, whom he boasts are full as depraved as himself. These are merely part of the common stock belonging to the house; but the visitors were more numerous and, if possible, more infamous, because more exalted in life.

This intriguing little window into proto- or pre-gay culture opens to us at some cost to its participants, six of whom were confined to the pillory where the mob (“chiefly consisting of women”) bombarded them

with tubs of blood, garbage, and ordure from their slaughter-houses, and with this ammunition, plentifully diversified with dead cats, turnips, potatoes, addled eggs, and other missiles … They walked perpetually round during their hour [the pillory swivelled on a fixed axis]; and although from the four wings of the machine they had some shelter, they were completely encrusted with filth … On their being taken down and replaced in the caravan, they lay flat in the vehicle; but the vengeance of the crowd still pursued them back to Newgate, and the caravan was so filled with mud and ordure as completely to cover them.

Worse was to come.

 Not arrested on the initial bust or included on the pillory, a 16-year-old regimental drummer named Thomas White was snitched out by a fellow-drummer for having also been a White Swan regular … and in fact, “an universal favourite … very deep in the secrets of the fashionable part of the coterie.”

The stool pigeon’s motivation was the usual in such cases: said pigeon was also making a bit on the side from the Coterie, and he had a mind to avoid his own self being completely covered with mud and ordure and dead cats and turnips.

This James Mann’s report to his superior officer, and subsequent testimony to the magistrates, got White and his partner in vice Ensign John Hewbolt Hepburn hanged for sodomy.

Our correspondent in Phoenix of Sodom notes the presence among that “vast concourse of people” who witnessed their deaths several nobles whom he clearly takes to be a vanguard of that homosexual agenda, “the Duke of Cumberland, Lord Sefton, Lord Yarmouth, and several other noblemen.” No word on Miss Sweet Lips or Blackeyed Leonora.

Merrie Olde England would go on issuing hempen discharges to gay soldiers for years to come.

As a footnote, the Rev. John Church, who might be the earliest openly homosexual Christian minister in England, was rumored to have performed gay marriages at the club.         

The Phoenix of Sodom, or, The Vere Street Coterie

Tim Alderman (2017)


A Brief (Personal) Memoir of HIV & AIDS

I discovered this older article recently while rummaging through my article archives. I present it here with some edits and newspaper inclusions. HIV & AIDS (note the separation of the two) has an intricate, but morbidly fascinating, national & international history. I watched “The Normal Heart” again only a couple of days ago, and the hospital scene where Felix is in the hospital ward with the meal sitting outside the door of his KS infected friend, and being told not to go in without contagion gear raised a whole plethora of unpleasant memories with me. To understand where HIV is now, you need to understand where it was! 

I can’t believe it has been about thirty seven years since we first started hearing about HIV/AIDS. I find it even harder to believe that I have been infected for thirty five years. Over half my life has been lived with this virus! In personal retrospection, I could say that compared to the bad, bad old days of 1981, life is a bed of roses today. But then I am aware that quite a lot of people would still not share that sentiment, so out of respect to them, I will avoid such romanticism.

I was living in Melbourne at that time, and I believe that HIV/AIDS got its first mention in the gay press a little earlier than 1981, though I could be wrong. There were only snippets, overseas briefs if you like, of a strange STD that seemed to be selectively attacking the San Francisco gay community, or more specifically, those members of that community who frequented the baths and back rooms of the famous city. I know that no one here was particularly concerned. We thought it was just another of ‘those American things’, or just a mutated form of the clap. Nothing that a pill wouldn’t fix! By the time I returned to Sydney in 1982, we had started to think quite differently. Some of us were getting very scared!

The media began drowning us in information, mainly from the United States. There was the dramatic scenario of ‘Patient 0’, from whom it was assumed the whole epidemic had spread like an out of control monster. The USA and France argued over who had discovered the virus, and made the link between HIV infection and AIDS (watch “Dallas Buyers Club” for an inkling of what this was all about!). A debate raged as scientists tried to decide what to call it and which acronym to use. We had GRID (Gay Related Immune Disease) and HTLV 1 & 2 (Human Transmitted Lymphoma Virus – if memory serves me well). They eventually settled on HIV for initial viral infection, and AIDS for any subsequent illnesses that resulted from the breakdown of the immune system. The original Center for Disease Control (CDC) classification system for the various stages of HIV and AIDS progression was so complicated that you really needed a university degree to be able to decipher them. To make things more manageable they finally settled on four classifications.

Then came ARCs (AIDS Related Conditions) but that was considered politically incorrect, so we settled on OIs (Opportunistic Infections).

The argument over names and classifications wasn’t half as frightening as the reality of the disease itself, which started to hit home in 1985. Official testing began in that year, and is still the earliest date that medicos will accept as a point of diagnosis with HIV. Any date earlier than that is declared to be a ‘self-report’. Like many others, I assumed I was HIV+ long before testing started. Virgin and chaste were not words to be found in my life resume. Sydney’s Albion Street Centre was the first here to begin testing, and it was done very discreetly and anonymously. We all used an assumed first name, and were issued with a number to identify who we were. (In 1996, when I needed to tap into my first HIV test results done at Albion Street, they were still there.) Counseling was atrocious. You were given your HIV+, or HIV- (if you were lucky) status very bluntly, then quickly shunted over to a counsellor before the shock had a chance to set in. You were also told, almost apologetically, that you probably had about two years to live. That was HIV diagnosis circa 1985.

A number of our conservative politicians, and some of our outraged Christian clergy started to say that they wanted us placed in quarantine. It was very specifically a gay disease, according to them, and they truly believed that fencing off the gay areas of Sydney and leaving it to run its course could contain it. These people wondered why we got tested anonymously!

By 1985 people were starting to die. There were no dedicated HIV wards in any of our hospitals, and patients were shuttled between temporary beds in wards and the emergency department. Reports started to filter through of hospital staff wearing contagion suits around patients with HIV. Worse still, meals were being left outside the doors of rooms, and would often be cold by the time the patient managed to get them. Cleaners refused to clean the rooms. There were scares of infection by contact with everything from a toothbrush, to a glass, to cutlery, so patients were offered very disposable forms of hygiene. Even mosquito’s copped some of the blame.

Then, of course, we had the living daylights frightened out of all of us with the “Grim Reaper”television ads. From 1985 to 1995, death lived with us on a daily basis. If you weren’t visiting sick friends, lovers, or partners in hospital, you were visiting them at home, or attending their funerals and wakes. Most of us lost the majority of our friends, and for most of us those friendships have never been replaced.

Around that time, the gay community took charge of what was quickly becoming an out-of-control situation. Tired of seeing friends dying in emergency wards, and getting only the minimum of care at home and in hospitals, we established our own care, support and advocacy groups. Out of the pub culture grew groups as diverse as BGF, CSN, ANKALI, ACON, and PLWHA. Maitraya, the first drop in centre for plwha was founded, and we raised the first quarter of a million dollars through an auction at “The Oxford” Hotel to start to improve ward conditions at St. Vincent’s Hospital. The gay community can forever take great pride in itself for bringing about great changes, not only in the care of plwha, but in the way the disease was handled, both politically and socially..

The Department of Social Security streamlined people with HIV/AIDS through the system and onto Disability Support Pensions, and the Department of Housing introduced a Special Rental Subsidy so that those on a Pension, and unable to wait interminable amounts of time for housing, were able to live in places of their own choice, at greatly subsidised rent. Home care became available through CSN, which, at that time, was not a part of ACON. By 1992, there was a perceived need for improved dental services for HIV patients, especially considering the high incidence of candida. The United Dental Hospital led the way with a HIV Periodontal Study, which at last provided reasonable dental care to plwha.

The first vaccine, p24VLP, was trialled with absolute zero results. There were quite a number of scares with HIV contaminated blood, and screening of blood donors was tightened. Discrimination reared its ugly head in the Eve van Grafhorst case, which forced this poor little girl to not only leave her school because of the hysterical reaction to her HIV infection, but to flee the country with her family.

In 1987, the first therapy for AIDS – azidothymidine (AZT) – was released in the USA, and its use in patients with HIV/AIDS was fast-tracked through the approval process here. In France a huge trial called ‘The Concord Trial’ was conducted – unethically – and its findings were found to be inaccurate. The resulting announcement that AZT was ineffective in the control of HIV, and the drug nothing more than ‘human Rat Sak’, caused a universal outcry. The damage was done. Many had no faith in the new drug at all, and local activists and proponents of alternative therapies tried to encourage people not to use the drug. Many of us chose otherwise. True, the effects of AZT were short-term only – maybe six to twelve months – but many saw it as a way to keep the wolf from the door long enough for some other drugs to come along. And come along they did. AZT was quickly followed by what are referred to as the ‘D’ drugs – d4T, ddi, ddc, and the outsider 3TC. However, these were all drugs from one class called Nucleoside Analogues and all had short effectiveness. Some doctors tried giving them in double combinations, but the effectiveness wasn’t much better. Despite their short life span, these drugs were being prescribed in enormous doses, which resulted in problems such as haematological toxicity, anemia, and peripheral neuropathy. We needed a miracle! Add travel restrictions in many countries, blood transfusion infections, and some babies dying as a result of this and things weren’t looking good!

Those of us who had managed to survive to 1996 were starting to give up hope. Most of us were on a pension, had cashed in and spent our superannuation and disability insurance, had a declining health status, and didn’t hold out much hope for a longer survival time. Prophylaxis for illnesses such as PCP, CMV, MAC and candida had helped improve most people’s lives, but they didn’t halt the progress of the virus. The first of the Protease Inhibitors, Saquinavir, was introduced that year, and evidence started to emerge of the effectiveness of combining the two classes of drugs into what came to be known initially as ‘combination therapy’ and later as HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy). The results were astounding; those close to dying suddenly found their CD4 counts rising, accompanied by a return to reasonable health. Viral Load testing was introduced and people were finding not just a raising of their CD4 counts, but a drastic lowering of their viral load, often to the point of its being undetectable. This became known amongst doctors as ‘the gold standard’. Ganciclovir Implants to assist with the control of CMV retinitis were trialled the same year, and Albion Street Clinic started a trial using decadurabolane, a steroid, to assist in controlling Wasting Syndrome. The new drug combinations (NNRTI’s – Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptease Inhibitors – a third class of drugs, were introduced shortly after) were not without their complications and problems. Most combinations still required huge quantities of pills to be taken daily, not just of the HAART drugs, but also prophylaxis and drugs to help control side effects such as nausea and diarrhoea. Their use required time and dietary compliance. Other problems such as lipodystrophy, lipoatrophy, and renal problems appeared, but we were, despite any drawbacks, a lot better off than we had been ten years, hell even two years earlier.

People’s health changed drastically, and suddenly new services started to take prominence. Some people required lots of counselling to help them reconnect with the life they thought had been taken from them. Others went to peer support groups or turned to treatment management groups, and some to the larger range of support services being provided by The Luncheon Club, The Positive Living Centre, NorthAIDS and other similar groups. There was recognition that there was a need for services to assist people with an improved health status, as some of them were contemplating returning to work. Despair had, to a large extent, been replaced by hope. Organisations concerned with people’s changing needs reassessed and changed their services to meet the demand. Those that changed have survived, and are still prominent in our community.

The war is far from over. New generations require new strategies, and while everyone seems happy that infection rates for HIV have remained steady in Australia (despite rampaging out of control in Third World countries), many feel it is still not good enough that, at this stage of 37+ years into HIV/AIDS, countries like Australia with high levels of education and accessibility to media and information should be seeing a decline in infections. Remembering my own youth I find it difficult to comment on the attitudes of young people. I grew up through the very worst that HIV/AIDS had to throw at us, and the lessons it taught are not easy to forget. I have to ask myself had I not had that experience, how would I be viewing it? It is no longer just the responsibility of the gay community to guard against new infections. Responsibility also rests with the straight community, and the IDU community, as infection rates remain at their current level. Some scaremongers have ventured forth theories of a ‘third wave’ of infection, but I trust we are too wise, and too educated to allow that sort of irresponsibility to happen.
Many of us (certainly not all) are going on to lead relatively normal lives. Many have returned to work either as volunteers, or in casual, part-time or full-time employment. Many like myself have returned to tertiary education, determined not to leave this world without at least fulfilling some gnawing ambition. However, we are not living in a ‘post-AIDS’ world, and to think so would be foolish. Even if the battles have been won at home, they still need to be fought elsewhere. We still need new drugs, and we still need people to trial both the emerging antiviral and opportunistic infection drugs and the immune-based therapies. We now have a fourth class of drugs in the form of Nucleotide Analogues. Many medical practices have adopted a holistic approach to medicine, and this can be judged to be a direct spin-off from the HIV/AIDS wars. Hopefully, soon please, a new vaccine will appear.

I really don’t know how much longer I will live now. Certainly with the standard of health care I get, and the close monitoring, I may live out whatever my allotted time was to be. Time will be a better judge of that than I will. For me, HIV/AIDS has been a two-edged sword. It has taken good health from me, I have permanent disabilities from AIDS, and I have seen far too many friends, lovers and partners die from this hideous disease. At the same time, it has presented me with opportunities I would never have grasped if it had not come along. I am re-educating myself, taking myself off along strange paths. It has given me a whole new understanding not just of HIV, but of disabilities in general, and a great respect for those who overcome difficulties and recreate their lives.

At a university tutorial last semester, a young woman asked me if I thought every day about having HIV. I don’t! It may have taken thirty five years, but it is now so integrated into my life, that I have trouble remembering the time when I didn’t have it. The pills are just pills now (and thankfully a lot less of them than even 4 years ago), and most of my current medical problems have more to do with ageing than with HIV.

I can tell you, that really gives me something to think about!

Tim Alderman (C © Revised 2017)

Rumination of the Day (6th January 2017)


It is no secret that my brother Kevin died a horrendous death at the hands of my father, in December 1965 ( It is a long time ago now, though the memories have never dimmed, and despite the sage advice that time heals all wounds, it may dull the starkness of the memory, but it never really disappears. The filing cabinet we call a brain shifts the files around, but always leaves the drawer slightly ajar. 

I am not obsessed by my hrothers death, but whenever it does a flit across my mind, the questions surrounding it flit along just behind. The frustration of severed relationships is the unanswered questions! With my father long dead, my mother out of the picture at the time, and my fathers sisters all now dead, I know the questions will never be answered – ever! But that knowledge doesn’t make them go away! So, here are my demons. My reasons for listing them is purely to dump them! To many, the questions will be unfathomable without the back story. For a few, the poignancy of them will hit a feeling of deja vu in their own lives. There are many sad stories out there, and they nearly all have their unanswered questions.

Some questions are simple and straight forward – almost ruminations in their own right. Others are complex. Because questions demand answers, the fact that answers will not be forthcoming almost negates them. But they live on, and I will go to my grave knowing that only at that point do they no longer exist.

  • Where in the hell did Nancy Thompson come from! How did my father find her, and what possessed him to think that bringing such a hard, unfeeling woman into the house would be a good thing! I mean…she smoked, and he hated smoking! What were the conditions of her employment? She certainly had more disposable income than my mother ever had! I went clothes shopping with her, so I know! Was he seeing her before bringing her home? Was she a fling? It certainly went from plutonic to sexual very quickly – even as a 12yo I knew that! Her, and her son Stephen were such hateful, spiteful people, and I can’t believe he wasn’t aware of that. When questioned in court at the hearings into Kevin’s death, she stated that I was an effeminate child! Was that opinion voiced to my father? And after he finally got her out of the home unit in Kogarah – whatever happened to her? I pray that no other family was subjected to her! For someone who blew into our lives for such a short period of time, chaos followed in her wake! She is as much responsible for Kevin’s death as my father, yet I have little doubt that she left with a clear conscience! I hope Kharma has delivered justice!
  • What were my fathers thought processes on the day of Kevin’s death? It had been such an ordinary evening up until the instant he pulled up in front of our house! Was it a spontaneous action, or was it pre-meditated? At any stage, had the same course been set out for me? Frightening…but the thought remains! What was going on in his head as he drove to The Gap? Surely you can’t take your own sons life blithely, with no thought to the implications, the trauma, the horror! It’s a long drive from Sylvania. At no time did he not want to turn back! It’s not a question – it’s a nightmare!
  • And the most harrowing thought of all – did Kevin suffer! How quickly did he die in the cold waters of Watson’s Bay. Was he knocked out or killed on impact – I truly hope so! He trusted my father – was he aware of the betrayal? What flashes of thought as he eent over that cliff! The sheer horror wrenches at the heart!
  • Was my father guilty about his own survival? The actual event – threw Kevin over, or jumped over with him – has never been ascertained! It is one of the great unanswered questions. Did he invent a story to cover-up the deed? Indeed, we’ll never know!
  • After being released from gaol – what a joke all that was, and no justice for Kevin – did he seriously think…in typical 60s fashion…that life would just go on like nothing had happened? Did not talking about it mean it never happened? Was the thinking that the events of that time had had no affect on me whatsoever? Kevin was swept under the rug like a pile of dust! It was like he never existed! On the day he arrived home, Nancy took me to the front gate and told me to run to mert and embrace him! I didn’t even want to know of his existence! The only thing crossing my mind was – why was he back here! And did I still have to call him dad! His touch was abhorrent! For all the years up until his suicide there was no love, or respect! And I think Kevin’s death was his demon up until the day he died!
  • And then the great questions about Kevin and myself as siblings. What would our relationship have been like as we got oldrr? Would he have been straight or gay? If he was straight, would he have married…surely, one would think! Would he have had children? Would I be a great uncle? Would we have shared confidences? Would we be close – as when we were children – or distant?
  • And what is perhaps the first and greatest question – how totally different would life have been if mum never left home, for this was the catalyst for all that was to come! I like my life, and I like that for much of it I have had the freedom to live it my own way, with no questions, and few fears. Would it have panned out the same if circumstances had been different! That is a very interesting question. That I would end up gay wss inevitable…but would the process be different? I actually don’t want an answer to that one!

It is said, probably with great wisdom, that one should never question what is, try to imagine the “what ifs” of life, as that is not how it has gone. It is what it is! We all know that, but as thinking, reasoning beings it is inevitable that what could be seen as sage advice is not going to be heeded. We are curious animals, and life’s great unknowns frustrate and intrigue us! Any relationship that is abruptly terminated is always going to leave questions in its wake. The worst of it is knowing that even if my father were still alive, the questions would, in large part, still be unanswered! 

Perhaps that is what destiny held in store. At least now, they have been voiced!

Tim Alderman (2017)


Henry Moorsom Pickhills (1840-1866)

We kniw very little about our early family histories, other than what we can glean from records. From these, we have to try to piece together some sort of story of their life. Some records are too-the-point, others sketchy – but very occasionally they can be gems that give us very intimate glimpses into who they were. My Great Grand Uncle, Henry Moorsam Pickhills, is one such. He lived for a very short 25 years, yet I feel I know him well.

Henry was born in Halifax, Yorkshire in 1840, just in time to be included in the very first census held in England. The second-born son of Rickinson Pickhills & Elizabeth Appleyard, he was given his  Great Grandmothers maiden name – Moorsom – as a middle name. Apart from being included in the 1851 census, where he resided in Manningham, Yorkshire along with two additions to the family – Catherine, and Charles Edward, this is all we know of his first ten years of life.

We hear nothing more about him until 14 October, 1847, when he volunteered for service with the Admiralty. Getting Henry’s Admiralty papers was a true find for several reasons – it gives us a description of him,, tells us his ranking and ship, who the captain was – and a statutoty declaration from Rickinson & Elizabeth, written in Rickinson’s hand, giving him permission to join, Henry being only 16 years-old at the time.

We know from this record of 3 pages that he enlisted on HMS Hastings. He was born on the 19 December 1940. He was 5’43/4″ tall, with a fresh complexion, light hair, and blue eyes. He has a scar on his left temple. His ranking is Boy, 2nd Class, and he has joined for 10 years from the age of 18. The actual Boy Certificate is signed by Rickinson, Henry, the Captain and 2 medical officers.The statutory declaration gives the Captains name as Captain Mends (William Robert, as per research). It tells us, rather unnecessarily, that at that time the ship was lying at Rock Ferry near Liverpool. Rickinson had mistakenly given Henry’s birth year as 1842. Henry was born at The Fold, in Northowram (Yorkshire). Rickinson goes into quite a starement in legalese towards the end of the declaration. Was he showing off? As an Articled Clerk training to be an Attorney did he want the readers of the declaration to know that he was a learned man? The reasoning is unknown, though it seems a quite unnecessary addition to the statement.

Our next encounter with Henry is on the 19 December 1858, in the UK Royal Navy Registers of Seaman’s Service, where he is noted on the Hastings. 

We next hear of Henry at the 1861 census, where he is counted amongst those “at sea”. 

We finally encounter Henry on the 8th April 1866. He had died onboard the SV Aracan, from Cholera, at Calcutta, Bengal. He was buried on the 9th October 1866 in Calcutta. £3/13/1 is owing to the family. Other goods sold. He was 25 years-old.


  • Captain William Robert Mends GCB (27 February 1812 – 26 June 1897), was a British admiral of the Royal Navy, son of Admiral William Bowen Mends[1] and nephew of Captain Robert Mends. William Mends was born at Plymouth into a naval family. He married Melita, daughter of Dr Joseph Stilon R.N. on 6 January 1839. From 3 April 1857 to 1 February 1860 he was captain of HMS Hastings on Coast Guard service. He moved to take command of HMS Majestic on 1 February 1860 when she replaced Hastings on coast guard service and was then appointed deputy controller general of the coast-guard in 1861. He spent May 1862 to February 1883 as Director of Transport at the Admiralty. Mends retired at the rank of rear-admiral on 1 January 1869, was promoted to vice-admiral on 1 January 1874 and then a full admiral on 15 June 1879.
  • HMS Hastings was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She was built in Calcutta for the Honourable East India Company, but the Royal Navy purchased her in 1819. The Navy sold her in 1886. Hastings was built of the highest quality “saul”, “sissoo”, “Pegue”, and “Java” teak wood, following Sir Robert Seppings’s principles, which resulted in a vessel both longitudinal and transverse support. Her construction cost Sicca ruppees (Sa.Rs.) 8,71,406 (£108,938), which the merchants of Calcutta and other patriotic individuals subscribed via shares. The full cost of getting her ready for sea was Sa.Rs. 8,71,406 (£116,375). Captain John Hayes sailed Hastings from Calcutta on 28 March 1818. She reached Madras on 13 April, and Port Louis on 2 July. From there she reached St Helena on 15 September, and arrived at The Downs on 3 November. The Ship’s figurehead is now on display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum.
  • SV Aracan; nationality: British; purpose: transport; type: fully rigged ship; propulsion: sailing ship; date built: 1854; tonnage: 864 grt; dimensions: 56.8 x 9.8 x 6.6 m; rigging: 3 masts full rigged; IMO/Off. no.: 1080; call sign: HGMW H G M W; about the loss cause lost: collision; date lost: 09/03/1874; casualties: 0; builder: Whitehaven Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Whitehaven; owner:   Brocklebank T. & J. Ltd. – Thomas & John; captain: Charles Hartwood. 
  • Rock Ferry is an area of Birkenhead on the Wirral Peninsula, England. Administratively it is a ward of the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral. Before local government reorganisation on 1 April 1974, it was part of the county of Cheshire. At the 2001 Census, the population of Rock Ferry was 13,676 (6,444 males, 7,232 females),[2] increasing to 14,298 (6870 males, 7,428 females) at the Census 2011.[3]. In the 17th century Derby House, an occasional seat of the Minshull family, covered most of the grounds covered by present-day Rock Ferry. Thomas Oakshott, Mayor of Liverpool, lived there in the 19th century. The house, located on Rock Lane West close to the New Chester Road, was demolished in the early 20th century. Residential building did not really happen until the early part of the 19th century, the rise of the ferry and the railway, and the establishment of the Royal Rock Hotel and bath house in 1836. Between then and 1870, the area received an influx of luxurious housing, the villas of Rock Park and many other large houses around the Old Chester Road making Rock Ferry one of the most desirable addresses in the North West.[citation needed] In the later part of the 19th century, Rock Ferry expanded due to the need to house the increasing population of workers, especially at Birkenhead’s Cammell Laird shipyard. By 1901, the population stood at 2,971. In 1910, the Olympian Gardens were opened adjacent to the Royal Rock Hotel. These pleasure gardens were considered a great attraction and customers travelled from the whole of Wirral and, using the nearby ferry terminal, from Liverpool. The gardens hosted classical piano concerts and also slapstick comedy shows, with performers including Arthur Askey and Tommy Handley. At times the gardens held a prestige similar to the more famous Vauxhall Gardens in London. Shows were held in a large tent set amongst the trees and shrubs of land owned by Charles Boult. The gardens closed in the late 1920s after Mr Boult’s death. The decline of local industries in the 1950s took its toll. Many of the splendid buildings were dilapidated and unrestored. This decline was reflected in the loss of the Royal Rock Hotel, as well as many of the shops in the Old Chester Road and Bedford Road; whereas before Bedford Road had supported a wine merchant, a jeweller, two tailors, three banks, and two bookshops, most shops stood vacant. Large-scale regeneration work in the 1990s, which involved the demolition or restoration of many such derelict properties, and the building of new housing, means that the area has improved considerably, although many buildings of considerable character have been lost.

Tim Alderman 2016

    Captain William Robert Mends
    Figurehead from HMS Hastings

    General Service Medal HMS Hastings
    HMS Hastings
    HMS Hastings
    HMS Hastings
    HMS Hastings
    Newspaper piece on the collision and sinking of SV Aracan

    Daily (Or When The Mood Takes Me) Gripe: The Quiet Desperation of Getting Older…and Being Gay!

    Recently, anothe member of a group I am a member of posted that, at 45 and again single, he felt that it was now so hard to meet people that he feared he was destined to never have a serious, long-term relationship again. At 60, a short two years ago, I was at the end of a 16-year relationship – monogamous on my part, polygamous on his – and churned back to my single status. I had thought -naively – that this would be the relationship that I would grow old(er) in, that may finally give me the security of home-ownership, of stability, and a sense of contentment. Being cast adrift into the sea of old age – at least as far as the gay community is concerned – has given ne cause to consider this situation exactly as that much younger man has…that I will probably never have a relationship again. It is a scary prospect, though in the gay world, not unique to me.

    The one thing technology has not given us is the tools to meet people. The whole online/app approaches to dating or even attempting to meet others with views to friendships or relationships is just not happening for many of us. In a past time – not all that long ago, mind you – meeting people was as easy as planning a night out to your local pub or bar. Going out to your “local” gave you an impressive number of alternatives for how, planned or unplanned, your night could pan out. You could ring friends and arrange to meet them; go out on your own and choose to be solitary; just turn up, knowing there was a good chance of meeting people you know. Having progressed this far, the middle and end of the night also offered many alternatives, all in the atmosphere of the bar, or in the convivial company of friends. You could get pissed, go home and pass out. Or you could peruse the bar, decide the pickings were slim and go home alone. You could make plans with your friends to move on, or decide that the guy you are playing eye games with could be a bit of fun, and so you stay, buy him a drink, sit down and have a chat, and if the vibe is right, decide where to take it from there! However it did – or didn’t – turn out you, still had a set of alternatives all based around a real place, with flesh and blood people. There was potential for scenarios to happen, and you had control over them. But this us a bygone world! You didn’t have to lie about your age, or your body type, or your sexual preferences…it was there for everyone to see!

    Unless you want sex and nothing else but sex, the world of online gay dating abd apps is an alien one, full of lies, deception and fakery. I spent 12-months – unsuccessfully – on them! It has left me disillusioned, feeling belittled and degraded,  and with an eerie sense of futility. It is a shallow, dishones, ageist, prejudicial, and stigmatising world! To enter this world at 60, subtract 10-15 years from your ago, drop – or lie about –  around 15-20 kgs of weight, tell everyone you are versatile, add a few centimetres to the length of your cock, lie about uour HIV status, don’t admit to any disabilities, and upload a profile photo that is a few years old. I’m not kidding! You need to invent-a-person…but it doesn’t really matter, as you are unlikely to mert anyone for a date, and anyone you invite over for sex isn’t going to be there long enough to evaluate. I subscribed to Grindr, Gaydar, Scruff, Squirt, Man Hunt, BBRT, and a HIV+ apps or sites. At the beginning of last year, I either deleted or stopped using them altogether. The list of my encounters from these “dating” services is brief, and tragic.

    • Gaydar – Michael. A guy I just messaged out-of-the-blue because I liked his profile. We messaged each other for a while, then arranged for him to come over for dinner one night. We hit it off really well, had a great night, and decided to meet again. He “forgot” about our second meeting. Messages got more and more abrupt, and I took the hint. I still don’t know what happened. Lecko – a Russian boy. Yes, I do know what it was all about, but I wanted the experience of seeing where it went. I called it off, but I did let him know that I realised where it was heading. Some guy who kept conracting me, and telling me that taw sex needed discussion, despite me messaging him back a number of times to tell him it wasn’t open to discussion. Yes, I do negotiate raw sex – I’m a mature adult, and hopefully dealing with same. I have done so since the 80s.
    • BBRTS – Phil. Phil liked playing hard-to-get. I wore him down, and we finally met up at my home, in the company of mutual friends. Phil had evidently worked for Bretts Boys back in the 80s. We liked the look of each other (he was 55, and like me, lied about his age on dating sites). However, he was either damaged, or screwed up. He liked the tease, but that was as far as it went. Turns out he had his 80yo parents flating with him, who actually dictated what time he should get home. I know…very sad! Once again, messages got vety abrupt and I eventually gave up. Not even a head job there! Also the site for my one and only encounter with blow ‘n go sex – the coldest, most unfulfilling sexual encounter of my life. Just leaves you feeling empty and used. Daniel. Nice guy, but a bit too hairy, and a bit too overweight for my taste…though good sex. We arranged to meet again, but then with my eye operations, and a potential return to Sydney, it never happened. Out of a sense of politeness, I messaged him that I was returning to Sydney. He couldn’t remember who I was! Nice! Oliver. Just messaged me out of the blue one night and asked if he could visit. He turned up shortly after…good looking, very tall, and stating that he was waiting for a message from a friend he was about to visit in Logan. I really couldn’t work out what he was about. He got his message, and left. 2 glasses of wine wasted.
    • Grndr – nothing but wank chat – something I’m (evidently) good at, judging from the number of return requests. Probably due to me having a vivid imagination, and taking them on a sexual journey. Good for them – you always knew when they had blown, as chat suddenly stopped – but not for me.
    • Scruff – see above, but really massively overweight, overly hairy American guys. The ultimate turn-off for me, and I ignored return requests. 

    So, that was the sum total of my online sex life. Sending winks, woofs or anything else to other guys resulted in either being ignored, or a nice thanks-but-no-thanks. The only people who consistently contacted me were Asians and Indians, despite my profile stating I was only interested in Caucasian guys. The whole sordid affair was unpleasant, and I just breathed a sigh of relief when I gave it all away. I have since subscribed to Elite Dating Services, and Disabled Dating, but as soon as they start hassling me to subscribe – at between $25-$40 a month, I just dropped it. I’m setiously not thst desperate!

    So, I am reconciled to the ageist, body fascism of the gay community. I am very fit for a 62yo, but my days of six-packs and bulging muscles are long gone. And I really don’t need to impress people that way anymore. 

    Oh, don’t get me wrong! I think I have a lot to offer a guy. I’m past the shallow stage of my life, and I know who I am, and what I want. I’m not dog ugly, have a full head of hair – a plus at my age, I’m still slim, and when I have the opportunity to work out, quite fit looking. I eat a healthy diet, I have a university degree (and several others), a great sense of humour, intelligent (I can hold a conversation), articulate. I’m a great cook, love entertaining, love eating out, and know a good bottle of wine. I dress well – fashionably, but not to extremes – and groom well. I’m houseproud, and collect glass and Asian teawares…all controlled collections. I love technology, have a modernist view to social issues, not bogged down in tradition, and still get the urge to throw an Ecstacy down my throat (or some acid, if I could get my hands on it) and let my hair down on a dance floor in a nightclub – though I’d rather be leaving at 1am than arriving!

    So, I have it all to offer. The oroblem is, the only people I have to offer it to are friends and acquaintances! That is not going to get me anywhere, and there is no longer any other alternative. With the disassembly of the gay ghetto, there is really nowhere I can go to meet anyone. Oh yeah, I could go to places like The Bank, or Coopers…but I’d be in with a younger, and baducally straight, group. It is a true contradiction that the very community I belong to, and with a reputation for acceptance, intergeation and tolerance is, in fact, the fery community that alienates those who reach an age whereby they no longer fulfil the perceptions of youth. The straight community seems to be better placed as far as dating services go, and though sex is there, is not the defining end to getting to meet someone. Likewise, their gars are far more inclusive, and orientated to having a good time, and potentially going able to meet someone. For me to sit on my own in a gay gar these days – if I could find one I felt comfortable in – is to be ignored. 

    So, like many others, I’m reconciled to a life of quiet desperation. As I joked with a friend recently, I’m glad my hand is a good kisser! Short of meeting someone by sheer coincidence, it’s the single life from hereon in. Not something I am going to relish. If there us light at the end of the tunnel, it is not as yet visible to me. Though I have made the conscious decision to not let it bother me, in the recesses of my mind the doubt lingers. 

    In the words of Mae West “Save a boyfriend for a rainy day – and another in case ut doesn’t rain”

    Tim Alderman (C) 2016


      World AIDS  Day

      I remember these lost friends and acquaintences today.

      “They sparkle like jewels in my mind, like stars at night”.

      Steven Breeze

      Andrew Todd

      Trevor Eyden

      Gavin Murdoch

      Mark Silcock AKA Marcus Craig

      Kenneth John Smith

      Mark ‘Davo’ Davies

      Geoffrey Gordon Smith

      Michael Fletcher

      Michael Lavis

      Peter Greentree

      Leslie Albert Heathfield

      Glen Evans

      Gary Mayall

      Stuart ‘Stella’ Law

      Damien ‘Alexis’ Colby aka Damien Guy

      John Doyle

      Allen John Deith

      Peter Bringolf

      John ‘Goanna’ Ellison

      Peter Vanzella

      Frank Currie

      Jonal Fenn

      Jack Allen

      Gareth Paull

      Michael Bradley

      Philip Boyd

      Shane Pascoe

      Graeme Baird

      Vincent Dobbin

      Peter Fehlberg

      Gerald Lawrence

      Peter Shepherd

      Ray Hopkins

      Paul Costello

      Michael Beazley

      Michael Gregory

      David Edwards aka Sr Mary Daisychain OPI


      John ‘Sway’

      Kevin Bailey

      Gary Salton

      Steve Allen

      Philip Metcalf


      Australian Icons: Henri L’Estrange – the Australian Blondin

        Portrait of Henri with waxed moustache, sitting backwards on a chair, 3/4 to camera, wearing a formal jacket and white bowtie. Studio portrait of Henri, 1876

      Henri L’Estrange, known as the Australian Blondin, was an Australian successful funambulist and accident prone aeronautical balloonist.[1] Modelling himself on the famous French wire-walker Charles Blondin, L’Estrange performed a number of tightrope walks in the 1870s, culminating in three walks across Sydney’s Middle Harbour in 1877. He remains the only tightrope performer ever to have walked across a part of Sydney Harbour.[1] L’Estrange was an early balloonist, and attempted a series of flights in the early 1880s – one being successful, one ending in Australia’s first emergency parachute descent, and the last culminating in a massive fireball causing property damage, personal injury and a human stampede. He tried to return to his original career of tightrope walking but, with new forms of entertainment, humiliating falls and other Blondin imitators, he found success elusive. Public benefits were held in his honour to recoup financial losses and he dabbled in setting up amusement rides but ultimately he faded from public attention and was last recorded to be living in Fitzroy, Victoria in 1894.

      Early performance

      Henri L’Estrange was born about 1842 in Fitzroy, a suburb of Melbourne.[2] Little is known of his early years, family or private life. He first came to public attention in 1873 as a member of a Melbourne performance group, the Royal Comet Variety Troupe, a gymnastic, dancing and comedic vocal combination with Miss Lulu L’Estrange and Monsieur Julian. As part of this troupe, L’Estrange performed in Melbourne and Tasmania throughout 1873 and 1874, with Henri and Lulu performing together on the tightrope.[3] In 1876, L’Estrange performed solo for the first time in Melbourne, and quickly gained a reputation as a fearless performer.
      Tightrope walking had grown in popularity in Australia through the 1860s, following reports reaching the Australian Colonies of the exploits of the great French walker, Charles Blondin, who crossed Niagara Falls in 1859. By the mid-1860s, Australian wire walkers (funambulists) were modelling themselves on Blondin, copying his techniques, with several even calling themselves “the Australian Blondin”. The popularity of the name surged after the original Blondin visited Australia in 1874, performing his highwire act in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. By the mid-1880s, there were at least five “Blondins” performing regularly in Sydney and elsewhere.

      L’Estrange began using the moniker “the Australian Blondin” from early 1876. Arriving in Sydney from Melbourne, L’Estrange erected a large canvas enclosure in the Domain and began a regular series of performances on the tightrope, copying the location and stunts of the real Blondin who had performed there in August 1874.[4] His opening night on 26 January 1877 attracted a reported crowd of between two and three thousand people. Newspaper reports commented that his performance was so like that of the original Blondin that people could be forgiven for thinking they had seen the world-renowned rope-walker. With his rope suspended 40 feet (12 metres) above the ground, L’Estrange walked backwards and forwards, walked in armour, walked covered in a sack, used and sat on a chair, cooked and rode a bicycle, all on the rope. His show also included a fireworks display for the public’s entertainment.[5]
      L’Estrange performed in the Domain from January through to April 1877, but not without incident. On 7 February 1877, as L’Estrange neared the end of his wire act, sparks from the fireworks going off around him fell into the nearby store of gunpowder and fireworks, igniting them. The store’s shed was demolished, a surrounding fence knocked down, part of L’Estrange’s performance tent caught fire, and two young boys were injured.[1]

      Sydney Harbour crossing

       L’Estrange, the Australian Blondin, crossing Middle Harbour in the Illustrated Sydney News 28 April 1877.

      In late March 1877, advertisements began to appear in the Sydney newspapers for L’Estrange’s proposed harbour crossing. The first public performance was set for Saturday 31 March, with L’Estrange having organised 21 steamers to convey spectators from Circular Quay to a special landing stage close to his performance area. L’Estrange advised those wishing to see his performance to travel on his steamers as they were the only ones with permission to land passengers. This, of course this did not stop other entrepreneurs and captains from carrying spectators of their own.[2] Whilst the event was profitable L’Estrange considered that the majority of viewers were non-paying “dead-heads”.[6]
      Prior to the public performance, L’Estrange undertook the crossing for a select audience including members of the press. That crossing was a success, and was well reviewed in the papers, no doubt adding to the crowd’s anticipation for the Saturday show.[7] Sadly, bad weather postponed the performance, which did not go ahead until 14 April.[2][8]
      At 1 o’clock on Saturday 14 April, the steamers began leaving Circular Quay, conveying 8,000 of an estimated 10,000-strong crowd to Middle Harbour – a large crowd considering the alternative attractions that day of Sydney Royal Easter Show (known then simply as “the Exhibition”) and horse racing.[2] The remainder were reported to be walking from St Leonards, with a toll being collected along the way. Spectators clambered up the sides of the bay for vantage points, while hundreds more stayed on board steamboats, yachts and in row boats below.[2] The rope was strung across the entrance to Willoughby Bay, from Folly Point to the head of the bay, a reported length of 1,420 feet (430 m), 340 feet (100 m) above the waters below.[7] The distance meant that two ropes were required, spliced together in the centre, to reach the other side, with 16 stays fixed to the shore and into the harbour to steady the structure.
      Everything being ready, precisely at 4 o’clock L’Estrange come out of his tent on the eastern shore, dressed in a dark tunic and a red cap and turban. Without hesitation or delay he stepped onto the narrow rope, and, with his heavy balancing-pole, at once set out on his journey across the lofty pathway. As has been before stated, the rope is stretched across the harbour at a great altitude, the width apparently being three hundred yards. At the western end it is higher than at the eastern, and as the weight of the rope causes a dip in the centre, the western end is at a considerable incline. Starting off amidst the cheers of the spectators, L’Estrange walked fearlessly at the rate of eighty steps to a minute across the rope, until he reached a spliced part near the centre, some twenty feet in length, which he passed more deliberately. Then he stood on his right foot, with his left resting against his right leg. This feat being safely accomplished, he dropped onto his knee, and afterwards sat down and waived [sic] his handkerchief to the crowd of spectator. Next he lay on his back along the rope. Resuming the sitting posture, he took out a small telescope and for a moment or two surveyed the onlookers, who warmly applauded his performances. Raising the balancing pole, he lifted one foot onto the rope, then the other, and continued his walk. He took a few steps backward and then proceeded up the inclined part of the rope steadily to the western shore, at the slower speed of about sixty steps a minute, the rope swaying considerably as he went. The remaining part of the distance was safely traversed, the last few steps being walked more quickly: and the intrepid performer stepped on terra firma amidst the enthusiastic cheers of the spectators, the inspiring strains of the bands of music, and the shrill whistling of the steamers.

      — Sydney Morning Herald, April 16[2] and 4 May 1877[8]

      The successful crossing was greeted with enthusiastic cheers, the tunes of the Young Australian Band, the Albion Brass Band and Cooper and Bailey’s International Show Band, who had all come to entertain the crowds, and the shrilling of the steamers’ whistles. L’Estrange soon reappeared in a small row boat to greet the crowds, although many had already rushed the steamers to leave, resulting in a few being jostled into the harbour.[2]
      While the Illustrated Sydney News proclaimed it a truly wonderful feat, performed with the greatest coolness and consummate ability, not all of Sydney’s press were so enthusiastic. The Sydney Mail questioned the worth of such a performance beyond the profits made, commenting that it was, “…a mystery to many minds why such large concourses of people should gather together to witness a spectacle which has so little intrinsic merit. There is nothing about it to charm the taste or delight the fancy.”[9]
      Despite the criticism, L’Estrange performed at least once more at Middle Harbour, although crowds were down to a few hundred, requiring only four steamers to transport them. The same night he was guest of honour at a testimonial dinner held at the Victoria Theatre where The Young Australian Band played “The Blondin March”, a piece composed specially by their conductor Mr J. Devlin. He was presented with a large gold star, engraved with a scene of his latest triumph, the date of his public performance. Measuring 3 inches (76 mm) across, it was centred with a 1½ carat diamond and suspended by a blue ribbon to a clasp featuring the Australian coat of arms in silver. An illuminated address and a bag of sovereigns, collected from his admirers, were also given.[10] L’Estrange thereafter took his show on the road, going first to Brisbane in May 1877,[6] and reportedly afterwards to Singapore, England and America.[1]


      In April 1878, L’Estrange reappeared on the Australian scene with a new performance – gas ballooning. The first balloon ascent in Australia had been made in Melbourne in 1853, with Sydney following five years later in December 1858. The idea that people could be lifted from the ground to fly and return safely fired the imagination of the public, and the novelty of balloon ascents continued to draw large crowds through the 1860s and 1870s. No doubt the very real chance of disaster and injury added to the crowd’s keen interest, as mishaps were not uncommon.

      L’Estrange came to Sydney with his balloon in November 1878, accompanied by reports of successful flights already made in India.[11] In a confident appraisal of L’Estrange’s new venture, the Sydney Morning Herald wrote:
      [L’Estrange’s] balloon has been fitted with the newest applications, amongst others a parachute, which in the event of anything going wrong, would prevent the too rapid descent of the aerial voyager. Another novelty is the fixing of bags of sand round the mesh which covers the balloon, the principle of which is that by emptying these, and so lessening the weight, the balloon will ascend. The process is chiefly intended to be an easy method of avoiding buildings… He is perfectly confident that he will prove successful in travelling amongst the regions of the clouds, and, if so it will prove an agreeable variety after the many failures we have had.

      — Sydney Morning Herald, 1 November 1878[11]

      In a letter to the Sydney City Council, L’Estrange sought permission for the use of the Exhibition grounds in Prince Alfred Park, behind Sydney Central Station for his first attempt.[12] L’Estrange struggled to fill the balloon through the afternoon of 17 November 1878, with gas supplied by the Australian Gas Light Company. By 5pm, the crowd was getting restless and L’Estrange decided to attempt liftoff, despite the balloon not being fully inflated. To lighten the load he removed the car in which he was to sit and instead sat in a loop of rope. The balloon managed only to drag him across the park before clearing the fenceline and landing on a railway truck in the yards of Sydney’s Central railway station next to the park. L’Estrange blamed the failure on having been supplied with “dense” gas and a filling pipe that was too narrow and leaky.[13]
      L’Estrange wrote to the Council again, this time asking for permission to use Belmore Park for a second attempt.[14] Much like his first attempt, the second ended in failure. Once again the balloon took much of the day to fill, with the lift going ahead at 5 pm on the afternoon of 7 December 1878. The first attempt dragged him approximately 100 yards (91 m) through the crowd. Returning to the start point, L’Estrange tried again, shooting up into the air approximately 50 feet (15 m) and sailing away towards the south, before descending again and being dragged across the park. The crowd feared the balloon would crash but once more it lifted, up and over the roof of Carters’ Barracks. L’Estrange, realising that the balloon was not going to lift higher, threw out the anchor, which caught in the spouting of a building and threw the balloon into the drying yard of the Benevolent Asylum, where it caught in the washing lines and wires and was practically destroyed.[15] Still, L’Estrange’s place in Sydney hearts had been established and a well-attended benefit was held at the Theatre Royal on 19 December 1878.
      L’Estrange survived an even more disastrous attempt in Melbourne less than six months later at the grounds of the Agricultural Society in a balloon named Aurora. Having been supplied with a much higher quality gas from the Metropolitan Gas Company he miscalculated the speed at which the balloon would ascend. Having floated much higher than originally anticipated the balloon greatly expanded and a weak seam in the calico fabric suddenly burst. L’Estrange had the presence of mind to deploy the silk parachute which slowed the rate of descent. His landing was softened by a tree and although severely shaken, L’Estrange was uninjured. The whole journey took nine minutes.[16] The “catastrophe” was widely reported with the story appearing in local newspapers in Adelaide,[17] Canberra,[18] Sydney[19] and Brisbane[20] within the week. This was the first emergency descent by parachute in Australia,[21] predating the Caterpillar Club by over 50 years.
      Despite these setbacks, L’Estrange persisted, returning to Sydney in August 1880 to prepare for another attempt. Success finally came with a flight on 25 September 1880 from Cook Park, Northwards over the Garden Palace and Sydney harbour to Manly.[22].

      Final balloon flight

       Buoyed by his achievement, L’Estrange set himself a second flight day in March 1881. With his reputation already well known in Sydney, and a successful flight on record, a crowd of over 10,000 turned up in the Outer Domain.
      As a result of high atmospheric pressure and heavy dew weighing down the balloon, inflation took longer than anticipated, and the crowd grew restless. The officer representing the company supplying the gas also refused to provide a new supply. L’Estrange was presented with what was described as a “Hobson’s choice”,[23] “…either to abandon the attempt and risking being seriously maltreated by the mob, or proceed heavenwards without the car, accepting the attendant [risks] of such an aerial voyage.”[24] He chose the latter and the lift commenced at 9.30 pm with L’Estrange sitting in a loop of rope much like his attempt three years previously. At first all seemed well, as the balloon lifted above the heads of the crowd, hovering for a moment before first heading over Hyde Park. He described the rest of his voyage in a letter to a friend:
      I then got into a westerly current that took me out to sea, on which I determined to come down to mother earth without delay, but picture to yourself my horror when I found the escape valve would not act. I tried with all the strength of the one hand I had to spare to move it, for with the other I had to hold myself in the loop of rope, but all to no purpose, it would not budge an inch. In sheer desperation I took the valve rope in both hands, and it opened with a bang ; but in the effort I had lost my seat in the loop, falling about six feet, and there I was dangling in mid air, clutching the valve rope, the gas rushing out of the balloon as though she had burst…

      — printed in Illustrated Sydney News, 23 April 1881[25]

      Managing to right himself, he became faint from the escaping gas and lashed himself to the ropes to prevent a fall. Realising the attempt was now a danger to himself and the balloon, L’Estrange set out the grappling hooks to catch onto something and bring the balloon down. However the ropes had become tangled and the hooks were too short.[23]
      L’Estrange’s balloon descended rapidly over the rooftops of Woolloomooloo, slamming into a house near the corner of Palmer Street and Robinson Lane. L’Estrange managed to disentangle himself and fell first onto a chimney then a shed 25 feet (7.6 m) below. He scrambled down from the rooftops to a waiting mob, who whisked him away to Robinson’s hotel on the William Street corner and would not let him leave.[25] At the crash site, during an attempt to free the balloon, the escaping gas was ignited when the resident of the house opened a window to see what the commotion was and the gas came into contact with the open flame of the room’s chandelier. The resulting fireball destroyed the balloon, burnt a number of bystanders and was bright enough to “…cast a brief but vivid illumination over the entire suburb”.[24] A panicked crush developed as groups tried to both flee from and rush towards the brief, but extremely bright, conflagration while those further away at the launch site assumed L’Estrange had been killed.[23] Several people were injured in the crush or burned by the fire with one lady reportedly being blinded.[26]
      Although a Masonic benefit was held in his honour to try to recoup some of his financial losses, the fiasco spelt the end of L’Estrange’s aeronautical career.

      Return to tightrope walking 

      In a change of direction in March 1882, L’Estrange applied to the Sydney City Council to establish a juvenile pleasure gardens at the Paddington Reservoir. The fun park was to have a variety of rides, a maze, merry-go-round and a donkey racecourse. L’Estrange proposed the park to be free entry with all monies being made via the sale of refreshments on site. While he was given permission, the park does not appear ever to have opened.[27]  Studio portrait of L’Estrange demonstrating riding a bicycle on a tightrope

      Following the disastrous balloon attempt and the failed pleasure grounds, L’Estrange decided to return to what he knew best, tightrope walking. In April 1881 L’Estrange, given top billing as “the hero of Middle Harbour”, performed at the Garden Palace on the high-rope as part of the Juvenile Fete, with other acrobats, contortionists and actors.[28] With proof of the continuing popularity of the rope act, he decided to return to his greatest triumph; the spectacular crossing of the harbour in 1877 which had still not been repeated. On 23 December 1882, L’Estrange advised the public that he would cross the harbour once more, this time riding a bicycle across Banbury Bay, close to the site of his original success.[29]
      As with his previous crossings, steamers took the crowds from Circular Quay, although this time only four were needed, while another 600–700 people made their own way to the site. The ride was scheduled for 3 pm on 23 December, but delays meant L’Estrange did not appear until 6 pm. Although the length of rope was over 182 metres, it was only just over nine metres above the water. The stay wires were held in boats on either side, with the crews rowing against each other to keep it steady. L’Estrange rode his bicycle towards the centre, where, with the rope swinging to and fro, he stopped briefly to steady himself but instead, realising he was losing his balance, he was forced to leap from the rope and fell into the water below. Although he was unhurt, it was another knock to his reputation. A repeat attempt was announced for the following weekend. Again steamers took a dwindling crowd to Banbury Bay where they found L’Estrange’s rope had been mysteriously cut, and he cancelled the performance. The Daily Telegraph reported that many in the crowd, who had paid for tickets on the steamers, felt they had been scammed.[30]

      Late career 

      With his reputation in tatters after the balloon crash and the attempted second harbour crossing, L’Estrange slowly slipped out of the public eye. In December 1883 he was reported as performing again on the highwire at the Parramatta Industrial Juvenile exhibition. While his act attracted favourable publicity, “his efforts were not received with the amount of enthusiasm they certainly deserved”.[31]
      In April 1885 a benefit was held for L’Estrange, again at the Masonic Lodge, like the one held after his balloon misadventure. It was advertised that the benefit, under the patronage of the Mayor and Aldermen of Sydney, and with Bill Beach, world champion sculler in attendance, was prompted because L’Estrange had “lately met with a severe accident”.[32] The nature of the accident is unknown, but it is speculated to have been a fall from his tightrope, explaining the end of his performances.[1]
      His apparent decline in popularity may have been as much a reflection of the public’s changing taste for entertainment as it was a comment on his act. By the time L’Estrange returned to Sydney to attempt his second harbour crossing in 1882, the city was awash with Blondin imitators performing increasingly dangerous, and probably illegal, feats.[33] At least five were performing in Sydney from 1880 under variations of the title from the “Young Blondin” (Alfred Row) to the “Blondin Brothers” (Alexander and Collins), the “Great Australian Blondin” (James Alexander), the “original Australian Blondin” (Collins), the “Great Australian Blondin” (Signor Vertelli), the “Female Australian Blondin” (Azella) and another “Australian Blondin” (Charles Jackson).[1]
      In 1886 L’Estrange again applied to the Sydney City Council for permission to establish an amusement ride called “The Rocker” in Belmore Park. The Rocker consisted of a boat which, propelled by horsepower, gave the impression of being at sea. Permission was granted but like his juvenile pleasure grounds, there is no evidence that it was ever erected.[34] After this, L’Estrange slipped from view in Sydney. In 1894 Edwin L’Estrange “who a few years ago acquired some celebrity as the Australian Blondin” appeared in court in Fitzroy, Victoria having been knocked down and run over by a horse and buggy being driven by a commercial traveller. The driver was fined and L’Estrange’s injuries are not recorded.[35]

      ^ a b c d e f Mark Dunn (2011). “L’Estrange, Henri”. Dictionary of Sydney. Dictionary of Sydney Trust. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

      ^ a b c d e f g “(?) ROPE-WALK OVER MIDDLE HARBOUR.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 16 April 1877. p. 5. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

      ^ The Mercury (Hobart). 28 February 1873. p. 2. Missing or empty |title= (help)

      ^ “BLONDIN’S FIRST APPEARANCE.”. The Empire (Sydney: National Library of Australia). 31 August 1874. p. 2. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

      ^ “CRICKET.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 27 January 1877. p. 3. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

      ^ a b “Intercolonial News.”. The Queenslander (Brisbane: National Library of Australia). 28 April 1877. p. 27. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

      ^ a b Town and Country Journal. 7 April 1877. p. 540. Missing or empty |title= (help) Cited in Dictionary of Sydney.

      ^ a b “SOCIAL.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 4 May 1877. p. 7. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

      ^ Sydney Mail. 21 April 1877. p. 496. Missing or empty |title= (help) Cited in Dictionary of Sydney.

      ^ “The Sydney Morning Herald.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 24 April 1877. p. 4. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

      ^ a b “The Sydney Morning Herald.”. The Sydney Morning Herald date=1 November 1878 (National Library of Australia). p. 4. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

      ^ City of Sydney Archives, 2 November 1878, Letters Received 26/154/0981. Cited in Dictionary of Sydney.

      ^ “AMUSEMENTS.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 18 November 1878. p. 5. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

      ^ City of Sydney Archives, 21 November 1878, Letters Received 26/154/1044. Cited in Dictionary of Sydney.

      ^ “AMUSEMENTS.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 9 December 1878. p. 5. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

      ^ “A BALLOON CATASTROPHE.”. The Argus (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 15 April 1879. p. 5. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

      ^ “A BALLOON CATASTROPHE.”. South Australian Register (Adelaide: National Library of Australia). 18 April 1879. p. 5. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

      ^ “A BALLOON CATASTROPHE.”. Queanbeyan Age (NSW: National Library of Australia). 19 April 1879. p. 3. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

      ^ “VICTORIA.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 16 April 1879. p. 5. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

      ^ “Melbourne.”. The Brisbane Courier (National Library of Australia). 16 April 1879. p. 2. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

      ^ Frank Mines. “A Draft History Of Parachuting In Australia Up To The Foundation Of Sport Parachuting In 1958: The First Emergency Descent”. Australian Parachuting Foundation. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

      ^ “L’ESTRANGE’S BALLOON ASCENT.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 27 September 1880. p. 6. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

      ^ a b c “L’ESTRANGE’S BALLOON ASCENT.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 16 March 1881. p. 6. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

      ^ a b “L’Estrange’s Balloon Ascent.”. The Queenslander (Brisbane: National Library of Australia). 26 March 1881. p. 406. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

      ^ a b “The Ballon Explosion in Sydney.”. Illustrated Sydney News (National Library of Australia). 23 April 1881. p. 14. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

      ^ “DISTRIBUTION OF AWARDS AT THE EXHIBITION.”. The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 9 April 1881. p. 113. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

      ^ City of Sydney Archives, 22 March 1882, Letters Received 26/183/475. Cited in Dictionary of Sydney.

      ^ “Advertising.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 16 April 1881. p. 2. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

      ^ “Advertising.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 23 December 1882. p. 2. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

      ^ “The Blondin Fiasco”. Daily Telegraph. 1 January 1883.. Cited in Dictionary of Sydney.

      ^ “PARRAMATTA INDUSTRIAL JUVENILE EXHIBITION.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 31 December 1883. p. 4. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

      ^ “Advertising.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 14 April 1885. p. 2. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

      ^ “DANGEROUS SPORTS.”. The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 19 February 1880. p. 8. Retrieved 19 December 2011.

      ^ City of Sydney Archives, 12 January 1886, Letters Received 26/209/0105. Cited in Dictionary of Sydney.

      ^ “FITZROY.—THURSDAY.”. Fitzroy City Press (Vic.: National Library of Australia). 28 September 1894. p. 3. Retrieved 20 December 2011.

      This Wikipedia article is substantially built upon the essay “L’Estrange, Henri” in the Dictionary of Sydney

      written by Mark Dunn, 2011 and licensed under CC by-sa. Imported on 18 December 2011 (Archive of the original)