1842 – The Public Executions at Melbourne

BOOK REVIEW
by Joseph Toscano - Anarchist Age Weekly Review - February 2011

The full story of the capture, trial and hanging of Bushrangers and Aborigines as disclosed in Official Documents never before published.

Public Record Office of Victoria
Compiled by Ian MacFarlane
Publisher Victorian Government Printing Office 1984
ISBN 07241 829451

This very handy 101 page booklet highlights what can be done when people have the will and access to material in the public records office. The Public Executions at Melbourne has been published as a consequence of meticulous research conducted by employees of the Public Record Office of Victoria. Compiled from original public documents, many of which had been misfiled and not seen in nearly 150 years, it gives an excellent account of the six public executions that occurred in Melbourne in 1842.

Divided into seven chapters, the first chapter deals with the trial and execution of Bob and Jack (the Tasmanian indigenous freedom fighters Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner). The second chapter deals with the execution of three Melbourne bushrangers Ellis, Jepps and Fogarty on the 28th June 1842. Seated on their own coffins they were conveyed to the scaffold on a cart. When the drop fell the three bushrangers were dead in less than a minute. The hangmen, John Davies and John Styleman had redeemed themselves in the eyes of the public after their butchered hanging on the 20th January 1842. It took Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner over half an hour to die as their bodies convulsed on the scaffold as they slowly strangled to death.

The third and last public execution occurred on the 5th September 1842. "Roger the Russian" an Aboriginal man from Port Fairy was publicly executed for the murder of Patrick Codd, a white settler who was known to take liberties with aboriginal women and who was not adverse to the occasional massacre of aboriginal women and children. Unfortunately the authorities hanged the wrong man as Roger could not have committed the murder as he was over 100 kilometres from the murder scene when Codd was killed.

The booklet is liberally illustrated with old drawings and photographs of many of the people mentioned in the book who had their photographs taken in later life. The Public Record Office of Victoria has done Australians an invaluable service by making this fascinating material available to the public. The six executed men are most likely still buried north of the eastern end of the dividing wall built in 1886 which still runs through the Queen Victoria Market. Next time you're doing your shopping at the Queen Victoria spare a thought for the 9,000 bodies that lie buried under the markets.

You can borrow a copy of this booklet from the Melbourne City Council Library. I picked up my copy for $25 from the Antiquarian Bookseller at 156 Collins St, Melbourne last weekend. Email books@kaycraddock.com www.kaycraddock.com The Public Executions at Melbourne is a great little booklet about Melbourne's "forgotten" early history published by the Victorian Public Records Office.

Anarchist Age Weekly Review
An Anarchist Society is a voluntary non-hierarchical society based on the creation of social and political structures which allow all people equal decision making power and equal access to society's wealth.
P.O. Box 20, Parkville VIC 3052 Australia
Telephone: (03) 8508 9856 - (24 hr Message Centre)
Fax: (03) 9482 4371
Internet: anarchistmedia.org/weekly