The Armidale Tragedy

WOMAN MURDERED IN HOTEL BED
Room mate charged, exonerated

PART 1

Newspapers around Australian reported the horrific death of Johanna (Hannah) Kelly in Armidale just before Christmas in 1908.
Reports of the investigation and later court hearings were carried almost daily.
The murder shocked the local community and the national audience. Most reports referred to it in headlines as the Armidale Tragedy or Armidale Murder.
Hannah Kelly’s throat was cut as she lay in her bed at an Armidale Hotel where she worked. She died there.
Her room mate sleeping in a bed in the same room was the first suspect. Agnes O’Leary, who was woken by the attack on her roommate, was charged but the charge was later dismissed. The pair were said to be best of friends, having worked together at De La Salle College in Armidale before going to work at the Central Hotel.
Hannah Kelly it was said had suffered various health problems. Agnes O’Leary helped Hannah Kelly get a job at the hotel.


The Central Hotel

Hannah Kelly and Agnes O’Leary shared room 16 at the Central Hotel on the corner of Jessie and Rusden Streets Armidale on the morning of Sunday 13 December 1908.

The window of their room overlooked Jessie Street. They had said their prayers on Saturday evening and gone to bed.

Hannah had gone to Armidale from her hometown, Murrurundi, in the Upper Hunter Valley of NSW, about 200 km away.

Reports she had just become engaged to be married and the ring was under her pillow on the Saturday night.

Her roommate, Agnes O’Leary had been in Armidale for a year. She had come from Goondiwindi in southern Queensland, about 300 km from Armidale and was about 19 years old.

A newspaper report recorded the following under the heading “A terrible  tragedy”: A cold blooded murder was perpetrated at the Central Hotel, Armidale, early this morning, a girl named Hannah Kelly, employed as a waitress at the hotel, having her throat cut from ear to ear while lying asleep in bed. The deed was witnessed by another servant girl, who was awakened by a gurgling noise. Her screams caused the man who had committed the murder to hastily decamp by way of the window. The police have made an arrest on suspicion. The Central Hotel, which is situated in Rusden Street, is one the leading hotels and a large number of persons slept on the premises. About 4 o’clock this morning the boarders and others were awakened by the awful screams which were issuing from the room occupied by the two waitresses. An investigation disclosed that a horrible murder had been committed. No time was lost in acquainting the police.
The room mate of the murdered girl having recovered from the shock told her story in a few words. She stated that at about 4 o’clock she was awakened be hearing a gurgling noise, and when her eyes became accustomed to the gloomy light, she saw a man standing over Miss Kelly’s bed. Realising that a terrible tragedy was being enacted, she gave vent to agonising screams. The man instantly made a rush for the window through which he sprang, and disappeared from view.

The person arrested “on suspicion” was not a man but was revealed to be Hannah Kelly’s room mate, Agnes Sophie O’Leary.

Recollecting events some 20 years later, a former detective who was sent from Sydney by the Inspector-General of Police for the investigation, said the first question the local police chief put when he arrived on the scene was to Agnes O’Leary: “Why did you do it?”

As was the practice at the time in such cases, a Coroner’s inquest before a jury of six (businessmen in this case) was convened later on the day of the murder.

Agnes O’Leary was in police custody but not charged when she attended the inquest.

She found herself attending sittings of the Coroner’s inquiry and Police Court often held on the same day in the Armidale courthouse, before a packed courtroom,

The inquest was adjourned to Monday 14 December and after the court closed on Sunday, Agnes O’Leary appeared before the Police Court, was charged and remanded to Friday 18 December.

The inquest resumed on the Monday and was adjourned also to Friday 18 December from where it continued into Saturday.

On the Saturday, police officers related what Agnes O’Leary had told them, including that when she was awoken by gurgling noises as if someone was snoring, she saw a man standing over Hannah, holding her by the arm. Agnes said that when she screamed the man brushed passed her and went out through a window.

Police also related evidence given by other people, including a Mrs Mary McKenzie, (described as a “very old married lady”) who said at about daylight on Sunday morning she saw someone running very fast past her house in nearby Barney Street, possibly in the direction of the hospital.

 

After the first full day of evidence at the inquest, one newspaper reported: “The inquest … so far reveals no telling evidence against Miss O’Leary, occupant of the same bedroom. Analysis shows no blood on Miss O’Leary’s pocket knife or clothing. The mystery deepens every turn.”

Police asked Police Magistrate Corbett Lawson, also sitting as Coroner if he would like Miss O’Leary to give evidence to the inquest. Argument followed about whether she should give evidence while police inquiries were continuing.

Police sought an adjournment of the inquest, which was granted to Monday 21 December.

On the Monday, the Coroner heard further evidence, including that of another guest at the hotel and the hotel owner.
Both reported that Miss Kelly was alive when they arrived in the room after hearing screams. One said that Miss Kelly was waving her arms around and the other said she held Miss Kelly’s hand until the police arrived.

The Coroner noted there was “no hint of a weapon” found.
He told jury members if that they did not know who committed the murder they must return an open verdict.
That’s what the jury did.

A journalist reported: “The jury retired at 2.30 and in five minutes returned with the verdict that the deceased, Johanna Kelly, was wilfully murdered on Sunday, December 13, at the Central Hotel Armidale by person or persons unknow. But there is no evidence before the jury to show by whom.”

The Coroner asked: “That exculpates all the persons who have been at this inquest?”

The foreman replied: “I wanted to make it emphatically clear, but the jury prefer to leave it as it is.”

In the Police Court, hearing of the charge against Agnes O’Leary began on Monday 21 December when magistrate Mr Corbett Lawson directed that she be held in the lock-up rather than the jail and be well looked after, adding she should not have been in the jail in the first place.

The prosecution sought a further remand of eight days.

The magistrate was told of the inquest jury’s verdict and asked on what basis a remand was being sought.

The prosecutor replies that he was instructed to do so by his superintendent.

The magistrate responded: “Where is the superintendent? Why doesn’t he stand his ground now like a man? Six sane men have just given their unbiased opinion and on that account he evidently ran away.”

He added: “I must say now that Agnes O’Leary was improperly before the Coroner’s Court. If an arrest had to be made she should have first been brought before the Police Court and remanded to the Coroner’s Court.”

The police officer replied: “That verdict has nothing whatever to do with the present police case, which charges the girl with suspicion of having committed the murder.”

The magistrate: “Why not withdraw your case. You can then easily recharge the girl. She should not be left in prison.”

The police officer said it was feared the girl might not be around when she was required – “(she) may be in Queensland or the Gulf of Carpentaria.”

A remand was needed “to make further inquiries; this is a serious case, and I cannot withdraw it,” the officer said.

Magistrate Lawson responded: Although six good men and true told you there was no evidence against the girl, still you persist there is. The whole things is an absurdity. I suppose the police would like an adjournment for two to two three months while they are hunting about for supposed evidence. I consider their action a most unjust one.”

The superintendent then arrived in court and asked for an adjournment of eight days.

The magistrate: A remand for eight days is out of the question.

He granted a remand until the Thursday albeit reluctantly – “and not a moment longer”. He added: If you are not in a position to go on with the case I will strike it out.

On the Thursday morning police again sought a remand of eight days but conceded no further evidence had been elicited.

Magistrate Lawson was emphatic: I must again refer to the fact that six good men and true of integrity and character returned a verdict before me as Coroner a few days ago that Hannah Kelly had met her death at the hands of a person or persons unknown, there not being sufficient evidence against Agnes O’Leary to warrant her being detained in custody. I therefore discharge Agnes O’Leary from custody.

Loud and prolonged applause from the packed courtroom greeted the decision. Agnes’s mother and sister had travelled to Armidale for the hearings.

The detective sent from Sydney later recalled that after two days of his own investigation he was “fully convinced that the local police had bungled the whole matter and could not justify the charging of Miss O’Leary.”

That was that for Agnes O’Leary, but there was still no answer to the question: Who murdered Hannah Kelly?

The Armidale Tragedy 

pART 2

STUNNING BREAKTHROUGH
Henry Casey confesses

Hannah Kelly’s shocking murder in a room at the Central Hotel in Armidale on the early morning of Sunday 13 December 1908 went unsolved for more than a year before there was a stunning breakthrough.
A 26-year-old man arrested in Grenfell NSW on vagrancy charges confessed to police there that he had murdered the girl in Armidale in December 1908.
Henry Casey made a comprehensive statement. He was taken back to Armidale where he was formally charged with murder and faced court.
Henry Casey was found in the railway yards at Grenfell, about 600 km from Armidale.


Grenfell railway yards in 1910

The arresting Constable said he had told Casey: “You appear to have had trouble’ to which Casey replied “Yes, I murdered Hannah Kelly at the Central Hotel”.

A newspaper report said there was scepticism about his confession to the murder, which he told police had been troubling him mentally: “At first it was thought that Casey was the victim of hallucination, and not much faith was attached to his extraordinary admissions.”

Nevertheless, a statement was taken. He was held on a vagrancy charge and the matter reported to Armidale police.

There, further investigations game some credence to Casey’s story. He was as he claimed in the area at the time and apparently could have been in Armidale on the night of the murder. Some discrepancies needed to be investigated though.

After receiving a report from investigators in Armidale and detectives from Sydney, the Inspector-General of Police in NSW directed that Casey be charged with murder.

He was remanded in custody at Grenfell to appear in the Armidale court. He was taken to Sydney and then to Armidale by train where the formal charge was laid: that he feloniously and maliciously murdered Johanna Kelly at Armidale on 13 December 1908.

The text of the confession was not made available immediately but the Inspector-General noted that Casey had said he intended to murder someone else.

A report of the charged noted: “Casey apparently is a quadroon (a term used at the time to describe a person having one-fourth aboriginal ancestry, with one aboriginal grandparent). He has been travelling over the country since the murder and has been worrying.”

The committal hearing of the murder charge began on Friday 7 January before Police Magistrate Mr. G. Atkin, and a packed courthouse. A reporter noted that Casey’s demeanour throughout the hearing was “strange.”

He was not asked to plead, and depositions taken at Grenfell were read. He described himself as a labourer, moving around the country looking for work.

Casey’s deposition told of his movements and actions at the time of the murder, recorded by a newspaper reporter: “Casey said he had been at Armidale three weeks before Christmas in 1908. He had been cutting wood for a man whose name he thought was George Clark. He worked there for three days before the murder and for five days after.”

He said he’d gone into Armidale on the Saturday evening and walked about before buying a bottle of whiskey at a hotel.

He couldn’t recall the name of the hotel but it was the first one on the Guyra road entering Armidale (from the north). He laid down in a reserve for about four hours then went back into town and walked around looking for somewhere to get a drink but found all the hotels closed. It was about 4 o’clock in the morning.


The main street of Armidale, early 1900s

He said he went to a hotel on a corner where he found a door open and went upstairs.

He had seen a woman standing on a balcony, saying it was the woman he had seen taking money from his pocket at a hotel in Queensland, so he decided to kill her.

He went out on to the balcony after she went inside and lay down for about 20 minutes.

He then went into the room and saw a woman lying on her side. He drew a razor across her throat and blood spurted about.

He said he went out of the window and into the back yard of the hotel. He didn’t think there was anyone in the other bed in the room.

He went back to work at the Clarks for five days and said he had heard Mrs Clark reading out details of the murder from a newspaper.

After finishing work there, he travelled extensively around country NSW over several days before going into Queensland. He returned to NSW and went to Grenfell where he said he gave himself up because the murder was troubling him.

Investigating officers gave evidence to the Police Court that included Casey being taken around Armidale tracing his movements leading up to the murder. He had told one of the officers he had lost the razor he used sometime after he left the area. He said he didn’t have much blood on him but had buried this shirt on the way back to the Clark property and once there washed his hands.

One officer reported that Casey seemed to be unclear on features of the Central Hotel telling him at one stage “This is not the hotel, it looks too large.” When inside he had remarked that some work must have been done on it (it had not).

Ernest (not George as Casey had thought) Clark also gave evidence saying that he recognised Casey as a man who had worked for him at his property on the Glen Innes road to the north of Armidale and had given the name of Tom.

The magistrate formally charged Casey with murder and committed him to stand trial, noting that the main evidence against him was his confession and that if not guilty Casey certainly was not fit to be at large.
Casey said he had nothing to say.

When he appeared for his trial to begin on Thursday 28 April 1910 , his was one of six murder cases from around New England to be heard by Judge Cohen at the sittings.

Casey pleaded guilty.

The proceedings were reported as follows:

Mr. Chubb, instructed by Mr. H. Weaver, appeared on accused’s behalf.
His Honour (to accused) : Are you aware of the full import of the plea of guilty?
Accused: Yes.
His Honour: Do you understand that your life may be forfeited?
Accused: Yes.
His Honour : You thoroughly understand it?
Accused: Yes.

Mr. Chubb told the judge the plea was given in entire contradiction to advice.

It placed him (Mr. Chubb) in a difficult position, he said, as he would have had a jury decide whether Casey was in a fit state to plead or not. He said three local doctors were prepared to swear that the accused was delusional as to personality and that he fully believed he committed the crime.

He said the doctors were strongly of that opinion regarding Casey being delusional but would not say that Casey was absolutely insane.

Mr Chubb submitted to the judge that the provisions of section 304 of the Crimes Act “might be availed of” and that the trial be postponed to a future Court, pending the obtaining of professional experts on insanity.

Asked if he would withdraw his guilty pleas, Casey answered “no”.

His Honour: I strongly advise you to do so, for the present at any rate. I would then remand you for further observation by experts on the question of insanity. I don’t wish to pass sentence of death on you when there may be a doubt as to whether you are the man who actually committed the murder. Will you withdraw your plea?

The accused: (laughing) No.

Counsel and Casey went into a further discussion and after some minutes Mr Chubb announced that Casey would withdraw his plea.

His Honour: I am pleased to hear that. I postpone the trial to such other court as the Attorney-General appoints in order that the accused may be examined by experts on sanity. The position is a most extraordinary one.
The court adjourned sine die (without fixing a day for future action).
Details of Casey’s case were sent to Sydney for evaluation and he was sent to Darlinghurst Reception Centre (below) to undergo examination and assessment.

A newspaper report noted: “ no one seems more satisfied with his surroundings than he does.”

The next that was heard of Henry Casey was a small notice in the New South Wales Police Gazette and Weekly Record of Crime on Wednesday 8 February 1911: “Sydney – Henry Casey, charged with the murder of Johanna Kelly at Armidale on or about the 13th December 1908 was found to be insane and dealt with under the Lunacy Act. He was not brought to trial.”

Casey never faced trial. The evidence against him was his own confession – the confession of a man found to be insane.

The question remains – did he do it? On the balance of probability in the absence of any other suspects or evidence, yes.

NSW death records show that Henry Casey died in a mental hospital in the Parramatta district in 1932, aged 50.

Johannah Kelly’s brother travelled to Armidale to collect his sister’s body. A large crowd followed the cortege to Armidale railway station where she was taken back to Murrurundi for burial in the Catholic cemetery.

Murrurundi cemetery

Agnes O’Leary continued working in domestic service in the Armidale area.

FOOTNOTE: If Casey had gone to trial and been found guilty, he almost certainly would have been hanged, probably in Armidale.


Armidale courthouse Late 1800s

The Armidale courthouse was one of 10 in NSW where hangings were carried out between 1870 and the 1930s.

According to the capitalpunshimentuk.org web site, six people were hanged at the Armidale in that time, the first in 1874 and the last in 1912.

 

 

RESEARCHER’S NOTE: This material is based on the many newspaper reports carried at the time, Government archive material and cemetery records. It should be noted that some newspapers carried reports of proceedings daily while others reported less frequently, which made cross-checking some dates of court proceedings inexact.

Top-gun jockey

GRAND NATIONAL WINNER, FIGHTER PILOT

The Bob Everett story – or part of it

The name Everett is familiar to the people of the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales, Australia.
There is an Everett Street in the town of Guyra and one of the Guyra School’s “houses” was named Everett.
The Everetts – George, William and Edwin – were among the earlier settlers and graziers in the area., their properties including Ollera and Tenterden.
But one member of the Everett family made a name for himself in two quite different pursuits. Unfortunately, his story is not a complete picture. There are enough highlights though for a ripping yarn, and just a touch of mystery.
Robert William Hanmer (Bob) Everett was a decorated pilot from WW2, awarded the DSO for bravery and the first pilot to register and enemy kill from a new British ship-based aircraft launch tactic. He was also the winning jockey of the 1929 English Grand National Steeplechase aboard 100-1 chance Gregalach in a record field of 66 starters in that year’s race at Liverpool.
From living on a farm near Guyra as a child, to joining the war effort in England and his death on 26 January 1942 when his Hurricane crashed on a beach in Wales, details are sketchy. Not even his war record gives the complete picture.
Just how his birth in Tenterfield and early years near Guyra led to all this is something of a mystery in terms of historical records.
Even where apparent facts are given, close checking reveals they may not be entirely accurate.

This is part of the Bob Everett story. There are many gaps.

Robert William Hanmer Everett was born on 29 May 1901, in Tenterfield. His parents were Colonel William Frank and Charlotte (nee Hickson) Everett.

Bob Everett was the eldest son. His father was District Engineer in the Armidale and Glen Innes district for four years as roads were being built for the introduction of motorised traffic. He later was owner of the Tenterden Station, a large property near Guyra.

Some information can be gleaned from newspapers of the time and various organisations specialising in historic events, however, because Bob apparently left the district around the age of 10, there are some unknowns.

It was reported that as a boy he was taught to ride at Tenterden by a Mr Parker, one writer noting Mr Parker’s horse often came home without the rider.
Presumably he went to school in the Guyra-Tenterden district.

Another report said Bob had been “put in the navy” as a boy but had preferred riding horses. Yet another report said he joined the Army after he left the Guyra district but gave no indication of where he went other than to say that he “gave up the army and took up land in Africa.”

A later report said he went to South Africa where he was a farmer and amateur jockey. It doesn’t appear in dispute that he went to South Africa, a possible link being that his father had fought as an Australian officer in the Boer War there (1899-1902) at the rank of captain.

A report in England said Bob emigrated there in 1928, aged 27. Presumably, he took up riding racehorses – steeplechasers –  and had several wins as an amateur before becoming a professional jockey.

On 22 March 1929, aboard Gregalach, Bob Everett lined up in a record field with 65 other starters for the Grand National at Liverpool. Aboard the least fancied of Tom Leader’s five runners, at the lucrative odds of 100-1, Everett rode Gregalach home a six lengths winner over the solidly backed Easter Hero. He won high praise for his horsemanship in the heavy going. The horse was owned by a Scottish woman.

1929

A report noted: “Gregalach became the second successive 100-1 shot to win the Grand National. The horse was given such lengthy odds having fallen at Sandown just eight days prior to the race at Aintree. Gregalach’s jockey Robert Everett rode a clever race in which he gradually gained ground on the leaders and overtook the legendary Easter Hero on the second to last fence, before winning the race by six lengths.”

The race was billed as the “greatest steeplechase in the world,” with prizemoney of almost 13,000 English pounds; probably about $US 2.3 million today.

Sixty-six horses started the gruelling (for horse and rider) 4.5 miles (7.2 km) race. They all charged to the first obstacle and a reporter noted that “miraculously all made it safely over. But by halfway the field had fallen away to 22 and only seven crossed the finish line, having successfully negotiated the 30 obstacles on the course.
Bob Everett posted another important career victory five years later when he won the 1934 Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Poolgowran.

What Bob Everett did in the intervening years isn’t clear, but it is likely he continued as a jockey as he is recorded as having ridden in six Grand Nationals. An interest in flying was also apparent as he had learnt to fly not long before he won the 1929 Grand National.

He was on Gregalach again the following year, this time a 15-1 chance. But he came unstuck when a “loose horse” interfered and brought down both Gregalach and Bob Everett. A year later, Gregalach was runner up, not ridden by Bob Everett this time.

It was reported that also in 1934 Bob Everett entered a plane in the MacRobertson Air Race from Mildenhall, England to Melbourne, as part of Melbourne’s centenary celebrations.

This gets a bit confusing. It was stated that Robert and his father (William) owned  a de Havilland Puss Moth light plane (similar to the one pictured) based at Redhill Flying Club and Bob was entering it in the race with celebrated South Australian flyer Jimmy Melrose.

Later, it was said the trip was completed in 120 hours that included a stopover in Darwin when the plane ran out of fuel.

However, other reports of the race that seem reliable said Melrose (flying a de Havilland Puss Moth) was the only solo pilot in the race and the list of entries published in Australian newspapers did not show Bob Everett among them.

It was noted in a 1940 report that Bob had obtained a commercial pilot’s licence to keep him busy during the off-season for steeple chasers.

If as a boy Bob had forsaken the navy for horse riding it was somewhat unusual as it is revealed in service records that in October 1940 he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and Fleet Air Arm, serving with 760 Air Squadron at HMS Heron, Yeovil Town. Of course, that may have had something to do with the outbreak of war and his possible previous naval experience.

Yet another report notes: Later he volunteered for 804 Naval Air Squadron, which for a time supplied pilots for fighter catapult ships and CAM ships. While he was on HMS Maplin, a Condor (German long-range Focke-Wulf Fw 200) over the Atlantic. was sighted on 1 August 1941 and Everett’s Hawker Hurricane was launched (catapulted into the air by rocket). After a hard fight, the Condor was shot down with Everett’s last shots (“By this time I had reached the starboard bow and three machine guns opened up as well as the forward cannon. I did a quick turn to port and opened up just abaft the beam I fired five second burst at this range and my guns were empty”).
He managed to ditch near to HMS Wanderer which was escorting the nearby convoy. Bob Everett (referred to sometimes as Lt or Lieut Col) was awarded the DSO for this action.

  St Dona’s

Robert (Bob) William Hanmer Everett died on active service on 26 January 1942 when his Hurricane crashed on the beach at Llanddona, Anglesey, Wales. He is buried at St Dona’s Church, Llanddona.
There are no readily verifiable records of a marriage or children.

The Catapult ships

Fighter catapult ships, also known as Catapult Armed Ships, were an attempt by the Royal Navy to provide air cover at sea for important supply convoys.

Five ships were acquired and commissioned as Naval vessels early in the Second World War and were used to accompany Atlantic convoys.

The concept was extended to merchant ships, some also equipped with rocket assisted launch systems and known as Catapult Aircraft Merchantmen (CAM ships).

The lone survivor of the five was the former Ocean Boarding Vessel, Maplin. She served in the Atlantic during 1940.

  Ready for launch

Maplin‘s duties were focused on Atlantic convoys and her “Hurricat” (a Hawker Hurricane converted for the specialised task) was the first to destroy an enemy aircraft, a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 “Condor” in August 1941. The pilot was Robert W H Everett of 804 Naval Air Squadron.

Planes were launched by a rocket firing system. Usually the Hurricane fighter would be lost as the pilot had to bail out or ditch in the ocean near the convoy after engaging the enemy.

The risks were high for the pilots; it was “‘Catapult Off – Parachute Back” to wait in the sea to be picked up by one of the escorts.

The catapult ships eventually were replaced by aircraft carriers which allowed planes to return after missions.

The Everetts in northern NSW

Ollera homestead circa 1860

Bob’s father, William, was the son of George Everett, who with brother John settled in the Northern Tablelands at Ollera in 1838 after arriving from England.

Carrying letters of introduction (their father, Joseph Hague Everett, was a former member of the House of Commons), George and John travelled up the Hunter River and from there ventured north across the Liverpool Plains, over the Moonbi Range, eventually arriving at the site at which the Ollera homestead was established. George was then only 27 and John 22.

The Ollera property was one of the largest holdings in the north of the state at that time, extending almost to the Guyra lagoon in the south (over about 20km), to Ben Lomond in the north, taking in Moredun Creek and Llangothlin.

After marking out the station, the brothers returned to Sydney, bought 450 sheep and registered the property.

Back at Ollera they were in for a shock. Within a couple of hours of returning they were held up at rifle point by bushrangers led by Richard Young, known as “Gentleman Dick”.

The bushrangers took the Everetts’ belongings and horses, and fled. Press reports said John was sent south to report the theft and get more horses, walking all the way to Currabubula (200 km). There, he learnt that the bushrangers had been captured. He also found police had his horses and belongings.

In 1842 George and John were joined by another brother, Edwin, and the property was registered in their joint names.

They started with 450 sheep and by 1854 Ollera, which by then extended to 74,800 acres (302 sq kms), carried 8,000 sheep and 1,200 cattle.

The Everetts brought migrant families to their property, settled them as shepherds and encouraged them to provide farm produce and services for the station. Some of the families remained on the station for several generations.

George Everett returned to England in 1856 and John followed in 1858. Edwin remained in Australia and in 1862 bought the adjoining  Tenterden station. Arthur Everett, the son of John Everett, took over management of Ollera in 1890.

William Everett

William Everett

William Frank Everett was born in February 1865 at Weyhill, Hampshire, England. He travelled to Australia aged 18 with his father.

William Everett married Charlotte Hickson in 1894 in the district of Waverley, Sydney, NSW. He joined the Australian military forces and rose quickly to the rank of Captain.

Captain William Everett, “B” Squadron, 5th Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse served in South Africa 1899 -1902 (Boer War). He joined the Commonwealth Contingent for Service in South Africa in Sydney, NSW on 24 April 1902.

Upon his return to Australia William rose through the ranks to Lieutenant Colonel, and became commanding officer of 5th Australian (New England) Light Horse from 10 November 1910 to 30 June 1915.

By 1914, he had completed nine months at the British Flying School, Salisbury, England. Returning, he pointed out the necessity for Australia to take “definite steps regarding the establishment of aviation schools if the people intended to keep up with other countries in this modern branch of the service.”

Lt Col. William Everett was appointed to Remount & Veterinary Corps Headquarters, Intermediate Base Depot, Cairo, on 15 January 1915. Later that year he fell ill and was “invalided” to England and was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley, Hampshire, England on 15 August.

He died on 17 August from Pulmonary Tuberculosis (Tubercule of lung) and was buried in Netley Military Cemetery, Hampshire, England.

RESEARCHER’S NOTE
Because many of the details surrounding the life and times of Bob Everett are so sketchy, complete accuracy cannot be guaranteed. However, if correcting information comes to light updates will be made.

Many of the sources are newspaper articles on TROVE.com.au, websites specialising in history of WW2 and horseracing (including Betfair). Some of Robert Everett’s exploits as a Hurricane pilot are referred to in the book, They flew Hurricanes; Adrian Stewart (Casemate publishers, 2006) including extracts of Bob Everett’s combat report on the shooting down of the German plane.
CM

Isaac Singer – a man who had things sewn up

The Singer sewing machine has played a not insignificant role in the life of Australia.

This was particularly so in rural Australia in the 1800s where access to off-the-rack clothing was limited. Most homemakers had a sewing machine so they could make their own clothes. Odds were that machine was a Singer.
The first Singers appeared in Australia around 1864.
According to the Powerhouse Museum (Sydney), Singer lock-stitch machines were first advertised in the Illustrated Sydney News, as the “’the Cheapest, most Durable, and BEST SEWING MACHINES IN THE WORLD”.
They survive to this day, still in use and still selling – $A 400 a good price for an early model in top condition.

What’s the Singer story?
Isaac Singer was born in New York in 1811. He had worked as an actor (not successfully), a ditch digger and a cabinet-maker before striking it rich in the sewing business.
At the age of 12 he left home after minimal education and started working as an unskilled laborer. He then took up an apprenticeship as a mechanic. Around the same time his interest in acting developed, and he joined the Rochester Players. He was on tour for 9 years but went penniless and the theatre group was disbanded.
At the age of 19 he became an apprentice machinist, and in 1839 he patented a rock-drilling machine for the government.
He also returned to acting and went on tour after forming a troupe known as the “Merritt Players”, appearing under the name “Isaac Merritt”, with Mary Ann Sponsler (one of his mistresses). That tour lasted about five years.
Around 1850 he invented a wood and metal carving machine and established his own factory to manufacture his products. That did not go well for him and his factory was destroyed in an explosion.
Success was to come in the sewing machine industry.
While working in a Boston machine shop in 1851, Singer was asked to repair a Lerow and Blodgett sewing machine; 11 days later he had designed and built an improved model.

Singer patented a prototype sewing machine that could sew 900 stitches in a minute, thanks to the use of a foot pedal. A shirt could be made in an hour.
His machine was the first with features allowing continuous and curved stitching, by using an overhanging arm holding the needle bar over a horizontal table, thus making it possible to sew on any part of the material. His basic design features have been followed in almost all subsequent machines.
Isaac Singer established his Singer Sewing Machine Company in 1851, becoming one of the first American multi-national businesses. In 1853 he moved his operations to New York City and sold machines for 100 American dollars each.
A Singer sewing machine won a first-place prize in the 1855 Paris World’s Fair though it should be said that to encourage participation, of the 23,954 exhibitors, 11,033 won prizes.
In 1858 the New York factories were established in an area surrounded by Mott, Spring, Delancy, and Broome Street. In 1872 the main plants were moved to Elizabeth, New Jersey.
In 1863, Singer was selling around 20,000 sewing machines a year. By 1866, the Singer company boasted branches or agencies “in nearly every city and town throughout the civilised world”.
Isaac Singer and Edward Clark formed the Singer Manufacturing Company. Singer didn’t stick around and retired to England. He died a multimillionaire on July 23, 1875, in Torquay, Devon, England.
The Singer multi-national empire marched on.
By 1870 sales had reached 170,000 and by 1880, worldwide sales had reached 500,000 machines.
The company produced its first electric sewing machine in 1889.
Singer and his smart business partner Clark were pioneers in another way: marketing.

A lot of Singer’s success was credited to instalment payment plans.
The company offered credit purchases and arrangements for rent to own where people could rent the sewing machines and eventually buy them – the upfront price was way out of reach for most people who would use the machines.
Another marketing ploy was to convince women they could operate such expensive machines at a time when such things were considered too complex to be masted by housewives. He rented a shop window on Broadway in New York and employed young women to demonstrate his machines. The display drew crowds.
In 1860, the New York Times reported: “ no other invention had brought “so great a relief for our mothers and daughters”. Seamstresses had found “better remuneration and lighter toil”.
Sarah Hale, from Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine in 1860: “The needlewoman is… able to rest at night and have time through the day for family occupations and enjoyments. Is this not a great gain for the world?”
If some reports are correct, he would virtually have had to establish his own a sewing factory just to make clothes for his extended family; it is thought he fathered more than 20 children with his wives and mistresses. One report described him as an “incorrigible womaniser”. There were also reports that for years he had three families, not all of whom were aware the others existed, and all while technically still married to someone else. At least one woman complained that he beat her, A BBC History report noted.
His biographer, Ruth Brandon, once said Singer was “the kind of man who adds a certain backbone of solidity to the feminist movement”.

Singer didn’t claim to have invented the sewing machine, but the one he patented was the most practical and the most commercially viable.
Isaac Singer may have cared less about the usefulness of his invention than about the riches it brought him “I don’t care a damn for the thing. The dimes are what I’m after,” he was quoted as having once said.
His great wealth enabled him to build Singer Tower, the company’s central headquarters in Manhattan’s financial district. It was one of the first corporate skyscrapers in the country and, for about a year, the tallest building in the world.
Though originating in the US, manufacture of the Singer machines became well known in the UK.
Singer’s general manager in the US, George Ross McKenzie, had the job of establishing Singer’s first overseas factory as the market opportunities for the new machines continued to expand. A Scot who migrated to America in 1846, McKenzie chose Glasgow flor the first plant abroad.
McKenzie later acknowledged its highly skilled but lowly paid work force, were the driving forces behind the decision to set up their first overseas factory in Glasgow.
The company quickly outgrew its Glasgow base and bought land in Clydebank where the Kilbowie factory and building was completed in 1885 and it soon became the largest one.


The Singer 200 ft (61 m) clock tower became a Clydebank landmark; the largest four-faced clock in the world. Each face weighed five tonnes, and it took four men 15 minutes twice a week to keep it wound up.

The company began mass-producing domestic electric sewing machines in 1910. In 1913, at the peak of production, the factory shipped more than 1,301,000 sewing machines around the world. It employed 14,000 people.
The factory was bombed during the Clydebank blitz in March 1941. No-one was killed at the plant, but 39 workers died elsewhere in the township.
in 1963, the corporation was renamed Singer Company. The Singer Corporation was bought out in 1987 and the company broken up. The name still lives in a several products, including electronic sewing machines, as part of the SVP Group which also owns the Pfaff and Husqvarna brands.

Sources: Singer.com, BBC, Encyclopedia Britannica, famousinventors.com.

Footnote: Singer Motors Limited is not related – it was a British motor vehicle manufacturing business, originally a bicycle manufacturer founded as Singer & Co by George Singer, in 1874 in Coventry, England. From 1901 George Singer’s Singer Motor Co made cars and commercial vehicles.