Sunday, June 27, 2021

A Charming Count, Courts and Cannibals

While researching a Captain McNevin for my Skelendipity blog on family history, I came across a number of reports in American newspapers referencing him in a court case involving a Hungarian Count. The mud-slinging in the reports had me intrigued with both men accusing the other of deceit, fraud or bad behaviour.

Further research of the newspapers found this Count cropping up in other sensationalist articles, including his two marriages to rich American women. He also wrote a couple of books about his travels in the South Pacific and his experiences with cannibals! I couldn’t pass up on finding out more about Count Rodolph Festetics de Tolna - and in the process discovered other intriguing characters.

The dramas around Rodolph’s life exceed anything our modern royals and celebrities entertain us with and it is impossible to summarise this man’s extraordinary career in a few paragraphs. Much of the information on him including his travel books are only available in French or Hungarian, so my main source has been the English language newspapers and other blogs. There is also this book, Eaten by Cannibals by Ron S Filion which may reveal more about the Count but likewise not readily accessible just for reference.

Count Rodolph was born in France in 1865, into the aristocratic Hungarian family of Festetics. His early life was spent in Paris where he was a lieutenant in the Austrian Imperial Guard and where he led a sophisticated Parisian lifestyle.

The dashing Lieutenant

Eila Butterworth Haggin, born in 1873, was the only child of Louis Haggin, the son of James Ben Ali Haggin, who had arrived in California at the time of the 1849 Gold Rush and amassed a huge fortune as an entrepreneur. The family mansion in San Francisco was the first to be built on Nob Hill, had 61 rooms and took up an entire city block, plus the family had other homes elsewhere, including France. It was while she was studying there that Eila met Rodolph at a ball. Three years later they were married in New York.

The Haggin Mansion, Nob Hill

Rich American heiresses were much sought after by the often-impecunious members of European aristocracy at the time. Although it may have been a love match on the young Eila’s part - no doubt enhanced by continental panache, charm and the American weakness for titles - one can immediately detect opportunism on the Count’s part. His subsequent behaviour certainly bears that out. It was said that Eila’s parents “did not enthuse about the match”.

The young Eila

Soon after their marriage, they were in San Francisco where Rodolph began his plans for a leisurely exploration of the South Pacific financed by Haggin cash. The region had been much romanticised during this era by famous writers such as Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa. Rodolph wanted to follow in their footsteps, make discoveries and write celebrated works of his own. 

The newlywed Count and Countess

He decided to build a yacht that he would call Tolna. The process was protracted and Rodolph became embroiled in a range of litigious affairs that were much reported on in the Californian newspapers of the time. The American authorities were suspicious of the Count’s behaviour and his plans to captain the vessel. He did not have citizenship and was therefore not allowed to be master of a United States vessel and the seventeen court cases he was involved in (including those featuring Captain McNevin) did him no favours.

As he was not permitted to be captain of the yacht in his own right, the Count found a loophole in appointing his new young wife as captain. Her marine qualifications, apart from being an American citizen, seem to be nil although Rodolph also found a way around this by recruiting a first officer, or mate, to actually be in charge of the vessel and he would give Eila some basic instructions.

And here the story provides an even more extraordinary twist!

He employed one John F. Wickmann [or Johan Friedrich Wichmann], a shady German-born character with a chequered past of his own, who used aliases and pretended to be from Virginia. One wonders if his maritime qualifications were equally as dubious.

What is even more astonishing, Wickmann was destined to make his mark on history in the future as he turns out also to be Lieutenant Commander George Worley of the Naval Auxiliary Service who was in command of the coal carrier USS Cyclops that disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle in 1918 with a loss of around 300 lives. (His career is worthy of another post, but he has already been written about at length, and this blog reveals his shady background and the connection to Rudolph.)

And so this motley crew eventually embarked on their South Pacific adventure. Descriptions of this can be found in reading various newspapers reports in ports en route, such as Honolulu and Sydney. 

It seems remarkable that they survived the long and arduous journey across the Pacific in a frail craft, given what they faced. Not only had they to deal with perilous and inaccurate navigation through doldrums, typhoons and cyclones, they even experienced an earthquake while anchored. There were bites from a dog with rabies, a surplus of cockroaches, epidemics of smallpox in ports, and a rebellious or often-drunk crew who were also dealing in opium on the side. 

They also took up chewing betel nuts so that their ugly black teeth would put the cannibals they encountered off their intended lunch menu! Not to mention the risks associated with trying to get into Manila at the time of the Spanish-American War. And all this without mentioning the personal squabbles and sheer hatred that developed between the egotistical principals in this saga.

Tight quarters but lots of action

Details of the voyage and the ensuing acrimonious divorce can be found via the Chronicling America newspaper site, and are far too numerous or lengthy to reproduce here but make for entertaining reading for anyone keen to follow this hare-brained expedition and fated marriage in detail, although it is difficult to know how much of it is true or exaggerated for effect. At times, the reporters say the Count is French, Rumanian or Bulgarian, so accuracy is not high but there is such a hilarious absurdity to the whole thing. It feels like one of those old-fashioned comic operas or music hall melodramas, complete with dastardly deeds by (betel-stained?) teeth-gnashing, moustache-twirling villains, rapier-wielding Ruritanian princes and fainting maidens.

At one stage, Rodolph, no saint himself, points his revolver at his perceived villain of the piece, shady first officer Wickmann who had been altering course and fiddling with the chronometer while plotting an evil secret plan to pirate the yacht, kidnap the Countess and blackmail her rich family.

Our hero - the gun-toting Rodolph on the deck of Tolna

One of those what-if quirks of history: it’s a pity that Rodolph didn’t pull the trigger or clap Wickmann in irons, but he let the man depart the vessel. Wickmann was later destined for a Purple Heart  - yes, believe it or not - and immortality in his guise of Worley. What is worse, we can probably blame his incompetence on starting the whole Bermuda Triangle nonsense.

Eila would have gone through a baptism of fire as this was no honeymoon cruise. She’d had enough by the time they reached Singapore where she jumped ship and as soon as she managed to get back to California began divorce proceedings against Rodolph. It wasn’t just the horrors of the cruise itself, but it seems her husband had an unhealthy fascination with the nubile females of the Pacific and his own boastful writings showed an unhealthy preoccupation with lascivious references to free love or irregular multi-liaisons within families.

In Rarotonga, the Count took photographs of the royal women and their ladies in waiting who “had more titles than clothes”. And in Fiji lots more photos of “… young ladies wearing nothing but microscopic leaf girdles … diversified by one Fiji belle wearing a girdle of human hair”. The wag reporter adds his own comment: “They are doubtless nice girls, but scarcely such as one would choose for pink teas.” An investigation of geisha girls of Japan also proved to be another interest that would have upset any young wife. 

 Tolna at Farm Cove, Sydney

After Eila's departure, the yacht Tolna continued to wander around exotic ports and islands before coming to a fiery end when she was wrecked on the island of Minicoy off the coast of India. What exactly happened is a bit hazy but inaccurate navigation played its part. Maybe Eila was the better captain after all. 

Following the divorce, Rodolph did not disappear from the news and the courts. The crew of the Tolna tried to sue him for unpaid wages and he took out an action against a man who accused him of being a fortune-hunter preying on rich American women, but not before he'd first tried to settle the argument with a duel.

Surprisingly, you have to hand it to Rodolph that he wasn't going to let one failure get him down and in 1908 he married another American heiress, Alice Ney Wetherbee, the daughter of Gardner Wetherbee, famous for his New York hotels. Previously married herself to a Swiss man named Schopfer, and with a daughter, Anne, one would think a smart socialite in her thirties would be wise to Rodolph’s dubious charms, but maybe she was also capable of being swept off her feet.

The couple hit the headlines again in the middle of World War I, when it seems they were wandering around the oceans of the world again, this time in a new yacht called Thistle. The vessel was seized by the French due to it flying an Austro-Hungarian flag. Rodolph tried to claim he was actually an American citizen (so why such a flag?) and alleged his citizenship papers had been destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake but the French didn’t believe him and kept the vessel, valued at $200,000, until he could prove otherwise. I’ve been unable to establish whether it was ever restored to him.

This is a passport photo of the rather intimidating Alice. Her hat looks like it might have been inspired by the Austro-Hungarian military itself!

Alice would send Rodolph packing as well but it seems she had a weakness for Hungarians and married another one, an artist Curt Szkessy in 1931. What happened to either of them is unknown and curiously the wayward Alice is missing from the Wetherbee family trees on Ancestry. Her daughter Anne also made the newspapers with her marriages, but that is another tale altogether.

Meanwhile Rodolph's first wife, Eila, continued to use the surname of Festetics when she travelled abroad, judging from her passport application forms also to be found online. In 1924, she married Robert T McKee and together they were instrumental in establishing the Haggin Museum at Stockton, California. On her father's death, Eila inherited 10 million dollars that would have made her one of the richest women in America. She had no children.

Eila with her second husband. Source

So, what happened to the intrepid Count?

There is a rather sad report in a newspaper in 1925 in which Rodolph is again up before the courts unable to pay his doctor's bill, saying he had only $7 a week to live on. It seems he had been subsisting as a riding instructor but was injured in a fall. He gave his address as Kelly's Hotel, Brooklyn, which had recently been closed down to infringing prohibition laws.

The 1930 US Census shows him living at 1064 E 14th Street, Brooklyn, with the occupation of Riding Master. His ancestry shown as French.

Given his propensity for making headlines wherever he went, it is not surprising that he just seems to fade from the limelight. Without his wives' fortunes, he could no longer plan grandiose cruises or afford to get involved in boastful and wasteful litigation. 

Ironically, after all his battles to finally get American citizenship, he died where he was born, in Paris in 1952 and, as can be seen from this Embassy report of death, he had a common-law French wife, Andree Bonnevide, and was buried in her family's vault.

This is typed on the back of the notice:

"The passport records of the Embassy indicate that Rudolf Count Festetics de Tolna was admitted to American citizenship by the Superior Court of the State of California at San Francisco on April 6, 1906. His naturalization was canceled and he was naturalized again before the District Count of the United States on January 16, 1934. No certification of naturalization was found with the decedent's effects in Paris."

This cartoon accompanies articles that appeared in various American newspapers about the often disastrous marriages between heiresses and European aristocrats. Source Chronicling America

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Ironbark Brig from Manning River

This small advertisement appeared in a number of Liverpool, UK, newspapers in August of 1845.

Length 75 feet, breadth 19 feet 6-10ths, depth 12 feet, 143 tons.
This beautiful vessel was built in New South Wales, framed throughout with iron bark, planked with flooded gum, each equal in durability to East India teak; coppered and copper fastened; her sailing qualities are first rate, her passage from Sydney 108 days; shifts without ballast, and is of an easy draft of water.
For further particulars apply on board, in the Union Dock; to
T. R. Robins, Hatton-garden, or to
D. TONGE, Broker, 7, Castle Street.

I first encountered a reference to this ship when visiting the Swansea Maritime Museum in Wales some years ago, where its name appeared in a list of local well-known 19th Century vessels in which many Swansea men had crewed.

With time limited, I was unable to investigate further at the museum but was intrigued as to its origins as I had previously researched the life and times of Benjamin Boyd, an enterprising scallywag who became infamous in Colonial Australia and who had fascinated me so much that I made him the subject of my first novel. *  

Naturally, I had wondered if the vessel was somehow connected to him but with Boyd being a Scot, and with no known connections to Wales, I assumed it was just a coincidental name.

Benjamin Boyd (1801-1851), a rare water-damaged image
owned by the late Mr Rene Davison of Eden, NSW

I remembered that visit to the museum when recently I stumbled on another reference to this vessel and with much more information now available via old newspapers on the Internet I decided to see if I could find out more about it.

The “Triton” was the first brig of three built by master boat-builder John Nicholson in 1844 on the Manning River, New South Wales, where the town of Taree now stands.

Briefly owned by early Colonial mariner, Captain George Browning (a remarkable character whose own hair-raising story of being kidnapped by escaped convicts is worthy of another novel), it was then bought in Sydney by a Captain Tomkins, who changed the name of the brig from “Triton” to “Benjamin Boyd”, after the prominent entrepreneur then at the height of his power and influence in New South Wales.

Unidentified Australian two-masted brig, Hobart.
Many similar coastal trading brig images at Tasmanian Maritime Museum

Tomkins sailed the small brig to England with a cargo of wool and other goods, but with an economic depression taking hold in the Colony (destined to be the ruin of Boyd) and perhaps debts owing or due on Tomkins' own account, the vessel never returned to Sydney and was put up for sale.

Apparently it was then re-registered with Bristol as its home port and with registration No. 7803, beginning a long and busy career sailing back and forth around the British Isles, Europe and West Africa with various cargoes including timber and coal and it spent many years bringing imports of wine and spirits from Spain and Portugal to England.

It was inevitable that the vessel would suffer wear and tear and several mishaps as a result of storms and the following sad report appeared in a Norwich newspaper in 1868 when its then master and part-owner, Samuel Nicholas, suffered such depression that he jumped overboard.

But the vessel must have been rescued and repaired as she appeared again for sale in Bristol and passed into new hands periodically during every decade that followed, with various owners in Glamorgan, Belfast, Wexford and Somerset.

Sturdy and reliable, the little two-masted ironbark brig “Benjamin Boyd” criss-crossed the seas a remarkable 62 years from when she was built!

Her end came on 27 November 1906 when she collided off Penarth with a tramp steamer and her owner and master at the time was Thomas Chidgey, who was a well-known marine artist. **

It seems the steamer  “Gardepee” ^ was in the wrong, but fortunately Captain Chidgey, his son Robert who was the Mate, and the other crew all escaped. The cargo and “Benjamin Boyd” was fully insured. Being of sound and reliable construction, throughout her career she was always listed as A1 at Lloyds.

The vessel would have employed generations of sailors during that time, many of them possibly from the same families. The Swansea Mariners project provides some of these names, including, to my surprise, a Captain Jewell/Jewill from Clovelly, possibly a distant ancestor of my late husband who is descended from Jewells in that area.

It also may be that another of my husband’s ancestors, another seafarer, John Darch, was familiar with the comings and goings of the vessel having been a both a member of the Welsh Coastguard and a gateman on the dock gates at West Bute Dock at the time when the sturdy little ironbark brig from New South Wales finally ended her days, being salvaged and put up for auction.

One has to wonder where all that ironbark and flooded gum wood went after the vessel was stripped. 

Perhaps some was used to repair other vessels, perhaps it went into building timber, floors or even pieces of furniture. It could be that Australian timber pieces from the  “Benjamin Boyd” still exist somewhere.

But what a fine testament to the quality of the workmanship and skills of John Nicholson who built her so long ago on the banks of what was then a remote Australian river. #

Barque "Fanny Fisher", the third vessel built by John Nicholson
 on the Manning River, NSW, in the 1840s and which also had a 60 year career


* "Time and a Legend" is currently out of print.

** Chidgey was born in 1855, eleven years after the “Benjamin Boyd” first started her career. There are a handful of his paintings to be seen online, but he is supposed to have painted hundreds and surely somewhere there is one of the “Benjamin Boyd”. 

^  She was eventually sunk by a U-boat during World War I with the loss of most of her crew.

# Sadly, John Nicholson drowned accidentally aged just 49. 

Numerous reference sources include TROVE, British Newspaper Archive, Crew Lists UK, Boat Registers NSW, National Archives UK, Ancestry, FindmyPast, Manning Historical Society, ArtFind UK, Australian National Maritime Museum, Tasmanian and West Australian Maritime Museums.

(Apparently at this Swansea hotel you can stay in bedrooms named after well-known local ships, one of them being the “Benjamin Boyd”!)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Taking the waters

As we hunker down hoping to avoid a deadly 21st Century disease, our ancestors were no strangers to doing the same in order to avoid a range of plagues and illnesses that swept through their communities on a regular basis. To try and combat them, all manner of cures and preventative measures came in and out of fashion, many based in superstition and fear, others were exploitative “quackery”, but some had merit and still have their supporters today. 

Since ancient times, there have always been those who believed in the remedy to “take the waters” at mineral springs or spas. (The English town of Bath being one of the most famous examples.) The Victorians and Edwardians were particularly keen to try and avoid the threats from diseases and pollution in their congested towns and cities. One such establishment that flourished from the mid-1800s to early 1900s is just a few minutes’ drive from where I live.

(My photo)

It once stood on the shores of Corio Bay near Geelong and was the Clifton Springs mineral springs and spa complex. At its height it was serviced by regular ferry services around Port Phillip Bay from the city of Melbourne and holiday-makers, the ill or infirm would flock to take advantage of the supposedly health-giving properties of the mineral spring water.

Three of the popular Port Phillip Bay steamers

Although almost no sign of them remain today, there were originally at least seven springs emerging from the cliffs along the shore of the bay. These were concentrated in just a fifty metre stretch of beach known as “The Dell”.

The Dell today. Remains of the 1890 jetty can still be seen.
(My photo.)

Promenading along in front of the bath house

The springs first appeared on the Lands Department survey maps in 1854 and by the 1870s the site consisted of a commercial bottling facility, kiosk, bath house and pumping station. Overlooking all this activity was a magnificent hotel offering every luxury and, by 1880, the bottling company was selling 5,000 bottles of the spring water annually.

Unfortunately by the mid-1920s, the once health-giving springs had become polluted and were more likely to make you ill than well and the whole complex was forced to close. The original hotel burnt down in 1921 and all the other Victorian era buildings had disappeared by 1925.

If you wander along the foreshore, there are still some archaeological remains to be found of the bottling and pumping activities, bits of bottles or ceramics and old metal pipes. 

Archaelogical remains
Weekend Notes

Where the elegant hotel once stood is the rather blah mid-20th Century Clifton Springs Golf Club building, although it is worth visiting the bistro just for the view. Plus a sprint up and down the steep incline or steps to The Dell is today’s way of keeping fit!

One of the steamers, Ozone, was wrecked further down the Bay at Indented Head and one of its paddle wheels is still visible today.

Wreck of Ozone today

More detailed information in the following links.

All photos from TROVE unless otherwise stated.

Bellarine Historical Society

Victorian Heritage Council

Saturday, February 1, 2020

"Like pearls on velvet" - the Russian Irishman

John Field is a name that may be unfamiliar to many music lovers, but he deserves to be rediscovered and played more widely. He is credited with being the inventor of the nocturne, although it is Frederic Chopin who is now most closely associated with the form.

I happened to first hear one of Field’s nocturnes on a classical broadcast some years ago and was instantly drawn to the music. When I discovered the composer was an Irishman who had his greatest success in early 19th Century Russia, it seemed to fit perfectly with what I was listening to; the lyrical echo of an Irish soul combined with that Russian love of melancholy romanticism.

Like Mozart, Field was a child prodigy. He was born in Dublin in 1782, the son of a theatrical violinist. He received his early musical education from his grandfather who was an organist, and later from Tommaso Giordani.

At the age of ten, John Field made his first public appearance in Dublin. The family then moved to England spending time between London and Bath. John served an apprenticeship with Muzio Clementi while working part time as a piano salesman.

While still a boy, he appeared at Covent Garden and other London theatres. He first performed his own piano concerto at the King’s Theatre in 1799 to mixed reviews, although one observer considered him to be “one of the finest performers in this kingdom”.

Even after he had served his apprenticeship, John remained somewhat subservient to Clementi and travelled with him throughout Europe. After the pair had been in St. Petersburg during 1803, Clementi left but Field stayed behind and through patronage of one General Marklovsky, he finally came into his own. His music became fashionable in the music salons and he was in demand as a private teacher. In 1806 he made his debut in Moscow. His entry in the ODB says:

During this time Field developed the genre that he eventually called the nocturne and for which he became renowned throughout Europe. The nocturne is a one-movement piece characterized by a dreamy atmosphere but with no specific programme, fulfilling the Romantic belief that music can express emotions inexpressible by words.

There is an echo here of the future Franz Lizst in John Field at this time; adored by the ladies, dodging his way in and out of romantic escapades. His biographer offers us this description that with the dominating Clementi out of the way he emerges into the light as:

“…an amusingly absent-minded and thoroughly hedonistic Bohemian; often feckless, but full of charm, and always surrounded by a circle of admirers who felt for him something very like hero worship …”

He dressed well and had a fashionable address, with his own carriage, attended all the parties, smoked Havana cigars, imbibed too much champagne and indulged in frivolities and gossip. He was overly generous with money, spending it as soon as he earned it.

Field’s enjoyment of the social life conflicted with his composing. Like many a genius, he could be erratic, lazy and even undisciplined at times and then overcome with the urgent compulsion to create. A friend later recalled that he would always need one glass of alcohol to get him started, then he would abstain but write music in a frenzy all night and throw the sheets all over the room, to be collected by others to put into order. He’d then collapse at three or four in the morning, only to be revived later with endless cups of coffee. After a bout of creation, he could be in a dishevelled and low mood when people would be forced to tiptoe around and not disturb him.

John Field

In 1810, Field married Adelaide Victoria Percheron, born in Pondicherry, India, and daughter of the war commissioner of the French fleet. She was one of his Moscow pupils and had been his mistress since 1807. The marriage was not a success, she was flightly and both of them tended to excesses, idleness and were hopeless with money, and Field really needed a more restrained woman to counterbalance his temperament. They had a son, Adrien, in 1819, before separating. Adrien also became a pianist but alcoholism cut short his career.

Field had another son, Leon, with a Mlle Charpentier, who was born in 1815. Leon later became an opera singer and teacher known as Leo Ivanovich Leonov. His child, Field’s grandson was Alexander Charpentier, who became an opera singer and his child in turn, Elizabeth Alexandrovna Charpentier, was a ballerina in the Imperial Troupe and danced internationally with the famous Anna Pavlova.

Field's son, tenor Leo Leonov (1813/1815 - 1872)

Field's great-granddaughter, Imperial Troupe ballerina Elizabeth Charpentier (1888-1950)

In 1812, Field had been able to escape from Napoleon’s Grand Armee as it approached Moscow by rushing back to St Petersburg, but in 1821 returned to live in Moscow.

As a composer, Field often struggled with his alcoholism and ill health (cancer) as well as his erratic tendencies, so his repertoire is not as great as it might have been. After a trip to England in 1832 with his son Leon, where he gave concerts, had a last reunion with his mother and also sought out medical attention, he returned to Russia via various European cities, but his declining health meant his performances were not particularly successful and this heralded his future descent into obscurity.

John Field died in Moscow in 1837 and is buried in the Vedensky Cemetery.

Find a Grave

Memorial to Field in Golden Lane, Dublin

Field’s style of piano music has been overshadowed by his more famous successors such as Liszt and Chopin. This is what one of his students, the “father of Russian classical music”, Mikhail Glinka had to say of him:

I clearly remember his energetic and at the same time sophisticated and precise performance. It seemed to me that he did not even press the keys, his fingers simply fell on them like raindrops, glided like pearls on velvet. Neither I nor any true admirer of musical art can agree with Liszt, who once said that Field played sluggishly. Not. Field’s play has always been bold, erratic and diverse; he never mutilated art like a charlatan, as very popular pianists often do.

Many musicians have recorded John Field, but in my opinion the best interpretation is that by his fellow countryman, John O’Conor, who somehow captures that unique Irish/Russian essence the best.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

All in a day's work ... "Doctor, you are murdering me!" (Excursions into the Petty Sessions Part 3)

Another “medical man” with the first name of Charles, lived in the same town of Maldon and appears in the Victorian Petty Sessions registers. He was born around 1829 in possibly Ireland, qualified as a doctor in Glasgow in 1851 and must have travelled to Australia some time after that.

Apart from being the Complainant in some instances of unpaid debts to himself, Charles Henry Hardy also presided over sessions in his capacity as a Justice of the Peace. These included a campaign against local parents who had failed to have their children vaccinated against smallpox. 

Here is an extract from the Petty Sessions of 24th October 1862 in which Charles H. Hardy is the Complainant against two Defendants, John Williams and James Clark, both accused of "Neglecting to bring his child to be vaccinated", and both "Dismissed with caution".

Vaccination lance kit, c. 1860s
Wellcome Collection

But long before this - and like Charles Webster a few years later - see Excursions into the Petty Sessions Blog 1 and Blog 2 - in 1858 Charles Hardy was forced to defend himself against a charge of manslaughter: in this case when a woman called Bridget Noonan died in childbirth, allegedly as a result of his neglect.

The baby also died, apparently from a fractured skull due to rough instrumental handling in the birthing process, which is truly horrific for us to imagine today. The case was reported in much detail in the local newspapers and it comes with a warning that it is a particularly graphic retelling of what women had to endure in the mid-19th Century Gold Rush era in what were often very primitive conditions.

Even if Hardy was a respected physician in the district - and with the excuse he was suffering from an illness at the time - it is still difficult to read the paragraphs in which Bridget was treated appallingly and virtually abandoned while Hardy and other doctors argued about their fees and she screamed out in pain that she was being murdered. 

Hardy said his fee was 5 guineas, or around £500 or A$1,000 today, and even more and up to £25 (about A$5,000) if he was expected to stay, according to evidence given by the husband and mother-in-law of Bridget Noonan. It is doubtful that any husband or partner of a woman giving birth in a tent on the diggings at Sandy Creek would have had this kind of money readily to hand.

Hardy never had to face trial as the Attorney-General quashed the case. One can think what one likes about this, but Bridget Noonan never stood a chance when left to the mercy of money-grubbing doctors, class distinction or prejudice against poor (Irish?) people, not to mention the accused doctor probably having friends in higher places ...

Dr. Hardy's Case. — We are authorised in stating that the Attorney-General has refused to file a bill against this gentleman in accordance with the verdict of the jury in the case of Bridget Noonan, and it will not therefore come on for trial. Official intimation of the fact reached Castlemaine yesterday, and the witnesses either have, or will have within a day or so, notice that they need not attend the next Circuit Court at Castlemaine where this trial would have taken place.Tarrangower Times.

Rather than reproducing the full gory details of the case here, please read the newspaper reports in TROVE:-

The Charge of Manslaughter against Dr. Hardy

Interestingly, this second report contains additional evidence given by family members, John Noonan and his mother, which is not included in The Argus story, about the money being demanded and the terrible condition of poor Bridget who in her agony screamed that Hardy was murdering her.

Acquittal as above

Life on the Goldfields was never dull for a medical man. There are numerous news items featuring Hardy, the years 1857-58 being particularly busy and the violent, rough and ready nature of the region and the people who lived in it at the time are much in evidence in these cases:-

Sarah Thompson stabs her husband at Mia Mia

Sarah Malloy(e) murdered by her husband, John. 

Evidence given on a suicide and domestic violence case.

Drowned in a hole at the back of the Eagle Hawk pub.

Another inquest featuring those dubious purgative powders e.g. Jalap, so beloved of doctors of that era.

All in a day's work ... another inquest in Melbourne, "The Little Bourke Street" Murder

Hardy's name continues to appear in a number of inquests and other newspaper articles.

In 1874, he put himself forward for election as Honorary Physician to the Lying-in Hospital in Melbourne and one can't help wondering what Bridget Noonan's family would have thought about that. Advertisement, 23 November 1874, The Age. It is not known if he got the job, however.


Ladies and Gentlemen, -

I beg to solicit your Vote and Interest for the appointment as Honorary Physican to the Lying-in-Hospital.
I trust that my long connection with the Rotunda Lying-in-Hospital, Dublin, under my brother, the late Dr. Hardy during his residence there, as Assistant Master, as well as my large and successful practice in this particular branch of the profession will gain me your confidence and support.
I remain, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Your obedient servant,
111 Collins-street east, Melbourne
At the Athenaeum, Collins Street, at noon.

And this describes his appearance before the Select Committee on Vaccination
Hamilton Spectator 11 February 1882

When Hardy died aged 54 in 1883, he had lived at 190 East Collins Street, Melbourne. Given his dismissive attitude towards one poor woman in distress who died as a result of his action/inaction, it may seem rather ironic that his name appears as honorary surgeon for various charities looking after the lower classes such as Committee for the Refuge for Fallen Women and the Benevolent Asylum. One wonders if he ever remembered how he had failed Bridget Noonan.

Region of East Collins Street where Charles Hardy lived,
c. 1890

Extract from the Victorian Police Gazette in June 1879, on appointment of Hardy as Public Vaccinator for Melbourne:-

Hardy's Will and Probate of his estate are available to read online through the Public Record Office of Victoria or Find My Past, and they give full details of all his belongings including his surgical instruments, furniture, carriages, horses, etc., also his debts, right down to the butcher's bill. His house was mortgaged and the results of his estate would have been modest. In his Will, he requested that there no "black crape" or "bonnet" be worn on his account. He even made the news again regarding it.

His wife was Henrietta Edwards, and he had three sons, Frederick, who died when a baby, Samuel John, and Charles Henry William Hardy, also a doctor, and who served with distinction at Gallipoli in World War I.

Son of Dr. Charles Henry Hardy,
Brigadier General Charles Henry William Hardy
copyright Australian War Memorial

Typical 19th Century Medical Chest such as used by Dr Hardy and others.
This one includes 15 purgative and emetic medicines!
Copyright Wellcome Collection