Sunday, May 22, 2011


Doorway at the gallows
Last Thursday I went to the place where Jimmy Governor was hanged at the old Darlinghurst Gaol (now the National Art School and previously East Sydney Tech) in inner Sydney.
It is still a sinister place, even though the gallows, its ropes and trapdoors, have long gone.
A book about the place, Hope in Hell by Deborah Beck, says the spot is said to be haunted at night.
I can well believe that.
It's the place where the spirits of around 50 people left their physical bodies and some of them might still be hanging around.
Jimmy was hung in January 1901 at the gaol's new 'model' gallows built in 1869.
The killing device was located between the Y section of E wing which housed condemned prisoners.
It runs parallel to Burton Street and faces Darlinghurst Road.
The gallows consisted of two trapdoors in a wooden floor with two nooses overhead.
Many of those hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol were buried inside the grounds.
But Jimmy was buried at Rookwood Cemetery.
This suggests someone paid for his plot there, as well as transportation of his body by train from Central Station to Rookwood.
If this is so, it may have been his childhood friend and, in adulthood, legal defence at his trial, Mr Boyce.
My great grandfather's younger brother, George Mawbey, 42, attended the hanging.
According to the Sands Directory, George was living in Palmer Street, close to the main road, Oxford Street, just a couple of blocks from the gaol.
It was not one of the better parts of town.
In 1894 he had been living on the other side of Oxford Street, in Ann Street.
At that time, aged 36, he was fined one pound after being taken to court by the equivalent of today's RSPCA for making his horse work when it was lame.
His occupation was that of a contractor.
My grandfather, 21-year-old John Mawbey Jnr, the eldest child of John and Sarah Mawbey, was staying with his uncle in the Palmer Street house when his mother and three younger siblings were murdered at Breelong.
He was trying to enlist to go at fight for the British at the Boer War in South Africa.
Little did he know that a much more important battle in terms of his own life was being waged on a cold winter's night inside his own home at Breelong.