The inspiration for the character of Sherlock Holmes.
Doyle said that the character of Sherlock Holmes was inspired by Dr. Joseph Bell, a surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for whom Doyle had worked as a clerk.
Like Holmes, Bell was noted for drawing large conclusions from the smallest observations.
However, some years later Bell wrote in a letter to Conan Doyle: “You (meaning Conan Doyle) are yourself Sherlock Holmes and well you know it.”
Sir Henry Littlejohn, Chair of Medical Jurisprudence at the University of Edinburgh Medical School, is also cited as an inspiration for Holmes. Littlejohn served as Police Surgeon and Medical Officer of Health of Edinburgh, providing for Doyle a link between medical investigation and the detection of crime.
Header image: Three men enjoy a drink outside an hotel (1926), via State Library of South Australia B 59771/8
Nearly a century before lockouts had Hindley Street partygoers fuming, South Australia’s restrictive liquor laws were earning us an unfortunate reputation as the home of the Wowser.
Famously overturned by the Dunstan Government in 1967, restrictions on trading past 6pm were actually introduced in 1916 following a popular referendum and decades of campaigning from the State’s Temperance movement.
But not everyone in town was a god-fearing teetotaller, and subsequent decades were rife with tales of doggedly rule-breaking publicans and cheeky sly grogsellers who went to great lengths to enjoy a drop on their own terms.
Some struck deals with rural hotels to cart their liquor back to the city to be sold privately (or smuggled to interstate rings), while others surreptitiously bought liquor straight from the brewer.
Beer, whiskey or even homemade wine was then traded or sold among groups of friends and social groups, or under the counter of other businesses.
A poster from the 1915 referendum, William Charles Brooker via State Library of South Australia PRG 1316/16/16
House Parties and a Cocky Defence
The risk of police raids gave rise to elaborate systems to hide illicit goods. In 1920 police found 19 bottles of beer buried beneath a Carrington Street backyard, while a 1929 raid in Uraidla (say that a few times fast) unearthed an illegal cache of 1300 bottles and two kegs.
In 1922 Police spent seven hours staking out a Hindley Street residence, eventually swooping to discover a secret cellar hidden under a bed. Others used a ticketed “club” system with strict entry open only to trustworthy personal acquaintances to avoid infiltration by authorities.
Perhaps the most colourful sly grog case came in 1932, when a man named Cyril Taylor managed to beat a charge of illegally serving alcohol at his Angas Street home thanks to an unlikely witness: his pet galah ‘Cocky’.
Arrested after an officer heard suspicious noises including the chinking of glasses and an opening gate, when the case reached court Taylor’s defence countered that the sounds heard were in fact made by his bird, a keen mimic of many household noises.
Upon taking the witness perch the galah offered a brief sample of its repertoire that impressed the magistrate enough for the defendant’s explanation to be deemed “reasonable”.
“Cocky” the galah with defence counsel C.J. Philcox, The News Friday August 5 1932
It wasn’t just private citizens who flouted restrictions – hotel landlords were also regularly prosecuted for illegal liquor and gambling practises. In 1916 the publican of the Launceston Hotel on Waymouth Street (now the Grace Emily) Richard Agg lost his licence following two convictions for breaches of the Licensing Act.
James Milburn ran the pub throughout the 1930s, and once accused the police of concocting a charge of slipping a patron wine out a side door after hours. The court did not agree, and it became one of several convictions Milburn racked up throughout the decade.
Over on Rundle Street, then-publican of the Exeter Hotel Alma Rook pled guilty in 1937 after a patron was found in the bar at only 6.35pm. Later, publican Archie Simonds was fined £10 for having two men and three women in the bar at 9.25pm.
The men were found drinking unlawfully, but the mere act of having women in the front bar was also an offence until the 1970s.
You read that right – despite blazing the trail for women’s suffrage, South Australia remained as squeamish as the rest of the country when it came to giving women a seat at the bar along with the vote.
Pictured: Alphonse Bertillon – Archives of Service Regional d’Identité Judiciaire, Préfecture de Police, Paris via Jebulon on Wikipedia
While the photographing of criminals began in the 1840s shortly after the invention of photography, it was not until 1888 that French police officer Alphonse Bertillon standardised the process.
Mug shots, which were typically taken after a person was arrested, allowed law enforcement to have a photographic record of an arrested individual to allow for identification purposes by victims, the public and investigators.
Alphonse Bertillon (24 April 1853 – 13 February 1914) was a French police officer and biometrics researcher who applied the anthropological technique of anthropometry to law enforcement creating an identification system based on physical measurements.
Anthropometry was the first scientific system used by police to identify criminals.
Before that time, criminals could only be identified by name or photograph. The method was eventually supplanted by fingerprinting.
Joseph Leslie Theodore (Squizzy) Taylor (1888-1927) criminal, was born on 29 June 1888 at Brighton, Victoria, son of Benjamin Isaiah Taylor, coachmaker, and his wife Rosina, née Jones, both Victorian born.
The family moved to Richmond and Leslie tried to make a career as a jockey on the inner city pony circuit where he came to the notice of the police. At 18 he was convicted of assault.
Between 1913 and 1916 Taylor was linked to several more violent crimes including the murder and robbery of Arthur Trotter, a commercial traveller, the burglary of the Melbourne Trades Hall, in which a police constable was killed, and the murder of William Patrick Haines, a driver who refused to participate in the hold-up of a bank manager at Bulleen.
Taylor was tried for the murder of Haines and found not guilty. Although rarely convicted after 1917, Taylor remained a key figure in an increasingly violent and wealthy underworld.
His income came from armed robbery, prostitution, the sale of illegal liquor and drugs, as well as from race-fixing and protection rackets.
With Paddy Boardman, he conducted an efficient and lucrative business in rigging juries.
Squizzy is the bloke on the crutches.
Disputes between rival racketeers resulted in the ‘Fitzroy vendetta’ of 1919 in which several men were shot. Taylor was among the principal figures in these gangland shootings. Charged under warrant in 1921 with theft from a city bond store, he eluded the police for twelve months but gave himself up in 1922.
He was acquitted. In 1923 the bank-manager Thomas Berriman was robbed and murdered at Glenferrie railway station. Angus Murray and Richard Buckley were charged with the murder. Taylor faced charges of aiding and abetting the crime, and of assisting Murray’s escape from Pentridge prison.
On both counts he again escaped conviction. He was eventually found guilty of harbouring Murray and sentenced to six months imprisonment.
Taylor had married Irene Lorna Kelly at the manse of St James’s Congregational Church, Fitzroy, on 19 May 1920. On 6 May 1924 they were divorced. On 27 May again at St James’s he married Ida Muriel Pender, the woman with whom he had shared much of his adult life. I
n 1923 they had co-starred in a film about Taylor’s life, Riding to Win; banned by the Victorian censor, it was released in Brisbane in 1925 as Bound to Win.
On his release from prison Taylor continued thieving, but concentrated his efforts on race-tracks. Involved in selling cocaine, he came into conflict with several Sydney gangsters.
He was wounded in a gunfight with one of them, John ‘Snowy’ Cutmore, at a house in Barkly Street, Carlton, and died in St Vincent’s Hospital, Fitzroy, on 27 October 1927. Survived by his wife and by a daughter of his first marriage, Taylor was buried with Anglican rites in Brighton cemetery.
‘Squizzy’ was a colourful figure in the drinking and gambling clubs of Fitzroy, Richmond and Carlton.
A dapper little man who dressed loudly, he strutted through the courts, race-courses and theatres.
While hiding from the police, he wrote letters and verse to the press. Yet he had few redeeming qualities.
Taylor won lasting notoriety by imitating the style of American bootleggers; he never matched their influence or immunity from the law, and at the time of his death could no longer command fear or loyalty from the underworld.
A letter written by an eyewitness to the Ned Kelly gang’s last stand at Glenrowan on June 18th, 1880, has been donated to the State Library of Victoria.
Donald Gray Sutherland had left Scotland for Australia four years earlier. He got a job as a clerk at the Bank of Victoria in the town of Oxley which was just eight miles from Glenrowan.
When news of the shootout between the outlaw Kellies and the police spread, Sutherland went to Glenrowan to witness the events.
He described what he saw in a letter to his family dated the 8th of July. It’s a fascinatingly detailed account of Ned, his famous homemade armour, the bullets he took, the grim fate of other gang members. (All creative spelling and grammar is original.)
On hearing of the affray I at once proceeded to Glenrowan to have a look at the desperados who caused me so many dreams and sleepless nights. I saw the lot of them. Ned the leader of the gang being the only one taken alive.
He was lying on a stretcher quite calm and collected notwithstanding the great pain he must have been suffering from his wounds. He was wounded in 5 or 6 places. Only on the arms and legs. His body and head being encased in armour made from the moule boards of a lot of ploughs.
Now the farmers about here have been getting their moule boards taken off their ploughs at night for a long time but who ever dreamed it was the Kellys and that they would be used for such a purpose.
Neds armour alone weighed 97 pounds. The police thought he was a fiend seeing their rifle bullets were sliding off him like hail. They were firing into him at about 10 yards in the grim light of the morning without the slightest effect.
The force of the rifle bullets made him stagger when hit but it was only when they got him on the legs and arms that he reluctantly fell exclaiming as he did so I am done. I am done. […]
Ned does not at all look like a murderer and Bushranger. He is a very powerful man aged about 27 black hair and beard with a soft mild looking face and eyes. His mouth being the only wicked portion of the face. After his capture he became very tame and conversed freely with those who knew him.
Not having the pleasure of his acquaintance I did not speak to him although I should have liked very much to ask why he never stuck up the Bank of Victoria at Oxley.
Well he had it down on his programme at one time but a Schoolmaster named Wallace and one who Banks with us put him off it – at least Wallace got the news conveyed through Byrne one of the Gang that he had some deeds and papers here which he did not wish destroyed as it would ruin him. Well Ned said I wont do it and he didnt do it and we were consequently saved from the presence of the Gang.
Poor Ned I was really sorry for him. To see him lying pierced by bullets and still showing no signs of pain. His 3 sisters were there also, Mrs Skillion Kate Kelly and a younger one. Kate was sitting at his head with her arms round his neck while the others were crying in a mournful strain at the state of one who but the night before was the terror of the whole Colony.
The night that Byrne and Kelly shot Sherriff at the Woolshed they rode through Oxley on their way to Glenrowan. Some of the people in the Township heard the horses go bye but I didnt being sound asleep.
Byrne was shot in the groin early in the morning as he was drinking a glass of whiskey at the Bar. Then there remained only Dan Kelly and Steve Hart. Whether they shot themselves or whether they were shot by the police will ever remain a mystery.
At about 2 PM a policeman named Johnstone whom I knew well at Murchison fired the house and it was only when no signs of life appeared that they rushed the place to find the charred remains of Dan and Steve Hart. They presented a horrible appearance being roasted to a skeleton. Black and grim reminding me of old Knick himself.