Sunday, January 22, 2012

Coup de Soleil - the Silent Killer

New immigrants to Australia often misjudged the power of the Antipodean sun particularly those who laboured in the outdoors.  Many wore heavy dark clothing more suited to the temperate climes of their homelands in Northern Europe. Not surprisingly cases of sun-stroke or heat-stroke were quite common and sometimes resulted in fatal outcomes.

In a guide to the Australian colonies an English Mineralogical Surveyor included these frightening observations:

 Immigrants arriving in the heyday of life, may expect to die ten years sooner than they would in England.

A few cases of coup de soleil, or sunstroke, occur every year during the hot weather, and sometimes a person dies from the bite of a venomous serpent.[1]

Cockburn's property, Crohamhurst Station
In 1857, the North Australian reported the gruesome discovery by a shepherd, of the blackened body of a fellow German immigrant.

A magisterial inquiry took place yesterday, at the Police Office, touching the death of a German, named John Seitz, who died from the effects of a sun-stroke at the Three mile Creek, on the 15th instant.

Henry Montague Cockburn
It appeared, from the evidence of Mr. H. M. Cockburn, that the deceased was his hired servant and on being informed by one of his shepherds that the deceased was lying dead in the bush, he proceeded there accompanied by Dr. Challinor and a constable, and saw the body on the ground: there were no remarks of violence upon it, but his face was black.

Dr. Challinor stated that he had examined the body externally, and from the congested state of the head and face, was of opinion that the deceased died in convulsions most probably occasioned by a sunstroke.[2]

German immigrants, especially those recently arrived, seemed especially susceptible to the Queensland summer heat.

DEATH BY SUN STROKE -The weather has been excessively hot during the past week, and several cases of coup de soleil have occurred; one of these proved fatal. On Wednesday, we learn that the thermometer reached 105[3] in the shade.

We subjoin the particulars of the fatal case of sun stroke, as taken in evidence before the Coroner, (K. Cannan, Esq.):-

William Gericke deposed: I am a farmer; the deceased William Klemm, has been in my employ about five months. Shortly before four o'clock yesterday afternoon I found the deceased lying under a bush quite insensible. About half an hour before, I saw him (the deceased) hoeing and apparently quite well.

He was rather an ailing man, and did not enjoy the best of health. He had on a brown felt hat, - a hat I think quite unsuitable to the climate. I sent immediately for Dr. Bell. The deceased was a sober man, and had no drink to my knowledge yesterday.

-John Adsett deposed; I am a labourer, and have known the deceased about five months. About five o'clock yesterday afternoon, I found the deceased in the corn, lying helpless on his side, breathing very hard. I bathed him with water and vinegar till Dr. Bell came.

Dr. Cannan the Coroner
-Hugh Bell deposed: I am a legally qualified medical practitioner;  I saw the deceased between half-past four and five o'clock;  he was then nearly lifeless;  I considered that the heart was gorged with blood. I endeavoured to get some blood to flow, and to get some stimulants into the stomach, without succeeding. I think the deceased died from a sun-stroke. The jury returned a verdict of died from the effects of a sun-stroke.[4]

The Brisbane Coroner Doctor Kearsey Cannan, alarmed at the number of sunstroke deaths he was attending, wrote of his concerns in a letter to the Moreton Bay Courier. He first quoted from an account by the renowned General Sir Charles Napier of his personal experience of sunstroke whilst serving with the Army in India.

The subject cannot be better introduced than by quoting the late gallant General Sir Charles Napier's interesting and characteristic account of his personal seizure, when serving in Sindh.

General Sir Charles Napier
"...  I was tumbled over by the heat with apoplexy; forty-three others were struck, all Europeans, and all died within three hours, except myself!  I do not drink!  that is the secret. The sun had no ally in the liquor amongst my brains.

Unable to walk, I flung myself on a table, and luckily one of my staff came in. He called the doctors; two or three were with me in a twinkling; wet towels rolled round my head, feet in hot water; bleeding, and two men rubbing me. I was so drowsy as to be angry that they would not let me sleep. Had they done so, it would have been hard to wake me."[5]

Doctor Cannan drew attention to the main causes of the deadly effects of sunstroke: - excessive exposure to the rays and heat of the sun, the consumption of alcoholic spirits such as rum, a heavy diet, and unsuitable attire.

Sir Charles here gave expression to a physiological fact. The sun is the primary cause; the spirit ration and the abuse of ardent spirits constitute tho chief accessories. Most experienced surgeons believe that, with temperance in diet, avoidance of so much direct solar exposure as may be compatible with the nature of the service, attention to tent covering and ventilation, and to head dress and body clothing, British soldiers may be made to march well under the hottest sun of India.[6]

Station hands sporting various styles of headwear

Finally the Coroner detailed  his latest case of sunstroke he had investigated, and provided some studied  advice to colonists.

On Saturday last I was required to hold an inquest on the body of a man who had been struck to death on the previous day, from exposure to the sun. He belonged to the road party working near Woogaroo.[7]

Such, frequently, is the suddenness and fatal character of the seizure, leading so often to the speedy death of men previously in health and in the midst of active employment, that this circumstance induces me to believe that the following remarks on the means of prevention of such a fearful malady will not be considered ill-timed.

Of all the means of prevention of Heat Apoplexy, the avoidance of spirituous liquors, and of excess in the use of animal diet, must take the lead.

The next most important matter is the quality and arrangement of the dress and on this subject there can be no difference or question. The head-dress should be light, of slowly conducting materials, and constructed so as to command ventilation.[8]

European gentlemen wearing protective solar topee
He used the example of the trooper who accompanied him to point out the unsuitability of the clothing of those employed outdoors.  He notes that the unfortunate victim he examined was wearing the worst possible headwear - a tight black hat – a sure focus of solar energy.

I was accompanied by a trooper on Saturday last, whose dress I will now compare, or rather contrast, with that above recommended. He was cased in a close-fitting suit of blue cloth; head-dress, a cap of same material, barely covering the top of the head, leaving the back part totally uncovered - a peak in front sufficiently large to shade one eye at a time.

On my warning him that by exposing his head to the sun in such a manner he was courting the fate of the unfortunate man whose body we were about to view, he replied that such were the regulations, and he must obey! Comment on such a regulation is unnecessary. Publicity alone will surely put an end to such barbarity.

However, with the assistance of some green leaves placed in the cap, and damping the inside at a shady water-hole, to allay the intolerable heat, my companion - after six hours exposure to the direct solar rays-did arrive safely back again. I may here also mention that the man who had been struck to death wore a black felt hat, fitting close to the head.[9]
I am, &c.
K. CANNAN, Coroner.

Stores were quick to import proper protective headwear from India – the most efficacious thought to be the “Solar Topee”.  
Solar Topee or Pith Helmet

There was also the home-grown variety, the cabbage tree hat platted from the fronds of the cabbage palm.

Cabbage tree hat

  © K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 24 December 1853
[2] North Australian, Saturday March 17 1857
[3] 41°C
[4] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 2 January 1858
[5] The Moreton Bay Courier Tuesday 17 January 1860
[6] The Moreton Bay Courier Tuesday 17 January 1860
[7] Now Goodna
[8] The Moreton Bay Courier Tuesday 17 January 1860
[9] The Moreton Bay Courier Tuesday 17 January 1860

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Deadly Wager in Little Ipswich

Moreton Bay Courier  May 17, 1851
Public brawls were a frequent occurrence in the streets of Ipswich, mostly outside public houses.  Sometimes the fist fights could have fatal results as the local press reported in 1851.[1]

Michael Collins, otherwise James Brennan, was indicted for the manslaughter of Robert Schools, at Little Ipswich, on the 9th December, by striking, beating, braising, and throwing him to the ground. Prisoner pleaded not guilty.

In December 1850, two men were drinking in a pub at Little Ipswich, now known as West Ipswich.  Patrons often were resident guests at the hotel, in town from the bush on a spree.  These drinkers had arrived the evening before. They resumed consuming the landlord’s ale the following morning.

Richard Allen, publican, residing at Little Ipswich, deposed that prisoner was in his house the 7th or 8th of December, at about 7 o'clock in the evening. He had a few glasses of ale, and went to bed. Next morning he had two or three more glasses of ale, and treated the deceased, who was in prisoner's service, to some glasses of ale.

View of Ipswich in 1870

As often happened the initial convivial mood between the drinkers changed to one of confrontation with the relaxing effect of the libations resulting in a loosening of tongues and unresolved animosities.  The subsequent trial did not reveal the source of the conflict.  Probably some trivial argument greatly magnified by the fruit of the barley.

After a short time they had high words in the tap room, and witness distinctly heard deceased say, "I’ll fight you." Prisoner did not appear willing to fight; but the words became so high that they got up to fight. Witness refused to let them fight there, and they then sat down peaceably for a few minutes. They had each drunk three of four tumblers of ale, and were rather the worse for liquor. They got up afterwards, and walked away through a passage which led to the kitchen.

In his continued evidence, the publican, whose manner was coy to say the least, testified that the next he heard of the pair was that they were fighting outside in the yard.

Boxers assume a fighting pose
They appeared quiet then, and witness went into his bar, where after a short time his stepson came and, informed him that two men were fighting in the yard. Witness went out, and saw deceased and prisoner fighting. The deceased fell. Prisoner did not fall. Witness might have had a glass or two that morning, but was sober. He might have been half-and-half. Saw blows exchanged between the two men. Does not know whether the day was Sunday or Monday.

After admitting he had been drinking as well, the landlord claimed he could not remember the day it happened.  This was convenient for he could have been prosecuted if he had been selling liquor on a Sunday.

Fortunately there were other witnesses who were more forthcoming.

Georgiana Wells, residing at Little Ipswich, deposed that she saw George Schools and the prisoner fighting together at Little Ipswich. Heard a squabbling, and came out and saw the fight. They fought for about five   minutes. Saw one man fall first, and get up, and then saw another fall, but cannot say which man fell, or whether the same man fell both times. Went and looked at deceased, by Allen's request, and found that he was dead. Prisoner was supporting the deceased. Does not know whether he was drunk or sober.     

Another witness placed the publican Allen at the scene during the fight.

Joseph Trainor deposed that he saw prisoner and deceased fighting together. Allen was present, but nobody else. Witness was at his own house, about 50 or 60 yards away. Saw prisoner raise his hand as if to give a blow, and saw the deceased fall. Thinks the day was Monday. Witness went over and lifted up deceased's head, and saw that he was dead.      
Boxing Match on the Goldfields

In his defence the prisoner supplied a written statement.  He claimed that the fight was to be over two rounds for the wager of a bottle of rum.

This being the case for the crown, the prisoner put in a written defence, alleging that he was urged to fight contrary to his wishes, for half-a- pint of rum, and after having been knocked down himself, claimed the bet, on the ground that he had struck the first blow. This, he said, the deceased denied, and said he could not hit him; whereupon the fight was continued, and deceased received a blow and fell, without any intention on the part of the prisoner to do him serious injury.         
The jury soon returned their verdict along with a condemnation of the cagey publican Allen.

The jury without hesitation found the prisoner guilty of manslaughter, strongly recommending him to the mercy of the Court; and desiring at the same time to express their strong disapprobation of the evidence of Allen. 
Jail House West Ipswich

It seems that the judge himself was sympathetic to the prisoner when delivering the relatively light sentence.

His HONOUR, after a feeling address to the prisoner, sentenced him to three months' imprisonment, with hard labour, in Darlinghurst gaol.

Thus did another spree in town end badly.

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] All of the extracts that follow are taken from the Moreton Bay Courier 17.5.1851

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Lammershagen Controversy

Typhus arrives in Moreton Bay

In the labour-starved colony of Queensland of the 1870s, each boatload of immigrants was keenly awaited. The recruited workers and their families were an essential commodity imported into the colony as an investment by many employers, who had paid for their passage.  The fact that they should arrive in poor condition and in diminished numbers, was not well received by those investors.

Setting the Sails

In early January 1873, a German emigrant ship arrived in Moreton Bay after a voyage lasting three months.  The Lammershagen had sailed directly from Hamburg with some 380 souls on board. 

Rather than transferring the weary passengers by steamer up river to Brisbane Town, other procedures were put into action.

After a visit from the medical officer from Brisbane, the boat was immediately ordered into quarantine and towed to Peel Island.

THE German immigrant ship Lammershagen, which arrived from Hamburg on Tuesday, has, we regret to say, been placed in quarantine, owing to the fact of there being typhus fever on board. At the present time there are several cases amongst the passengers, one of which is looked upon as hopeless. During the passage, eight deaths occurred; but these were from various causes, typhus fever having, we understand, only broken out during the last two or three weeks.[1]

This last statement was not quite correct.  It would later become known that the first case had occurred less than one month into the voyage. This confusion of information would continue as the story of the Lammershagen emerged over the following weeks.  The tales of the conditions on board and the conduct of the ship’s doctor varied wildly and culminated in a Government enquiry.
It emerged that the Lammershagen was not only overcrowded, unhygienic, and poorly ventilated but severely under-provisioned. – ideal conditions for an outbreak of typhus, commonly known as “ship’s fever”.

Below decks on a crowded emigrant ship

The steamer Kate, on her arrival from Ipswich on the 8th, was despatched to the Bay with every requisite obtainable for making the passengers as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. The intention is to tow the vessel to Peel Island, when the immigrants will be landed, and provided with tents; a temporary wooden hospital being erected for the use of the patients, who will be separated as far as possible from the remainder of the passengers.[2]

Dunwich viewed from Peel Island

Because the number of quarantine cases up to this time had greatly declined, the quarantine station at Dunwich on Stradbroke Island had been appropriated as a Benevolent Asylum.  The facilities on nearby Peel Island were woefully inadequate to receive the 350 odd passengers from the Lammershagen.  Some of the spare sails had to be taken ashore to provide further shelter.

Peel Island (in Moreton Bay) was selected, and off that the ship was moored, the passengers being landed and "housed" - if the term be permissible - under tents, or whatever other shelter they could get, the season, moreover, being exceptionally wet. The latest reports from Peel Island are of a favourable character, but there is no knowing how long the unfortunate "suspects" may stay where they are - the victims of discomfort, and ignorant, probably, of the regulations which compel their detention. 

If report does not egregiously err, the new arrivals by this vessel have had anything but a cheerful introduction to their new home. No doubt the Government have done the best they could under the circumstances, but, to say the least of it, it was unfortunate that the first experience of Queensland gained by these people should be to "camp out" on an island in drenching rain, huddled together like sheep in an ovile[3].[4]

Moreton Bay and Stradbroke Island

While the immigrants remained in quarantine, possible reasons for the Typhus outbreak were discussed in the press.  Typhus, spread by lice, was known to appear in crowded, unsanitary, and poorly ventilated conditions - it was common in the crammed English prisons in the 18th century.  Typhoid fever, a different ailment, is contracted from contaminated water. A correspondent to the Brisbane Courier pointed out these facts.

Typhoid fever, developed as it has been in this ship, is not what is sometimes called, "a visitation of GOD". There is no room for any such impious imputation. If it is a visitation at all, it is a visitation from some festering impurities generated by defective ventilation, or over-crowded and unclean quarters. It is an effect which we have no doubt can be clearly traced to an efficient cause, and there will be no excuse if those to whom that cause can be traced are not held responsible for its existence. The legal pains and penalties which it may be possible to inflict are slight in comparison with the injury inflicted, but the blame should be impartially adjudged, and those who deserve it should be made, as far as possible, to feel their culpability.[5]

Peel Island, the Quarantine Station was in the North-western Corner

There was clearly a failure of the shipping company to ensure the passengers had sufficient space and ventilation and provisions. During the voyage it was responsibility of the ship’s medical officer to maintain proper standards of hygiene during the voyage. One correspondent to the Courier Mail blamed the Scandinavians amongst the passengers.

The majority of the immigrants are Scandinavians, hailing from Norway and Sweden and it was amongst them that the sickness first made its appearance on board.

Tho Scandinavians, it is also stated, came on board very scantily clothed, and the blankets supplied by the contractor at Hamburgh for their use were miserable rags. The races of Northern Europe are not noted for their cleanliness of living, and it was no doubt impossible to compel such a number of half clad people as these appeared to be, to preserve those habits of personal cleanliness which are strictly necessary to the carrying out of proper sanitary regulations on board a crowded immigrant ship.[6]

Later it became known that the sister ship of the Lammershagen, the Alardus, had experienced a similar epidemic and only made it as far as Melbourne. Finally the colonial authorities sent a complaint to London requesting that the Hamburg shipping company involved be advised to send no further emigrants to Queensland.

Emigrants awaiting Embarkation in Hamburg

Mr. Palmer has telegraphed to Mr. Daintree, the Agent-General in London, complaining of the condition of the German immigrants per "Lammershagen," on their arrival at Brisbane. Mr. Palmer also comments on the state of the immigrants of the "Alardus," which has had to put into Melbourne on account of the mortality and sickness on board. He gravely censures those connected with the shipment of the immigrants by both vessels, and instructs the Agent-General not to allow in future German emigrants to Queensland to be forwarded by the same medium.[7] 

As the Lammershagen immigrants were slowly released in small groups from quarantine, accounts of their experiences both while on Peel Island and on the voyage were reported in the colonial press.  A correspondent for the Queenslander had heard nothing at all negative from Peel Island.

The Lammershagen people are nearly all cleared out now. A batch, consisting of six married couples, eleven single girls, nine single men, nine children and two infants will be sent up to Brisbane tomorrow or Tuesday, and then there will only be nineteen adults left. There have been no signs of fever among them for some time past, and all the people at the station are in good health. Dr. Schmidt seems to have performed his arduous duties in a most satisfactory manner, and all the passengers speak in high terms of his skill, attention, and judicious management.[8]

Soon other reports of Dr. Schmidt’s behaviour emerged in which many of the passengers did not “speak in high terms” of the supposedly heroic Doctor.  Charles Campen, an influential member of the Brisbane German community took up their case with the Colonial Secretary.  As a result an official enquiry was held. In the meantime Dr. Schmidt had been permitted to leave the colony.

The first witness examined was Charles Campen, who deposed that he forwarded two letters of complaint, one to the Immigration Agent, dated April 21, 1873, and tho other to the Colonial secretary, dated April 28, in reference to the treatment of immigrants by the Lammershagen whilst in quarantine; the first complaint made in the letter against the doctor was for having exposed a woman for two hours in the sun under a tree or something erected like a gallows on Peel Island, Wilhelm Frederick and his wife, the persons mentioned in the letter, were in attendance to substantiate the charge, but unfortunately most of the other persons were scattered over the colony.[9]

This last point was important as most of the immigrants had since proceeded to the Wide Bay area and few were available to testify.  It was later alleged that Dr. Schmidt had released the people in small batches from quarantine so that they could not organise a group complaint against him.

Medieval "Pranger" or Pillory, Bonn
The incident of the “gallows tree” was the result of a letter received by Dr. Schmidt, allegedly written by Emelie Roeder, the wife of Wilhelm Frederick.  The writer accused the doctor of having a more than working relationship with the matron. A correspondent who was a passenger aboard the Lammershagen explained the “Pranger” ritual.

He took it upon himself to erect on Peel Island a kind of gallows, threatening to hang everybody who would not obey his orders. He made use of the latter tree for inflicting a peculiar and degrading punishment, called in Germany the "Pranger," which is considered in Germany the most disgraceful punishment to any person, particularly to a woman, inasmuch as a person of that sex must be of the worst and lowest character to be thus punished.[10]

Despite the evidence presented, the Enquiry completely exonerated Dr. Schmidt, dismissing the charges as “frivolous in the extreme”.[11] Despite claims of a whitewash by the Immigration Board, no further action was taken. Evidently the Board did not wish to discourage further immigrants by giving credence to the complaints of the Lammershagen passengers.

Perhaps the most credible account of the behaviour was given after the enquiry finished, by a passenger in a letter to the Queenslander.  The standard of English used suggests the correspondent may have had some editorial help from the German immigrant’s advocate, Mr. Campen.

As a passenger by that vessel, and a constable on board, I had sufficient opportunity to see what was going on, and it is a fact that this late surgeon-superintendent of the Lammershagen, Dr. Schmidt, made himself extremely unpopular with all the immigrants on board, so much so that a regular mutiny was very nearly breaking out against him.

This unpopularity of his arose chiefly from his utter want of proper feeling in the treatment and management of young children, the truth of which may easily be understood from the fact that amongst seventeen children born on board the larger portion died. The following facts, however, which I am capable of substantiating, will show what the doctor's conduct really was:—

1. Dr. S. has been guilty of improper behaviour with the matron, and has repeatedly sung indecent street songs in the presence of the passengers.

2. He has beaten several women—vis., Auguste Moderow, Anna Moderow, Paulina Boehm, and Anna Olsen.

3. He has habitually used insulting language towards the passengers, such as calling them a "gang of thieves," "tag-rag," &c.

4. He took it upon himself to erect on Peel Island a kind of gallows, threatening to hang everybody who would not obey his orders.

I may add here that in the beginning of February a number of immigrants, then just arrived at the depot, drew up a petition, signed, and left it in the Immigration-office for Mr. Gray, saying that they had complaints against the doctor, and that they demanded enquiry. Nothing, however, has been since heard of that petition.

Had Mr. Gray taken any notice of it at the time it was lodged with him, that is, when the complaining as well as the accused parties were still to be brought face to face, it is highly probable that the results of such an enquiry would have been quite different from those obtained from the enquiry which took place last week after the doctor and the principal complainants were out of reach.[12]

Finally in June 1873, the German and Scandinavian residents were called to a meeting.

Town Hall Queen St. Brisbane ca. 1868
ON Thursday, May 29, a meeting of our German and Scandinavian fellow-colonists was held in the Town Hall, and largely attended. Mr. H. Ruthning opened the proceedings by reviewing the action taken by the local authorities, in the case of the Lammershagen, and pointed out that unless the colony was sure every precaution was taken to give to the German and Scandinavian immigrants on their passage out suitable ships, with sufficient room and good ventilation, the Germans and Scandinavians should be the first to demand a stoppage of continental emigration.[13]


A report published in 1876, described the ovens made by the Lammershagen passengers while on Peel Island.

The immigrants by the Lammershagen did manage to excavate little caves in the face of the cliff, which they converted into little ovens and baked excellent bread therein, but those have all fallen into decay now.[14]

Cabins for Leprosy Patients on Peel Island

In the early 20th cetury, the quarantine station on Peel Island was converted to a lazarette, a home for leprosy patients.

In 1882, the Lammershagen met her end when she was wrecked on a rocky point on the coast of Wales.  A contemporary painting recorded the event.[15]

The Wreck of the Lammershagen, 1882

Five years after the Lammershagen incident, Charles Campen met his end after getting into severe financial difficulties.

IT was currently reported in town yesterday that Charles Gerhard Campen, a man well-known in the community, had committed suicide by drowning. There is a considerable amount of mystery surrounding the affair, but we learn on good authority that serious pecuniary difficulties gave rise to Mr. Campen's forwarding to a prominent citizen a statement of his monetary affairs with an intimation that he intended to commit suicide to avoid exposure. The following letter was addressed to the Police Magistrate:-

"If I went home [meaning Germany] all would have been well; it is too late now. I dare not wait any longer because I feel my reason is going to give way. Mr. Macpherson has my last statement showing how I got into difficulties. There is no need of a post-mortem examination. I die of my own free will. The Lord have mercy on my poor children.”[16]

His body was found four days later floating in the Brisbane River under the Albert Bridge at Indooroopilly.

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Brisbane Courier 10 January 1873
[2] The Queenslander 11 January 1873
[3] Enclosure for sheep.
[4] The Sydney Morning Herald 25 February 1873
[5] The Brisbane Courier 13 February 1873
[6] The Brisbane Courier 22 January 1873
[7] Rockhampton Bulletin 24 April 1873
[8] The Queenslander 15 March 1873
[9] The Brisbane Courier 14 May 1873
[10] The Queenslander 17 May 1873
[11] The Brisbane Courier 14 May 1873
[12] The Queenslander 17 May 1873
[13] The Queenslander 7 June 1873
[14] Ludlow, Peter, Peel Island – Paradise or Prison?, 1987.
[15] Collection MS, P.W.J. Chadwick, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.
[16] The Brisbane Courier Friday 15 February 1878