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Authors: Rosamond Siemon

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As the Carl Markwell death in 1905 was, and still is, so persistently linked to Isaac Mayne, its coincidental evidence and timing must be examined. Two days after James returned from Sydney, young Markwell, an office clerk, began insuring himself with five companies for a total of £2,250 and made a somewhat unusual will. Two well-known Brisbane men were his trustees and his bequests to his mother and two sisters were on condition that they did not commit adultery before marriage. Until a few weeks before his death, Markwell's wages as a clerk with the merchants, Siemons, in Roma Street had been twenty-five shillings a week, but with a change of job, he earned thirty shillings and paid twenty of them to his mother for board. Despite the fact that he had no other money except the balance of his wages, he owned a collection of several pieces of gold and silver jewellery and some valuable gem-studded tie pins. A photograph of one of his trustees, wearing a velvet trimmed jacket and a silk top hat was among his effects. He had frequently spoken of going for
a trip to New Zealand, a favourite holiday destination of the Maynes, and he had discovered enough about the symptoms of epilepsy to fake them and convince a doctor that he was an epileptic.

In the early evening of 24 January 1905, he and his sister had taken a long tram ride from his home in the eastern suburb of Wooloowin to the western suburb of Toowong and then home again. He then stepped into a hot bath and drank potassium cyanide. The faked epilepsy was to suggest accidental drowning so that the insurance could be claimed.

Taking tram rides was a common pastime in those days, but the fact that Carl Markwell went to Toowong gave rise to gossip that he went to the Maynes. The tram route was two blocks distant from ‘‘Moorlands''. It was the train which had a station at their back gate, but walking was also a common pastime and there may not have been a scheduled train at a suitable time. Selina Joyce, a housemaid from Toowong, gave evidence. Neither her employer's name nor address was stated, but she proved to be a family friend of the young Markwells. Speculation was stirred when the question arose as to how and where Carl had obtained cyanide and detailed knowledge of the symptoms of epilepsy. Clutching at any link, the rumourmongers noted that a friend of James who visited ‘‘Moorlands'' was the Hospital Dispenser, Douglas Brown. A magisterial inquiry was held and the body, immediately exhumed, was found to contain traces of potassium cyanide, commonly used by photographers, and not
hydrogen cyanide. The photography shop and the salesman were easily identified. There was no link with James Mayne or his friend.

The wild speculation surrounding Carl Markwell's death is tangled and full of half-truths. No reason was offered for his suicide; simplification would be falsification. There was time between James' return from Sydney and Markwell's detailed insurance and suicide plans for him to have learned from James that Isaac had been declared insane and committed to an asylum. Other members of the household could have told him earlier, but that is drawing a long bow and suggesting that Isaac and Carl were friends. Nothing in the evidence suggests that they knew each other. I contend that it was quite coincidental that within a week of Carl Markwell's suicide, Isaac Mayne hanged himself.

Brisbane's court of public opinion decided that Isaac and Carl were involved in a lovers' pact. The facts are that the Mayne family had been excessively secret about Isaac's committal to Bay View. Few, if any, outside of the family knew, and it is highly unlikely that they told a young caller who may, or may not, have known Isaac. That is, unless the housemaid who gave evidence worked at ‘‘Moorlands''. Had Markwell been at ‘‘Moorlands'' on the night of Tobita's death and been associated with Isaac in that crime, it is even more unlikely that the family would impart to him knowledge of their brother's whereabouts. The gossiping public only learned where he was when, on 1 February 1905, the
Sydney Morning Herald
headed an
item ‘‘SUICIDE IN AN ASYLUM'' and noted that ‘‘in a private asylum for the insane at Cooks River ... Isaac Mayne, a solicitor ... a native of Queensland...'' The local papers took up the item. As for Isaac learning of a supposed friend's death before taking his own life, that, too, is most unlikely. He had been under supervision and restraint for his own safety at both ‘‘Moorlands'' and Bay View Asylum. To take his own life he had to exercise the same sort of cunning as was evident in some of his father's actions. He acted on a chance opportunity. When his attendant left his room briefly at 5a.m. on 31 January, Isaac, who was thought to be asleep, disappeared. He was found two hours later suspended from a beam in the asylum pottery shed. He was fifty-three.

James, so vulnerable, was acutely sensitive to the new vicious and unsubstantiated gossip. With a need to put the whole miserable story behind them forever, he fanned the gossip by acting with more haste than commonsense. Isaac's body was railed to Brisbane on the day of his death, and, because of the heat of midsummer, buried at Toowong within hours of arrival.—Suspicious haste, murmured Dame Rumour. But no secret was made of the funeral; notices appeared in the Brisbane press. The public wanted to suspect a cover-up and misread James' reason for haste.

Isaac had made no will and Rosanna and Mary Emelia consented to letters of administration being granted to William and James to settle his affairs. Almost all of his estate was held in some fifty parcels of land sited in the
City, North Brisbane, Kedron, Enoggera, Yeerongpilly and Sandgate. They were valued at £21,379 and the decision was to consolidate, rather than fragment the family's wealth. Following their mother's lead, it was considered that Rosanna's dowry, consisting of her inheritance from Patrick's estate, needed no enlarging. On 19 April 1905, in a deed of assignment, Rosanna agreed with that decision and assigned her title to the others. Her steady signature on her receipt for a token payment of ten shillings cleared the way for the other three to inherit. On these documents a glimpse of the elusive William peeps through the legalities. Everywhere he is listed as ‘‘William Mayne, Gentleman''. Perhaps his gentlemanly hand is also reflected on Isaac's death certificate. On earlier documents, their father was always recorded as a butcher, but in 1905 he is promoted to ‘‘Patrick Mayne, Grazier''. In cases where the information seems to come from James, he, a little more accurately, recorded his father as ‘‘butcher and grazier''.

The three youngest Maynes had been under very severe tension for more than three years, long before they went overseas to seek help for Isaac. Rosanna's condition, now needing more frequent periods of restraint, had been a worry almost as long as Mary Emelia and James could remember. But she was receiving the recommended care of the day in the security of All Hallows', and was not disrupting their daily lives as Isaac had. They had all been born to tension and had lived with it for much of their
life, but none of it had wreaked the havoc created by Isaac in the last few years. How they fared psychologically is unknown, but four months after Isaac's suicide, Ann Mayne, seventy-six, died at ‘‘Moorlands''. Now the emptiness of being idle, monied, and shunned, descended on the three surviving members of the family.


The Burden of Inheritance

Between 1905 and 1918 the only known activities of the surviving Maynes were the maintenance and increasing of their large property holdings, William's horse riding, and long carriage trips to their land at Moggill for leisurely picnics. The land was leased to James Pacey, a farming son of the Irish ticket-of-leave Patrick Pacey who had befriended Patrick Mayne when the slaughterhouse moved to that area in 1848. Although the farmers knew of Patrick's crime, the murder at Milton and the legend of Isaac on the
many had a high regard for the three youngest Maynes. The middle-aged James and Mary Emelia are remembered as gentle, kindly people who brought little gifts and sweets for the local children.

Folk in the neighbourhood between Milton and
Toowong remember them very differently. During the first decade of the new century many of the gardens of those early large houses were sliced into profitable smaller allotments, and the spaces rapidly filled by less wealthy but still comfortably-off families in smaller houses. The new arrivals were quickly aware of the mysterious, wealthy Maynes. They heard all the garbled murder stories and feared the unspeakable rumours. Their children, searching for after-school adventure beneath the twisted green canopy of Langsville Creek and the marshy reeds, were forbidden to go beyond that area onto the Maynes' land. Those children, today's octogenarians, were never told what their parents feared, only that the place was ‘‘evil'' or a ‘‘bad place''. The word
was not in use until the 1890s. It was still not generally spoken; as late as 1917, the ‘‘crime'' of homosexuality could attract a gaol sentence of fourteen years—more commonly, a harsh seven years. The community was very concerned with respectability. Most people feared public shame. A strict morality cemented the public ethos.

It was quite customary for many of the children of apprehensive parents to obediently avert their eyes as they hurried past the big house on River Road on their way to or from school. No doubt with shivers of mysterious excitation. In the 1920s my husband, then a wandering, adventurous child, swam in the creek that separated his home, ‘‘Ravensfield'' from ‘‘Moorlands''. With his equally adventurous friends, he combed the marshy banks for snakes and birds' nests, but they dared go no closer to
‘‘that place''. To them, one window, boarded up ever since Isaac's incarceration, was a grim signal of the unspeakable events rumoured to take place there. Were they still happening or did they belong to the past? No one knew. No one tested the rumours that hung in a black miasma over ‘‘Moorlands'', piquing the ever-curious minds that hid behind many restrained, down-drawn, condemning lips. Even across the river, from Davies Park to Hill End, the locals would aim one thumb in the direction of ‘‘Moorlands'' and tell all who would listen of the evil that lurked there.

Such long-term mass condemnation of a family is a subject for others to study. The two sinners were dead. Those who lived on were quiet, well-mannered, churchgoing and public spirited. They harmed no one. The only accusation that could be levelled at was one of homosexuality, and that word was never uttered. Its non-mention has allowed it to disappear from almost all the Mayne stories, leaving ‘‘All those murders!'' to be the general reaction when one inquires about the Maynes.

There were friends, but not many. Archbishop Dunne, who valued social harmony above strict religious teaching, was still alive, though feeble. He was not a man to judge those who walked along different paths and his friendship and guidance over the years had always been warm. He had been more interested in building schools than churches, and had never approved the bricks-and-mortar Catholicism of his predecessor, James Quinn. Neither did he approve of building programmes which ran into debt.
His was a philosophy which appealed to William and James. One thing they had learned or inherited from their parents was good business sense. They husbanded their wealth and probably William, certainly James, gave a lot of thought to how it could be best used. Archbishop Dunne's influence on the Mayne family seems to have been much stronger than has been realised. This became apparent under the reign of his successor. The very different, big-spending James Duhig, who in 1912 became coadjutor Archbishop and in 1917 received the pallium, had a philosophy which did not appeal to James. The two never became friends.

With the outbreak of war in 1914, James and William were too old to enlist as soldiers. But one of the questions which must arise is why the patriotic James Mayne, who daily flew the Union Jack above ‘‘Moorlands'', did not offer his medical skills to the forces. He had remained a registered medical practitioner, and at fifty-three his age was no barrier. In 1914 the slightly older Ernest Sandford Jackson abandoned his private practice and quickly donned the uniform of a major serving with the 1st Australian General Hospital. Doctors were in short supply and James would be well aware of the need, particularly for surgeons in the field. Was it a burning dread, anticipation even of the insanity that dogged the family, especially its two knife-wielding members? Perhaps he did offer, only to be turned down. It is not easy to reconcile the patriotic man of strong character with the determination to spend years in serious study towards his goal, with the man who
now idled away his life when surgeons were urgently needed.

It has been said that Mary Emelia's war effort involved a sewing circle at their home. The Red Cross Annual Reports reveal that an army of volunteer women spent their spare time in the industrious making of pyjamas, pillow-slips, fly veils, balaclavas and socks, and the turning of a myriad pieces of material into hospital needs. In most cases groups were led by the wives of local establishment men: bankers, lawyers, doctors or politicians. At Toowong, the Red Cross and the Boy Scouts each had a ladies' committee and there was a Girls' Patriotic Fund. A Toowong/Auchenflower branch of the Red Cross was led by Lady Philp in her home. There is no mention of the name Mayne, nor of ‘‘Moorlands'' as a working-bee venue among the very long list in the records. If Mary Emelia did put her home and money at the disposal of a volunteer sewing circle, it must have comprised a handful of local women whom she knew. Like countless other women contributors to the war effort, she does not appear to have worked in any organised manner.

Just before the war a group of young men had reformed the Toowong Rowing Club, which had lapsed after losing its shed and equipment in the 1893 flood. In 1918 James became its President, an office he held for several years. At the age of fifty-nine it was through rowing that he met twenty-year-old university student, Frederick Whitehouse. A close relationship developed between them which lasted until James died; for Fred, loyalty to James
stretched beyond the grave. With his young friend, James rediscovered something of his youth. In his own student days in Sydney and London the heroes were the good athletes with a sense of leadership, courage, and the virtue that lay in winning. Whitehouse, a short, stocky, personable but rather ordinary-looking student, had many admirable qualities. An active oarsman, he was as enthusiastic a sport as he was a science student, and took a lead in student and community affairs. He is remembered as a self-contained, tough little man. His flair for debating and journalism was a spark to quicken James' own sharp intelligence.

The bright, enthusiastic young Whitehouse would have brought a ray of sunshine to the colourless existence in post-war ‘‘Moorlands''. William, now in his mid-sixties, had been slowed by heart disease. The once hyperactive, flighty Mary Emelia, now dull and compliant, rigidly buttoned into sombre pre-war long dresses and black buttoned-up boots, had little enthusiasm for anything other than going to church, domestic responsibilities, and picnics at Moggill. It was the flapper era; short skirts, the Charleston and jazz music, but such changes had not pervaded ‘‘Moorlands''.

There was little to draw visitors had they wished to come. A few old friends such as Dr Sandford Jackson called, so did their estate agent, and the new Archbishop, James Duhig. Jackson had been the family doctor since the turn of the century. His were both professional and friendly visits. With William he shared a knowledge and
love of good horses. With James, there were medical issues to discuss, and with both brothers the shared joy of creating beautiful gardens, and that long-running contentious topic, the potential of three sites proposed for the expansion of the University. Jackson and many others in the medical profession were adamant that it should be sited at Victoria Park, near the General Hospital. James and his new young friend Fred Whitehouse argued for space for buildings and playing fields and a rowing shed by the river. They were more in tune with some public arguments which ranged around the merits of the other sites—Dutton Park at Yeronga, and St Lucia. The government had little money for expansion and so the argument rolled on across the years.

After William's death on 16 August 1921, there were longer intervals between visitors to ‘‘Moorlands''. Within a few months Fred graduated and won a travelling scholarship to Cambridge University. He and James used to stroll along the river bank at Toowong, talking and debating a wide variety of issues. Despite their age disparity, for James this was one of the better periods of his life. Now that, too, came to an end. The long days with only Mary Emelia for company were tedious. He sought more outside interests. There was some involvement with the Amateur Fishermen's Association. His generosity paid for extensive improvements to its Douglas Ogilvy cottage at Bribie Island, and in the 1930s, he gave money to build a Stradbroke Island cottage near the headland at Point Lookout. They elected him Vice President of their
association and named the new building ‘‘James Mayne Cottage''. It is difficult to imagine the fastidious James as a fisherman, spending weekends in the small, spartan weekender. By the 1980s his name on the cottage had been supplanted by a sign reading ‘‘Tug Tellum''—the reverse of mullet gut. James Mayne had been forgotten. The cottage withstood the onslaught of storms and tourists, but in 1995 it was removed by developers in the name of progress.

When William died, Rosanna was again excluded from inheriting. Mary Emelia and James were his beneficiaries and executors. Mary Emelia was to receive the special bequest of £5,000 which William thought she had been denied in her mother's will; the remainder of his £54,000 estate was divided equally between the two. Almost all of it was real property and inscribed stock. As Mary Emelia had never been interested in business matters and was quite content to follow James' lead, the real responsibility for their joint wealth now fell to James. These two, both in their sixties, were among the richest people in the State. They had no descendants. Archbishop Duhig assumed that the Church would eventually inherit. ‘‘Moorlands'' was high on his visiting list.

In 1922 when St Stephen's Cathedral was being extended eastwards from the nave, Duhig was encouraged when the two Maynes agreed to enhance the high sanctuary wall behind the altar with a large stained-glass window in memory of Isaac and William. As the Archbishop was about to make an overseas trip they gave him a free hand
to choose and purchase this memorial. Duhig sought out Dublin's Harry Clarke, one of this century's major designers of stained-glass. He drew his inspiration from the vivid colours of the great Gothic windows of the Middle Ages, and produced a brilliant, translucent mosaic, delicately detailed and dramatic in composition. A triptych that soars almost to the roof, its central panel depicts Christ on a sea of jewelled clouds ascending into heaven while below him is a thoughtful Virgin Mary. Looking on from the side panels are eleven apostles—no Judas. Duhig had chosen well. When the window was unveiled and dedicated by Monseigneur Cattaneo on 10 June 1923 and the bright sun streamed through the splendour of its Byzantine colours, it was evident that the memorial to the two eldest Mayne brothers was a priceless asset for the Cathedral and for Brisbane.

There were now three stained-glass memorial windows to the family in the Cathedral. It is popularly believed by many in the Catholic hierarchy that James now said, ‘‘This is the last thing the Church is getting from me''. It was in fact the last gift, but the Archbishop, often hard-pressed for money, continued to hope and make requests to him for funds. Duhig misread or refused to see the signals. James was a charming, cordial retiring man, a regular church-goer, but he was also strong-minded. Under the most extreme circumstances he had not hesitated to be decisive and firm in his purpose. That purpose had always been based on what was best for the family; his efforts were always aimed at restoring dignity to their
name within the wider community. James' education had not been exclusively Catholic; it had not reinforced his religion. There was little or no sectarian inclusiveness in his make-up. In 1919 he had donated handsomely to the Anglican fund for the new St Martin's War Memorial Hospital. He did not like to be asked for money. He enjoyed the pleasure of spontaneous giving. It was his next big donation that should have sent a message to his Archbishop.

BOOK: The Mayne Inheritance
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