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Western Herald, Wed 20 Sep 1893 1


    At the Local [Bourke] Police Court on Saturday, before Messrs CMcA King, PM, and T Ilbery, JP, a man named John Ahearn was charged with wilful exposure of the person.

Brewarrina courthouse, built 1872. Photo ID: SRNSW 4346_a020_ a020000335.jpg
Brewarrina courthouse, built 1872.
Photo ID: SRNSW 4346_a020_ a020000335.jpg

    Senior-Constable James Doig, on oath, stated that about 10.30 o’clock on Friday night he saw the accused in Mitchell-street; said to him, pointing to Glen-street, “Were you down there yesterday about 1 o’clock when the school children were coming out of school?” accused replied “No;” asked “Where he was about that time;” accused replied “With a man named Jack, I was with him nearly all day;” said to him “You have shaved your whiskers off, why did you do that?” he replied “I had no object for it, what’s the matter?” witness said he believed accused had been up to his old tricks again, exposing himself to school-children; accused said “I was drunk and know nothing about it;” asked him if Mr Gow had spoken to him, and accused replied that he had, accusing him of exposing himself; then arrested him and charged him with the offence; accused replied “Well, I must plead wrong to the charge;” then locked him up. Witness then gave evidence of the identification of prisoner first by three school-children, and afterwards by a young girl. The Senior-Constable also stated that he arrested the accused about five years ago on a similar charge at Brewarrina, but the case was not gone into owing to want of identification. Accused gave the age of 52 at the lockup; witness had not seen the accused drinking.

    Evidence of the exposure was then given by two school girls.

    William Culbert, a shearer, on oath, stated that on Thursday last in Mitchell-street, near the Jolly Waggoner’s Hotel; saw the accused deliberately expose his person to a young girl who was passing; the accused was under the influence of drink.

    The Bench ordered the prisoner to be kept in custody for 96 hours in Bourke gaol, and to receive a whipping of ten lashes on the 19th inst, at 10 am.


    On Saturday morning last, after the local Bench had delivered judgment upon the man John Ahearn, who had, in a beastlike and filthy manner broken alike the laws of the land and society, something like excitement pervaded the town. The news ran quickly, and even the expected results of the different events to be run at the AJC Spring race meeting paled in significance to the anticipated flogging which had been ordered to be administered. The reason, no doubt, of this, was that it was the first time that anything of the kind had occurred in Bourke, combined with the fact that it followed so closely the stringent, yet just, measures recently taken in the metropolis to deter vagabonds from ruthlessly endangering the lives and persons of law-abiding citizens. During Sunday and Monday the topic was the same, and parents felt thankful that our local magistrates had ordered the severe, yet merited punishment, to be inflicted upon a wretch who had no respect or consideration for their children.

    Early on Tuesday morning after awaking from peaceful slumbers, we lay for a few minutes, as if our usual custom, ruminating over the duties of the day. The first thing of importance, of course, was the infliction of corporal punishment to Ahearn, and an involuntary shudder was the result of the thought of the thing. A journalist’s life is undoubtedly a varied one, and consists of a combination of pleasure and pains, at times truly remarkable. A reporter, especially in city life, has frequently to attend and write about a hanging, a police court, a dinner, a fatal accident, and a theatre all in the one day, and if, at last, he becomes somewhat callous, surely those who find pleasure in reading their paper at breakfast, or any other time, will not convict him of hardheartedness. It is his duty, and it must be done. That was the conclusion we arrived at on Tuesday morning, and although the task was distasteful, we said “It must be done.”

    The morning was a lovely one, and our buoyant spirits were only checked by thought of the degraded wretch who, in a very short time, would have to undergo the penalty, his brutal nature had earned for him. Shortly before ten o’clock, Dr Sides, resident medical officer, Mr CMcA King, Visiting Magistrate, Senior-Sergeant Webb, and the representatives of the press, arrived at the gaol and were conducted by Mr Bennetts to his office. Here the Doctor gave the necessary certificate as to the condition of the man and his capability of bearing the punishment. Meanwhile, the flagellator, who had arrived from Darlinghurst the previous evening, changed his citizen’s dress for that of the official, and arranged the necessary apparatus for his dismal work. A few minutes before 10, those present went into the gaol yard, which was quite empty, all the prisoners being kept under lock and key until Ahearn had received his punishment. In reply to a question, Mr Bennetts, the gaoler, informed us that Ahearn had eaten very little since he was taken to the gaol, and was very despondent, and the man certainly looked it as he entered the yard on the eastern side of the gaol, where the flogging was to be administered. A big strong-looking man, very much bronzed by the weather, but the blood had left his face, which was of a pale ashen hue. He glanced anxiously and quickly around, and then waled straight to the triangle. A look of inquiry at the flogger, and the order being given, he quickly divested himself of coat, waistcoat, and shirt, exhibiting a well-nourished body, the skin being very white as compared with his neck and face. A minute or two was taken up in strapping Ahearn to the triangle, and then the flogger produced his many stranded whip. He ran his fingers through the heavy knotted cords and inquired as to the time. Being instructed to commence, he was about to give the first stroke when the warder told off to count, said “One.” This baulked him who held the “Cat,” and the warder was smartly told not to count until the stroke had been given. Then came a “switch” through the air, and the cords fell heavily on to Ahearn’s shoulders. Instantly many blue weals arose on the flesh, the man making no sound, but his muscles moved convulsively. The second stroke gave a similar result, the cruel knots in the whip making large indentations. After the third stroke, Ahearn cried pleadingly “Oh, for God’s sake Doctor!” After the fourth he said “Oh! Mr King they will kill me.” After the sixth, he prayed “For God’s sake, stop,” and remained silent until the tenth and last stroke had been given when he murmured with a sigh “Oh dear.” His castigator immediately placed a pannikin of water to his mouth, and he drank eagerly. His straps were then loosened, and his coat being thrown over his shoulders, he nodded to the onlookers, and trembling, walked away with the warders. Although no blood ran from the wounds, Ahearn’s back presented a sickening appearance and the pain he suffered was very great. He will be released from gaol to-day.


    The following letter, addressed to Mr T Waddell, MP, has been forwarded to us for publication:—Department of Justice, Sydney, 15th September, 1893.—Sir,—Referring to your memorandum of the 10th July last, forwarding with your recommendation thereon, a letter from the hon. secretary to the Progress Committee, Enngonia, asking that a Court of Petty Sessions may be established at that place. I have the honour, by direction of the Minister for Justice, to inform you that, having caused careful inquiry to be made on the subject, he is of opinion that there is no pressing necessity for the establishment of this Court at present; and that, in any case, action would have to be deferred for the present, until there are funds to provide a cell and court room.—I have the honor to be, Sir, your obedient servant, Archibald Fraser, Under Secretary.

    A meeting of shearers, members of the ASU [Amalgamated Shearers’ Union], Bourke branch, 2 was held at Tindarey, Cobar district, on the 9th instant. Mr JC Smith, shed representative, occupied the chair. After reading the balance-sheet, he introduced Mr J Seifer, who gave a lengthy address on the subject of abolishing all branch offices, after which he moved the following resolution:—“That all branch offices be abolished, and only one central office in each colony be kept.” This was seconded by Mr N Patterson, and unanimously adopted. The members also recommend that a vote of all members of the union be taken on the above resolution during this year, or as soon as possible, and that the same be forwarded to the chairman of the ASU, head office, Creswick. With hearty votes of thanks to Mr J Seifer and the chairman, the meeting closed.

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The Scrutineer and Berrima District Press, Sat 23 Sep 1893 3


    John Ahearn, for wilful indecent exposure, was flogged in Bourke Gaol on on [sic] Tuesday morning last, in the presence of Dr Sides, Resident Government Medical Officer; Mr CWCA King, visiting justice; and representatives of the press, besides the gaol officials. Ahearn is a strong man, 50 years of age. He walked to the triangle without hesitation, and quickly pulled off his clothes, showing sallow, flabby flesh. The flagellator, who came from Darlinghurst, strapped Ahearn to the triangle, and lost no time in getting to work. At the third stroke Ahearn cried “Oh, for God’s sake, doctor!” At the fourth he cried, “Oh, Mr King, he’ll kill me!” He received the worst without a word, and when the tenth was given, he said, with a heavy sigh, “oh hear.” He quickly grasped a pannikin of water which was handed to him, and after covering his back with an overcoat nodded to the visiting justice, and walked away to his cell. No blood issued from the man’s back, but it appeared like a piece of liver with indentations where the knots of the cat met the flesh.


1    Western Herald, (Bourke, NSW), Wed 20 Sep 1893, p. 2. Emphasis added.

2    In February 1894 the General Labourers’ Union and the Amalgamated Shearers’ Union amalgamated to form the Australian Workers’ Union. The AWU was registered in 1905 and continued operating under this name until 1993, despite two re-registrations (one in 1976 and the next in 1988). In 1993 the AWU amalgamated with the Federation of Industrial Manufacturing & Engineering Employees to form the AWU-FIME Amalgamated Union.

3    The Scrutineer and Berrima District Press, Sat 23 Sep 1893, p. 5.