Monday, February 28, 2011



1874 – 1944

From Bertie Everett Brown to Charles Nelson Brown Parker: From Peru, Indiana to Sydney, Australia... it has indeed been a very long journey.



Grandfather was born in the decade following the American Civil War, when his own grandfather, his father’s father Dennis Brown fought for the north. A soldier with a Quaker background. 

Back in 1645 the family’s first Quaker, his many times over great-great grandfather Richard Browne, would not have approved.
Bertie’s maternal grandmother Charlotte De Moss, Laura Brown’s mother was born into a prominent southern family whose roots went back to France. They too had fled the old country seeking freedom from repression.

And in between, in the centuries of Brownes and Browns, Mercer’s, De Mosses and Welch, when Grandfather could and should have laid claim to countless generations of American pioneers, he did not.  Strange to think he never once mentioned these praise worthy ancestors in any of the many brag sessions he held with interviewing journalists.

Perhaps he knew nothing about them.

What happened in the nineteen years between Grandfather’s birth in 1874 and the last recorded sight of him as Bertie Brown in Indiana in 1893 we really haven’t a clue. I know only that he was born the eldest child, his only surviving sibling was his sister Leota, his parents were John Brown and Laura Welch. 

It’s impossible to guess why but eventually there came the day his parents broke up, his father spent time in a penitentiary, and suddenly Grandfather is no longer living in Indiana:  He left home as Bertie Brown, never to return, and for ever more was known as Charles Nelson Brown-Parker.



Leota Brown, Chas-Bertie’s sister in Indiana, USA about 1925.
His sister never married and following their parents separation she and her mother Laura worked as dressmakers. Leota alone kept in touch with her brother after he left the family home and obviously was privy to his new identity.

Charles and Maggie named their first born Leota; some years later Bill and May Brown Parker would name their first daughter Leota.

A postcard from 1923 has survived the years and proves that by then at least Grandmother Maggie knew her husbands true identity.



June 1927. I guess home is the only place to head to when life is tough; or in the absence of a permanent abode, family will do:  Maggie, Chas and the girls have moved from the upset and humiliation of Bundaberg to Newcastle, where Bill and May have settled with their daughters Leota and Gloria.  A son Barry has yet to arrive.

My grandparents are now in their fifties and have nothing tangible to show for their twenty nine years of marriage.  Charles has gone beyond ‘portly’ in his appearance and is now almost rotund.  Maggie has begun to age in the dowdy way some women do when money is short and life is full of anxiety.

In the same general area around Newcastle, Bert has begun courting his bride to be Mary Sophia Merchant, while Bob is set to tie the knot with Molly in nearby Stockton.  In years to come Bert and Mary will return to live permanently in Newcastle, taking an active and keen interest in community affairs and raising their four children. 

One, Rosemary, will become a pharmacist, and their son John will be a journalist.  Margaret and I will be of the same vintage, while the youngest, Barbara, will luckily prove to be a bower bird, maintaining her late father’s stewardship of Chas Brown Parker’s old and dusty memories.

Without these keepsakes Grandfather’s story might never have emerged.



Once he arrived in Newcastle Chas had no trouble finding a position with Newcastle’s Mater Misericordiae Big Drive fund raising Committee.  Like all Mater Hospitals dotted around Australia at the time, the Catholic Church oversaw the fund-raising on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy. 

Grandfather spent a successful ten months organising carnivals and raffles; I know this because when he left he received a curiously worded letter of commendation from the Committee.

The letters sentiment’s appeared sincere; it was the heavy emphasis on Chas’s honesty that made me wonder if his mangled and tainted past had continued to dog him, not only in the far north of the continent, but way south past Bundaberg and Brisbane and was still bugging him here in Newcastle.  

I don’t think there has ever been a reference so comprehensively endorsed as this one appeared to be by the Police Department and the Attorney General.  It’s a wonder Chas didn’t have it framed.

However one niggling little doubt kept lurking around  in the back of my mind; the letter is typed, not on a Committee letter head, but instead on stationary embossed C.N.Brown Parker, Organising Secretary. 

I don’t doubt the President of the committee signed the letter, but I do wonder who actually created its effusive content. Could this be yet another of Grandfathers ‘do it yourself’ jobs.

I’ve copied the letter-head, but the body of the letter has been photocopied so many times it is almost illegible. 

Whoever wrote the letter covered every possible base; with a letter like this no one could possibly point an accusing finger at Chas.


I have pleasure in stating that Mr. C.N.Brown-Parker was engaged as Organiser for various functions on account of the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, from June 1927 to March 1928, during the whole of which period he worked most industriously and enthusiastically displaying interest and energy on a most commendable scale. 
 The books in connection with the several undertakings were kept in a manner satisfactory to the Auditors, the Police Department and the Attorney-General.  During the operations referred to Mr Parker handled large sums of money and the members of this Committee have placed on record their appreciation of his honesty and the methods he adopted to prevent leakages in every direction.

 I shall be pleased at all times to give a personal interview to any prospective employer and have no hesitation in recommending Mr Parker to any position to which he may aspire. 

Signed M.I. Moroney. President



Rewa and her small cousins Newcastle

Maggie, Rewa with Bill’s girls Leota and baby Gloria

Bill’s family with Rewa & Maggie


If you delve back through the Ancestor series to Four Sisters from Sussex*, the story that lead into Maggie’s marriage in Fiji, you will meet her mother Geraldine Sweeny.

Geraldine faced innumerable challenges in her life, a childhood of family shame, two husbands, two voyages under sail across the world.  Like her three sisters who all came to Australia she proved to be a woman of strength and character.  I might not have mentioned the fact, but back in the United Kingdom, the four girls had left behind three other sisters, Alice Kate the eldest, Madeline May and the youngest Constance Olivia whose life would be short and tragic.

In a future story you will meet Constance Olivia’s son, Frank Fleming, my Grandmother’s cousin; he together with Noel Coward and Amelia Earhart, will bring great comfort  to my life and not a few grateful tears, but not until Frank himself has been dead for over forty years.

At the moment though, it is 1931 and Geraldine has died in Sydney at the age of 82.  She alone survived her three Australia domiciled sisters Adeline, Camilla and Bertha.  We have a few photographs of her and they show a surprisingly tall lady, much taller than her diminutive Fiji born daughters.

Geraldine, not long before her death

In the photos her impression never wavers from stern boredom, or perhaps  disapproval. Maybe she too, like Maggie’s brothers had not welcomed her daughter Maggie’s marriage to the young American with the silvery tongue.

Maybe she has been observing from afar her son-in-law’s constant misdemeanours and is not amused.

While her McGowan and Foreman sons, and one Foreman daughter remained in Fiji, Geraldine and three of her younger daughters from her second marriage to Robert Foreman spent the remainder of their lives in Sydney.  Geraldine was the last of the Sweeny sisters.
So at least my Grandmother did have kin nearby.



The Wall Street Crash of 1929 quickly reverberated around the world; by 1930 Australia was firmly in the grip of Depression. Almost overnight the market had crashed, jobs were lost, families torn apart as husbands and fathers took to the road to find work. 

Soup kitchens and shanty towns for the homeless began to spring up throughout New South Wales.  Government handouts were barely enough to keep a family alive.

No doubt Grandfather lost his job with the fund raising committee because of the financial crisis. With no work to be found in Newcastle ChasBert moved Maggie and the girls to Sydney.  By then Bill and Bob were married and they and their wives gravitated between Newcastle and Sydney.

There is a story that Bill won some money in a lottery and at his wife May’s urging bought a modest little cottage in Merewether, a suburb of Newcastle. Of course she was thrilled, up to then they had lived in rented flats and rooms. But the joy was short lived.  Uncle Bill loved the gee gee’s, horse racing to the uninitiated, and it wasn’t along before the house had to be sold.


 Today’s generation probably find it difficult to imagine the harsh reality of life during a depression without money, roof, self esteem or opportunity; or for that matter the inordinate length of time their parents or grandparents had to exist in this abject poverty.  Forget credit cards, forget generous unemployment benefits, think eviction, think grinding poverty.

A few family stories have emerged from those years.  The job Bill managed to find in a biscuit factory where he brought home the broken produce in a suitcase for Maggie and the girls to hawk around the neighbourhood.

Or when Viti found work in the country bringing  home at weekends a case of bruised oranges for Maggie and daughter in law Molly to make into jam; again to be sold to neighbours for the odd penny or so a bottle.

Or for that matter the time the landlady who owned the rooms they were living in found Grandmother cooking on a small primus stove and turned them out into the street.

I can imagine my Grandfather at this time, desperately trying to turn a trick, searching for scams and schemes to bring in money, anything to keep the wolf from the door, the family fed.

But he’s getting on in years now, too old for the boxing circuit, no longer the dandy of the stage.  Fund raising and carnivals are out of the question, no one has spare cash to give to charity or spend on frivolity.  

But he does find a solution of sorts.

Early days Parramatta Rd parade – pix by JG Park

Again Grandfather  returns to his original trade. He and Maggie have moved to the Sydney suburb of Petersham, midway between Sydney’s centre and Parramatta, where Chas takes up a position with the Leichardt Weekly.

The paper is run by a Mr G.R. Brickhill, but within a year this gentleman issues a statement that after one year in the job...
 ‘...circumstances have now arisen which makes reorganisation desirable.   The newspaper has been placed in full control of Mr. C.N.Brown Parker...’

Three months later, in October 1933,  a news story appears that seems to herald the papers change of name with the heading...


The  story is in effect extolling the increased circulation of the paper and advising that the Management is now controlled by Mr C.N. Brown-Parker who resigned from the Managerial position of the Weekly. 

Grandfather goes on to give a potted version of his experience in the news print industry,  thirty three years resident in Australia,  his large family, a son who fell in the world conflict (incorrect, but this after all is ChasBert’s version), and his own service in the Australian Infantry Forces in World War One.

These were some of the worst years of the depression.  Shop owners were abandoning premises, money was tight and it is hard to understand how Grandfather could suddenly become the manager of a newspaper, even a small free one that I suspect the ‘News’ was.  Papers like these relied solely on advertising.

The explanation probably lies in the statement where he says the paper is owned and controlled by local residents, and in the earlier one where it’s original manager spoke of ‘circumstances arising’

 In other words the paper has gone bust, and Chas, never one to pass up a good opportunity, has seen a chance to resurrect the business by convincing local businessman to contribute running costs in return for cheap advertising.  

He puts the entire family to work. Bert, Mary and Viti, and later both Bob and Bill. There are advertisements to create, customers to canvass, payments to be collected and papers to be distributed.  For a while Chas keeps the paper afloat and the baying wolves from the door.

These weren’t the best of times to run a business.  The depression was deepening and news from other parts of the world relayed doom and gloom.  Germany was moving more and more under the influence of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party.  Many Aussies may not have been aware that war, once again, was just around the corner.

How long did the paper last?  I suspect not all that long.



Selection of Rewa’s hats – Sydney war years

WW2 – THE FAMILY IN UNIFORM- Bill, my dad Guy and Bob


HMS Formidable berthed Circular Quay Sydney 1945 – State Records NSW

The year is 1937, Viti has been working on a paper in the country town of Inverell but makes frequent trips home to see her mother. 

 Rewa has become a milliner and her work can be seen in the many family photos of the time. The Brown Parkers have moved from Petersham to nearby Hurstville, and Rewa falls in love with Guy the boy next door.

The following years brings a mixed bag of joy and despair. England declares it is at war with Germany and the Brown Parker boys don the uniforms of the Australian Armed Services. 

From my parents point of view their news is good, their daughter Robyn is born and her first five years of life will be spent entertaining and being entertained by her maternal Grandfather, Charles Nelson Brown-Parker.  Theirs will be a mutual admiration society, a short but close relationship that will leave a lasting imprint on his grand daughter’s memory.

Charles doesn’t know it but these will prove to be the last few years of his life.  He will live through most of the war years, watch his sons and grand daughter Leota join the armed forces.  He will see Bob sail off to the Middle East but miss his safe return.

Through news reports he will follow the war and ponder the fate of a world in turmoil. He will hear the broadcasts of Japanese invasion in Hawaii and  will see the bombing of Sydney by Japanese midget subs. He will ensure the women and children of his family are evacuated to the country town of Inverell until the immediate danger is over.  He will bring home lonely American servicemen to eat at his table.

And throughout these last years and months of his life Maggie will be by his side as she has been for the past forty four years.

Charles Nelson Brown Parker, also known as Bertie Everett Brown will be buried in Sydney in February of 1944 in the presence of Maggie and his children’s families, and mourned by a small grand daughter who will forever remember him with love and affection.



In writing Grandfather’s story I’ve stuck to the truth, warts and all.  He left behind only a few clues, the rest we had to search for. I’m sure he hadn’t foreseen the age of digital wizardry when his past would be laid open for all to see, might even have hoped we would never see the entire picture.

He was a wily character and a great survivor.  Though to be honest he had only himself to blame for a great deal of the trouble he ultimately found himself in. I’m sure he truly believed he was merely defending his principles and the honour of others when his temper got the better of him.

 Among those keepsakes my cousin Barbara found, mixed in with all the newspaper cuttings and old work place references he kept another surprising item.   A seven stanza poem entitled ‘Not Understood’. I’ve no doubt he could recite the words by heart and felt they were written especially for him.

The poem was written by an Irish settler in New Zealand, Thomas Bracken before he died in 1898.  It could almost be my Grandfather’s made to order epitaph.



*Four Sisters from Sussex  
*Ancestors Series Fiji NZ Australia


Future chapters     -  From Sussex a WW1 Pilot
                              -  Fiji Maggie’s legacy

Robyn Mortimer©2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011



(Shamelessly purloined from a story by reporter Robert Craddock in the Brisbane Courier Mail of  21/02/2011...)

You probably remember my post about Barney the Brave Brahmin Bull that survived his   87 kilometre swim down the Tweed River during the 2008 floods.

  I hate to be the one to break the news to Barney, but he’s been upstaged... by a girl!

Yes, sad but true.  His marathon effort has been well and truly gazumped by Danette, the flashing eyed, captivating blonde bombshell from country Lowood in the Brisbane Valley.

Brisbane’s Courier Mail broke this story in yesterday’s paper...

Beautiful, blonde Danette is a Murray Grey who won third prize at the Brisbane Ekka last year; yep she’s a show cow and obviously a well travelled lady.  When the chips were down she wasn’t going to let a raging flood dictate travel terms to her.

When the recent devastating flood waters swept through the small property owned by Veronica Nutley in the Brisbane Valley, Danette and seven of her lady friends were carried off in the torrent.

Three days later Danette was found bobbing about at the mouth of the Brisbane River, 95 kilometres from home.  In those three days she dodged swirling currents, sunken debris, and even sharks.

Bemused Council workers who used her ear tag to contact Veronica Nutley at home couldn’t work out how the Murray Grey got there in the first place. 
They thought she might have been stolen.  No? then how had she got there...’Mate’, Danette’s owner told them, ‘she swam.’

To get to Pinkenba at the mouth of the Brisbane River, Danette would have floated through Lowood into the Lockyer Creek and from there into the Brisbane River, then she would have careered through the Brisbane CBD , dodging wrecked cars, floating pontoons and worse before finally being found alive and well near Cabbage Tree Creek.

At this stage Danette’s seven girl friends have yet to surface, but give them time; unless of course they unwisely chose to follow a neighbours less astute bovine who finally found dry land at the local meatworks...





1924 – Since the Mildura 'tar and feather' incident the Brown Parkers have been constantly on the move.  It almost seems Grandfather is trying to keep one step ahead of something...or someone.  


Brisbane once again: For a while Maggie quietly hopes they might finally settle down, enjoy a normal family life.  The boys become involved in local sport, Bill is stepping out with a red haired beauty May Irwin, Viti attends a local school while the youngest, Rewa, though inclined to be sickly is thriving in the warmer climate.

Then suddenly, almost on a whim my Grandfather with the dual identity Charles Nelson Brown-Parker uproots the family yet again and sets sail on a coastal steamer for Queensland’s far north, Townsville.

Townsville taken from Castle Hill – 1980’s

Townsville taking in Castle Hill, 1920’s
 Photographs from Picture Queensland

For some women this would be a step back, but Grandmother, brought up in the small Fiji town of Levuka has always enjoyed the sea and the tropics and maybe she hoped this move, this town would be their final destination.

Up to now life has been one long trail of upheaval; I wonder how many times she thought back to her wedding day, to the disapproval of her brothers.  It would take a remarkable woman not to wallow in self pity.  But despite Grandfather’s track record life wasn’t all doom and gloom. 

I don’t for a moment believe she condoned the uglier sides of her husband’s character but I do think she accepted and loved Chas for his better qualities.  

I doubt Grandfather was a mean man, when times were good he treated his Marama as he liked to call her, like a queen.  Viti remembered times they would spend together, playing duets on a piano in a rented house, going to dances, bringing home an exquisite pair of jewelled earrings, admittedly won by Chas in a late night gambling session.

The love affair that began in a small Fijian town never really faltered.

For me this journey through the past has helped to understand why Maggie had never spoken of her life with Grandfather, why in the few photographs of her from those early days, there is not one smile to be seen.

The years when Maggie had little to smile about- constant upheaval, children and grandchildren


I guessed Chas was chasing the promise of a business deal when he headed north, nothing as mundane as a printing job because once on Townsville electoral rolls he describes himself rather grandly as a promoter.

Look again at the photo of Chas with his sons taken in Townsville in 1925.  Bob, far right is 20, Bill the eldest is 24, and the tallest one in the middle is Bert, just 18 years old. Grandfather has carefully groomed his sons for a life in the boxing ring. 

Just before that picture was taken twenty three year old Bill was living in Brisbane with his sweetheart May, when his father sent a telegram from Townsville telling him to drop whatever he was doing and hop on the next train north. It must have been a hasty move because Uncle Bill is registered twice on Queensland’s 1925 Electoral Rolls; in Grays Rd, Gaythorne in Brisbane, and in the district of Herbert in Townsville. 

My Aunt Viti told the story that Bill and May weren’t married  at this stage and Grandfather told Bill to ‘get on with it and marry the girl’;  which he did.

Chas now wearing his promoter cap, engineers big fights in the northern city featuring his more than able sons in resulting bouts.  Both Bill and Bob show promise in their featherweight division.

By late 1924 Grandfather has acquired the showman’s tents and paraphernalia needed for touring.  He organises fund raising carnivals for local Ambulance Brigades and Returned Servicemen’s organisations, fanning out into nearby towns, Ayr, Innisfail and the Atherton.


Landing a croc in Geraldton before it became Innisfail - Picture Queensland


I had no idea the extent of Grandfather’s business activities in the north until in a trawl through Trove’s Australian Archive of Newspapers I found this item about a court case in Innisfail in 1925.

 'I  will run my car through the lot of these tents.'

The defendant in the court case, a man named Frank Hamilton, according to evidence, has been sabotaging a Carnival Chas has organised, at the same time harassing the Brown Parker family. A violent attack by the accused  where he drove his car into and damaged show tents owned by Chas is the focus of the current charges.

Evidence is given that Chas has also accused the defendant of causing him to lose a great deal of money in the current Queen contests being run in conjunction with the Carnival.

Evidence is then given that Grandfather also blamed the defendant, Frank Hamilton of bad mouthing him to the local Australian Labour Party association in Innisfail resulting in loss of a business contract.

The case is settled out of court, but the whole affair leaves a question mark, that only gets more puzzling as time passes.



Grandfather did indeed lose a great deal of money at that time. 
The above court case was heard on August 1st of 1925. Early in July advertisements began appearing in local and Cairns newspapers for a Carnival and Monster Queen Contest to be held in Innisfail in July. The assault Hamilton is charged with, occurred towards the end of July..

But coincidentally another curious event hit the newspapers on that same day, August 1st.  A satirical report in the Cairns Post allegedly written by ‘one of the boys’ about a ‘BALL THAT WASN’T’.

The event, the local Australian Labour Party’s first annual Ball to be held in the Innisfail Shire Hall, was the sprat that Grandfather had hoped would win him a lucrative contract to fund raise for the political party.

Apparently this was to be a stylish affair, a professional band had been hired, caterers provided, only the best beer and wines to be offered and tickets to the event on sale at ten shillings each.

But no one entered the hall, no one turned up, apart from a group of lolling youths who had bought their tickets earlier and now prevented anyone who might wish to, to enter the hall.  The night was a complete and costly flop.

But had Mr Hamilton’s victimisation of Grandfather extended to the ALP Ball or was there another more devious, vindictive and experienced force at work?



Hervey aka Cochrane

Grant Madison Hervey was born in Victoria in 1880 as George Henry Cochrane.  A complex and puzzling man Hervey was a one time journalist who wrote poetry and novels on the side.  

At various times Hervey had been convicted of blackmail, forgery and uttering,  jailed accused of attempted murder and suspected of bigamy.  In 1921, he had also been tarred and feathered in Mildura by Charles Nelson Brown Parker and several other supporters of local hero Clement J. De Garis.

Described by the police prosecutor  at one Sydney court hearing as a ‘Domain or soapbox orator’ Hervey made a practice of taking on public notables, attacking without cause their politics, religion or business dealings.  In fact, in much the same way he hounded De Garis in Mildura,  Hervey at various times took on the Catholic Archbishop of Queensland, Archbishop Duhig, and the Queensland Premier in 1923, ‘Red Ted’ Theodore.

At the time Grandfather was in Townsville, the northern part of the State was crippled with a railway strike. The Queensland Government was in a shaky position and newspapers of the day featured ‘for and against’ opinions.

Townsville Strikers 1925- Picture Queensland

Hervey by now, with breath taking self confidence, has nominated himself to run in parliament against Theodore, and in that same time period, 1924-1926, was publicised in the press in the towns of Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton and Bundaberg. Sometimes in direct interviews, other times in letters to the Editor.

In February of 1924 the Cairns Post even ran a special article about the Mildura incident slanting the story in Hervey's favour. No reward for guessing who put them up to that. Grandfather’s nemesis, in the form of Grant Madison Hervey was indeed catching up.



1926-1927.  Out of work and out of money Grandfather makes another sudden move, this time south to the Burnett River port town of Bundaberg taking up a print setting position with the Daily Times.

The family has down sized: only fourteen year old Viti and eight year old Rewa are still with their parents. Viti joins the local Bundaberg Swimming Club performing well in swim meets.

 Now Chas is in charge of printing and publishing but, and this I’m guessing, he really wants to be running the show.  According to the eventual letter of recommendation and severance dated March 1927 that he would in due course receive from the newspaper’s Managing Editor, Mr. J. Grainger, he has ‘improved the mechanical side of the paper in a wonderful manner’.

But Grandfather, not surprisingly has also managed to ruffle a few feathers.

We have this one snap from their Bundaberg days. The camera took unusual frames and Chas unfortunately is largely obscured by the overlap. This shot was taken at Bargara on the mid Queensland coast, a few miles outside the river port town of Bundaberg. Note my long suffering Grandmother is still not smiling.



It’s time now to tell you about the hazy memories of a little girl, my mother Rewa, just eight years old in 1926. The memory was prodded when I asked both my aged Aunt Viti and my not quite as old mother before both died what were their earliest memories of Bundaberg.

Viti recalled them having to move because of a tarring and feathering that I later assumed she was confusing with Mildura; but no,  what she actually remembered was the ongoing fuss that in turn occurred  four years later in Bundaberg. But baby of the family Rewa remembered a separate incident that both puzzled and played on her mind for many years.  

Her father driving at the time a small car,  took his youngest daughter with him on a business call to a farm house a short distance out of town.

Mother remembered it was approaching dusk, and her father told her to wait in the car, he wouldn’t be long.  But as she watched him walk to the farm house she saw several people approaching dressed in long white coats and wearing pointed cone shaped hoods on their heads.  The small child was terrified.

It would be many years before she saw a photo in a newspaper referring to the Ku Klux Klan in America and remembered what she had seen in Bundaberg.

Could this have been an innocent moment, something like a similar theatrical gimmick Chas used in a fund raising gymkhana in Brisbane a few years earlier?


Rewa aged seven or eight years.

Viti, aged 14 third from left with school friends & Rewa in front, 1924


I’ll give Grandfather the benefit of the doubt, perhaps the white garb and hoods was actually part of yet another publicity stunt, something similar to the KKK horsemen he featured in the Brisbane Gymkhana of 1924.  But now as he soon realised, his Mildura past was being raked up once again, this time by Bundaberg’s News and Mail.

In 1926 Bundaberg had two prominent newspapers, one was the ‘Daily Times’ where Chas was employed, the other, the opposition, was the ‘News and Mail’. A similar situation to his time in Mildura a few years earlier when Chas worked for De Garis and Grant Madison Hervey was a journalist and editor on the opposition rag.

 As Bundaberg events unfolded it became obvious that journalists on the ‘News and Mail’ had been checking up on Grandfather’s background and unearthed newspaper reports about the Mildura tar and feather incident.

But why the need to look into his past; there had to have been some reason for the paper to suspect he was anything other than what he appeared to be. Could he, for instance, have been associating with questionable people?

When I pieced together various parts of three letters to the Editor of the Daily Times an overall story began to emerge.  The clippings were found in Grandfather’s effects by Bert’s daughter Barbara long after his death.  We have no dateline for them other than March 1927.

The first indication that everything is not rosy or above board is headed ‘Truth about the Fight’ and has been written by Chas in reply to an unfavourable article in the opposition paper. We have only Grandfather’s comments about the article’s content, not the actual opposition article itself.

 In their story the ‘News and Mail’ has referred to him as being ‘portly’, which I guess in itself  had a stinging affect, but then they go on to mention the Mildura tar and feather incident together with the gentleman in question’s (Chas) two previous assault charges. 

Obviously the journalists had been doing their homework, or perhaps even being fed their copy by a third party.

Grandfather was quick to reply.  In a signed Letter to the Editor he writes...
‘Some people are prepared to attack in the open and by their actions earn the title of good sports, while others adopt the coward’s course and by innuendoes suggest certain things, with the object of creating a false impression.
Yesterday the ‘News and Mail’ resorting to the latter means, made certain vague suggestions regarding a tarring and feathering...’

The journalists on the ‘News and Mail’, only too aware of the    libellous nature of any accusations have obviously only hinted at Grandfather’s part in the Mildura affair; but their barbs have elicited the very response they were fishing for.  Chas has fallen into the trap and publicly admitted his part in the affair.

Not only does he admit the part he played in the tar and feather, he glorifies it, while at the same time downplaying the convictions for his ‘minor assaults’.


But what had prompted all this negative publicity in the first place?
A gathering of spectators in an out of town location has witnessed a rowdy public fight or fights and in reporting this, the opposition ‘News and Mail’ has described the ‘rampant hooliganism’ infecting Bundaberg and tied it all in with referee Brown Parkers dubious past.  Chas, quick to justify his actions, replies...
...  ‘Truth about the Fight’,

 ‘On Wednesday night a well known and highly respected business man of Bundaberg came to “The Times” office and informed me he was holding stakes for a fight, assured me that everything was fair and above board and explained the circumstances that led to their decision of settling a grievance in this manner, as neither had any desire for street fighting.   He asked me if I would attend at 2pm next day and act as referee, knowing that I am a keen sportsman and a lover of fair play.’ 
Chas went on to refute the ‘News and Mail’ report that forty cars and two hundred people were involved, instead claiming there were only four cars, twenty four people and one lorry.


...The other anonymous clipping, supposedly written by someone signing himself  Citizen claims... ‘Brown-Parker is a complete stranger to me’ and goes on to list his glowing qualities... 

(ChasBert always did harbour an ambition to be a journalist.) 

...and ends with the paragraph - Mr Parker is to be admired for his courage in inviting the public of Bundaberg to a mass meeting and putting before them his views on a matter which your contemporary, (other paper) indirectly, involved him.’


There are at least two ways to interpret the truth behind these statements.

A fight has been organised, though it may or may not have been to settle a disagreement between gentlemen.  I doubt a ‘well known and highly respected business man’ would put himself publicly in such a position in the first place. And if the dispute was a personal one why the need to hold stakes? Were wagers being taken on the outcome?  More than likely Chas himself was the instigator and organiser of the fight, and the alleged stake holder was a bookmaker who may even have been Chas himself.

MAIN STREET OF BUNDABERG 1926- Picture Queensland
It’s difficult to know what was really behind all this claim and counter claim. The various letters to the Editor, a supposedly anonymous one and those actually signed by Chas only heaped more fuel on the fire.  It all seemed to have gotten out of hand and can’t have been pleasant for Maggie and the girls.

For all this upset to cause such an uproar I soon realised there could be more to Mother’s childhood memory.

The act of tarring and feathering  has always been associated with the notorious American secret society, the Ku Klux Klan. The very notion of tarring a person’s body wasn’t unheard of in Australia, but the actual act itself wasn’t widespread; though as early as 1921 Australian newspapers were printing USA cable reports about KKK ‘Tarring and Feathering’ in Texas.

Perhaps the ‘News and Mail’ had been given sufficient reason to consider this interesting but even more libelous association as well.


I shouldn’t have found it hard to believe Hervey would go to such extremes to extract his revenge on Grandfather.  I mean no one would exactly enjoy being tarred and feathered. Retaliation would have been uppermost on the victims mind.

A further trawl through Trove, Australia’s newspaper archive provided the clincher.   The Rockhampton Bulletin features an electioneering interview on February 2nd 1927 where Hervey ridicules the Premier, Theodore, and sarcastically quotes a legitimate news story from the Bundaberg Daily Times where they quote the Premier referring to the current train strike.

Bingo!  In one fell swoop I had all the proof I needed. Clearly Grant Madison Hervey was a man on a mission. 

Suddenly it all seemed feasible, the Brown Parker’s sudden flight from Brisbane to the north, the trouble in Innisfail with Frank Hamilton,( himself a man with a history of minor run ins with the law), the odd story in the Cairns Post written by someone allegedly ‘in the know’ about the ‘Ball that Wasn’t’ and now the adverse publicity tumbling out from the opposition paper in Bundaberg.  

By now Grandfather knows he is a beaten man. He writes two Letters to the Editor for publication. I’ve transcribed the faded and now delicate newspaper cuttings my cousin Barbara found in her father Bert’s files.  I really can’t understand why Chas wanted to keep these ‘trophies’ of notoriety in the first place, though I’m pleased he did...

They give a revealing insight into his thinking processes, and about the man himself.  I wonder, though, what Maggie thought about all this.  She after all had to face the mothers at her daughters school, the shopkeepers in the town.  Bundaberg wasn’t a large city, it was really a small provincial centre where everyone knew everyone else and gossip was a primary form of  entertainment.

By now all of Bundaberg must have been talking about the fight, and the man at the centre of it all.  Chas probably knows he’s flogging a dead horse, but he decides to go out in a blaze of glory.

In a last ditch attempt to dispel negative publicity he arranges a public lecture where the Mayor of  Bundaberg presents supporting testimony lauding the upstanding Chas Brown Parker and his many charitable achievements. 


Throughout his career Chas has portrayed himself as larger than life, a man of decency defending his honour.   In playing out the final chapter on his foray into Bundaberg, it’s interesting to read his own slant on the Mildura incident where he mixes parts of an actual 1923 ‘Sunraysia Daily’  story with his own self congratulatory opinion of the part he played in assaulting Hervey. 

This is the final paragraph from his Letter to the Editor, a puzzling confusion of whitewash and rhetoric...

‘It takes all sorts to make a world, and it is a rather notable thing that in all the crowd that took part in the punishment of Hervey, the police should not have been able to find one larrikin, one criminal, one man with a black past.  The episode was not an outbreak of the viler passions, but an ebullition of decency.’ signed  C.N. Brown-Parker

Chas could huff and puff as much as he liked but in the end Grant Madison Hervey, aka George Henry Cochrane, convicted and jailed swindler, bigamist, blackmailer, journalist and troublemaker had finally got the better of him.


But I’ll let Grandfather exit Bundaberg with one last echo of fleeting success...his final Daily Times Newspaper Banner featuring his title...

Printed and Published by Charles Nelson Brown Parker

And the words written by his boss the Managing Editor Mr Grainger on that last fateful day, March 4th...

‘It is with extreme regret that I learn of your decision to sever your connections with The Daily Times’... 
 The letter goes on to reiterate..

 ...the ‘very warm feeling of personal friendship that has existed between us’, and ...‘trusts you will meet with the success your undoubted talents deserve.’


Next –  Part 15 ChasBert’s final chapter

Future Posts – From Sussex a WW1 Pilot
                     -  Fiji -  Maggie’s legacy

Robyn Mortimer©2011