Friday, 10 November 2017

A sad tale to tell

What would drive a man to slit his own throat with a razorsharp cut throat razor on the 25th December 1862… John Kent was in such a state of despair that is exactly what he did. 


On Friday morning last the town was thrown into a state of consternation by the report that Mr Kent formerly Police Magistrate of Maryborough and of late Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Mitchell District, had on the previous evening committed suicide by cutting his throat. 

The statement was believed by few people at first, but was soon found to be too true. The deceased gentleman had been observed for some weeks past to be in a very desponding state, owing to embarrassed circumstances, and the apprehension that the Government would repudiate a pecuniary claim he had made for his services. For some days before his death, Mr. Kent had also complained of great bodily weakness, and his general conduct was so peculiar and his conversation at times so incoherent, that fears were entertained for his safety by his nearest relatives. At teh time the fatal act was committed there was a letter lying at the Maryborough post office addressed to the deceased, containing the anxiously expected remittance from the Government; but by some fatality he did not send for his letters on that day though aware that the Brisbane mail had arrived. There is a universal feeling of sympathy for the bereaved family and it is generally hoped that the large sum for which the deceased's life was insured will be available, not withstanding the peculiar circumstances of the case. 

Mrs Marjory Kent found her husband in the garden around seven o'clock and summoned the police with Henry Palmer the first on the scene. Henry Palmer lived at the back of the Kent's down on the corner of Kent and Guava St, and he jumped the fence and examined John Kent and found him to be deceased. The police and doctors arrived and did their examinations. .


John Kent was sent to Maryborough as a stipendiary magistrate in 1861 and at the time Johns appointment came with certain doubts being voiced. An article in the Chronicle stated " When at the commencement of the last year, we commented upon the recent appointment of stipendiary Magistrates made by the government, we took the liberty of doubting the wisdom of sending Mr John Kent to Maryborough. The career of that officer so far has certainly not tended to show that we were dubious without reason, and his last crowning act brought matters to a crisis, the issue of which must either be his dismissal or removal."


John Kent summoned a Mr Kerley ( C of E schoolmaster) for Mr Kerley assaulting a child, apparently Mr Kerley had inflicted corporal chastisement  upon the child and the evidence was even less than ordinary but Mr Kent decide Mr Kerley's methods bad enough that Mr Kerley would be imprisoned for doing his job.

Mr Sheridans son also bore the brunt of Mr Kents Magisterial powers when at the age of 10 the child was to be sworn into court as a witness. Mr Sheridan objected to his son being sworn in as he was just a child and would not understand what the oath meant.. Mr Kent "apparently waxing wrath at the interruption - insisted upon it, and finally committed the lad to the cells for seven days or until he should consent to be sworn"

The lad did his time and when he reappeared in court and his father had to ask him if he understood what was going on Mr Kent was told to be quiet or be removed. This resulted in a rather unbecoming event in the court room with Mr Kent urging his policemen on like a rat catcher would his dog and Mr Sheridan was rather ungainly removed from the court.


John Kent PM caused many a stir in the township and there were many a letter written to the newspaper complaining about his behaviour. John Kent himself was a fairly constant writer and on the 22/5/1862 and article appeared regarding the authorship of letters that had appeared and were penned by Messrs Walsh, Melville, Aldridge and the other memorialists who first addressed the Executive in a memorial to send Mr Kent to Maryborough.

For the full article go to Rebuttal article


Five days after John Kents death there appeared an article in the Ipswich newspapers that went like the following

A rumour was current in town during yesterday, which proved too true, that Mr John Kent committed suicide at Maryborough a few days since, but cutting his throat, and crated a painful feeling amongst all who knew him. The subjoined particulars are from the Maryborough correspondent to the Courier under date the 27th instant.

It is my painful duty to record one of those awful occurrences by which the whole community is agitated, and which will also, without doubt create a considerable degree of sensation amongst the older inhabitants of Brisbane and Ipswich. For some time past it has been noticed by the friends and relations of Mr John Kent, that he was in a desponding state of mind, so much so in fact that it is reported Mrs Kent had lately kept his razors out of sight. On the arrival of the Queensland on Christmas Day, he went on board and spoke to some old friends who arrived in her, and was noticed as being very quiet in his manner, and very abstemious. The day wore on, and the evening was spent with his wife under the verandah of his own home. About nine o'clock he appears to have left the verandah, and was thought to have gone into a sitting room t read, and it was not until something like three quarters of an hour had elapsed that any notice was taken of his absence.

On enquiry being instituted, however, he was not to e found in the house and alarm was felt and a search was made in the garden. The unfortunate and misguided man was found with a wound about tan inch long in the throat, which had separated the jugular vein and the carotid artery, and must have caused instant death. The wound was inflicted by one of the pen blades of a four bladed pocket knife. Alarm was immediately given, and the body was removed into the house. A magisterial inquiry was held before the Mayor yesterday morning, which terminated in a finding that death had resulted from the deceased's own set in a fit of temporary insanity. Much sympathy is felt for the widow and children, as it is feared the pecuniary arrangements of the deceased are in a most unsatisfactory condition. The funeral is to take place at eleven o'clock this morning.

Mr Kent in early life entered the government service of Great Britain in connection with the Commissariat Department, and after being engaged in active service in different parts of the glove arrived in Sydney almost twenty five years ago as Deputy Commissariat and was about two years afterwards transferred to the Morton Bay District, in which capacity he remained some years. He then returned to England, and was shortly afterwards ordered to the Cape of Good Hope, when he again returned to England. After remaining in England a short time he finally left there for this colony, for the purpose of settling down as a colonist, and shortly after his arrival with Mr A A May, established the first sawmill in Moreton Bay, at Shafston, on the Brisbane River.

This business failed and Mr Kent who had been intimately engaged with the Press, too the Editorship of the North Australian which he occupied for between 5 and six years, until his appointment as Police Magistrate in Maryborough.


John Kent died on the 25th December 1862 and as at the present moment have not found where he is buried but he was buried on the 30th December 1862 (possibly Ipswich). Although there is a headstone in the Toowong Cemetery in memory to John and Marjory

Marjory Kent nee Ballon died on the 18th August  1890 and she is buried in the Toowong cemetery. Marjory left Maryborough after Johns death and moved back with her daughter.

The headstone reads


Magisterial Enquiry



1862 'SUICIDE OF MR. JOHN KENT.', North Australian and Queensland General Advertiser (Ipswich, Qld. : 1862 - 1863), 30 December, p. 3. , viewed 20 Nov 2017,

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Blind or not.. a man to not be beaten

There are some of the most amazing stories of early Maryborough residents that are often never told.
I grew up in the pocket and next door lived and old man and lady they were very quiet and she was a gentle soul. Everyday we as kids would see thebold gentleman wander through the garden in his backyard and gently wind his way through his vege patch touching every plant as he went. We thought he was showing his plants some tenderness to help them grow..which they all did to a magnificent size yet we were so wrong.  You see the old gentleman was blind and the story begins with a young man called Percy Finney.

The Telegraph 2/5/1933. BLIND ROWERPercy Finney's Courage.

Percy Finney, the blind oarsman, who is rowing three in the Queensland crew which will race in the Kings cup, has courage. It is probably the last thing that occurs to him, but to speak to him is to see how much courage he has. 

In 1924 he was rowing in the Wide Bay crew thatwon the Kings Cup. He returned home and a few weeks afterwards met with an accident while wallaby shooting. His sight was ruined. For a while he could distinguish between light and darkness; but now his world is black. But that has not been enough to break his spirit. He has been rowing for some years since he became blind, and now is in the state crew. 


There is not a modicum of self pity in Percy's make up. in an interview he talked of the rowing world with more keenness that most men who can see everything. He knew where some oarsmen were weak and others were strong. He knew what the other crews were like, and every word he uttered showed his enthusiasm for the sport.
"Do you know," he said, "that I have a better idea of how the crew is going now that I am blind than I had when I could see. I know if a man is not working his hardest; I know if he is late or early; and I know how evenly the boat is running."


Mr Finney said that after the accident his nerves went to pieces. To be unable to see anything; to have no knowledge of where his next step would take him upset him terribly. When he went down steps, he said, he trembled all over, and if he went to a boxing match he shook like a leaf.
but all this was overcome. His first definite break was when he entered for a swimming race in the Mary River. His father rowed in a  dinghy and Percy followed, and although he was left at the start he came second. He had not trained for the race either. But the real test of courage came when he recommenced rowing. One day, about six years after his accident, he was asked to go out in a four  with someone. He said that he did not think he could manage it, but yielded to persuasion. He had his row not a very long one - and although he did not feel too comfortable, did much better than he thought he would. He was out of condition utterly and thought that he never would be ale to do a solid three miles again. When he got back to the pontoon, too, he felt unutterably giddy for a while, bu t in time that passed. Now he covers three miles with the best of them.


"But how do you manage to keep the time and know what the crew is doing?" he was asked.
"Oh I get a feel of the boat and don't seem to have any difficulty," he replied. "I have practiced the starts and am with the crew all the time, and during a course I can feel how things are."

"It must be worrying not to know how far you have gone," it was suggested, but Mr Finney explained how this was overcome.
"I get the man behind me to tell me where we are," he said. "I like to know have far we have to go so that I can conserve my energy or put everything into it. He tells me when we have gone a mile, two miles and then, over the last bit, he gives shorter spaces. "I don't like to be told that there is only another quarter of a mile to go when there is an extra 200 yards put on," he said, "because I row myself all out for that last bit."


And in the crew Percy Finney is as good anyone. He gets the timing; he rows hard, and he sits up straight. He is always there when the boat has to e put out of the water or put in, and does not shirk any duty. When he is rowing he asks for no concessions for his affliction.

Finney's inclusion in crews has no savour of sentimentality about it. He rows on his merits. This can be seen from some of his successes this season. He has rowed in the crew that won the champion fours of the Mary River; champion fours of the Burnett; challenge fours of the Mary; senior eights of the Mary and Fitzroy,and the champion eights of Queensland. Altogether he has three champion eights of Queensland to his credit.

Finney certainly has courage, and everyone wishes hi success, for a man who although blind, has the pluck to row in a three mile inter State rowing championship against the best men in Australia, is well worth his salt.


Apparently in 1924 Percy was out wallaby shooting near as they were known in those days the Waterworks. When his mate accidentally shot him, something like 30 pellets entered his head at short range, and unfortunately three entered one eye and two the other.

The Maryborough community gathered around to raise money to assist Percy with his medical treatment but all the medical aid could not even recover the faintest bit of sight.


Even when Percy how stroked the Wide Bay (Q) crew in the championship fours at Bundaberg, heart the report of the gun and the outburst of cheering that signaled the end of the race, he didn't know he had won the event for his home town, the rival city of Maryborough. Neither did he see the fluttering handkerchiefs of the gay crowds that thronged the banks and the river. Finney is totally blind having lost his sight when he received a charge of shot in the face from the gun of a companion who mistook him for a wallaby. Despite his blindness Percy was the happiest man on the river when No. 3 told him they had won.


Percy Finney married Evelyn Sears and they lived a long life together and Evelyn died on the 8/7/1999 at the age of 98 years old and is buried in Maryborough Cemetery.

Percy died in 1979 in Maryborough..


BLIND ROWER (1933, May 2). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 - 1947), p. 9. Retrieved November 9, 2017, from

GOSSIP (1932, October 22). Smith's Weekly (Sydney, NSW : 1919 - 1950), p. 13. Retrieved November 9, 2017, from

Maryborough District Family History Society. 

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Professor Arena's Hair Cutting Saloon

Professor Arena's Hair Cutting Saloon
Kent St Arcade..

What a fascinating name for a business, I found this business intriguing while I was doing business listings. Prof. Arena was obviously a very flamboyant stylist with a taste for the outrageous.

We found in constant searches the name Prof. A Arena was constantly used and no indication as to the real identity of this interesting person.. *read to the end**

Part of Prof. Arena's business career was spent with a shop in the Kent St Arcade which was located from Bazaar St to Adelaide St in Maryborough

IN the Maryborough Chronicle on the 19th Feb 1883 the following advertisement appeared..

A hydraulic hair brushing machine.. the mind boggles at what this machine was.. so with a little googling we found the picture on the left..

A very stimulating experience we are sure.

We also found that Prof. Arena was advertising Plunge and Shower baths and of course in the manner of many Hair Cutting Saloons of the time they were also the local tobacconist and his store stocked a large range of Tobaccos, Cigars, Cigarettes, and general Fancy Goods, and Latest novelty type pipes..

In 1884 a fascinating story appeared in the Chronicle that read like this
A sad accident occurred last night at the corner of Adelaide and Kent St. A man furiously riding round the corner, the horse fell on the top of him, knocking him senseless. Immediate assistance was rendered, and the man relieved himself from his dangerous position, was taken to hospital. He was for some time unable to explain how it occurred. On his saddle a parcel was fastened to the pummel, which the Dr. said was the cause of his life being saved. The magic parcel contained two boxes cigars, a box of cigarettes, and a choice selection of meerschaum pipes, briar pipes, cutlery, and fancy goods too many to mention.

After a few hours the sufferer regained consciousness, and the Dr. made some inquires from him as to where he was going to and how the accident occurred. He replied he lived in the bush, and that he had heard that Professor Arena had received a large consignment of stock from the southern colonies, and also his new cushions for his billiard table, from Alcock of Melbourne. Knowing that his cigars, cigarettes, tobaccos, pipes and fancy goods, are the best ever imported into Maryborough. I came in to have a shave, hair cut, a bath, and my hair brushed by Machinery - which is the pleasantest sensation ever felt by mortal man. then I had a game of billiards on his table, which I would consider the best in the colony; then I purchased the articles contained in this valuable parcel, and was hurrying home filled with joy, when the horse fell on me. Doctor, I shall strongly recommend all my friends and the public generally to visit this the only Establishment in the Colonies where anyone can receive the greatest amount of joy and comfort for the least expenditure, for Professor Arena's charges are most moderate. doctor, may I home home now?

27 Jan 1886 Selling Off! A prosperous business – Prof. ARENA finds the whole of his attention is required by the increase in the number of patrons in his hairdressing saloon ;has decided to dispose of his tobacconist 's business with billiard saloon attached; tobacconist shop, billiard room & downstairs apartments can be secured at fair rental

5 April 1889 Hairdresser's business for private sale-fixtures,fittings and working plant of the tobacconist and hairdressing business lately carried on in Kent St by A. ARENA

23 Dec 1875 Professor A. ARENA hairdresser & tobacconist Kent St opposite Messrs BUSS & CO

3 & 5 Feb 1876 FIRE! Great Conflagration in Kent St TWELVE BUSINESS PREMISES DESTROYED – greater portion of stock of Mr ARENA hairdresser & tobacconist was removed

13 Feb 1877 Professor ARENA has recommenced business as hairdresser & tobacconist in Bazaar St next to ROYLE the tailor

20 Dec 1879 Professor ARENA hairdresser , tobacconist has moved to premises adjoining those of Mrs CHEYNE Bazaar St and 8 Jan 1880 finest cut tobacco 6s per pound

3 Feb 1880 WANTED 4000 [four thousand] smokers to try real American tobacco of the best quality also Havanah cigars, Vienna Meerschaum pipes also the best GBD , WHP & WD Briar Root & other varieties of pipes Professor ARENA hairdresser & tobacconist Bazaar St

3 Sep 1881 Professor ARENA hairdresser & tobacconist will move from his premises Bazaar St to those now occupied by Mr W. KEITH as the NEWSOFFICE on or about 1 October

15/3/1877 Brisbane Courier. Alfonzo Arena, of Maryborough, hairdresser was on Monday adjudged insolvent upon his own petition. The first meeting of creditors in the estate was fixed for the 23rd instant, the usual statement of liabilities, and c. to be filed by the 21st.

Side note: There was a Belle Vue House Private boarding house and residence located opposite the gardens in Maryborough A Arena proprietor.. was this the same building.or person.

We believe Alfonzo left Maryborough after the insolvency but have not finished with this flamboyant mans story yet.


Friday, 27 October 2017

Collett Reunion

We are busy trying to get ready for the Collett reunion in 2018.
Its going to be an awesome event with people travelling from far and wide to catch up meet and build our family tree even further.

Starting Again

There is so much I want to tell you about soI decided to reformat my blog and to make it more about the stuff I find on a regular basis as I find all these amazing things and never get to tell anybody the stories I also have had some totally amazing discoveries in my family history and thought I would share them with you here.

So I have installed 3 new pages for you and they will consist of
* Tips on researching
* Family discoveries
* Local History stories

I hope you enjoy the new format and will find it as interesting as  I do when I am doing the research and the items I find


A sad tale to tell

What would drive a man to slit his own throat with a razorsharp cut throat razor on the 25 th December 1862… John Kent was in such a...