At the San Remo Bridge, Constable Hodgson asked Mr Jones to go back to Cowes and pick up his uniform, while he waited at the bridge to stop any cars. Within a few minutes of Mr. Jones’ departure, Constable Hodgson saw a car speeding toward the bridge. He stood in the middle of the road with his revolver to order the car to stop. The car sped past so he fired two shots at the vehicle, whereupon the driver lost control and the car skidded to a halt. The safe was found in bushes at Gentle Annie Corner (turn off to the race track) where the robbers had tried to blow it open.
This story appeared on page 3 of the Melbourne Argus newspaper on Monday, December 26. Out of respect for the boys in blue, there was no mention that the police constable was wearing pyjamas! I suspect that element would be treated differently these days. Three thousand pounds ($6000) in cash and jewellery was still in the safe when it was returned to Mr Jones.
For his bravery, Constable Hodgson received The Victoria Police Valour Award. He now lies in an unassuming part of the Phillip Island Cemetery at Rhyll, one of more than 2000 people buried there since 1870.
Cemetery trust secretary Pam Rothfield recently made some time in her busy schedule to talk about the work the nine-member trust does to maintain the cemetery.
The cemetery trust employs a professional gardener four hours a week, but a group of hard-working volunteers carry out the rest of the maintenance and gardening. Their diligence is reflected in the great condition of the graves and the cemetery in general.
The driveway to the cemetery gates passes through wetlands that are being replanted by Phillip Island Landcare. A bridge has recently been built to open a memorial area in the wetlands where ashes can be scattered and small memorial plaques mounted to commemorate those who don’t want a traditional grave.
Pam Rothfield is working on a book to celebrate the approaching sesquicentenary (150th year) of the cemetery, and pointed out some of the historic graves. These five tales of tragedy and triumph are but a small sample of what waits to be retold.
On the left-hand side of a lovely old headstone in memory of Augustus Patrick Smith and his wife Anne, as one enters the cemetery through the picket fence driveway gates, lies a small concrete block. It marks the grave of Catherine Smith, mother of Augustus. Next to this concrete block there is a eucalyptus tree, which is, we believe, where Catherine’s daughter, little Mary Smith, is buried. Here is Mary’s story:
In 1869, the year after Phillip Island was opened to selection, George and Catherine Smith came to Rhyll with their family. In April the following year, little daughter Mary died from dysentery at the age of 20 months. Over 10 hectares had been earmarked for a cemetery. While it had been surveyed, it had not officially been opened, so Mr Smith had to sail to Hastings and walk to Mornington to obtain permission to make a grave on the proposed cemetery site and return to the island by the same means.
In Phillip Island in Picture and Story, Joshua Wickett Gliddon notes: "No roads or even tracks existed between his home and the place of burial, which left no other way for him but to carry the casket on his shoulder, for a distance of two miles, through country that was mostly dense scrub. Having arrived, there was then the labour of digging a grave, the first in the Phillip Island Cemetery."
Mr Smith later became a councillor and a prominent citizen. He died in 1909 aged 81. His grave has no headstone and he is buried in another section of the cemetery.
The road on which the cemetery lies is Coghlan Road, which is named after the oldest resident to inhabit Phillip Island, Eliza Coghlan. Eliza was born in 1791 in West Meath Ireland and died in 1910, at the age of 113. Eliza was the housekeeper for 44 years to James Duffus, who came to Phillip Island in 1873. It is said that Eliza was the oldest subject of the British Empire at the time of her death.
Reported in The Argus. Friday, February 11, 1910: “Eliza Coghlan, aged 114, has died at Cowes. For forty years, until she was unable to get about, she acted as housekeeper to Mr. James Duffus, who is now 86 years of age. The old lady was in full possession of her faculties, except hearing, until the last. She spent an active life, and a few years ago thought nothing of walking to Cowes, five miles distant, carrying a load of turkeys or other produce for sale. Residents of Cowes remember 'Old Eliza,' as she was called, when she was a woman of 70, when they were little children over 40 years ago.”
Joseph and his wife Sarah Richardson were farmers who settled on Phillip Island in 1869 and lived in Cowes. Joseph was an intelligent, industrious and astute man who made a good life for his wife and their 12 children. They have many descendants living on the island.
Joseph’s story is a very interesting one of overcoming the odds. He was born in Liverpool around 1818, the son of Henry and Margaret Richardson. Henry died in about 1832 when Joseph was only 14, and five years later, Joseph at the age of 19, was convicted of house breaking and sentenced to life, transported to the colony of New South Wales. He sailed on the ‘James Pattison’ and arrived in the new colony on October 25, 1837. He was assigned to David Archer of Berrima and later to Lieutenant Benjamin Baxter who had a run extending across Port Melbourne and St Kilda, which included ‘Pleasant Hill’, on the site now occupied by the Southern Cross Railway Station in Spencer Street Melbourne. It is understood that Baxter also had land at Brighton.
His Transportation ID states: Joseph Richardson - Transport ID = Age 19 Born Abt 1818, protestant, single from Liverpool, laborer, 5 foot 7¼ inches tall, ruddy complexion, brown hair, dark hazel eyes, Has large red scar, extending from the left ear nearly to the mouth.
Joseph Richardson was issued his ticket of leave on September 1, 1845 and pardoned in September 1850. That year, he purchased 20 acres on the corner of South and Jasper roads, Brighton, for £61. He married Sarah Arbuckle in Brighton in February, 1851, and, it is said, they had twelve children. In 1875 he was Justice of the Peace in Cowes. When he died in 1892, Joseph’s estate was valued at over £5700 and he was considered a virtuous, hardworking and honest man who was highly respected in the community.
The McKenzie Children
This tragedy occurred at Cowes on Tuesday, October 30, 1934. Just months earlier, Mr. McKenzie died, leaving his pregnant wife Ena McKenzie, a widow with two little children. Only a few months later, Mrs McKenzie gave birth to the couple’s third child, Douglas.
Mrs McKenzie lived with her brother in Malvern. She had started a business and had borrowed money for a second business after the first had failed. After her second business failed and, with the loss of her husband, she was in a state of depression.
She took the children to Phillip Island on Monday, October 29, and walked the streets the whole day. Around midnight she took them to the Cowes pier. She threw the children into the water and then jumped in herself. Cries to “save my child” were then heard. First on the scene were Bryant West and Frank Lotan who tried in vain to reach the children. They were able to rescue Mrs. McKenzie but the three children – Ronald, aged five, Ena, four, and Douglas, one – drowned. The first body was found the next morning.
Mrs McKenzie was tried for murder but acquitted on the grounds of insanity; the Judge ordered that she was nevertheless to be kept in strict custody at the Metropolitan Gaol “until the Governor’s pleasure was known”.
There was no headstone erected on the children’s grave until a few years ago, when the Phillip Island Historical Society and others raised the funds for the plaque.
December 15, 2015
Congratulations to Geoff Ellis on his outstanding story on the Rhyll Cemetery. Well researched, well written and great photos, the readers will love it. Keep up the good work Geoff.
Roger Clark, Grantville