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1867-1892, Nautical School-ship – Vernon - Unfit For Publication
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Nautical School-ship – Vernon – 1867-1892  1

    “An Act for the relief of Destitute Children” (30 Victoria, Act No. 2, 1866) – the Industrial Schools Act of 1866 – received assent on 12 September, 1866 and came into force on 1 January, 1867. 2  This Act authorised the Governor to proclaim “any ship or vessel or any building or place together with any yards, enclosure grounds or lands attached thereto to be a ‘Public Industrial School’ ”. Any vagrant or destitute child under the age of sixteen could be directed by two Justices of the Peace to attend an Industrial School and to remain the responsibility of the Superintendent until the age of eighteen, unless apprenticed out or discharged. A child could be apprenticed out from twelve years of age but if twelve or over when admitted, was required to attend the School for a year before becoming apprenticed. Each child was to receive instruction in the religion of his family. The Superintendent was authorised to discipline any child who absconded from the School. Males and females were to attend different Instructions. Parents could be required to pay for the upkeep of their child while attending the Industrial School. 3

Nautical School Ship Vernon in Sydney Harbour. Image: ML SPF Ships/Vernon, 1876. Reproduction: Peter de Waal
Nautical School Ship Vernon in Sydney Harbour.
Image: ML SPF Ships/Vernon, 1876. Reproduction: Peter de Waal

    On 25 January, 1867 the Colonial Secretary purchased the wooden sailing ship the “Vernon” and at a cost of more than eight and a half thousand pounds it was fitted up as an Industrial School. 4  The ship, moored in Sydney Harbour between the Government Domain and Garden Island was declared a Public Industrial School on 6 May, 1867. 5

    On 10 May, 1867 James Seton Veitch Mein was appointed Commander and Naval Instructor of the “Vernon” 6 and on 17 May, 1867 he was made Superintendent of the “Vernon”. 7

    Admissions to the “Vernon” commenced on 20 May, 1867 8 and by July, 1868 113 boys had been admitted, 14 of whom had been apprenticed out. 9 Boys as young as three were admitted to the Ship. “An Act to amend the Industrial Schools Act of 1866” (34 Victoria, Act no. 4, 1870) was assented to on 17 October, 1870. This Industrial Schools Act Amendment made provision for boys who were younger than seven when sent to an Industrial School to be placed in a Female Industrial School until the age of seven. 10 Subsequently, young boys admitted to the “Vernon” were cared for by the Biloela Public Industrial School for Girls on Cockatoo Island. On 28 February, 1878 there were nine boys at Biloela. 11

    On board the “Vernon”, boys received a combination of moral training, nautical and industrial training and instruction, and elementary schooling. The curriculum was well-defined. 12

    From 1 April, 1878 Frederick William Neitenstein was appointed Superintendent of the Vernon, 13 establishing a system which rewarded good behaviour with privileges rather than by administering corporal punishment. 14 In 1878 trades teaching was abolished. 15 In 1880 the teaching of vocal music was introduced and a brass band was established. By 1881 the “Vernon” boys received an education in the same subjects as children received at any other Public School as prescribed by the Department of Public Instruction. 16 The School had its own gymnasium, a spacious recreation ground, an entertainment hall and a recreation hall on land. 17

    From its commencement, the “Vernon” served as both an Industrial School and a Reformatory. (Although legislation was passed in 1866 to authorise the establishment of reformatories no reformatory for boys was established until 1895).

    After the passage of the State Children Relief Act , 1881 (44 Victoria, Act No. 24, 1881) the majority of destitute boys were boarded-out rather than being sent to industrial school and those committed to the “Vernon” were increasingly boys with criminal charges. 18 By 1892 many had been transferred from charitable organisations. 19

    Not until 1904 did the school have a sea-going tender, the HMS “Dart” – a steam and sailing schooner. 20 On 5 June 1906 the HMS “Dart” was proclaimed an Industrial School in accordance with provisions of the Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act of 1905. 21

    On 8 November, 1892 the “Vernon” was replaced by the “Sobraon”, which was treble the size of its predecessor. During 1893 it had an average number of 263 boys. 22

    The Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act of 1905 (Act No. 16, 1905) came into force on 1 October, 1905. As the probationary system it established was introduced, the number of children committed to industrial schools and reformatories declined. 23

    The numbers of children sent to the “Sobraon” quickly decreased. The enrolment for 1910 was 231, a 5% decrease on the enrolment for the previous year. These boys were discharged to their parents or guardians or apprenticed out and by the end of July, 1911 the remaining of the boys were sent to the Mittagong Farm Home for Boys and the Brush Farm Home for Boys. The “Sobraon” was abandoned. 24

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Illustrated Sydney News, Mon 20 Apr 1868 25

THE GOVERNOR’S VISIT TO THE VERNON.

DURING the short time that His Excellency the Earl of Belmore has resided in New South Wales, he has shown that he considers it a prominent portion of his viceregal duties to give his personal attention to any movements having for their object the amelioration of the condition of the poor, and the well-being of all classes of the community. One of the first public visits was to the Vernon, in which so many street bedouins, waifs of the criminal population rescued from a sea of vice, are being trained to become useful members of society. The boys were examined in the presence of the viceregal party in their scholastic attainments, and went through their duties in working the guns and the routine of a seaman’s life in a very satisfactory manner, and tired a salute in honour of the occasion. It seems somewhat strange that some of pseudo-economists which the legislature of the colony possesses, should have made the Vernon vote a subject of party struggle. The expense of such an establishment was a political gnat they could not swallow, and yet the very men who talk loudest on such subjects will swallow the most gigantic camel that party and sometimes personal interests may offer. There is a much broader of the question than mere £, s, d, but even in this light we think that a proper conservation of it will show that if the cost of maintaining the Vernon was double its present amount, the balance would still be in favour of the public. Think how many of those boys lived by dishonest means, calculate the value of property they would steal or destroy in one year, the cost of hunting them down and supporting them in our penal establishments in after life. Above all, look at the transformation which is being effected in rendering them working bees in the hive of humanity, instead of being drones living on the industry of others. Then say is the Vernon not destined to a great public benefit.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Illustrated Sydney News, Sat 29 May 1875 26

THE TRAINING SHIP “VERNON.”

View from Cockatoo Island with old stone sentry box and Vernon in the background. Image:Illustrated Sydney News, Thu 14 Nov 1889, p. 16. Reproduction: Peter de Waal
View from Cockatoo Island with old stone sentry box and
Vernon in the background.  
Image: Illustrated Sydney News,
Thu 14 Nov 1889, p. 16. Reproduction: Peter de Waal

    “If you want a thing done do it yourself,” appears like to be the stage of things in the colonies, judging from the attitude taken by the majority of our domestic servants, who seem bent on giving us to understand that the system of hired servants is one that is fast on the wane. High wages and short notices, little work and that done indifferently, are now the order of the day amongst colonial servants, and judging from past experience, emigration does not appear maternally to improve this state of affairs. While pondering over the probable difficulties of the future which families with moderate means will have to undergo, we could not help feeling struck with the adaptability of the boys on the training ship “Vernon” for household servants. And in proof of our ideas on this point we append a series of letters from various employers of apprentices obtained from this ship, kindly handed to us by Captain Mein of the “Vernon.” All the letters, with many others which we have not space to insert, speak satisfactorily of the apprentices trained on the “Vernon,” and it is refreshing to find that something can be made of these homeless outcasts. Like many other institutions of a similar philanthropic character this reformatory suffers from a too rigid economy on the part of the Government. Institutions of this class always repay the money expended on them by the good which they do to the public community, an axiom which is strikingly exemplified in the present case. Were the Government to be more liberal in the salary given to the officers, and in the provision of clothing and other necessities for the inmates of the reformatory, we have little doubt that its good effects would increase in a proportionate ratio, satisfactory as the experiment has hitherto proved. Subjoined are copies of various letters received by Captain Mein:—

Sydney, April 7, 1875.

Sir,—In reply to your circular dated 18th March, 1875, enquiring how my apprentice, Geo White, has conducted himself, I have pleasure in stating that he is giving great satisfaction. He is steady, respectful, honest, and industrious.

AH Dunnicliff.

————

Sir,—I have much pleasure in reporting that the general conduct of James Cavil, my apprentice, has been satisfactory.

EO Moriarty.

————

Aberglasslyn, West Maitland, March 24, 1875.

Sir,—In reply to your circular of the 18th instant, requesting to be informed how my apprentices have behaved themselves, I have much pleasure in informing you that my two apprentices, Thomas O’Donnell and John Cleary, have conducted themselves to my entire satisfaction.

W Nicholson.

————

Mary Villa, Elizabeth Bay, March 24, 1875.

Dear Sir,—In reply to your circular with reference to the lad Smith apprenticed to me, I desire to say he has behaved himself very creditably, in fact, I would not part with him on any account. I find he is much more useful than any man I have had, and could set an example to many so-called housemaids, and if only 20 per cent of your lads turn out like Smith you will be well repaid for the worry and trouble taken over them. Trusting that many boys may be reclaimed under your superintendence, and wishing you every success, etc.

John Hurley.

————

Hinton, March 25, 1875.

Sir,—In reply to yours of the 18th, I have the honour as well as the pleasure to inform you that my little apprentice has quite exceeded my expectation, and reflects great credit on the school that you have the honour to be over.

C Silver.

————

Brush Farm, Field of Mars, April 2, 1875.

Sir,—In reply to your favour of 18th ult, I have great pleasure in informing you that the apprentice assigned to me from NSS “Vernon,” has conducted himself very well, and gives me great satisfaction.

E Foster.

————

Rosewood Farm, North Grafton, May 3, 1875.

Sir,—I have the honour to inform you that my apprentice, Thomas East, has conducted himself in a creditable manner, is very careful, and can be confidently trusted.

Irwin Leonard.

————

Currawang Creek, Murrumburrah, April, 1875.

Sir,—I have the honour to report to your information the Henry Clark, selected by me from the ship “Vernon,” has conducted himself in a most satisfactory manner since he has been with me, so much so that several neighbours are about making application for boys from that institution.

Horatio Beckham.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Illustrated Sydney News, Sat 1 Sep 1883 27

THE VERNON TRAINING SHIP.

THE necessity for juvenile reformation was urged upon the Government of this colony long before Parliament provided the requisite funds at the suggestion of the Ministry of the day. Strong representation had been repeatedly made respecting young street Arabs being allowed to become recruits for the criminal class; and many times had magistrates felt a repugnance in sending to prison larcenously-inclined juveniles who might be saved from evil courses, but there was no alternative for a time. At length public opinion became so marked that steps were taken to purchase the ship Vernon, formerly one of Green’s line of Indiamen, a vessel admirably adapted for the purpose it was to be designed for; and, after sundry alterations, became home of a number of boys sent on board by magisterial orders. At first it was proposed to devote the Vernon to preparing these lads for seafaring life, and to provide a Government farm where others could be educated to farming pursuits; yet the training ship is still the only portion of the scheme carried into effect. That it has been a blessing to many is testified to by letters received now and again from former pupils—some of them officers of ships, others in good situations, and a few land-owners in the interior. Some difficulties were encountered at first, but these have been overcome long since, so that the Vernon and its occupants will now compare favourably with any kindred institution. The boys may be divided into three classes—namely, those who have committed some petty crime, those who were homeless, and those sent there by parents who could not control them, and who subscribe a weekly sum towards their maintenance and tuition. Once in charge of the ship’s officers they are out of parental control and under that of the Colonial Secretary’s Department, which arranges for their future, and knows the lads only by their conduct: their previous history is ignored, except so far as it indicates to their teachers the tendency of character of their charges. Their clothing, food, hours of school, of recreation, and of rest, are the same, with this distinction only, that when a good conduct stripe is awarded it is worn in a similar manner to a man-of-war’s man’s. As might be expected from the designation of their new home, the chief duties of the lads are of a nautical character, and of these, perhaps, the first is to learn to sleep in a hammock, and how to make it in the morning when the bell announces the first of the dog-watches. During the day they are taught the three “R’s,” gun and cutlass exercises, how to go aloft and make sail, how to reef, &c, and other items of the naval curriculum common to apprentices’ life before the mast. All who are able to hold an oar are exercised in the ship’s boats, and that many of them take pleasure in this portion of their duties, has been shown at our regattas, where the “Schnappers,” “Yellow Tails,” &c, have competed. Some of the boys also bid fair to become good musicians, thanks to the generosity of a few philanthropists, who subscribe money for the instruments necessary to form a full band, and the readiness with which the Government assented to providing a band-master for the ship. The youngsters are occasionally favored with magic lantern entertainments, as well as other amusements tending to enlarge their minds. On the occasion of our artist’s visit they were being treated to an interesting lecture on a trip from Australia to Paris, illustrated by magic lantern views of scenes in the Red Sea, Egypt, Italy, Germany and France; that which appeared to attract most attention being the Arc de Triomphe, Paris. Captain Neichenstein, [sic] the present commander of the Vernon, bears the reputation of being well adapted for his position, having the happy faculty of character, and of securing their gratitude by a kindly interest in all that will conduce to their comfort and happiness. The hope of being able some day to take a berth on board the war steamer Wolverine, where some of their shipmates have already preceded them, will doubtless prove an incentive to many a Vernon boy to cultivate respect for his superiors, strict attention to discipline, and the acquirement of all that can be learned during the period of probation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Daily Telegraph, Tue 17 Aug 1886 28

REVELATIONS OF A “CON-
VERTED THIEF.”
———

    In the Temperance-hall last evening, Mr Joseph Bragg, who some time since was advertised as “a converted thief,” lectured to a full audience. The subject was “What shall we do with our criminal and destitute children?” and as Mr Bragg has had a penal apprenticeship of some 22 years, he ought to be specially qualified to satisfactorily answer the question. His criminal career opened at 13, and he is now a mature man, illiterate, uncouth and commonplace, but withal possessed of much shrewdness, sound common sense and a fluency of utterance not to be acquired by mere effort. He spoke freely and pretty plainly of the manner in which “children” and “gayls” were being brought up on the Vernon and at Biloela, and if there be even a symptom of fact in his assertions, a rigid official inquiry should be instituted within 24 hours. He assured the audience that Biloela was a school for propagation of the worst character of vice, alleging that to his own knowledge there are at present on the streets of Sydney 50 “unfortunates” who have graduated within its walls. He read from a list of Vernon boys the names of convicted murderers, thieves, robbers, and participators in unnatural crimes. Vernon boys were always to be known in gaol by the extreme filthiness of their language, and the Biloela girls might be distinguished by the same disgusting characteristics, as well as a tendency to clannishness. Mr Bragg also pointed out that flogging was readily administered without much ceremony, both on boys and girls. His remedy for all this would be to keep young offenders separated from criminal companions. The lecture was at times loudly applauded during his address, which lasted nearly an hour.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Temperance Hall, Pitt Street, Sydney, Nov 1870. Image: ML SPF/327.
Temperance Hall, Pitt Street, Sydney, Nov 1870.
Image: ML SPF/327.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Tue 17 Aug 1886 29

    “WHAT shall we do with Our Destitute and Criminal Children?” was the title of a discourse delivered by Mr Joe Bragg in the Temperance Hall, Pitt-street, last evening before a fair audience. The chair was occupied by Mr Roseby. The lecturer dwelt at length on the causes of crime and the injudicious treatment of young criminals, and advocated the formation of a children’s home where destitute and criminal children could be properly treated and cared for. At the conclusion of the discourse a collection was taken up in aid of the establishment of a “Children’s Home” under the auspices of the Blue Ribbon Gospel Army. It is proposed to establish the home on a similar plan to that which has been adopted by the Rev George Müller, who has been so successful in conducting his orphanages at Ashley Down, near the city of Bristol, England.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser, Tue 24 Aug 1886 30

REVELATIONS of a “CONVERTED
THIEF.”
————

IN the Temperance Hall, Mr Joseph Bragg, who sometime since was advertised a “a converted thief,” lectured to a full audience. The subject was “What shall we do with our criminal and destitute children?” and as Mr Bragg has had a penal apprenticeship of some 22 years, he ought to be specially qualified to satisfactorily answer the question. His criminal career opened at 13 and he is now a mature man, illiterate, uncouth, and common-place, but withal possessed of much shrewdness, sound common sense, and a fluency of utterance not to be acquired by mere effort. He spoke freely and pretty plainly of the manner in which “children” and “gayls” were brought up on the Vernon and Biloela, and if there be even a symptom of fact in his assertions, a rigid official inquiry should be instituted within twenty-four hours. He assured the audience that Biloela was a school for propagation of the worst character of vice, alleging that to his own knowledge there are at present on the streets of Sydney fifty “unfortunates” who have graduated within its walls. He read from a list of Vernon boys the names of convicted murders, thieves, robbers and participators in unnatural crimes. Vernon boys were always to be known in gaol by the extreme filthiness of their language, and the Biloela girls might be distinguished by the same disgusting characteristic, as well as a tendency to clannishness. Mr Bragg also pointed out that flogging was readily administered without much ceremony, both on boys and girls. His remedy for all this would be to keep young offenders separated from criminal companions. The lecturer was at times loudly applauded during his address, which lasted nearly an hour.—Sydney Daily Telegraph.

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Report for the Year Ending, 30 Apr 1890 – Nautical School-Ship “Vernon” 31

NAUTICAL SCHOOL-SHIP “VERNON.”
————————
Ordered by the Legislative Assembly to be printed, 20 Aug, 1890.
————————

THE Superintendent NSS “Vernon” to THE UNDER SECRETARY OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION.

Nautical School-ship “Vernon,” Sydney, 16 July, 1890.

Sir,
     I have the honor to submit my Annual Report upon the Institution under my charge for the year ended the 30th April last.

    2.  The conduct of the boys has been good. They have been quiet, orderly, and respectful, have done their work cheerfully, and have made fair progress in school and drill. The general behaviour has been surprisingly good, when the antecedents of many of our lads are considered. No immorality has occurred. I have heard at times more improper language in one day, when walking in the streets, than I have heard on the ship in a year; and my experience is that of my officers. It is only strictly just that I should say the behaviour of our lads, as a body, is fully up to the standard of conduct of boys who have been brought up in more favourable conditions.

    3.  I am sorry to have to report a death—a poor lad with chronic disease when admitted. This was the third death in fourteen years out of some 1,900 boys who had been on board during that time. The general health has been, as usual, very satisfactory. The complaints treated have been mostly confined to the diseases from which the boys were suffering when admitted. The good majority come on board in a dirty, neglected state, and, for the most part, suffering from skin complaints, sore eyes, exposure, and neglect. The manner in which parents neglect these lads is shameful.

    4.  Good work has been done in school, where the ordinary Public School curriculum is carried out. Each boy attends school for three hours daily, either in the morning or in the afternoon, according to his “watch.” Table I shows the educational status of those admitted. Only 14 per cent of the newcomers could read and write well.

    5.  Three hours’ schooling per boy, of course, takes a large bit out of the day, but there is plenty of other employment. Firstly come the various drills. Manual exercise, battalion drill, cutlass exercise, gun drill, pulling in boats, manning yards, making, reefing, and setting sails, and various other exercises are systematically taught. They all tend to improve the boys, physically and morally, to bring them under control to teach them to be clean, obedient, and respectful, and to raise their self-respect. The work so accomplished cannot be appraised in a monetary sense, but the other labour done is fairly valued hereunder:—

 

£

s.

d.

 Repairing clothing

60

0

0

 Making bags, towels, covers, sundries.

10

0

0

 Carpenter’s work—repairing boats, shed, spars, caulking, glazing, and general ship’s work and repairs

120

0

0

 New main deck awning

12

0

0

 Poop awning (part)

5

0

0

 Forcastle awning

3

0

0

 Repairs to various awnings

8

0

0

 Making sixty hammocks, at 3s. 6d

10

10

0

 Covering fire-hoses

2

0

0

 Making six hatch covers

8

0

0

 Making fifty galley bags

3

0

0

 Making two masts’ coats

1

0

0

 Repairing hammocks, bags, tarpaulins, making and repairing clews, repairs to sails, and general sailmaker’s work

80

0

0

 Fishing-net repairs

1

0

0

 General labourers’ work, such as discharging stores, provisions, coaling ship, &c

50

0

0

 General riggers’ work, including tarring, scraping, sewing, setting, up rigging, rattling, repairing boat’s gear, flags, work in connection with anchors and chains, &c

 

200

 

0

 

0

 Painting ship four times

80

0

0

 Painting boats

15

0

0

 Painting aloft

20

0

0

 Cleaning decks, cabins, windows, furniture, rifles, ship’s side, play-ground, sheds, landings, whitewashing

150

0

0

 Lamp trimming and cleaning

50

0

0

 Cooking and stewarding performed by some twelve boys under the supervision of one instructor

200

0

0

 Value of services of band when playing at ceremonies not connected with the ship

100

0

0

 Washing clothes.—A daily average of 225 boys has been maintained, and each lad has to wash his own clothing—about eight pieces weekly, and a hammock every fortnight, besides bedticks, collars, towels, &c, and occasionally blankets, serge clothing—(say) 142,000 pieces, at 2d

 

930

 

0

 

0

Total

2,118

0

0

From this it will be seen that the boys lead a busy life on board, and are fully occupied from rising in the morning at 5 until going to bed at 8 Peter Michael, with intervening periods for meals, rest, and recreation.

Naval Training Ship “Vernon” with cadets' washing hanging between masts - Sydney, NSW, c. 1888. Image: NSW State Library collection. Reproduction: Peter de Waal
Naval Training Ship “Vernon” with cadets' washing hanging
between masts - Sydney, NSW, c. 1888. Image: NSW State
Library collection. Reproduction: Peter de Waal

    6.  On the 30th April, 1889, the number remaining on the ship was 229. During the year under report 166 boys were admitted, making the total number dealt with on board in the year 395. The discharges amounted to 162, leaving 233 on the ship on the 30th April, 1890. The daily average was 225, the highest yet attained in any year. During the last ten years the daily average has nearly doubled.

    7.  The number of apprentices under my control has also largely increased, and they now number 480. Some of them have been away over five years from the ship. Quite recently all their masters’ residences were visited to ascertain the character of the boys, their masters’ treatment of them, and to inquire generally if the conditions under which the lads were apprenticed were being observed. No less than 442, or 92 per cent, were favourably reported on in every way, while only thirty-eight were at all unfavourably spoken of. The list of “goods” included several who did not receive favourable reports last year, but who are now doing well. Within the past few months I have received many hundreds of letters from employers, from apprentices, and from visitors, nearly all of a favourable nature. It is not necessary to publish these, and they are available for inspection at any time.

    8.  One of the most satisfactory matters in connection with the system is the fact that so many person who have had experience of our boys as apprentices desire to obtain more of them. It is not likely that they would do this if their apprentices had been badly behaved. At the present time, notwithstanding the large number we have placed out, the applications for apprentices largely outnumber the available supply. This should be some practical evidence that good is being done.

    9.  The institution is now in its twenty-fourth year of service, and has been established sufficiently long to admit of its work being accurately judged. The value of any such establishment can best be estimate by the after-lives of those who have undergone its system. To the 30th April last 2,367 boys have been committed to the “Vernon,” of which number 233 remain aboard; consequently, 2,134 lads have left. I regret to say that some of these have found their way into the gaols of the Colony. Their cases naturally come very prominently into notice, and attract so much attention that some mistaken ideas may prevail respecting the results accomplished by the “Vernon” system. It is an undoubted fact that boys are not sent on board until, in the vast majority of instances, they have been found to be beyond control. There are now some 60 boys, or over a fourth of the inmates, who have been inmates of other charitable institutions, and who have been given up as failures, and have had to be sent here as a last resource. These latter are amongst our most troublesome subjects, but the “Vernon” will most certainly be blamed should any of them do badly in after-life.

    10.  Perhaps, in view of their antecedents prior to coming on board; a certain percentage must always be expected to turn out unfavourably. During the year, the Comptroller-General of Prisons states that 28 ex-inmates of the “Vernon” had been under conviction. Nine of them were remanets from the previous year; 9 had been discharged instead of undergoing the full training, and some were not recognised by me. Still, taking these 28 (who had at any time been on board since May, 1867), and comparing them with 2,134 who have left the ship, the percentage is only 1⋅3 for the year, while the Government Statistician informs me that, taking the whole male population over 15, the proportion of offenders to the named population is 1⋅8 for 1889. This seems strong evidence in favour of the “Vernon” lads.

    11.  Yet these few undoubtedly come more into prominence than the many hundreds who do well, and a wrong idea is entertained where due consideration has not been given to the subject. In older countries, notably in England, 80 per cent is considered a high percentage of reforms. The Government Reformatory Inspector last year gave 74 as the number. Our results are considerably better, and while I regret to see some ex-Vernonites become habitual criminals, it may certainly be concluded that the vast majority who have left the ship have been quietly absorbed in the law-abiding ranks of the people, and are leading as honest, blameless lives as any other members of the community. The ship has also done good as a deterrent to youths who may have been inclined to break away from home control. The mere fact of the existence of the “Vernon” has undoubtedly prevented a certain amount of wrong-doing. May it not also be in some measures attributable to the work of reformation accomplished by the ship that crime has not increased with the great increase in population. The “Vernon” was established by Sir Henry Parkes in 1867. From “The Wealth and Progress of New South Wales” I find that for the two years preceding its establishment the proportion per 10,000 of the population convicted was 19⋅9 and 18⋅3 respectively, while since that year a steady decrease has set in, until now the proportion is considerably less than half those percentages.

    12.  A large number of former apprentices continue to visit and to correspond with me. Of one man who left in 1868 I heard this morning; he has been in the same situation for fifteen years, and is 38 years old. From my “after-career” book I find that visits, letters, and reports on the part of ex-apprentices during the year have been more numerous than in any other like period. One young man visited the ship twenty-one times, another one twelve times, another one fourteen times, and so on.

    13.  Some mistaken notion seems to exist respecting the composition of the inmates. The practice is to hand young boys over to the care of the State Children’s Relief Department. Any young boys now on board are those who have proved unamenable to other influences, and who have been given up as incorrigible. The boys are all in classes according to conduct, and are not left night or day without supervision. The youngest lads sleep by themselves in the commodious establishment on the neighbouring island, coming to the ship for meals, school, and instruction. The others sleep on board in various portions of the main-deck, according to age or classification. No lad leaves the ship or land dormitories on any pretence throughout the night. Lamps are brilliantly burning, and responsible officers walk round the sleeping quarters, carrying detector clocks, which they have to press against certain portions of the dormitories, and which accurately register their movements and ensure watchfulness. Good-conduct boys, relieved every hour, also patrol the deck, as an additional precaution. Misconduct cannot escape detection. I have visited a very large number of similar institutions, but nowhere have I observed an equal degree of supervision maintained. It is clear that if opportunities of misbehaviour occur here they must be much more numerous on a large farm or in scattered dwellings, where the supervision could not be so strict.

    14.  The necessity for recreation has not been overlooked. Sir Henry and Lady Parkes again entertained the lads at their residence, and a very happy day was spent; several visits have been paid to the theatres on the generous invitation of the proprietors, and the various regattas have, as usual, been attended. Cricket, gymnastics, and other out-door games have been vigorously prosecuted on Cockatoo Island, and numerous fishing and pleasure excursions have been made about the harbour. On board, numerous concerts, lantern lectures, and other entertainments have taken place, while the library has been open of an evening. The boys are fond of reading, and there are some 1,000 carefully selected works for them to pick from. All the foregoing indulgences are held out as inducements to good conduct, and boys misbehaving are debarred from participation. And here may I be allowed to say that no flogging has had to be resorted to during the year, and no absconding have taken place, although opportunities for running away have necessarily been frequent, on account of the many excursions indulged in.

    15.  Owing to the high repute which the “Vernon” apprentices have gained during the past twenty-two years, the ship is able to deal with a large number of boys at a small cost. If the system had not been successful, instead of the boys going out as apprentices, employers wold have declined engaging them, and the 480 now at service would have had to be shut up in institutions at a great charge to the country, and at great suffering to themselves. There are now 705 boys under my legal guardianship, a larger number than is met with in the case of any similar establishment, and their cost per head to the State is under sixpence daily. A boy remains here only a short probationary period, and is then practically free, so long as he behaves well at his situation. To the age of 18 he is under my control, and can be brought back for further disciplinary treatment at any time. At the end of apprenticeship he can get work anywhere on a farm, will probably settle down to country life, and has accumulated wages in the Savings Bank amounting to as high as £50, according to the duration of his apprenticeship. The average period is for four years, the wages amount to about £30 for that time, while the value of board, lodging, and clothing, &c, supplied by the employer may be computed at £20 yearly, or a total earning of £110 during service. Multiplying this by the number of boys at service, and a sum of £52,800 is shown as being earned by these lads who are now serving apprenticeship. What would be their cost to the country under other and easily imagined conditions? I do not think that the system initiated by Sir Henry Parkes, and which has stood the test of so many years’ observation, is sufficiently understood or appreciated. 

    16.  Table E shows the principal reason for the boys coming here. Parental neglect is chiefly to blame.

    17.  On Sundays the boys landed and marched to their respective places of worship. Religious instruction has been conducted on board by the Rev WA Charlton, Mrs Ford, the Sisters of St Joseph, the Rev E Corcoran, the Rev A Boyle, and the Rev A Handley. To these ladies and gentlemen great credit is due for the continued and warm interest taken by them in the welfare of the boys.

    18.  Much interest has been shown in the doings of the Institution, and it has been largely visited. With the approval of the Minister of Public Instruction, the Hon JH Carruthers, a number of improvements have been effected tending to the comfort of the boys; a larger vessel is being procured, a swimming bath is being constructed, and important additions are being mad in connection with the land playground and gymnasium. The new dormitory at Biloela, virtually another institution, has relieved the overcrowded condition of the ship, and works smoothly and efficiently.

    19.  The staff of officers remains unchanged. They continue to carry out their duties in a cheerful efficient manner. During my absence on leave, the ship was managed by my very capable chief assistant, Mr Mason. It may not be out of place to state that I recently visited the principal reformatories and industrial schools in England and France, such as Mettray, Red Hill, Princess Mary Homes, &c. The information I gained from these visits, from interviews with various well-recognised authorities on this question, and from other sources, may, perhaps, prove of value, and is at th disposal of the authorities.

    20.  The usual tables are appended.

I have, &c,
Fredk W Neitenstein,
Commander and Superintendent.

————————

A.

COST per head for year (Boys on board)—Daily average, 225.

£

s.

d.

 Provisions

2,521

15

6

 Crockery, mess utensils, knives, forks, &c.

28

1

3

 Clothing

518

7

2

 Stores, rope, paints, &c.

246

12

5

 School, stationery, good-conduct awards

132

1

4

 Salaries (including two teachers for school duties)

2,111

0

5

 Fuel and light

50

3

11

 Boats and oars

76

16

9

 Medicines and Surgeon’s salary

75

5

6

 Bedding, hammocks, and blankets

95

2

7

 Repairs generally

200

0

2

 Petty charges

34

11

9

 Gross cost of only those on board

6,089

18

9

 Deduct parents’ contributions

310

17

6

 Net cost
 Or £25 13s. 8d. Each boy yearly.

5,779

1

3

EXPENSES of Apprentices.

 

 

 

 Proportion of salaries.

200

0

0

 Visiting, stamps, &c.

55

10

3

 

255

10

3

NET cost to State of all “Vernon” Boys under control.

 

 

 

 Average number on ship, 225—cost

5,779

1

8

 ditto apprenticed, 480—cost

255

10

3

 Total cost of 705 maintained

6,034

11

11

Cost per head, yearly, for all under State control, £28 11s. 2d.

 

 

 

ditto daily, ditto 5½d.

 

 

 

 

B.

ADMISSIONS and Discharges during the year.

 Admissions—

 

Discharges—

 

Committals

152 

Apprenticed

106

Returned, various causes

14 

Young boys transferred to State Children’s Relief Department

34

 

 

Otherwise discharged

21

 

 

Died

1

Total admissions

166 

Total discharges

162

 

C.

CHARACTER Classification of Boys on board on the 30th April, 1890.

 Excellent (boy Officers receiving pay)

25

 Very good

151

 Good

40

 Indifferently behaved. (These latter eat by themselves, sleep apart from the rest, and are always under the immediate supervision of an officer)

 

17

Total number on board

233

 

D.

RELIGION of the new Committals.

 Protestants

100 = 66%

 Roman Catholics

52 = 34%

 

E.

AGES of the new Committals.

 Under 10

16

41 %

 10 to 12

46

 12 to 14

45

59 %

 Over 14

45

 

F.

PARENTAGE of new Committals.

 Mother a drunkard, father a cripple

1

 Mother dead, father neglects to control

1

 Mother deserted, father dead

4

 Father deserted, mother dead

3

 Parents unfit to have charge

15

 Mother a drunkard, father dead

1

 Mother a prostitute, father deserted

5

 Father in gaol, mother unknown

5

 Mother a prostitute, father cannot control

2

 Father deserted, mother cannot control

5

 Mother on gaol, father dead

2

 Father a drunkard, mother dead

2

 Mother a prostitute, father a drunkard

1

 Mother married again, father dead

3

 Mother in gaol, father deserted

2

 Father married again, mother dead

5

 Mother a prostitute, father in gaol

1

 Parents deserted, or dead

41

 Mother a drunkard, father cannot control

1

 Father dead, mother cannot control

11

 Mother a lunatic, father a drunkard

2

 Parents neglect, or are unable to control

 39

 

G.

POLICE COURTS sending boys.

 Sydney and Suburbs

101 = 66%

 Country

51 = 34%

 

H.

BIRTH-PLACES of Committals not natives of the Colony.

 England

11

 Victoria

5

 Queensland

3

 Ireland

1

 New Zealand

5

 Scotland.

7

 South Australia

1

 East Indies

1

Total, not natives of Colony

34 = 22%

 

I.

EDUCATIONAL status of Admissions and Discharges.

 

Reading.

Writing.

Arithmetic.

Total.

Well.

Indifferently.

Not.

Well.

Indifferently.

Not.

Well.

Indifferently.

Not.

 On board, 30th April, 1889

94

120

15

94

120

15

94

120

15

229

 Admitted, to 30th April, 1890

24

96

46

24

96

46

24

90

52

166

 Discharged, to 30th April, 1890

120

32

128

34

128

34

162

 Remaining on the 30th April, 1890

165

68

160

73

164

69

233

Only 14 per cent of the admissions could read and write well.

 

J.

PERSONS who have been under conviction in the gaols during the year ended 30th April, 1890, who have been at any time on the “Vernon” since its establishment in May, 1867. (Comptroller-General’s Report.)


 Number under conviction during year (including all offences, imprisonment for absconding, &c)

28

 Total number of boys left “Vernon”

2,134

 Percentage of ex “Vernon” boys who have been under conviction during the year

1.3

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 32

ML: DSM/042/P402, Joe Bragg, Whence come our great criminals! Publication date ascertained from The Argus, 11 July 1890. Emphasis added.
 

IN writing this pamphlet my sole desire is to bring before the public the present injudicious system of treating juvenile delinquents, and those unfortunate children whose only crime is their poverty. That a lad should be imprisoned simply because he is poor, is both brutal and unwise; but that he should he indiscriminately herded with young criminals is the height of folly and injustice. That it is so, is undeniable.

    It is many years since this matter first engaged my attention. I was struck with the number of ex-Vernon boys whom I met in gaol, and concluded that the Vernon was manufacturing criminals. Curiosity impelled me to make enquiries, and I was soon satisfied that I was right. I might say, too, in passing, that my attention was soon drawn to the scores of street-girls who had been reared on Biloela. Many of these, as well as of the boys, were very young when sent to the industrial school.

    Before giving a number of cases, which I am sure will convince the reader that the Vernon has produced some of criminals in the colony, justice compels me to state that I have always heard Captain Neitenstein spoken of with affection, and represented as a wise and good man. In giving the cases I shall arrange them alphabetically, though the letter used may not be any initial of the person’s name.

    Almost from the start the Vernon was misused. A, who was then placed upon it, having been with me in Darlinghurst Gaol for thieving, prior to its establishment. Subsequently he was sentenced to death for lying in wait and knocking a captain on the head with a view to rob him, but was reprieved with seven years, his victim, I was informed, having strongly interceded for him.

    B. was an early inmate of the Vernon, but unlike A, he was guiltless of crime when sent to the Vernon.

2

After his discharge, however, he was sentenced to death for assault and robbery, but was reprieved with ten years. Shortly after the termination of his sentence he received five years for an unnatural offence, which he is now serving.

    C. was sent to the Vernon just before B left it. He went astray, receiving 18 months or two years. While serving this sentence he received an additional five years. He is now serving eight years for a bank robbery.

    D. has been convicted of a variety of crimes, robbery, unnatural offence, &c. Lastly he was indicted for murder, but found guilty of manslaughter, and received ten years, which he is now serving.

    E. was a petty prig.

    F. was convicted several times of robbery. At last he received a legacy, and bought fine clothes and a revolver. The use of this brought him to the gallows. In his dying statement he said: Drink and bad companions were the cause of my premature death.

    G. was a bosom friend of F’s, and was on the Vernon with him, and participated in his fortune. He was convicted several times of petty theft. When arrested he used to try to clear himself by turning informer. I do not clearly recollect a particular instance of this, but I recollect the general fact.

    H. has been convicted of robbery, and twice of the unmentionable crime. I am informed that he is now in gaol.

    I. has been convicted several times. His performance is hopeless.

    J. got five years on one occasion. Subsequently, when being tried, Mr Abbott, SM, remarked that such men as he ought to be taken out into the yard and shot. A bad system had made him a villain, and because he exhibited villainy, the remedy suggested was shooting.

    K., I myself saw sent to the Vernon. On hearing the magistrate, Mr Marsh, make the order, I turned to my wife, who was standing with me in the court, and said: Do you see that boy? he will become a criminal. This confident assertion I made solely from my knowledge of the effect of Vernon treatment. Afterwards he received three years and was flogged. He is now serving 12 years, but is entirely innocent of the robbery for which he got it.

3

    L. was convicted several times for robbery, and lastly of an unnatural offence, for which he received ten years, which he is now serving.

    M. has been convicted several times of robbery, and is now serving eight years.

    N. has been convicted of violent assaults on the police. He was sent to the Vernon for thieving.

    O. has been convicted several times of robbery. His last sentence was five years.

    P. has been convicted several times of robbery. He is now serving seven years.

    Q. has been convicted several times.

    R. has just received a sentence of five years. He had previously received one or more sentences.

    S. has just received a sentence of several years with him.

    T. was sentenced to death for the Mount Rennie outrage, and reprieved with the sentence of life, first three years in irons.

    U. was apprenticed to a person in the Berrima district, where he stole a bridle, for which offence he got three months. Subsequently he received a sentence of two years for a curious case of bestiality.

    I have given 21 cases; I might greatly have increased the number. I have other names now before me. With 18 of the persons whose cases I have given I am well acquainted, and know two of the other three slightly. No doubt the reader will be struck with the number of those who have been convicted of unnatural offences. But this crime they learned on the Vernon. One of those whom I have mentioned (I do not accurately remember which one) was actually flogged for that offence on board the Vernon. In conversation a few days ago, a man who had spent 16 months on board the Vernon, told me that during those 16 months three boys were flogged there for this unmentionable crime, and that two of them were caught in the act. I know his address.

    Sir Henry Parkes the other day told the Vernon boys that no degradation attached to their position. But what can be more degrading to an intellectual, sensitive, moral boy than to be closely associated with such as those I have mentioned. I have said nothing about their language; I leave that to be imagined. Jesus says: “By their fruits

4

ye shall know them.” And by the fruits of the Vernon I judge the Vernon. Besides, a boy must make vicious acquaintances, whom he is likely to meet afterwards at any time, and who may induce him to pursue a course of crime.

    Never having come across an ex-Vernon boy who possessed a trade, I was anxious to know what possibility there was of acquiring one on the Vernon, and asked one of them: What did you learn on board the Vernon? He answered: “Villainy, Joe, villainy. I learned more villainy during the 12 months I was on board the Vernon than in all the rest of my life put together.”

    I beg the reader to understand that I would never advocate the incarceration of children while they learned trades, but surely they might be taught the rudiments of trades during the 12 months they are on the Vernon, and afterwards be apprenticed to these trades. I have come across a great number of ex-Vernon boys, many of whom are good workers when they can get work; but not having a trade they are placed at great disadvantage. If such boys get on in after life, it is not in consequence of the Vernon treatment, but in spite of it.

    The number of ex-Vernon criminals struck me more forcibly when I reflected that I had rarely come across a criminal who had been in the Randwick Asylum. I came across several ex-Randwick boys out of gaol, but they were all equally ignorant of crime. Yet many of the ex-Vernon criminals were young and innocent when placed on the Vernon. But “evil communications corrupt good manners.” I confess that I was considerably surprised when told by one of the worst of those I have mentioned that, having escaped from the Vernon, he was, when re-captured, placed in the Randwick Asylum. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” We presume he was as welcome there as a native dog in a sheepfold.

    I should say that I have not selected the cases I have given, on account of their atrocity. I might have cited a worse case than any of them. In conclusion, I charge the Vernon with having manufactured murderers, sodomites, self-polluters, mophs (mophs is an abbreviation of the word hermaphrodite, and its mode significance must be plain)—in fact men who have committed every crime under the sun. 

W. Brooks, Printer, rear of 506 George-Street, Sydney

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

NSW Legislative Assembly, Votes and Proceedings, Thu 10 Jul 1890 33

VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS
OF THE
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY.
————
THURSDAY, 10 JULY, 1890.

    1. The House met pursuant to adjournment: Mr Speaker took the Chair.

    14. ADJOURNMENT:—Mr Copeland rising to move the adjournment of the House,—Mr Speaker stated that he had received from the Honorable Member a notice, under the Additional Standing Order respecting motions for the adjournment of the House, that he desired to move the adjournment of the House, “for the purpose of calling attention to a pamphlet making certain serious charges against the management of the ‘Vernon’ Training ship.”

    And five Honorable Members rising in their places in support of the motion,—
    Mr Copeland moved, That this House do now adjourn.
    Debate ensued.
    Question put and negatived.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Daily Telegraph, Fri 11 Jul 1890 34

THE VERNON.
————
SERIOUS CHARGES AGAINST THE BOYS.
————
AN “INFAMOUS” PAMPHLET.—JOE
BRAGG REDIVIVUS.
————
DEBATE IN THE ASSEMBLY.

    The adjournment of the House was moved by Mr Copeland in the Assembly yesterday for the purpose of drawing attention to what he termed an “infamous” pamphlet, bearing the signature of “Joe Bragg,” which he believed had been sent to every member of the House.

    Mr MCMILLAN rose, not with the intention of preventing the hon member from going on with his speech, but to remind him that the Minister for Public Instruction was not in the House.

    Mr COPELAND was not aware of it.

    Mr MCMILLAN: Perhaps the hon member would let the matter stand over till the Minister was present?

    Mr COPELAND: Under the circumstances he would say a few words now and perhaps bring the matter forward later on. The charges made in this pamphlet were of so serious a nature that not an hour should be allowed to pass before steps were taken to prove the truth or otherwise of the dreadful statements made in it. The pamphlet was headed, “Whence come our Great Criminals?” and it contained a series of the most infamous and villainous libels on the boys of the training-ship Vernon. It behoved the Government to take very speedy and effective measures to investigate these charges, and if they were true the best thing to be done was to bring the boys ashore and burn the ship. Such charges were a disgrace to our country and our civilisation. These boys were charged with every crime under the sun—unnatural offences and everything that was vile. It was a fearful scandal to circulate about a lot of helpless boys, whose worst crime in nearly every case was their poverty. (“Hear, hear.”) It was through misfortune that these lads had been sent on board the training ship, not for any crime committed by them. This pamphlet had been printed in the light of day and sent forth to the world, and these horrible charges would cast a stigma on the boys that might blight all their future lives.

    An Hon Member: He ought to get 10 years for it.

    Another Hon Member: Who is Joe Bragg?

    Mr CRICK: He is a criminal well known to the police.

    Mr COPELAND: He was certain, from his own knowledge that many of these boys were as respectable and well-conducted lads as any young fellows in the country, but from the fact of their having had training on this ship they would all be included under this vile slander. As they were not in a position to protect themselves by entering an action for criminal libel against this man, he hoped the Minister for Justice would take up their case and see that this base libeller was called to account. If he did not there should be a Royal Commission appointed or a select committee of the House. If these boys’ characters were worth protecting the writer should be called to answer for the foul and villainous libel; if not they should put a fire-stick in the ship and burn it. The country should not be called on every year to pay large sums of money for its maintenance as a breeding-house for all the crimes of the calendar. But he was speaking in the interests of the boys, for he did not believe one of these charges and they were not able to speak in their own behalf. As the boys grew to manhood their characters would be as dear to them as were the characters of any other young men. If the charges could not be substantiated then the man who made them should be punished to the fullest extent the law provides for the suppression of such scandalous libels. The pamphlet was too vile and beastly to read in public. This Bragg had served two years in gaol for assaulting and nearly killing a policeman with his own baton; also one year for nearly killing his wife, and more recently one month for cruelly thrashing his own son. He was assured that in 24 years about 2200 boys had passed through the Vernon, and in all that time there had not been found one single instance of unnatural crimes having been committed by any of the boys, and no evidence had ever been discovered of anything of the kind, although the system of discipline on board was such that they were watched through the whole of the night as well as throughout the day by officers appointed for the purpose. The boys went to bed at 8 o’clock at night and a watchman was on duty who traversed all the sleeping berths every five minutes. A register was provided to make sure that this was done. Into this register he had to mark a paper every five minutes. If the officer was one minute late he was called to account for it. The boys were under the careful supervision of one officer from 8 o’clock till half past 12 and he was then relieved by another who went on duty till 5 o’clock, when the officer of the day took his place. So that no matter how vile minded the boys might be they had not the opportunity of carrying on the offences charged against them. He was quite sure what was stated was utterly false and he trusted this vile and malicious slanderer would be brought to account and severely punished. (“Hear, hear.”)

    Mr MCMILLAN: could understand the incredulity and disgust produced in the mind of the hon member on reading this filthy pamphlet, but it would have been better to have seen the Minister on the subject before bringing it into such publicity as would result from the course he had taken. The Minister for Public Instruction, who was now present, would probably follow him. He might say he met the boys from the Vernon at Sir Henry Parkes’ residence on Queen’s Birthday, and he thought the bright, open countenances of the boys gave an absolute denial to these infamous charges, and showed that they could not be guilty of such practices. On the previous Birthday gathering Sir Henry Parkes had stated that only 1 per cent of the boys who were sent on the Vernon had been in prison. Was it credible that these horrible enormities could be perpetrated on a ship where such careful supervision was exercised. He believed the pamphlet to be nothing but a tissue of lies from beginning to end. From inquiries he had made he had no hesitation in saying he would be very glad to employ a boy from the Vernon in his own establishment. Captain Neitenstein was a man of very high character who carried out his duties most ably. There had been such a strong light of criticism on this ship for many years that it was impossible that such practices could be carried on there. (“Hear, hear.”) He regretted that this leprous production of a ruffian, and a known ruffian, should have been given such prominence to. (“Hear, hear.”) Mr Burns: had known of a number of boys from the Vernon having been taken into the service of persons in the Hunter district and they had all given satisfaction. Two boys he knew had become farm labourers and were now doing well and had become good citizens. He knew that in several other cases that had come under his notice the lads had turned out well. Considering their early neglect and their abandonment by their parents in many cases it was something wonderful that the boys had turned out so well. So highly did the farmers regard them that there was often great competition as to who should get the next available lads from the ship. From all he had seen and heard he had formed a very high opinion of Captain Neitenstein and his care and management of the boys sent to the training ship. The charges were unfounded and infamous, but he thought the discussion would do no harm.

    Mr WALKER: thought this pamphlet, which bore the name of a man who delighted in filth even at the expense of his own character, should not have been taken notice of. He bore testimony to the high character of Captain Neitenstein, and gave instances from his own experience amongst the parents of boys sent to the Vernon of the excellent character of the institution and the good work being done by it. They were doing this criminal Joe Bragg too much honour by taking notice of the infamous slanders of such a miserable excrescence on degraded humanity.

    Mr CARRUTHERS: said there was more in this scurrilous pamphlet than would appear on the surface. They had not to deal only with Joe Bragg—there were others shielding themselves behind that man—(“hear, hear”)—and making these charges. Bragg was one of the most notorious criminals the colony possessed. He had served sentences for robbery, murderous assaults, wife beating, garrotting, drunkenness and ill-using his sons. Two of his sons were at present on board the Vernon, and the last sentence Bragg served was for brutally ill-treating one of those lads. When Bragg was not employed in committing some offence he was taken in hand by a well-known philanthropist and held forth in public as a shocking example of the evils of turning from good paths in life. (“Hear, hear.”) It was during one of these periods of reformation that Bragg penned these charges. But he was not really the one who had made these charges. (“Hear, hear.”) About three months ago Mr [George Edward] Ardill called at the Department of Public Instruction and made some charges against a public institution, not the Vernon. Investigations were made and the charges were found to be substantially correct. Mr Ardill called again a month ago and said he had evidence to show that the Vernon was turning out boys guilty of unnatural offences and augmenting the worst class of criminals. Frequent visits to the ship and interviews with the boys on board and with those who had passed through the training and had risen to manhood, gave him (Mr Carruthers) more than a superficial knowledge of the institution. He requested Mr Ardill, as a man of honor, as he was making charges calculated to cause an inquiry to be made, that he should make the charges in such a fashion that there would be something to take evidence upon. (”Hear, hear.”) Mr Ardill then left, saying that was the proper course to adopt and that in a day or two he would submit the charges to the department formally. The next thing he (Mr Carruthers) heard was that Captain Nietenstein [sic] had been called upon by a reporter, that Mr Ardill was making these charges to influential persons in order to damage the Vernon. Captain Nietenstein—and he agreed with all that had ever been said in that officer’s favor—(“hear, hear.”)—wrote and asked Mr Ardill to make the charges in a public manner so that he could answer his accuser. (“Hear, hear.”) On June 30, only 11 days ago, Mr Ardill sent a reply, in which he said: “My complaints against the Vernon will be made through the public press.” This was after promising the Minister, the proper vehicle through which complaints should go—(“hear, hear.”)—that they would be put in writing and sent to the Department. These charges were repeated to men of influential position in that assassin-like fashion when the man could not be got hold of to answer for what he did. Before the reply was sent to Captain Nietenstein Mr Ardill had gone to the newspaper offices and tried to pass in bundles of papers on the subject, but the press declined to publish his charges. (“Hear, hear.”) Bragg then came on the scene with another person who was trying to raise certain charities to success upon the ruins of one of the best institutions in New South Wales. (Cheers.) The Vernon had to deal with a good deal of bad raw material. It had to deal with boys whom others had failed to reform. But out of the 2200 Vernon boys who now occupied places among the manhood of the colony there was among them a less proportion of criminality than in some of those walks of life where the boys possessed good homes and had good education from the first. (“Hear, hear.”) A better record of the results of the training on the Vernon could not be more eloquently put forward. The charges contained in the pamphlet were almost utterly untrue. There was just sufficient truth in it to make men suspicious. The officers could only identify one of the several cases cited, that under the initial of “F.” That was the case of a Vernon boy who was hanged for murder, but the crime had nothing to do with the training received on the ship. That boy became almost blind and helpless and the ship was no fit place for him; he came into a legacy of £1500 or £1600, took up and lived with a girl, and was hanged for murdering either her or her paramour. But the training of the ship could not be blamed for that. Innuendoes were sometimes thrown out in questions in the House that grave offences were occurring on the Vernon. There was on board a system under which it was almost absolutely impossible for any offence of a grave character to occur. (“Hear, hear.”) Officers were constantly on watch in the dormitories and were relieved every two or three hours, and two of the senior boys were on duty every hour. A boy was on each side of the deck and the officer in the centre. In order to ensure that the officer performed his duty he had to touch a dial of a clock every quarter of an hour, and each visit was thus registered. Every morning the dials were regularly examined to see that the officer went his rounds. (“Hear, hear.”) The most complete system which human ingenuity could devise had been adopted to ensure a watchful care by day and night over the boys. Every movement could be noticed and there was no possibility of the alleged offences occurring. The statements did not come within the scope of truth. Every effort was made, and it was believed the efforts were successful, to carry on the work of reformation, bring the boys under discipline and ensure they would receive no damage through neglect. He was thankful to have the opportunity of speaking on behalf of the ship.

    Mr COPELAND: Can you take action?

    Mr CARRUTHERS: He had taken action and had gone into the subject in a very searching way. He had written to Mr Ardill again, demanding that he should come forward and make his charges openly. (Cheers.) He was not going to let the matter rest where it did. (“Hear, hear.”) While he was in charge of the department those who committed wrong would be punished. In any case where there was an attempt to defame the fair name of an institution he would do his duty to the best of his ability, and if he had to become a public prosecutor he would. Not Mr Joe Bragg, but the person standing behind him, would either have to come forward and formulate and prove his charges or he would be hounded down—(“Hear, hear”)—for using weapons to damage an honorable man who was doing good work. (Cheers.)

    Mr INGLIS had a considerable amount of doubt about Mr Ardill for a long time. When he was in office Mr Ardill came to him and made various suggestions of a similar character to those made to Mr Carruthers, but he was so satisfied there was no truth in the statements that he gave Mr Ardill the cold shoulder and took no notice of him. The pamphlet in question ought to be put in the fire. The character of Captain Neitenstein was above reproach and the characters of the boys was too well known to need defence. Even if the charges were true it was a lame attack, for even in the highest circles quite as many boys went to the bad. He had met Vernon boys in all parts of the colony and found them well conducted. Considering the poor beginnings most of them had, it was a cowardly thing to try in this way to fix a stigma upon their characters. The boys took a just pride in the good old ship and their captain. (“Hear, hear.”) There was no similar institution in the world which could show better results. (“Hear, hear.”)

    Mr GARRARD said Captain Neitenstein and his chief officer, Mr Mason, were exceptional men. (“Hear, hear.”) The captain was one man in 10,000 best fitted for the particular work he had to do. (“Hear, hear.”) The institution was the most successful of its kind in the world, and that was due to the wonderful character of the captain in charge and the officers under him—they worked not only for their salaries but out of their great interest in the boys. (“Hear, hear.”) He hoped the Minister would see this matter right out to the end.

    Mr WADDELL questioned whether many people would have heard of the infamous, lying pamphlet but for this debate, though, no doubt, Mr Copeland had acted with the best intentions. It would have been best merely to have drawn the attention of the Minister to the matter.

    Mr HOGAN said the Vernon boys would compare favourably with any other class of boys in the colony.

    Mr STEPHEN followed in praise of the Vernon.

    Mr COPELAND briefly replied. He had introduced the matter so that the authors of the lies could be dealt with. The character of the officers was above suspicion and something ought to be done to clear the character of the boys. It was best to face matters of this kind openly and he hoped no stone would be left unturned to criminally prosecute the originators of the slander.

    The motion for adjournment was then formally negatived.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Sydney Morning Herald, Fri 11 Jul 1890 35

LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY.
——
THURSDAY, JULY 10.
——

    THE SPEAKER took the chair at half-past 4 o’clock.

THE VERNON BOYS.

    Mr COPELAND moved the adjournment of the House for the purpose of calling attention to a pamphlet making serious charges against the management of the training-ship Vernon. Only twice during the past 15 years had he taken the extreme course of moving an adjournment, but the matter to which he wished to call attention was of so serious a nature that not one hour should be lost before inquiring into it. He believed that other members of the House, in common with himself, had received a pamphlet headed “Whence come our great criminals?, from the Vernon, or from the Public schools, by Joe Bragge.” [sic] Briefly, the pamphlet charged the Vernon boys with participation in every filthy offence. He believed, and so would everyone else who had any knowledge of the Vernon, that this was one of the most atrocious of criminal libels, and that it behoved the Government to immediately take steps to vindicate the character of the boys, and to punish the writer of the pamphlet with the utmost severity. Such charges as had been made cast a stigma upon every one of the 2200 lads who had passed through the ship, as well as upon the management, and should be dealt with at once, and in a manner that would show that though the lads assailed could not defend themselves, persons who printed and circulated such false and scandalous statements would not be allowed to go unpunished.

    Mr MCMILLAN said that while he could well understand the indignation and disgust with which the hon member was moved, yet he thought the wiser course would have been to interview the Minister in charge of the department or the head of the Government. He had seen sufficient of the Vernon boys to convince him that the charges made against them were utterly false. (Cheers.) The character of Captain Neitenstein stood so high, and public criticism was so severe, that if anything of the kind alleged had occurred in the ship it would have been brought to light long ago. He regretted that the wretched production of a ruffian had received so much prominence.

    Mr BURNS said that he knew sufficient of the Vernon boys, both past and present, to convince him beyond all doubt that the charges made were as false as they were scandalous. Captain Neitenstein was so excellent an officer that such things could not have occurred on his ship. The whole thing was a tissue of lies from beginning to end.

    Mr WALKER said that he regretted that the slightest notice had been taken of the lying pamphlet. As to the Vernon, under the control of Captain Neitenstein, he knew of no better managed institution of the kind, and thought that a better system could not have been devised by the wisest Government on earth.

 

Joseph Bragg’s 1879 gaol photo record sheet. SRN- SW: NRS2138, [3/6042]. Photo SRNSW
Joseph Bragg’s 1879 gaol photo record sheet. SRN- SW: NRS2138, [3/6042]. Photo SRNSW

 

    Mr CARRUTHERS said that unfortunately the hon gentleman who had moved the adjournment of the House had given him no previous notice, and consequently when the hon gentleman spoke he was not in his place. At the same time he would have done some slight service in strengthening the hands of those in authority over the Vernon, and those who had charge of the discipline of the ship, and carried on the work of reformation there. The charges in this scurrilous pamphlet were only, so to speak, the outside cover. It was not only Joe Bragg that was concerned by those who were shielding themselves behind him—(hear, hear)—and who used him for the purpose of bringing charges damaging to the Vernon. (Hear, hear.) Bragg was one of the most notorious criminals the colony possessed, and he was a man who had spent most of his time in the gaols of the colony. He had been convicted of robbery, murderous assault, wife beating, garotting, drunkenness, and ill-using his sons, and two of his sons were now on board the Vernon. The last sentence this man served was for brutally ill-using one of his children. When he was not serving a sentence, he was taken in hand by a well-known philanthropist named Ardill, who exhibited him as a reformed criminal and a sort of shocking example. Whether it was during one of his periods of reformation that he had penned these charges against the Vernon he did not know, but he believed he was by no means the real person who had made the attacks. About three months ago Ardill called at the Public Instruction Department to make charges against another institution, and after making an investigation he informed him that he believed the charges were substantially correct. Fortified no doubt by the reception he gave him then, Mr Ardill about a month ago called upon him and said he had evidence that some of the Vernon boys were guilty of most objectionable offences. He called upon him as a man of honour to make the charges in such a fashion that there might be something to get hold of and take evidence upon—(hear, hear)—and Mr Ardill left him saying that that was the proper course to adopt, and that in a day or two he would submit the charges to him. The next thing he heard was that Captain Neitenstein had been called upon by a reported, and that Mr Ardill was making these charges to certain influential persons in the city to damage the Vernon. Captain Neitenstein, in most open fashion, wrote to him and demanded that he should come forward in a manly way and make his charges in a public manner, so that he might be enabled to answer his accuser. Ardill wrote in reply that his charges would be made in the public press, and he cast bundles of papers into the offices of the newspapers, which, however, refused to insert the documents and anonymous charges. (Hear, hear.) The results had shown the good effect of the training on board the Vernon, and those results could not have been more eloquently put forward than by a perusal of the facts. These facts, which could be gathered from the reports, showed that the charges made in the pamphlet were utterly untrue. (Hear, hear.) The system on board the Vernon was so perfect that it was almost impossible for offences of the grave character described to be perpetrated there. (Hear, hear.) There was as complete a system as could be devised for the watchful care of the boys both during the day and night, in order to bring the boys within the power, discipline, and control of the officers, and to ensure that no damage came to them from the neglect of the officers. (Hear, hear.) He had taken action in this matter: he had caused inquiry to be made, and had had the reports fully before him; and, further than that, he had written to Mr Ardill again calling upon him to come forward with his charges. The institution under his control would find that where wrong was committed he would punish relentlessly, and that where charges were made which were unfounded, against any branch of the institution, he would, if it were possible for him to become public prosecutor, prosecute the slanderers to the best of his ability. The person standing by Joe Bragg would either have to come forward and prove his charges or he would follow, and if possible punish, him and others who used unfair weapons by anonymous attacks of this character in order to damage innocent persons. (Hear, hear.)

    Mr INGLIS said he fully endorsed what had been said by the Minister for Public Instruction. He had looked upon Mr Ardill with considerable doubt for a long time. That gentleman came to the office of Public Instruction when he was Minister and had made suggestions of very much the same character as those that were made to the hon gentleman now in charge of the Department, but he was so satisfied that there was no truth in what Ardill told him, that he simply gave him the cold shoulder and took no notice of his statements. He thought that Captain Neitenstein was above reproach, and as to the character of the boys that was well known. He had met them in all parts of the colony, and he knew dozens of them personally; he also knew many gentlemen to whom they were apprenticed, and he considered this a scandalous and cowardly attack on those boys who were trying to keep up the credit of the ship and Captain Neitenstein, in whose charge they were brought up. He thought, however, that it was an unfair thing to place lads who had been convicted of criminal offences on board the Vernon, and he certainly thought that there should be a reformatory for the reception of such boys. They might fearlessly point to the Vernon system as a monument of pride, and a credit to those who started it, and he thought that the pamphlet which had been alluded to should be consigned to the fire, and the authors of it help up to the reprobation of all right-thinking men in the community. (Hear, hear.)

    Mr GARRARD said he had an opportunity of seeing the Vernon boys under all circumstances, and he could only speak in terms of commendation in regard to them. Visitors to the Vernon had always spoken in terms of admiration of the system, and he knew from personal experience that in Captain Neitenstein and his officers they had exceptional men. (Hear, hear.) The institution, as the reports would show, had been one of the most success in the world of its kind, and that was mainly owing to the extraordinary character of the man in charge and the officers under him. (Hear, hear.) He trusted that the Minister would see this matter right out to the end, for the sake of the captain and officers of the institution and the boys who were trained by them. (Hear, hear.)

    Mr WADDELL said he questioned whether the hon member who had moved the adjournment had acted wisely in bringing this matter before the House, because he believed if he had not, that not one person in a thousand would have heard anything about this lying pamphlet. A slander of the kind did harm just in proportion as it was made public, and there was no way in which this matter could have been made so public as by bringing it before the House. If the Minister could prosecute the offender he ought to do so; but he doubted whether the present discussion would do any good.

    Mr HOGAN said that the Vernon was one of the best institutions he had ever visited, and he knew that persons in the country who employed the boys spoke very favourably of them.

    Mr STEPHEN said he also desired to pay his tribute of praise to Captain Neitenstein and the officers of the Vernon for the exemplary manner in which they conducted the system of training and reformation followed on that ship. He had received boys from the Vernon and had never had better in his service, therefore it was his duty to resent such slanderous imputations as those made.

    Mr COPELAND, in reply, said his object in submitting a motion for adjournment was that the circulators of such lies should be punished as any other criminals. He, too, had heard that Mr Ardill was supposed to be behind the scenes, and if such were the case, all the more reason, in the interests of the Vernon ship and the public generally, for the Minister to take whatever proceedings he could to vindicate the officers and boys of the Vernon and his own position as Minister. He did not know whether the Minister for Public Instruction could take criminal action, but if he could, such action should be taken for the defence of the boys. Personally he was glad to hear that the Minister had taken some interest in the matter, and he sincerely trusted no stone would be left unturned in bringing to justice both the man who had so scandalously slandered the institution and all those who had aided in making public the slanders.

    The motion was negatived by the voices.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

NSW Legislative Assembly, Votes and Proceedings, Tue 15 Jul 1890 36

VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS
OF THE
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY.
————
TUESDAY, 15 JULY, 1890.

    1. The House met pursuant to adjournment: Mr Speaker took the Chair.

    PRIVILEGE—NEWSPAPER ARTICLE:—Mr Copeland drew attention to a leading article in The Daily Telegraph, which was read by the Clerk, by direction of Mr Speaker, and moved,—That the article headed “The Vernon Boys,” published in The Daily Telegraph newspaper on the 11th of July, 1890, inasmuch as it contains a misrepresentation of the speech delivered by Mr Henry Copeland, one of the members for New England, on the above subject, is a breach of the privileges of this House.

    Debate ensued.
    Question put and passed.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

NSW Legislative Assembly, Votes and Proceedings, Thu 7 Aug 1890 37

VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS
OF THE
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY.
————
Thursday, 7 August, 1890.

    1. The House met pursuant to adjournment: Mr Speaker took the Chair.

3. NAUTICAL SCHOOL SHIP “VERNON”:—Mr Carruthers laid upon the Table,—Minute by the Minister of Public Instruction after inquiry into certain charges concerning the Nautical School Ship “Vernon,” made by Messrs Bragg and Ardill, together with notes of evidence,—and moved,
    That the document be printed.
    Debate ensued.
Mr McMillan moved, That the Question be amended by the addition of the words “omitting the names of the ‘Vernon’ boys in the evidence.”
    Question proposed,—That the words proposed to be added be so added.
    Debate continued.
    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr McMillan then (by consent) proposed the following amendment, That the Question be amended by the addition of the words “omitting the evidence.”
    Question proposed,—That the words proposed to be added be so added.
    Debate continued.
    Question put, That the words proposed to be added be so added.
    The House divided. 

Ayes, 49.
Mr McMillan,
Mr Sydney Smith,
Mr Brunker,
Mr Bruce Smith,
Mr Burns,
Mr Slattery,
Mr Lamb,
Mr Gould,
Mr Garrard,
Mr Mitchell,
Mr Stevenson,
Mr Cullen,

Mr Colls,
Mr McCourt,
Mr Torpy,
Mr William Stephen,
Mr Cass,
Mr A’Beckett,
Mr RB Wilkinson,
Mr Paul,
Mr Melville,
Mr Plumb,
Mr OO Dangar,
Mr Ewing,
Mr McRae,

Mr O’Sullivan,
Mr Dalton,
Mr Wyman Brown,
Mr Barnes,
Mr Joseph Abbott,
Mr Woodward,
Mr Frank Smith,
Mr Scobie,
Mr Molesworth,
Mr Wheeler,
Mr Garland,
Mr Alfred Allen,
Mr Wilshire,

Mr Crick,
Mr Vivian,
Mr Dale,
Mr Inglis,
Mr Wall,
Mr John Wilkinson,
Mr See,
Mr Cruickshank,
Mr Greene,
Tellers,
Mr Hawthorne,
Mr Lakeman,

Noes 10.
Mr Miller,
Dr Ross,
Mr Jones,
Mr Dawson,
Mr Dickens,
Mr Schey,
Mr Walker,
Mr Creer,
Tellers,
Mr Curley,
Mr Tonkin,

       And so it was resolved in the affirmative.
  Question then,—That the document be printed, omitting the evidence,—put and passed.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1890
——
Legislative Assembly.
New South Wales.
————————
NSS “VERNON.”
(Minute of Minister of Public Instruction on Certain Charges Made by Messrs
Bragg and Ardill.)
————————————
Ordered by the Legislative Assembly to be printed, 7 Aug, 1890.
————————————

MINUTE by The Minister of Public Instruction after inquiry into certain charges concerning the Industrial School Ship “Vernon” made by Messrs Bragg and Ardill.

Mr ARDILL called upon me about two months since, requesting an interview to enable him to represent to me certain alleged defects in the management of the “Vernon.” I granted his request, and he proceeded to state that the “Vernon” was producing a large number of our worst criminals, and that unnatural offences were committed on the ship by the boys. I asked for particulars, but Mr Ardill could not then give me the details; but he assured me he was in possession of sufficient evidence to prove what he said. I told him that I thought the supervision was so perfect that no opportunity was permitted for improper behaviour amongst the boys, and Mr Ardill stated that his information showed that the bath-room was the part of the ship where such behaviour occurred. I informed Mr Ardill that it was clearly his duty to give me the information he possessed, so as to warrant an inquiry upon specific charges. This he promised to do without delay, and the interview closed. From that time up to the date of entering upon this inquiry Mr Ardill in no way redeemed his promise either that time either by verbal or written communication to me. There was no obstacle in the way so far as regards my bearing towards him, for, as his evidence says, “I always treated him better than he deserved.” Later on I received a pamphlet published by a person calling himself “Joe Bragg,” a notorious criminal whose record shows that he has served thirty sentences of imprisonment for various offences from drunkenness to garotting and robbery during a period extending from 1883 to so recent a date as the 20th May, 1890. According to his own evidence he states that “he has done a total period of about ten years’ solitary confinement.” He is a protege of Mr Ardill; he was working for Mr Ardill at the time of publishing the pamphlet; he has his address at Mr Ardill’s office, and there has been many years’ communion between these two persons in regard to the subject of the inquiry. Mr Ardill repudiates any responsibility for Bragg’s action in regard to the pamphlet and there is no direct evidence in contradiction to this. It appears, however, that the printer, Mr Brooks charge the account for printing to Mr Ardill, but afterwards received payment from Bragg. The charges made by Bragg may be summed up in the concluding words of his pamphlet:—“In conclusion, I charge the “Vernon” with having manufactured murderers, sodomites, self-polluters, mophs (mophs is an abbreviation of the word hermaphrodite, and its modern signification must be plain)—in fact men who have committed every crime under the sun.”

    A debate having arisen in the Legislative Assembly, and considerable publicity having been given to these charges, I consider it necessary in the public interest to investigate the matter, so as to ascertain whether there was a sufficient foundation of truth in these statements, or in fact, whether there was any good cause to warrant the appointment of a Commission to inquire fully into the working of the “Vernon,” and into the results of the system under which it was conducted. Having made ample inquiry I am of opinion that there is no ground whatever to warrant any further action, as the charges made are in their general significance unfounded, and as regards the particular cases upon which it has been sought to found proof, they are in a few instances admitted as isolated exceptions of most infrequent occurrence, whilst in the remainder, they are only supported by most unreliable testimony.

    Analysing the evidence the first witness was Bragg, who at the onset referred me to Mr Ardill, asking me to examine him as the person who had his list of criminals together with other names collected from other persons. It appeared thereafter that Mr Ardill was the moving spirit in the matter of the charges, and that he had been for months, and even years, collecting what information he could against the Institution. Bragg’s evidence was broad and general—too broad, however, to be valuable as proof of anything. He stated that he had met “over 100, and it may have been 200” “Vernon” boys in gaol; but upon being pressed to name as many as he remembered he stated that he had given his list to Mr Ardill who would produce it. Even with this latter gentleman’s evidence the number of ex-“Vernon” boys named by Bragg as having been met by him in the course of a fifteen years’ experience of gaol life falls short of twenty.

    Summarising the whole evidence as to the ex-“Vernon” boys, known to have become inmates of our gaols, it appears that sixty-four are named, of whom thirteen do not appear upon the ship’s records as “Vernon” boys, five are too vaguely described to be identified, fifteen did not undergo the full course of the reforming system, having been released at the request of the guardians, and twenty-three left the ship over ten years ago. Messrs Ardill and Bragg have raked up the cases of boys who left the ship as far back as 1867 and 1868, over twenty years ago, and yet their total number of reliable cases of ex-“Vernon” criminals does not exceed fifty in a total number of 2200 “Vernon” boys, who, since the Institution was established, have come within its operations. During the inquiry much stress was laid upon the probable results of an inspection of the confines in Darlinghurst Gaol, and accordingly I directed Mr Neitenstein and Mr Coglan of my staff to visit the gaol, and ascertain the number of ex-“Vernon” criminals there. The inspection showed only five of such, and some of these were lads who had been released without undergoing the full course of the system. Last year inquiry was made through the Prisons Department as to the number of ex-“Vernon” boys in prison at the date of inquiry, and it was found that there were only twenty-eight or less than 1⋅3 per cent of the total number who had left the ship. The inquiry has not resulted in the slightest disproof of this fact, and it remains as the best evidence of the splendid results of the reformation effected by Mr Neitenstein and his staff.

    During the inquiry I elicited the fact that twelve boys have passed through or left the various Boys’ Homes under Mr Ardill, and of these, three, if not four, have since been sent to the “Vernon.”

    As to the charges that the “Vernon” is manufacturing some of our worst criminals, Messrs Ardill and Bragg sought to prove that the management was defective, that unnatural offences were practised amongst the boys, and generally that the comparatively criminal were indiscriminately herded with the comparatively innocent. As to the last, and most general charge, I needed but little evidence to convince me, that with the overcrowded state of the ship for many years, and in the absence of proper reformatory and refractory prisons, there is great danger of evil influence arising out of the mixing of the depraved with the innocent. Lately, I have caused large dormitories to be erected on Cockatoo Island, and these relieve the ship to a great extent, but nothing short of a new vessel of ample accommodation will meet the requirements of the Institution. The Government are in treaty for such a vessel, and I hope shortly to be able to place Mr Neitenstein in possession of her. Even admitting so much, yet the evidence shows that most constant vigilance is exercised both day and night to prevent too much freedom of intercourse amongst the boys, and it is difficult to conceive how all the discipline and safeguarding influence exercised by the officers can be overcome by even the worst boys desirous of contaminating the minds of their companions.

     Mr Thomas Joyce was called as a witness by Mr Ardill, and he gave his evidence in a frank and candid manner apparently free from any bias. He had been for five years and four months a seaman on the “Vernon,” and afterwards for fifteen years a warder in Darlinghurst Gaol. He had therefore good opportunities of judging of the system actually operating on the ship many years ago prior to 1874, and also of the criminals who having been “Vernon” boys came into the gaol with which he was connected. He had no knowledge of the “Vernon” since 1874, and it was made clear on examination, that spending most of his life since 1874 in the performance of his duty in Darlinghurst Gaol, he had but little opportunity of meeting the reformed portion of his former charge. He stated that he believed that the had met sixty ex-“Vernon” boys in Darlinghurst Gaol during his fifteen years service, but he could only give the names of far less than that number. He distinctly affirmed that during his experience on board of the “Vernon” he saw nothing to lead him to suppose the ship was manufacturing criminals.

   As to sodomy, he stated that it was a matter of impossibility during his time. Moreover, this witness, on hearing an explanation of the system of watch and checks on watch now in vogue, admitted that “it was very complete, and that there was nothing like it in his time at all.” Mr Joyce further testified that the “Vernon” system did not make the boys worse, but a great deal better; and even as regards the criminals he met in after years, their downfall was not attributable to their training on the “Vernon.”

    It may be mentioned that Mr Joyce differs from the other ex-“Vernon” officers whom Mr Ardill called, in that he had no personal grievance to vent against any of his old officers.

    As to the remainder of Mr Ardill’s witnesses, their evidence is rendered comparatively worthless from the fact that they are ex-officers or servants of the ship, each having a strong animus against the present officers, on account chiefly of personal differences which occurred on board the vessel.

    Mr Morgan was a seaman for two years and three months, between September, 1884, and December, 1886. The circumstances of his leaving the vessel show that he was either dismissed or he abruptly left upon the Superintendent finding him incapable of maintaining order among the boys under his charge.

    Morgan knew of but few ex-“Vernon” criminals, and he confined his evidence chiefly to one or two reported complaints of misbehaviour amongst the boys. He admitted that good watch was kept on board by day and by night; but his own evidence shows that he had but a poor sense of his duty in not reporting several matters subversive of good discipline among the boys, and which took place under his eyes and in his watch.

    Of the two charges of sodomy which he testified to as having been made, one was a malicious concoction against himself, and proved to be quite unfounded; the other was, in his opinion, not proved, but it is referred to late on the evidence of Mr Geeson.

    Thomas Geeson, an ex-cook and steward from the “Vernon,” and having served about two years in that capacity, was also called by Mr Ardill. He is a man of very irritable temper, as I myself noticed in his bearing before me. He displayed great bitterness towards Mr Neitenstein, and was full of complaints against him, more especially for excessive punishment of the boys.

    Several of the other witnesses complained that there was too little punishment, but Geeson thought there was far too much. It was shown to me, however, that this same witness was the greatest complainer of boys, and consequently the greatest cause of punishment amongst the ship’s crew at the time of his service. He seems to have been the victim of the rough jokes of the boys, and he complained of them for all manner of offences, from stealing his utensils to putting soap in his soup. As to cases of excessive punishment reported, the charges were so stale that I was unable to thoroughly investigate them. I satisfied myself, however, that during the term of my administration of this Department, and for a long time previous, no excessive punishment had taken place. I did this by despatching Mr Maynard, the ablest of my staff in inspectorial work, to the ship, where he examined the whole of the boys privately, apart from any of the officers, and found that no excessive punishment was or had been administered during recent years, that they were well treated, had no cause of complaint, and knew of no cases of immoral behaviour.

    As to immorality, Geeson gave evidence of the case referred to by Morgan, but, by his own showing, he did not report the circumstances to his superior officer, the Superintendent, a default of duty of a most serious character. Altogether, I am inclined to believe that Geeson himself was in doubt, and neglected to report because he saw nothing to found a proper charge upon.

    A witness named McCallums, a seaman on the “Vernon” for some months, was next brought forward. He was very ready to prove the general charge of prevailing immorality in the Institution, but his evidence is rendered almost completely worthless by the rebutting testimony of the officers and others, who show that he made no complaints during his stay on board, but left in a temper because his superiors considered that he was incompetent to maintain order. Mr McCallums has his grievances to air against the officers, and no doubt he is biassed against them and their system accordingly. Where he gives distinct evidence as to improper behaviour of the boys on board it is distinctly denied by the officers, and upon inspecting the records, silent as to any complaints, and, judging of the reputation of this witness and those contradicting him, I have no hesitation, in the conflict of testimony, in refusing to give much credence to Mr McCallums’s story. He cited a case of two little boys misconducting themselves in open daylight on the fore-top, children under 10 years of age. One was a proved idiot, afterwards sent to a lunatic asylum, and the most that possibly can be made out of the circumstances, if true, is that a poor imbecile child in its depravity, without concealment, acted in a fashion common with such unfortunates. However, the officers’ evidence goes to show that even this alleged occurrence was utterly unknown to them, and probably is a gross exaggeration.

    Another person named CA McDonnell, ex-tailor of the ship, gave evidence that he was thirteen and three-quart years aboard. He says he never saw any particular misbehaviour on the boys’ part, and altogether his evidence is favourable to the conclusion that the system is a good one, fairly effective in discipline, and promoting good conduct. Mr McDonnell also has his grievance against the officers above him, and he took great pains to let me know of it. He considers he was “disparaged” too much. He knew of cases of drunkenness on board; very infrequent, indeed; and he frankly acknowledged that he had been a culprit in that respect himself.

    I need not analyse the evidence against the charges of Messrs Ardill and Bragg. It is that of the ship’s officers, the ship’s record, the boys themselves, and the records of our prisons. It seems to me to be a complete refutation of the stale, vague, and unreliable testimony of the other witnesses. I am no infrequent visitor to the ship myself, nor have I neglected to inspect closely the work in operation. I have read hundreds of letter from ex-“Vernon” boys, and these letters breathe almost an air of love and regard for the ship and its officers.

    I see no reason to put the country to the expense of further investigation, as not a scintilla of evidence has been adduced to show any present grave defect in the administration of the Institution, nor is there any substantial ground to warrant belief in the wholesale charges publicly made by Bragg as to evil results from past administration.

    Since closing the inquiry Mr Ardill has proffered additional testimony, but I can see no reason to drag out this investigation at the instance of the unreliable testimony of discharged officials, dissatisfied servants, and unreformed lads. Whatever position Mr Ardill may have assumed in regard to Bragg’s pamphlet, it is clear to me that he has for years collected whatever evidence he could against the ship; has endeavoured to create a mistrust of its operations by his tactics, and after all has failed to adduce any tangible evidence to support any one of the grave, general charges which he made on the responsibility, as he puts it, “of what he had been told.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, Tue 15 Jul 1890 38

LATEST TELEGRAMS.
———◦———
(From Our Own Correspondence.)

————
THE VERNON CHARGES

    Inquiries concerning the charges made by Mr Ardill and Bragg concerning the Vernon boys are being rigorously prosecuted by the Minister for Education.

    The Minister is now in possession of information providing that the assertions made against the boys were wholly unfounded.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Clarence and Richmond Examiner, Tue 15 Jul 1890 39

THE VERNON TRAINING SHIP.

IN the Assembly last week, under cover of a motion for adjournment, Mr COPELAND drew the attention of the House to a pamphlet supposed to emanate from an individual BRAGG, which pamphlet contained some alarming strictures on the management of the Vernon training ship. These charges Mr Copeland declared to be most atrocious libels; and conjured the Minister at the head of the department to vindicate, in some unmistakeable [sic] manner, the characters of the boys and their instructors. Mr MCMILLAN (in the absence of Mr Carruthers) regretted that so much publicity had been given to the mendacious excrescences by the filthy mind of a ruffian. Mr BURNS, who claimed to have a knowledge of the Vernon and its work, occupied a similar ground; while Mr WALKER professed to be an adept at character-reading, and took strong exception to the appearance of Bragg, who he stated had forced himself under his notice on the platform on one or two occasions. Mr CARRUTHERS (having now arrived upon the scene) gave a short sketch of the past career of the author of this pamphlet. The principal record brought into requisition comes from the police authorities, and shows that Bragg has spent the greater portion of his life in gaol. This has been rendered necessary by his penchant for garroting, wife-beating, and amusements of a similar class. The knowledge of weak human nature gained by his reflections while in durance vile, and his actions when at large, would appear to be the ground work on which this wretched production is reared. The Minister, after an exhaustive recapitulation of the precautionary measures taken on the Vernon, opened up to the House a new field for conjecture, by expressing his conviction that the notorious criminal was only put forward as a shield behind which a prominent Sydney philanthropist was at work. Mr Carruthers finally avowed his determination to relentlessly pursue these offenders, even if it led him into the position of prosecutor. In reply, Mr Copeland said his object was to bring the offenders to justice and make them “digest the venom of their spleen” He trusted the Minister would persevere in the course he had proposed.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Sydney Morning Herald, Fri 8 Aug 1890 40

THE CHARGES AGAINST THE VERNON.
———◦———
REPLY BY THE MINISTER OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION.

    The Minster of Public Instruction, after inquiry into certain charges concerning the Industrial Schoolship Vernon made by Messrs Bragg and Ardill, has issued a Minute, of which the following is the substance:—

    “Mr Ardill called upon me about two months since requesting an interview to enable him to represent to me certain alleged defects in the management of the Vernon. I granted his request and he proceeded to state that the Vernon was producing a large number of our worst criminals, and that unnatural offences were committed upon the ship by the boys. I asked for particulars, but Mr Ardill could not then give me the particulars, but Mr Ardill could not then give me the details; but he assured me he was in possession of sufficient evidence to prove what he said. I told him that I thought the supervision was so perfect that no opportunity was permitted for improper behaviour amongst the boys, and Mr Ardill stated that his information showed that the bathroom was the part of the ship where such behaviour occurred. I informed Mr Ardill that it was clearly his duty to give me the information he possessed, so as to warrant an inquiry upon specific charges. This he promised to do without delay, and the interview closed. From that time up to the date of entering upon this inquiry Mr Ardill in no way redeemed his promise either by verbal or written communication to me. There was no obstacle in the way so far as regards my bearing towards him, for as his evidence says, “I always treated him better than he deserved.” Later on I received a pamphlet published by a person calling himself “Joe Bragg”, a notorious criminal, whose record shows that he has served 30 sentences of imprisonment for various offences from drunkenness to garrotting and robbery during a period extending from 1883 to so recent a date as May 20, 1890. According to his own evidence, he states that “he has done a total period of about 10 years’ solitary confinement.” He is a protégé of Mr Ardill; he was working for Mr Ardill at the time of publishing the pamphlet; he has his address at Mr Ardill’s office, and there has been many years communion between these two persons in regard to the subject of the inquiry. Mr Ardill repudiates any responsibility for Bragg’s action in regard to the pamphlet, and there is no direct evidence in contradiction to this. It appears, however, that the printer, Mr Brooks, charged the account for printing to Mr Ardill, but afterwards received payment from Bragg. A debate having arisen in the Legislative Assembly, and considerable publicity having been given to these charges, I considered it necessary, in the public interest, to investigate the matter so as to ascertain whether there was any good cause to warrant the appointment of a commission to inquire fully into the working of the Vernon and into the results of the system under which it was conducted. Having made ample inquiry, I am of opinion that there is no ground whatsoever to warrant any further action, as the charges made are in their general significance unfounded; and, as regards the particular cases upon which it has been sought to found proof, they are in a few instances admitted as isolated exceptions of most infrequent occurrence, whilst in the remainder they are only supported by most unreliable testimony. Analysing the evidence, the first witness was Bragg, who at the onset referred to Mr Ardill, asking me to examine him as the person who had his list of criminals together with other names collected from other persons. It appeared thereafter that Mr Ardill was the moving spirit in the matter of the charges, and that he had been for months, and even years, collecting what information he could against the institution. Bragg’s evidence was broad and general—too broad, however, to be valuable as proof of anything. He stated that he had met “over 100, and it may have been 200,” Vernon boys in gaol, but upon being pressed to name as many as he remembered, he stated that he had given his list to Mr Ardill, who would produce it. Even with this latter gentleman’s evidence, the number of ex-Vernon boys named by Bragg as having been met by him in the course of a 15 years’ experience of gaol life falls short of 20. Summarising the whole evidence as to the ex-Vernon boys known to have become inmates of our gaols, it appears that 64 are named, of whom 13 do not appear upon the ship’s records as Vernon boys, 5 are two vaguely described to be identified, 15 did not undergo the full course of the reforming system, having been released at the request of the guardians, and 23 left the ship over 10 years ago. Messrs Ardill and Bragg, with their witnesses, have raked into the cases of boys who left the ship as far back as 1867 and 1868, over 20 years ago, and yet their total number of reliable cases of ex-Vernon criminals does not exceed 50 in a total number of 2200 Vernon boys who, since the institution was established, have come within its operation. During the inquiry much stress was laid upon the probable result of an inspection of the confinees in Darlinghurst gaol, and accordingly I directed Mr Neitenstein and Mr Coghlan of my staff of visit the gaol, and ascertain the number of ex-Vernon criminals there. The inspection showed only five of such, and some of these were lads who had been released without undergoing the full course of the system. Last year inquiry was made through the Prisons Department as to the number of ex-Vernon boys in prison at the date of inquiry, and it was found that there were only 28, or less than 1⋅3 per cent of the total number who had left the ship. The inquiry has not resulted in the slightest disproof of this fact, and it remains as the best evidence of the splendid results of the reformation effected by Mr Neitenstein and his staff. During the inquiry I elicited the fact that 12 boys have passed through or left the various boys’ homes under Mr Ardill, and of these three, if not four, have since been sent to the Vernon. As to the charges that the Vernon is manufacturing some of our worst criminals, Messrs Ardill and Bragg sought to prove that the management was defective, that unnatural offences were practised amongst the boys, and generally that the comparatively criminal were indiscriminately herded with the comparatively innocent. As to the last and most general charge, I needed but little evidence to convince me that with the overcrowded state of the ship for many years, and in the absence of proper reformatory and refractory prisons, there is great danger of evil influence arising out to the mixing of the depraved with the innocent. Lately I have caused large dormitories to be erected on Cockatoo Island, and these relieve the ship to a great extent, but nothing short of a new vessel of ample accommodation will meet the requirements of the institution. The Government are in treaty for such a vessel, and I hope shortly to be able to place Mr Neitenstein in possession of her. Even admitting so much, yet the evidence shows that most constant vigilance is exercised both day and night to prevent too much freedom of intercourse among the boys, and it is difficult to conceive how all the discipline and safeguarding influence exercised by the officers can be overcome by even the worst boys desirous of contaminating the minds of their companions.” A summary of the evidence in support of the charges is then given, and in conclusion the Minster states:—

    “I need not analyse the evidence against the charges of Messrs Ardill and Bragg. It is that of the sip’s officers, the ship’s record, the boys themselves, and the records of our prisons. It seems to me to be a complete refutation of the stale, vague, and unreliable testimony of the other witnesses. I am no unfrequent visitor to the ship myself, nor have I neglected to inspect closely the work in operation. I have read hundreds of letters from ex-Vernon boys, and these letters breathe almost an air of love and regard for the ship and its officers. I see no reason to put the country to the expense of further investigation, as not a scintilla of evidence has been adduced to show any present grave defect in the administration of the institution, nor is there any substantial ground to warrant belief in the wholesale charges publicly made by Bragg as to evil results from past administration. Since closing the inquiry, Mr Ardill has proffered additional testimony, but I can see no reason to drag out this investigation at the instance of the unreliable testimony of discharged officials, dissatisfied servants, and unreformed lads. Whatever position Mr Ardill may have assumed in regard to Bragg’s pamphlet, it is clear to me that he has for years collected whatever evidence he could against the ship, has endeavoured to create a mistrust of its operations by his tactics, and after all has failed to adduce any tangible evidence to support any one of the grave general charges which he made on the responsibility, as he puts it, ‘of what he has been told.’ ”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, Sat 9 Aug 1890 41

THE VERNON AFFAIR.

TRUE to his promise, the Minister for Public Instruction has made searching inquiry into the statements recently made by the ex-convict, JOE BRAGG, and his guide and master, Mr ARDILL, reflecting upon the management of the training ship Vernon and charging the boys with abominable and unmentionable crimes, and, as our readers have already been informed, he laid his report upon the table of the Legislative Assembly on Thursday night. The remarks made by Mr CARRUTHERS when presenting his report, to whih the evidence taken at the inquiry was attached, are given in another column, and it will be seen therefrom that dismal and humiliating failure has attended the efforts of the precious pair of slanderers to substantiate their charges of either mismanagement on the one hand or criminality on the other. The inquiry was evidently an exhaustive one. In the first place every opportunity was afforded to accusers to prove anything and everything against the superintendent of the Vernon, Mr NEITENSTEIN, and the unfortunate lads under his care. BRAGG himself was permitted to tell all he had seen, heard or imagined, and a similar privilege was accorded to Mr ARDILL, and the witnesses called by them were also fully heard. It happened unfortunately for the latter, however, that they were all ex-employees on the Vernon, who had been either discharged or compelled to resign by the Superintendent for remissness of duty or incapacity, and their evidence was discounted by the fact that animus towards their former superior officers was still in active exercise. We are not in a position to refer to the evidence, for the Assembly—very wisely, we think—decided in the interests of the lads who had been maligned that the evidence should not be published, but the summary given by the Minister clearly proves that it was most inconclusive and unreliable. Concerning Bragg’s testimony the report says:–

Analysing the evidence, the first witness was Bragg, who at the onset referred to Mr Ardill, asking me to examine him as the person who had his list of criminals, together with other names collected from other persons. It appeared therefore that Mr Ardill was the moving spirit in the matter of the charges and that he had been for months and even years collecting what information he could against the institution. Bragg’s evidence was broad and general—too broad, however, to be valuable as proof of anything. He stated that he had me “over 100 and it may have been 200” Vernon boys in gaol; but upon being pressed to name as many as he remembered he stated that he had given the list to Mr Ardill, who would produce it. Even with this latter gentleman’s evidence the number of ex-Vernon boys nomed [sic] by Bragg as having been met by him in the course of a 15 years’ experience of gaol life falls short of 20.

And BRAGG himself is described by Mr CARRUTHERS as “a notorious criminal, whose record shows that he has served 30 sentences of imprisonment for various offences, from drunkenness to garrotting and robbery, during a period extending from 1883 to so recent a date as May 20, 1890”; and that “according to his own evidence he states that he has done a total period of about 10 years in solitary confinement.” It was also shown that he was a protege of Mr ARDILL, for whom he was working and at whose office he had his address at the time of publishing the pamphlet containing the charge, and that there had been many years’ communication between them in regard to the subject of the enquiry, and, further, that although Mr ARDILL repudiated any responsibility in regard to the pamphlet, the cost of printing that pamphlet was at first charged to Ardill’s account by the printer, although he was subsequently paid by Bragg. These circumstances taken in connection with the fact that previous to the publication of the pamphlet setting forth the charges ARDILL had made complaints concerning the management of the Vernon to the Minister, who pressed him without effect to furnish details in order that enquiries might be made into specific cases, and that Ardill is managing a sort of opposition reformatory establishment, all tend to prove that the accusations were formulated jointly, and that the Minister was right in saying that ARDILL was at the bottom of the whole trouble. But the charges did not fail simply because the evidence of the men making them and their witnesses was inconclusive; there was direct testimony of a negative kind from witnesses of good repute, backed up by official records, all of which tended to show that the training ship was managed most efficiently, and that instead of its being a manufactory for criminals it had proved and was proving the high road to respectability and good citizenship for thousands of the poor boys who had by the misfortune or wrongdoing of parents become the “children of the State.” Although Messrs ARDILL and BRAGG, and their witnesses, raked up the case of boys who left the ship as far back as 1867 and 1868 (over 20 years ago), yet their total number of reliable cases of ex-Vernon criminals did not exceed 50 in a total number of 2200 Vernon boys who since the institution was established have come within its operations; and the records prove that last year only 1.6 per cent of the total number of boys who had left the ship had passed into prison. In closing his report Mr CARRUTHERS says:—

I need not analyse the evidence against the charges of Messrs Ardill and Bragg. It is that of the ship’s officers, the ship’s records, the boys themselves, and the records of our prisons. It seems to me to be a complete refutation of the stale, vague, and unreliable testimony of the other witnesses. I am no unfrequent visitor to the ship myself, now have I neglected to inspect closely the work in operation. I have read hundreds of letters from ex-Vernon boys, and these letters breathe almost the air of love and regard for the ship and its officers. I see no reason to put the country to the expense of further investigation, as not a scintilla of evidence has been addused to show any present grave defect in the administration of the institution, nor is there any substantial ground to warrant belief in the wholesale charges publicly made by Bragg as to the evil results from past administration. Since closing the inquiry Mr Ardill has proffered additional testimony, but I can see no reason to drag out this investigation at the instance of the unreliable testimony of discharged officials, dissatisfied servants, and unreformed lads. Whatever position Mr Ardill may have assumed in regard to Bragg’s pamphlet it is clear to me that he has for years collected whatever evidence he could against the ship, has endeavoured to create a mistrust of its operations by his tactics, and after all has failed to adduce any tangible evidence to support any one of the grave charges which he made on the responsibility, as he puts it, “of what he had been told.”

    To heap words of condemnation upon the two men who sought to blast the characters of the was thousands [sic] boys who have passed through the training ship will not sufficiently met the case. Their action will be reprobated by every honest man in the community; but what will men who are capable of acting as they have done care for condemnation? Pollok surely had in his mind such a man as Bragg when he wrote:—

        ’Twas slander filled her mouth with lying words,
        Slander, the foulest whelp of Sin. The man
        In whom this spirit entered was undone.
        His tongue was set on fire of hell, his heart
        Was black as death, his legs were faint with haste
        To propagate the lie his soul had framed;
        His pillow was the opeace of families
        Destroyed, the sighs of innocence reproached.
        Broken friendships, and the strife of brotherhoods.
        Yet did he spare his sleep, and hear the clock
        Number the midnight watches on his bed
        Devising mischief more; and early rose,
        And made most hellish meals of good men’s names.

The public will ask—is there not some means of punishing the creatures who have lent themselves to this destructive work?

    The Minister for Public Instruction would have failed in his duty to the public if he had not made this inquiry, and it must be a source of intense satisfaction to him, as it will be to the people of the colony, to know that the Vernon, rather than being the floating moral charnel house depicted by Ardill and Bragg, is an effective and well-conducted reformatory. The public will be pleased when a reformatory for boys has been established on land, so that proper classification of youthful offenders, which is so necessary to the achievement of best results of prison discipline, may be secured.

PARLIAMENTARY PIPS.
———◦———


    Joe Bragg and the Vernon boys came before the House, and the former had to assume the character of a maligner of innocent youth. The Minister for Public Instruction laid upon the table a report of the inquiry he had held into the charges made against the boys of the training ship Vernon. In doing so he said he had no doubt the press would publish the report and section of the evidence, and as some of the evidence related to boys now occupying respectable positions he trusted that in their interest in any publication or in an extracts made of the documents the names of the boys which had been given in the evidence would be omitted. The charges made were proved to be almost utterly unfounded. The evidence submitted was that of persons to whose statement very little credence would be attached. Most of the persons who made the charges had grievances against the institution and its officers, and many of them were convicts whose evidence would not be taken or believed in any court of law. He had closed the inquiry rather hastily, as he found that the ev tendered to him was such that the more he looked into it the more he was convinced that it was of a worthless character. The convicts and worthless persons who were brought forward to give evidence had no consideration for themselves or their character and did not care what they said affecting the characters and feelings of other people. Against such unreliable evidence was the testimony of thousands of boys who had left the ship. Their letters and general good character afforded the best rebutting testimony against the infamous charges that had been made. The evidence convinced him that Mr Ardill was the head centre of the movement against the ship. Though other persons’ names had been used, they had been assisted by Mr Ardell [sic], and he placed on him the whole responsibility of substantiating them. He moved that the document be printed.

    A long discussion followed, in which Messrs Cullen, Melville, Poohey, Tonkin, MacMillan, O’Sullivan, Walker, and Achey and others took part, the last member named being the only member who supported Ardill and Bragg in their attack upon the Vernon, asserting that there were other people who were determined to prove the matter to the bottom.

    Mr Cullen had a word to say in defence of Ardill, who he said was a philantrophist [sic] and tried to do good to everyone. “Yes,” said Mr Poohey, “When it pays;” and the wealthy brewer proceeded to make the most of his opportunity to give Ardill a “dressing,” until somebody pointed out that the said “dressing” was being applied quite as much as a punishment for what the man had done in opposition to Poohey’s beer as a defence of the boys on the Vernon.

    After Mr Carruthers had replied, the motion that the report should be printed was carried, but by a majority of 49 to 10 the House decided that the evidence taken at the enquiry should not be printed with the report, as it would be calculated to injure the characters of the boys.

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NSW Legislative Assembly, Votes and Proceedings, Wed 20 Aug 1890 42

VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS
OF THE
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY.
————
Wednesday, 20 August, 1890.

    1. The House met pursuant to adjournment: Mr Speaker took the Chair.

    2. PAPERS:—
        Mr McMillan laid upon the Table,—

       (4.) Annual Report of the Nautical School Ship “Vernon” for year ending 30th April, 1890. Ordered to be printed.

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The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, Tue 30 May 1893 43

TO-DAY’S TELEGRAMS.
———◦———
(From Our Correspondent.)
———

Sydney, Tuesday


TWO HISTORIC VESSELS DESTROYED

    The old training ship Vernon and the hulk Golden South, formerly serving as an immigrant ship, were destroyed by fire in Kerosene Bay last night.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Sydney Morning Herald, Tue 30 May 1893 44

FIRE IN KEROSENE BAY.
———◦———
THE SHIP VERNON DESTROYED.
———
THE GOLDEN SOUTH DAMAGED.
———
A GRAND SPECTACLE.
———

    Shortly before 6 o’clock last night a bright glare in the northern sky announced that a fire was in progress, and as the flames shot up above the hills at North Shore, the location was at once pronounced to be the Ball’s Head side of Kerosene Bay. On proceeding to the spot it was seen that the old reformatory ship Vernon was on fire from stem to stern, and that the hulk “Golden South” was well alight forward. The first intimation of the outbreak as received at the Circular Quay fire station at about five minutes to 6 o’clock from the pilot boat, from which it was reported that there was a large fire in the vicinity of Ball’s Head, seemingly on a ship. As no reliable information could be immediately obtained, Superintendent Bear set out for North Sydney with three firemen in a buggy. At the local police station he was stopped and informed of the real position of affairs, and finding he could be of no assistance—if indeed his help was wanted—he returned to the city. Viewed from the eastern hill of Sydney, the fire appeared to be nearer than it really was, and the spectator was liable to the same deception at Fort Macquarie. Occasionally the flames mounted high above the land and illuminated the hills for miles round. Then again the fire would sink below the high land, and nothing could be seen by the reflection in the sky. Once round Ball’s Head, however, a splendid spectacle burst on the view. Right at the north-eastern end of Kerosene Bay lay the old Vernon, a mass of flames. The hillside all round was lighted up almost to the brilliancy of day, each projection being brought out clear and distinct, and the white bare rocks which abound round the shores of the bay were shown up glistening and bold. Surrounding the ship was quite a fleet of small boats. All parts of the harbour and all classes were represented, the full number of boats being not less than 150. An interested spectator was Captain Neitenstein, who had come up with his wife and daughter in a boat from the Sobraon to witness the end of the craft he had commanded so long. The Vernon was lying broadside on to the extreme Northern shore, and lying across her bows was the hulk of Golden South. At half-past 7 o’clock the fire had just obtained a firm hold. Close views of the Vernon showed her to be a veritable furnace. The decks had but lately fallen in, burned through, and down below the fire was roaring and crackling away at a great rate. Through the large square portholes an immense draught was created, and thus aided the flames performed their destructive work with nothing to hinder them. The fire progressed at a terrible rate. As timber saturated with pitch and tar in a greater quantity than was the bulk of the ship was reached dense clouds of black smoke were blown upwards, and as these drifted away heavy flames shot into the air, sending showers of sparks in all directions. Now and then a portion of the burning timber would break away and fall into the water with a crash, causing it to hiss. Those broken pieces which floated proved a great harvest for the boys in the boats, and many a craft could be seen being slowly pulled away from the burning vessel and towing astern long charred pieces of planking. Fortunately the wind was light and off the land, so that there was no fear of the fire spreading to the shore; and on the harbour side the only boats of any value—the BulimbaWaroonga, and Katoomba —were a long distance away, and far out of the track of the sparks.

Source:Illustrated Sydney News,Sat3Jun1893,p.15.Reproduction:Peter de Waal
Source: Illustrated Sydney News, Sat 3 Jun 1893, p.15.
Reproduction:Peter de Waal

    The owner of the Vernon, Mr Rae, was on shore working with his men in the endeavour to get his vessel closer to the shore and in more shallow water, so that the copper bolts with which she was put together would be comparatively easy of collection. To bring her in closer he had a hawser on her bows and attached at the shore end to double-purchase blocks. With half-a-dozen men pulling he was slowly hauling her nearer the shallow water. On being spoken to by a reporter Mr Rae said he could easily account for the fire. The only valuable material that could be got out of the vessel was the large number of copper bolts which bound her together. She had been lying in the bay for the last three months, and lately he had been dismantling her. It had been his intention to haul her into shallow water and then fire her, as being the cheapest way of collecting the bolts. Before doing so, however, he desired to get the old windlass out of her, and yesterday afternoon he set to work to do so. As the bolts had rusted on, nothing but fire would loosen them, and he accordingly built a fire under this piece of machinery. About a quarter to 5 o’clock the fire by some means caught some kerosene which was near by, and in about five minutes the ship was thoroughly alight. He expected she would burn till daylight.

    The Golden South had been used as a coal hulk for the past 18 or 20 years, but had recently changed hands, her new owner being Mr Blockie, who intended to pursue the same line of action with Vernon. He attributed the fire on the Golden South to one of two causes—either the fire had been smouldering in the bow all day from the time when they lighted a fire for coffee in the morning, or else the fire had been started from sparks from the Vernon.

    Lately the Harbours and Rivers Branch of the Department of Public Works has had completed a model of the New South Wales Government nautical training ship, Vernon. It is proposed that the model shall be placed on public view in the city. The model is made to a scale of ⅜ths of an inch to a foot, and is consequently 5ft in length, about 13in in breadth, with a depth of about 10½in. The height in all is about 4ft 11in, and the length from the taffrail to the end of the jibboom is 6ft 9in. The work has been executed by Mr JR McClymont, 4 Harris-street, Balmain, and it is proposed by the department that the model shall be placed on board the NTS Sobraon, after having been exhibited in the city.

    The ex-nautical training school-ship Vernon scarcely needs a description, her name being almost a household word in the maritime directory of Sydney. She was at one time a splendid clipper teak-built merchantman, carrying a large number of passengers and making fast voyages. During the last quarter of a century she was used as a school and home for 2500 lads until she was superseded by the Sobraon. It is 26 years this month since the Vernon first entered upon the educational history in her career. The Golden South, once a noted clipper, has been a hulk for 15 years. In her colonial history this ship was on one occasion, as some will recollect, in difficulties down on the South Coast, and formed a somewhat memorable case of salvage between her owners and a coastal steam company. She was a North American built wooden vessel, one in a list of several hundreds which have long disappeared from the Registry of Shipping.

 


1     The above details are taken from SRNSW: http://investigator.records.nsw.gov.au/Entity.aspx?Path=\Agency\411. Vernon: Teak-built clipper ship, 911 tons. Built Blackwall, England, 1839. Destroyed by fire while anchored in Kerosene bay, Port Jackson, 29 May 1892.

2     New South Wales Government Gazette, 1867, vol. 1, p. 1.

3     Industrial Schools’ Act of 1866, (30 Victoria, Act No. 2,1866).

4     Ramsland, J. “Children of the Backlanes”, NSW University Press, Sydney, 1986, pp. 116-8 .

5     New South Wales Government Gazette, 1867, vol. 1, p. 1165.

6     New South Wales Government Gazette, 1867, vol. 1, p. 1165.

7     New South Wales Government Gazette, 1867, vol. 1, p. 1207.

8     New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1881, vol. 4, p. 995, NSS Vernon, Report for the year ended 30 Jun 1881.

9     New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1868-1869, vol. 3, p. 845, Report respecting the Nautical-Ship “Vernon”.

10   Industrial Schools Act Amendment of 1870, (34 Victoria, Act No. 4,1870).

11   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 877-1878, vol. 2, p. 663, Report of Superintendent of Industrial School for Girls, Biloela for1877.

12   Ramsland, J. “Children of the back lanes”, NSW University Press, Sydney, 1986, p. 140 .

13   New South Wales Government Gazette, 1878, vol. 2, p. 1733.

14   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1881, vol. 4, p. 995, NSS Vernon, Report for the year ended 30 Jun 1881.

15   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1878-1879, vol. 3, p. 951, Report of Inspector of Public Charities, 1879.

16   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1881, vol. 4, p. 995, NSS Vernon, Report for the year ended 30 Jun 1881.

17   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1883-1884, vol. 6, p. 747, NSS Vernon, Report for the year ended 30 Jun 1883.

18   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1883-1884, vol. 6, p. 747, NSS Vernon, Report for the year ended 30 Jun 1883.

19   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1892-1893, vol. 3, p. 1395, NSS Vernon, Report for the year ended 30 Jun 1892.

20   New South Wales Parliamentary Papers, 2nd session, 1904, vol. 2, p. 984, NSS Sobraon Report for the year ended 30 Apr 1904.

21   New South Wales Government Gazette, 1906, vol. 2, p. 3289.

22   New South Wales Parliamentary Papers, 1893, p. 707, NSS Vernon Report for the year ended 30 Apr 1893.

23   Official Yearbook of New South Wales, 1913, p. 554.

24   New South Wales Parliamentary Papers, 1910, vol. 1, pp. 44-5, Report of the Minister of Public Instruction 1910.

25   Illustrated Sydney News, Mon 20 Apr 1868, p. 8./p>

26   Illustrated Sydney News, Sat 29 May 1875, p. 14.

27   Illustrated Sydney News, Sat 1 Sep 1883, p. 14.

28   The Daily Telegraph, Tue 17 Aug 1886, p. 5. Emphasis added.

29   The Sydney Morning Herald, Tue 17 Aug 1886, p. 7. Emphasis added.

30   Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser, Tue 24 Aug 1886, p. 4. Emphasis added.

31   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1890, vol. 7, pp. 259-67, Report respecting the Nautical-Ship “Vernon” Emphasis added.

32   ML: DSM/042/P402, Joe Bragg, Whence come our great criminals! Publication date ascertained from The Argus, 11 July 1890. Emphasis added.

33   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1890, vol. 1, pp. 171, 175.

34   The Daily Telegraph, Fri 11 Jul 1890, p. 3. Emphasis added.

35   The Sydney Morning Herald, Fri 11 Jul 1890, p. 3. Emphasis added.

36   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1890, vol. 1, p. 177.

37   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1890, vol. 1, pp. 233, 235

38   The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, Tue 15 Jul 1890, p. 3.

39   Clarence and Richmond Examiner, Tue 15 Jul 1890, p. 2.

40   The Sydney Morning Herald, Fri 8 Aug 1890, p. 3. Emphasis added.

41   The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, Sat 9 Aug 1890, p. 3.

42   New South Wales Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1890, vol. 1, pp. 259, 260.

43   The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, Tue 30 May 1893, p. 2.

44   The Sydney Morning Herald, Tue 30 May 1893, p. 5.