Solidarity Forever

Chapter Twenty


Glenferrie was the scene of a hold-up and shooting on the 8th October, 1923.

Mr. T. R. Berriman, manager of the Hawthorn Branch of the Commercial Bank, was held up by two men outside the station and his case containing £1,851 was stolen. Mr. Berriman offered resistance and one of the men shot him in the chest.

The two men ran along the footway and were picked up in a waiting car. There were several people about and some pursued the men along the footway. The leading hold-up man was tall and thin and behind him a short stout man ran, and from time to time turned and menaced pursuers with a revolver.

On October 11th, police made a dawn raid on a house in Barkly Street, St. Kilda and picked up Angus Murray for having illegally escaped from Geelong gaol on August 24th and for having on October 8th at Glenferrie robbed T. R. V. Berriman of £1,851 and a fibrite suitcase, and with having, at the time of the robbery wounded Mr. Berriman.

In the house were Leslie (Squizzy) Taylor and Ida Pender. They were charged with occupying a house at St. Kilda, frequented by thieves or persons who have no visible lawful means of support, and idle and disorderly persons.

It was reported that the police were disappointed that there was no other man on the premises.

On the 13th October, it was announced the Police were looking for a third man and were also anxious to communicate with Richard Buckley.

On the 21st, Berriman died, the charge became a capital one. The Chief Secretary, Dr. Argyle, offered £500 reward for Richard Buckley.

Murray was refused bail, so also was Taylor.

In refusing bail it was pointed out that Taylor had failed to turn up on a previous charge. Now having been before and after, an accessory to the felony, bail was refused.

The refusal was made without prejudice to a future application. In Court, Murray protested against remands and complained of unfairness.

He was not represented by Counsel. He said the remands were against him because information was being given by the police to the press, which misrepresented the facts. He claimed this was insidious propaganda damaging him in the eyes of the prospective jury, and said he did not seem to be able to get a fair go, at all. He stated he had abusive letters from respectable people showing that the public had already found him guilty.

On the 2nd November, Murray was again in Court but had the famous, capable and liberal minded Eugene Gorman as his lawyer. A fresh remand was granted, and press statements were again indicted. On the 16th November, Murray protested again over another remand—"How many can they have?" he asked.

There was yet another remand on the 23rd. The Coroner's investigation resulted in the verdict, as reported by Argus, Victor Berriman died from injuries received from a wound due to a shot fired by Richard Buckley in conjunction with Angus Murray.

The case against Murray was opened on the 20th February, 1924. Witnesses were cross-examined by Gorman.

To Norman Alfred Rattray: You were taken to the gaol were you not? And they told you that you were to identify Angus Murray?

Rattray: Yes.

Gorman: And Murray was the only man presented to you?

Rattray: Yes.

Another witness said: Murray was undoubtedly the taller man of the 2.

Gorman: Did you not say at the Coroner's Court that you would not swear to him?

Witness: I may have. He is like the man.

One witness had to agree that all attention was focussed on the man with the gun and little attention Paid to the other man ahead of him, yet he and others identified Murray.

All witnesses agreed it was the short man that shot Berriman. A woman living next door to the Taylor house was a witness, claiming she had stood on a box, peered over the fence and watched for several minutes, Murray and Taylor burn what appeared to be a suitcase.

Gorman put an expert asphalter in the box who said there was no trace of anything being burned on the spot the witness had pointed out.

In evidence, G. T. Ryan, assistant clerk of Petty Sessions, Melbourne, testified that he took Berriman's dying deposition. L. Murphy, Solicitor instructing Gorman, Angus Murray, D. M. Grant P.M. and others were present.

Indicating Murray, Berriman said "I think I know this man. This is not the man who shot me. It was the other man. I am too weak to describe the other man now."

Murray, in his evidence, stated that when he went into the hospital room, he said, "Mr. Berriman, I am Angus Murray, the man they are trying to frame for robbing you at Glenhuntly. I want you to be very careful" and Murray said Berriman replied, "Very well, you may not be the man."

Murray claimed an alibi for the day of the crime but this was disregarded.

On February 22nd, the Jury, after two hours, brought in a verdict of guilty.

On the 2nd March an Appeal on the basis of a miscarriage of justice was lodged on Murray's behalf.

Murray's appeal commenced on the 6th and two of the arguments raised by Gorman, were on the faulty identification methods used, and he challenged the summing-up as being a misdirection of the jury.

The appeal failed and Gorman then took it to the High Court.

In judgment were Chief Justice Sir Adrian Knox, Mr. Justices Isaacs, Duffy, Rich and Starke.

Gorman sought to support his contention that the trial Judge Mr. Justice Mann had failed to direct the jury sufficiently or at all.

In addition to arguments raised at the previous appeal, Gorman brought forward the fact that Murray had not shot Berriman and no man had been brought forward who actually did the shooting. He suggested the hypothetical possibility that this man could later be charged—might claim that he had not intended to shoot or that the gun went off accidentally and might be acquitted. If he were acquitted for any reason then it was not possible to claim that Murray had shot him in conjunction with the other man. Also that the man might admit the crime and also say that Murray had not acquiesced to the shooting.

The High Court dismissed the appeal.

The death sentence passed on Murray was considered by the State Cabinet towards the end of March.

As for Taylor, he was not presented on the murder charge, the charge of "harbouring" was withdrawn and he was released. It was alleged that Taylor and four other men had tried to organise an escape for Murray from the gaol, however on the 26th March the five men were acquitted. Once again Taylor was free.


There was widespread feeling amongst the workers that Murray should not be hanged. It was claimed that it had been sixty years since anyone had been hanged for a killing, done as an accomplice. Many felt that identification being made in the manner it was, Murray may not have been in the hold-up at all.

The Trades Hall Council meeting of the 20th March, received and discussed a letter from the Socialist Party stating that a deputation to the Chief Secretary regarding Angus Murray was being organised, and requesting that Trades Hall Council representatives attend with them. The THC decided to comply.

The Melbourne Branch of the ALP carried a motion of protest against the death penalty being carried out in the case of Angus Murray.

On the 3rd April, the executive reported to Council that representatives of several bodies waited on the Attorney-General (Sir Arthur Robinson), and sought the commutation of the death sentence. George Prendergast, leader of the Labor opposition in the Legislative Assembly introduced the deputation. Speakers said that public opinion was tending in the direction of the abolition of capital punishment in all cases, and that, in the instance of Murray there was a doubt whether he was guilty of murder.

E. J. Holloway said that his Council (THC) believed capital punishment was brutal, and the carrying out of the terrible work was more awful than the act of murder. Don Cameron, Secretary of the Socialist Party said the matter was one for sympathetic and scientific treatment, not revenge. He had received a letter from the gaol Chaplain (Rev. E. H. Davies), who had attended Murray, stating that he was quite in accord with the deputation, and although he could not attend with it, he intended to submit his views to the Executive Council.

The Reverend Ainslie A. Yeates of St. John's Church, Latrobe Street, Melbourne, said he was not attending as a representative of the Church. H. F. Smith, Secretary of the Carpenters' Union said that in the circles in which he moved, Sir Arthur Robinson had the reputation of being a very hard man, with no sympathy whatever for the "bottom dog". He hoped that the decision he would give in this case under review would do something to dispel that reputation.

The Reverend Charles Strong of the Australian Church and member of the Howard Reform League said that capital punishment was immoral . . . the death penalty was out of harmony with the enlightenment and growing moral conscience of mankind.

Mr. H. Foster, president of the THC said that the Labor Party stood four-square against capital punishment in all circumstances. Sir Arthur Robinson said he was not one to shirk an issue, but fortunately for him this decision was one to be made by the entire Cabinet.

At the meeting of the THC held on the 3rd April, word had come that the death sentence was to be carried out.

The executive report was to the effect that in view of the facts, the executive now calls for the co-operation of other organisations at a monster meeting to enter a protest against the Executive Council. It was decided to try and get the Exhibition Building through Trustee R. Solly and to try the Town Hall as well. Meetings were in fact held in both places and the Exhibition building was packed out.

The attendance was estimated by Prendergast to be 12,000 the Argus said 5,000.

There was tremendous enthusiasm and the audience was unanimous. J. Scullin (later Prime Minister), said that the strength of the law was weakened by hanging Murray. Other speakers were J. P. Jones, MLC, Bob Solly, MLA, J. Morse, President of the Eight Hours' Committee, H. F. Smith, Secretary Carpenters' Union, Holloway, Secretary and Foster, President of the THC.

It was announced that the Premier would receive a deputation and that the petition would be presented to the Rt. Hon. G. E. J. Mowbray, Earl of Stradbroke, Governor of Victoria.

Colonel Albiston of the Salvation Army said that if Angus Murray were hanged it would be a great blot on the name of Victoria.

This demonstration was followed by a deputation to the Premier and Attorney-General.

Premier Lawson appealed to the combined committee that the agitation should not be persisted with but the Town Hall meeting went on and the big demonstration to the Yarra Bank took place.

A petition with 60,000 signatures on it was to be presented to the State Governor in person, it was announced at the THC on 11th April, and a call went out for a great demonstration to the Yarra Bank on the Sunday following.

Eight members of the Combined Committee visited the State Government House and the Petition, now with 70,000 signatures was presented to Captain Keppel-Palmer, private secretary, for the Earl of Stradbroke.

Several thousand marched on the Sunday from the Trades Hall and there were many women and children present, and a large crowd lined the route of the march.


About 10,000 were at the Yarra Bank. Speakers were: Foster, President, THC, McNeill, MHR, J. Hannan, THC, Councillor Mary Rogers (Richmond), Rev. Ainslie Yeates, T. Tunnecliffe, MLA.

These activities did not save Angus Murray. He was executed on the 14th April. Asked whether he had anything to say before sentence was carried out, Murray is reported in the Argus to have replied from the scaffold, in firm tones: "I have never in my life done anything to justify the extreme penalty being passed on me. I have tried to forgive all those who have acted against me. I hope that all I have injured will forgive me." The Port Phillip Stevedores Union held a stopwork meeting. On the morning of the execution, which took place at the old Melbourne gaol, corner Russell and Victoria Streets, at 10 a.m., people gathered at an early hour and there were several thousand there before 10 a.m. Women were probably in the majority. In those poor days a man in employment could not afford to take a day off and it was left to housewives, old men, unemployed, criminals and union officials (from the adjacent Trades Hall), to pay their last respects and enter protest.

It would be fairly safe to estimate that the majority there were working-class housewives. They came out of their cottages in Carlton and walked in from the adjacent suburbs of North Carlton, Fitzroy, North Melbourne, West Melbourne, Collingwood and East Melbourne. According to the press a section of the crowd was truculent and sullen towards the police. At 9 a.m. some of them were already down on their knees praying and some were sobbing. At 20 minutes to 10 the crowd sang: "Nearer my God to Thee". At a quarter to 10, people who had assembled, headed by women, marched to the gaol gates in Victoria Street. The authorities feared a riot on the part of this emotional, near-hysterical crowd.

Forty foot police and ten mounted men forced the crowd back from the gates into Victoria Street. The people demanded the police take their hats (i.e., helmets) off—they did not comply. One woman threw herself at a horse and seized the reins. There was some difficulty in dislodging her. The crowd sang hymns and near 10 a.m. knelt and repeated the Lord's Prayer. At 10 a.m. there was complete silence which one eye-witness claims lasted for fully five minutes.

After this the crowd jeered at the police and showed a great desire to do something. A march on Parliament House demanding resignation of the Government was proposed.

Meanwhile Ted Holloway had telephoned Laidler at Andrades and asked him would he come up and address the crowd to calm them. It is noteworthy with the adjacent Trades Hall full of union officials it was Laidler as a "mob orator," who they asked to come along and speak, and this, according to the press, was done in response to continuous demands from the crowd who had gone over to the Trades Hall after the execution, looking for leadership. The Herald reports "eventually" Mr. Prendergast, leader of the opposition addressed them together with others. The eyewitness mentioned above said that Holloway was nearly in tears. Holloway was a very sensitive and compassionate man and had he attempted to address them himself there is little doubt he would have broken down.

Laidler did succeed in satisfying the crowd and ended by telling them that they must see that this never happened again—that those in Unions and ALP branches must go back into them and work for the abolition of capital punishment.

The only other occasions when there was mass protest at hanging were in the cases of Ned Kelly, when the people marched to Government House in 1880, and more recently in the case of Ryan.

On Friday night, November 5th, 1880, a monster meeting of 4,000, including 200 to 300 women were present at the Hippodrome, Stephen Street, to urge a reprieve for Edward Kelly.

Some 30,000 to 40,000 signed a petition. A deputation for the reprieve was led by William Gaunson, MP, and he, together with a Mrs. Skillian, Kate Kelly, James Kelly and Wild Wright, led a crowd to Government House. At first they were refused admission, but after a discussion, were allowed to drive their cabs into the grounds. Captain Le Patourel, the Governor's private secretary, told them the Governor would not see them, that he would be at the Treasury up to 2 p.m. and petitions could be sent up till that time.

In the afternoon, Mrs. Skillian, Kate Kelly and Gaunson attended the Treasury to await the decision of the Executive Council, with a supporting crowd of 1,000 outside.

Meanwhile James Kelly and Wild Wright held a meeting outside the Robert Burns Hotel in Lonsdale Street, West, and "were objects of veneration of the mob" according to one journalist.

An attempt was made to hold a mass meeting at the Supreme Court Reserve but the twelve police were reinforced with fifty police and they kept the Reserve clear. Eventually a meeting of 2,000 adjourned to the corner of Queensberry and Madeline Streets.

A final effort was made by Gaunson on November 10th to ask the Governor to exercise the Royal prerogative of mercy.

Ned asked that his body be handed to his friends, but this too was denied him.

(Figures of attendances may be understated as the press was very anti-Kelly.) Each one of the three that evoked public sympathy had in common that they were men of intelligence and that they had some social conscience.

The book Solidarity Forever! is Copyright © the estate of Bertha Walker 1972.

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