VIEWS: 37 PAGES: 16 POSTED ON: 11/29/2011
33 'Naughty' Boys: The Education of Reformatory School Boys at Lytton 1881-1899 by Alan Savige Presented at a meeting of the Society 23 April 1992 To check evil at its source is more vitally important to the welfare of a community than to counteract it when it is developed, and in the work of prevention of crime which it has added to its original work of reformation and which it is ably carrying out, the boys' reformatory at Lytton claims to be one of the most valuable and important institutions of the colony.' This paper analyses colonial Queensland's efforts to care for neglected and destitute boys sentenced to Reformatory school at Signal Hill, Lytton during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. In some respects, the relocation of the Reformatory for boys at Lytton in 1881 commenced a new era in the boys' education. Formal education within colonial society was expanding and the government was compelled to plan and build to meet more comprehensively the specific needs in educating and caring for wayward boys. The classification of inmates into the 'neglected' and those convicted of crime was to become permanent and received a measure of acceptance by the general public. This categorisation was becoming the norm in all the Australian colonies at the time. The new surroundings led to opportunities for a greater variety of work and leisure activity as the institution now became more accessible to interested philanthropic members of the general public. This was also reflected in a new relationship between the Reformatory and the Queensland Defence Forces at Lytton — one which was arguably convenient, but ultimately contributed to the' demise of the Reformatory at Lytton. Notwithstanding the new location, little had changed from when the boys had been confined on the Hulk, Proserpine, moored in the Brisbane River. The philosophy governing the boys' education, both formal and informal, remained the same. So did procedures for admissions and licensing and James Wassell, the former Superintendent's stable and conservative administration, was maintained for almost the entire period that the Reformatory was located at Lytton. The government continued to adopt the same attitudes, to rely upon the same legislation and used the same personnel to interpret the legislation. 34 Plans for the new Reformatory on an enclosed two-acre site were submitted to the Public Works' Department in March 1879. The building was to be constructed of hardwood with weatherboard cladding and an unhned shingle roof 'the cost being kept down as much as possible'.^ The total cost was estimated at £ 1,180. It was soon obvious that development had to be expedited using one of two reformatory sites the government had reserved in 1880. The ultimate choice was Signal Hill, the highest point in the immediate vicinity of Lytton. The Colonial Secretary, A.H. Palmer, wanted the boys to provide the labour under the direction of 'two competent working carpenters who would . . . perform such portions of the joiner work (making doors, window sashes, etc,) as the boys will not be capable of doing.'' The government were attempting to build with a meagre and inadequate budget. The roof was unlined and wooden roofing shingles were used. The plans reveal that the penal concept inherited at the time of founding the Reformatory had not been abandoned or greatly modified. The location of the building inside the fortified stockade atop the hill and the layout of the rooms show that security and surveillance were of prime importance. The outer fence had been commenced by the boys as early as 1879, after a visit to the Hulk by the Colonial Secretary who recommended that they be put to work to build a 'very high stockade fence'" approximately eight feet high made of sawn hardwood to cost about £ 150. The task was too great for the boys and it was still incomplete in June 1883.' When a Brisbane Courier reporter visited Signal Hill in May, 1886 he described the Reformatory as a 'sombre-looking building surrounded with a high paling fence . . . [which] gives the idea of a prison'.* The notion of a place of incarceration in an isolated spot was palpably real. The building was an 176 foot long, L-shaped, single storey structure facing south-west, overlooking the Lytton reach of the Brisbane River. At its southernmost end there was an extension facing east. The boys were house in two dormitories, large rooms each 71 by 19 feet. For the first time in a decade, the boys were to sleep in beds rather than the canvas hummocks slung in the cells on the Proserpine.^ The external wall at the rear of the Reformatory was protected by a wide verandah for its full length. At the northern end it was enclosed to form a tailoring shop and at the opposite end a warder's mess-room was created. The southern extension, 80 by 18 feet, houses the first permanent schoolroom designed for the inmates, a dining room, store room and kitchen. Attached to the external kitchen wall was a lean- to divided into washhouse and laundry.** Earth closet toilets were provided at the rear of the yard but there was no provision for washing 35 or bathing. Domininating the whole of the rear section was a 25 feet high sentry tower, a concept suggested by the Colonial Secretary.' It enclosed two solitary confinement cells and also acted as a reservoir for water pumped from the nearby underground tank as well as watch tower for the Q.D.F. The boys were located in the middle of a military defensive position that could not hide the fact that it served a double purpose in restraining them once they were relocated on dry land and provided easy surveillance of the Brisbane River mouth and the southern section of Moreton Bay. In this respect the site was similar to the institution at Mettray (France) where the architecture provided '. . . a very clear expression of the purposes of the institution'.'" The Lytton site has been described as follows: The stockade fence. . .is sufficiently high to prevent their escape, but at present it is too slight to resist musketry fire at close ranges, and has yet to be considerably strengthened. Loopholes will be made, and all round the exterior of the fence a ditch is to be dug, the earth from which will be so placed as to strengthen the stockade. . .On (sic) inspection of this spot v/ill show what a very commanding position the enclosure on the hill possesses. . . It is probable that a small force, say of 200 men, within the battery and stockade, could successfully repel an enemy of more than treble that number.^ The windows, covered with sunshades," were allowed to open six inches top and bottom and instead of the unsightly iron bars which disfigure the windows of most buildings where persons are forcibly kept under restraint, the centre bars of the sashes are of cast iron instead of wood, and as these windows are narrow, and only open such a short distance, it would not be an easy, matter for any of the boys to get through during the night, and if they did their plans would probably be frustrated by their falHng into the hands of the warder on watch outside.' Nevertheless in 1883 Wassell feared '. . . any discontented boy could make off almost any night he wished' following an'eleven year old's feigned illness one evening and his subsequent escape through the window while evening school was in session.'^ However, Wassell soon had a complete change of heart about security. Writing in 1895 he revealed: No lad is ever locked up, nor is either of the wards, or the stockade round the buildings . . . It is now over ten years since 1 did away with locks, bolts, and bars, and attempts to escape are less frequent than previously, and are confined to new arrivals. There has only been one attempt made during the past thirty months.'^ 36 FORMAL EDUCATION The schooling programme, begun by Wassell and continued by John Brown on the Hulk, was translated to Signal Hill without incident — this time in a classroom specially set aside for teaching and evening study. Brown continued to teach in the same vein throughout 1881 and 1882 until he requested a transfer to the St Helena school for the gaol warders' children.'" Thus the work of the first professional teacher at the Reformatory came to an end. Brown had displayed a lack of enthusiasm in his work and surprisingly sought to move to an even more isolated position. His transfer amounted to a swap with William Mahon stationed on St. Helena. Mahon later became dissatisfied with his pay, compared to that he receive on St. Helena, over-indulged in alcohol and requested a transfer out of the service. Another interesting facet of the boys' education was the development of Music which had commenced with visiting instructors on the Hulk and continued by Mahon who was proficient in music. Prior to 1885 there had been a drum and fife band 'which at that time was a very good one' but as the boys involved were discharged, new members had not been trained and the band had 'quite collapsed'." In June, 1886 the services of Mr J.D. Owen were secured to give instruction for two hours each Saturday afternoon. The fortunes of the Drum and Fife band fluctuated according to the leadership available, yet despite its problems the band was sufficiently highly respected to be invited to a Wellington Point function in May 1895.'* Mahon's replacement was Martin McGladrigan, a twenty-five year old single man. McGladrigan held the position as schoolmaster for the duration of time the Reformatory was at Lytton and he was the boys' most successful teacher up to that time. Control of the School was transfered to the Colonial Secretary's department in early 1885, 'in accordance with the wish of the. . .Colonial Secretary. It is understood that the School will still remain subject to inspection by the [D.P.I.].''' THE NAUTICAL TRAINING PROPOSAL Wassell, while on the Hulk, went out of his way to secure positions for his boys as hands, cabin boys, stewards or cooks aboard ships, whenever he saw an opportunity. After the Reformatory had been established on Signal Hill he had other opportunities to pursue his aspirations. In November, 1884 a cabin boy, Michael Bowers, had been sent to join the government schooner Mavis at Thursday Island. The vessel's commander. Captain Williams, was sufficiently impressed with him 37 to suggest that a further four or five boys would complete the crew's complement. Williams reasoned that if he had a good seaman gunner, rated as a Boatswain or Gunner's Mate, on the Mavis he could leave the instruction and drill of such boys completely in his care. In that case he thought it would be very advisable to man the Mavis altogether with good able bodied boys, out of the Reformatory at Lytton, who are willing to take to a sea life, so that in addition to her present work, she would be utilised as a Training ship for the Colonial Navy.'* Wilhams needed a Boatswain's Mate, three able-bodied seamen, and a cook. It was difficult to keep men for long on Northern sea runs as they tired of the life and alcohol was easily available to numb their boredom. He further cautioned that the boys should not be sent unless the requested Gunner's Mate was also sent as he recognised that his current man was too inexperienced to be in charge of the boys. Williams considered the Mate tactless, and this was believed to be an additional consideration in the loss of crew. Wassell favoured the proposal and requested an indication of interest from the boys. Of the seventy-seven inmates, forty volunteered, out of whom he 'selected five (5) good strong lads who would in a short time be almost as useful as men'.'^ The Superintendent saw one of his cherished dreams come within his grasp and enthusiastically took up the proposal. Other nautical training schemes, on the Chichester on the Thames, and on the Vernon and the Sobraon in Sydney, had conducted exercises on board ship in the atmosphere of naval disciphne and terminology.^" The only thing the Lytton boys had in common with such trainees was physical fitness and a willingness to participate. None of those selected had been inmates on the Proserpine and, with the exception of the possible boating exercise on the Brisbane River and the annual outing to one of the islands in Moreton Bay, they had probably never been on board a vessel prior to their selection. Wassell's enthusiasm, the needs of the government and economics had clouded the planning. The scheme was doomed to failure. The initial five boys chosen commenced service at Thursday Island on 18 December 1884.^' Captain Williams soon found that the boys were not as physically strong as he expected. The scheme might still have succeeded had it not been for a most unfortunate episode which took place shortly after the boys arrived. Leaving Thursday Island on 12 January 1885 and making a short stop in Somerset Harbour, the boys got their first real taste of heavy weather when hit by a 'terrific squall from N.W which besides nearly capsizing us, split the topsail'. The following day they took shelter in the lee of Poll Island in 'very squally with thick rain' and next morning made for Murray Island. 38 Williams mistook the lee and weather coral patches, in the absence of markers, and the Mavis was soon broached on the reef. Jettisoning twenty-five tons of ballast and cables in conjunction with the rising tide enabled the crew to get the vessel inside the reef where it was beached and supported by coconut trees. From January 24 until late February, the boys were stranded on the island while repairs were made and they waited for suitable conditions to refloat the vessel. Wilhams, somewhat dispirited, concluded that he had '. . . made a mistake in getting so many of them. . .they are too much for us'. He lamented that three of them were 'not much use as they are seasick most of the time & do not shew much adaptability for the life and I should like to return them to Lytton again.'^^ A more serious consequence of the experiment was the threat by the crew of the Mavis to walk off following the introduction of the boys. They recognised the implicit threat to their livelihood and made their feelings very clear. The experiment in the north lasted less than a year and was effectively ended within two months of its inception. The boys were returned south. Despite this failure a picture emerges of Wassell energetically placing individual boys on government vessels. The number of boys who found their way from the Reformatory into service on government coastal and naval vessels in the late 1880s and 1890s would appear to have been small. That they were encouraged to do so was both attributable to Wassell's own efforts, as well as that of the government who saw in it an opportunity to 'make men' of the boys and make money for the government. Apparently the idea had not been totally abandoned in the 1890s as Article 21 of an abortive 1894 State Children Bill stated that 'Reformatories for boys may, if and when deemed expedient, be established on training ships'.^' Two years later the Acting Naval Commandant of the Q.D.F., Walton Drake, in late 1896 advocated the introduction of a naval training vessel to accommodate up to 200 boys aged between ten and fifteen years of age over a three year period.^" WORK PROGRAMME AND RELATIONS WITH THE Q.D.F. Following the move to Signal Hill the Reformatory and the Q.D.F. became strange bed-fellows in their semi-isolated position at the mouth of the Brisbane River. The 1880s saw increased activity in strengthening Brisbane's defences against the threat of foreign attack and this activity was centred on the river mouth. The Q.D.F. strategy was centred on Fort Lytton just to the North of the Lytton jetty. It was designed to repel enemy advances up the river. About a mile to the east. Signal Hill's redoubt was designed to repel any land force attack on the Fort.^' The Reformatory was ideally placed to enable 39 the boys to participate in the maintenance and building of these estabhshments and even while still on the Hulk they had helped clear land and carried out prehminary work on these sites, including work on the stockade fence.^* Apart from preparation of the Defence Force sites, each Easter, Lytton hosted extensive exercises and manoeuvres involving militia volunteers from throughout the Colony. The boys found themselves at the centre of this activity which must have made for some excitement. In 1883 they quarried and carted 200 yards of blue metal for the Fort; broke thirty-three yards of blue metal for the contractor at the Fort and sank twenty-five holes for the Stockade fence. The following year they fenced twenty-eight rods of Fort Paddock and formed fifteen chains of road outside the Fort. They had also carted and filled 100,000 cartridges for the Defence Forces. On other occasions they were employed cutting wood for the encampment and cleaning the guns at the Fort — a task specifically requested of the Reformatory by Colonel Scratchley, and performed each Monday.^' The boys had also been requested to cut the grass at Fort Lytton and did this until 1891 when Wassell concluded that the number of Army men present meant the boys 'saw and heard a great deal not good for them and became possessed of tobacco which they brought to the Reformatory almost daily'. ^* They resumed cutting early in 1892 when only two Defence personnel were present. Such work for the Q.D.F., including cleaning the parade, occupied up to one quarter of the Reformatory inmates at any one time in 1883. There were, however, signs of growing friction between the two estabhshments. Wassell found it impossible to get access to water from the Q.D.F. when the Reformatory's supply ran out in 1888; the sergeant in charge was absent and the windmill had been locked. On the other hand the presence of over 100 boys of varying ages and ingenuity might well explain the placing of locks on Q.D.F. equipment. In any case it had become increasingly clear that the Defence forces wanted the Reformatory removed from Signal Hill along with the Telegraph Station. Plans for greater fortification could not be accomplished while a boys' Reformatory was located in the middle of the redoubt. In 1892 Commandant French of Land Defence Forces noted '. . .the removal of existing buildings becomes necessary' and the fortification of the hill which had been recommended ten years earlier by General Jervois and Major General Scratchley had not been completed. French commented '. . .the question still keeps dragging along, little progress being made' and 'there seems to be no reasonable cause for further delay'.^' Three years later it was still there: 40 Each succeeding year the Commandants have urged the necessity of completing the Lytton Defences by the removal of the Reformatory for boys, and placing the redoubt, which is the key of the position in a proper state of defence. I venture to suggest that the removal of the Reformatory would be advantageous to the boys, if they were transfered to a spot where they could be trained in agricultural pursuits, in a more bracing climate.^" The specific references to 'climate' and 'agriculture' lead one to think that the comment was either highly speculative or the Darling Downs site was already a possibility in the minds of some. The Q.D.F, besides providing specific work experience for the boys outside the Reformatory workshop, also provided general interest for the boys. A good example of this was the Defence Force's decision to assign a non-commissioned officer from the Fort to instruct the Officers and inmates 'in the new physical drill' after the close of an Easter encampment.'' Despite some clash of purposes the two instrumentalities continued to function side by side until 1899. Woodcutting, clearing land, cutting saplings, building the stockade wall, and quarrying metal for the make-shift roads were common tasks for the boys, but as the Armed Forces invested more in the defences of the area so the demands to remove the Reformatory grew. It was finally moved in 1899, all private land in the township was resumed, and the area declared a defence zone, which in turn became Commonwealth land in 1901.^' The boys were also employed in the mundane duties of running the tailoring shop which had been established on an end of the verandah. In 1883 eight out of seventy four boys were constantly employed making 1,427 mail bags of assorted sizes for the G.P.O. and in 1884 over 2,500 bags were produced. Tents were made under contract to the Colonial Storekeeper and profits from the tailor's shop earned approximately £50 and £28 respectively in 1883 and 1884.'^ It was reported in The Brisbane Courier in 1886 that 'much more tailoring and tent-making work could be done by the boys if there was a demand for it'.* The 1883 Report also revealed that one boy was employed as a pupil-teacher, two were employed as cooks, four as mess boys and two others drove and looked after the horses. The Bulimba Divisional Board also employed the boys, quarrying eighty yards of blue metal for the lower Lytton road in 1883 although the government thought the price negotiated by the Reformatory too cheap. A further 100 yards of metal were quarried and broken for the Board the following year and the boys cleared mangroves to allow the laying of cable to the Pile Lighthouse. The Colonial Secretary, Sir Thomas Mcllwraith, instructed that the boys should further quarry and break metal for the lower Lytton road in 1885." 41 Ahhough apparently not a part of the organised work programme, Wassell encouraged each interested boy to cultivate a small plot of vegetable garden in the playground. 'Some of the plots give evidence of great care; they seem almost over-burdened by the number and luxuriance of the plants which the enterprising proprietors have crowded into them'.* The philosophy of training the boys involved keeping them constantly employed at physically-tiring manual labour. In the latter years Wassell described the aim of employment as 'more with a view to make them industrious than for profit', but he pointed out that besides the paid contracts they boys had saved the institution a great deal through collecting firewood, making their own clothes, and cooking their own food.^" Their clothing consisted of a uniform which included short trousers and a cap. In winter a considerable amount of flannel was worn to supplement the basic dress.* Little thought was given to training in skilled trades, which were considered not only expensive to introduce and maintain, but also unnecessary by some conservative administrators in the nineteenth century. Manual labour, on the other hand, was considered a particularly suitable station in life for the boys. It was felt important only to '. . .teach them habits of obedience and industry, which would enable them to earn an honest living after their discharge'.^' HEALTH AND WELFARE Despite the emphasis on manual labour the boys' health remained remarkably good. The death of one boy in 1885 through typhoid fever was only the second in the history of the Reformatory. In 1893 there was an exceptionally severe outbreak of measles with more than forty boys were confined to bed at one time. Apart from this outbreak there were the usual cases of influenza and unforseen sudden death but, nevertheless, the mortality rate was much lower in comparison to the Diamantina Orphanage. In fact the 'Hospital' room contained only a bed, which apparently was occupied rarely.'* The food was 'plain, but good in quality and hberal in quantity' while the preparation area was said to be 'a spacious room, very clean and airy' but water for ablutions was 'not nearly so abundant as it ought to be in such an institution. Strict economy has to be practised with regard to its use, which in such a place is an economy of the worst kind.'* Moving the Reformatory onto land made it accessible to the public. Various Christian groups in Brisbane often presented programmes at the Reformatory.'' Official records contain numerous requests for the government steamer to transport and return such groups from the city to Lytton. The Builders' and Contractors Association invited 42 them annually to attend a picnic at the nearby Aquarium.^^ Wassell also organised outings for the inmates, drawing on a 'Recreation Fund' he established with contributions from interested members of the public. He used the government vessel Otter to go to locations such as Dunwich (North Stradbroke Island) or Peel Island for picnics and on some Saturdays they played cricket in the afternoons.'' Most of these social events were limited to a half or full day on a weekend. The Protestant boys received Divine Service each Sunday while the Catholic boys were taught the catechism. This ritual was punctuated by periodic visits from the Church of England and Catholic clergy. Typical of these visits was that of the Reverend J. Macpherson of the Dunwich and St. Helena Mission who spent a weekend at the Reformatory in November, 1888 and preached the Sunday morning Divine Service in the schoolroom. He no doubt considered his address entitled 'The Displeasure of God Against Sin' suitable for the occasion, which also attracted some young people from the district."" Another innovation in the mid-1880s was the commencement of a ladies' visiting committee and a Sunday-school. Both measures originated with Lady Musgrave, the wife of the Governor and, together with other church group interests, reflect on a charitable evangelical movement still functioning strongly in Brisbane."' LICENSING AND ADMISSION POLICY The system enacted in the 1865 Act remained the basis for the placing of boys in licensed service throughout the two decades the Reformatory was at Signal Hill. As soon as a boy demonstrated trust and common sense he was eligible for license and Wassell deliberately placed boys at a distance from their original surroundings. It generally took less than twelve months before a boy was eligible and Wassell claimed many were ready inside six months confinement and considered 'nothing is gained by detaining lads in an Institution for long periods'."^ Wassell trusted his own assessment of a boy and it was typical of the man to recommend that 'placing him out now may possibly give him a better start in life than he would obtain if after serving his sentence, he returned [home]'."' He had strong views on the role of parents of Reformatory boys, commenting that: the greatest hindrance to the success of many a lad is his parents. I believe much good would be done by depriving unworthy parents of all control over their children. and again: 43 nothing would be such a blow to the usefulness of this insdtution as to allow parents with influence to decide what is to be done with their children."" Wassell was discriminating in his placement of boys and refused requests from publicans and was supported by the government. In 1883 he informed the Colonial Secretary of such a request to which the Under Secretary suggested the Hotelier be informed 'there are no boys available'. On occasions boys returned to the Reformatory claiming to have been ill-treated and preferring to remain at Lytton."' The licensing system was exploited both by the government, which saw an opportunity to save money and 'educate' the boys in low-skilled work, and by a public anxious to obtain relatively cheap labour. Some upper middle class citizens obtained as many as five boys and it was noted when Samuel Griffith applied for a boy in 1883 that he had previously had two boys 'both of whom turned out well'."* Occasionally attempts were made to license younger boys (under twelve years) while Wassell, on the other hand, 'found from experience that lads verging on manhood do not do well under license'."' Throughout the 1880s and 1890s the Reformatory at Lytton was the only government institution for boys other than the Diamantina Orphanage. The dichotomy of the 1870s continued with boys who were 'neglected' in terms of the Act associated with those who had committed more vicious acts."* There was, however, a steady change in the proportion of each group. Typical of the 'neglected' majority group of inmates at Signal Hill was the case of an eight year old boy who was seen taking bread from a hotel and who joined his brother as an inmate for seven years. His father was 'seldom or ever sober,. . .keeps two women, one his wife and has a family by both. . .in the centre of prostitution. . .a thoroughly immoral man [whose] associates and companions are of the lowest and criminal class . . .'"' The institution had been established initially as the Reformatory — part of a two-tiered system of both Reformatory and Industrial schools — and designed to cater for those who had committed serious breaches of the law. By 1886 this had been modified and the 'neglected' class exceeded the number of 'criminal' inmates. Thus, by default the Reformatory carried out both preventative and reform measures. The Brisbane Courier which had earlier commented unfavourably, by 1886 took a more compliant attitude and attributed to Wassell a greater concern for the behaviour of the 'neglected', whom he often considered more intractable than the 'criminal'.* There was less 44 confusion in the minds of both the public and the government about the perceived roles of the orphanages and the Reformatory compared with earlier times, although the Bench still occasionally misplaced children as in the case of a four year old, 'a mere baby' whom Wassell sought to transfer to the Diamantina Orphanage.'" Some former inmates of the Orphanage who were 'not doing well' in service, were sent to Lytton." Parents occasionally misunderstood the gravity of sending a child before the Magistrate with a view to frightening them. Typical of this situation was a father who confessed in 1893: 1, on impulse of the moment took him to Mr Pinnock with the intention of having him cautioned but the P.M. advised me to have him sent to Lytton and I was told by a clerk at the Police Court that I could at any time take him home again on making an application. . . .'^ Magistrate Pinnock, who reportedly considered the current generation growing up in Brisbane to be the worst in the world, may have been eager to commence remedying the situation." Once a boy was sentenced by the Bench it was not possible to reverse the decision. When it was desirable to have a boy transfered to an orphanage on the basis of his youthfulness or religion (Roman Catholic), the Colonial Secretary suggested that a license be drawn up for the boy to serve a member of the respective clergy. In 1887 James Wassell's wife Rebecca cared for two boys aged four and six and a half in their own private residence rather than in the Reformatory. Wassell sought to have them transfered to St Vincent's Orphanage, Nudgee.'" Legislation prevented the Reformatory from formally licensing any boy into service before he was twelve years of age, but the Diamantina Orphanage had earlier sent boys as young as nine into service." THE TRANSFER FROM SIGNAL HILL By the late 1890s the Signal Hill site was under serious threat by the Defence Forces and plans were in hand for the transfer of the Reformatory to another rural environment, unencumbered by defence needs. It was to the west that the government looked and decided to relocate the institution at Westbrook, beyond Toowoomba on the Darling Downs. It was also the close of an era marked by the retirement of James Wassell as Superintendent after twenty nine years service. During this time there was little trenchant criticism of his work even though it brought him into constant contact with individuals from every level of society. He spoke freely after considering the merits of each situation. He opened his own home to young boys, and allowed any former inmate of good character who was out of work to 'find a home 45 here, till such time as suitable employment can be found for him'. This genuine concern motivated him to: endeavour to obtain his confidence by showing an interest in his welfare — 1 question him as to his antecedents, his parents, and his home. I explain he is not sent here for punishment but to give him a chance to redeem his character, and 1 promise to send him into a situation, as soon as he proves himself deserving, and a suitable one can be obtained.'* This concern, while it was his duty, may have been misconstrued by some as arrogance, as when in later years at the reformatory he affirmed 'I am actuated solely by what I conscientiously believe will prove the best for each individual case: I allow nothing else to influence me. To this and the knowledge I have gained in the over 22 years I have had charge of boys I attribute the great amount of success this institution has achieved.'" Privately, Wassell was said to believe that 'half of the boys should not have been sent there at least, for their first offence'." If this is correct, it would explain his attempts to get younger boys separated from the older ones and to have boys licensed as quickly as possible. It further highlighted the duality of the class of inmate in the Reformatory system which had come to be accepted by many members of the public in the late 1880s and 1890s. It was Wassell's self-assuredness that prepared him to cogently argue his case before the government when he felt an injustice had been done to either a boy or himself. His tactful argument for an increase in his allowances due to 'semi-official entertaining' clearly shows how astute and articulate he was. He had always kept a close eye on his personal finances and in 1888 he argued: 1 feel certain there is no officer in the whole of the Queensland Government Service who has to spend such a large percentage of his salary . . .nor do I think it would have so long continued in my case had not a feeling of dehcacy hitherto prevented me from writing on the subject, a feeling, which circumstances has at last compelled me to overcome. Wassell explained that the expense amounted to not less than 8% of his pay and showed that it was unavoidable 'without placing [him] in an unenviable position.' He pointed out that 'in all walks of life employers recognise their liability for reasonable expenses incurred by their subordinates in the carrying out of their duties'.'* The government sought Wassell's advice in 1894 on the State Children Bill which was designed to bring all State orphans, destitute and neglected children under one complex piece of legislation." This bill, while indicative of the desire for change in the State education 46 of orphans, destitute and neglected children, never proceeded beyond an advanced draft. It was another case of a progressive organisational measure being dropped without suitable government explanation. Wassell retired in 1899, an event possibly accelerated by the impending upheaval of the move to Westbrook and the death in 1898 of his wife Rebecca who had worked alongside him throughout his stay. He retired to a property at New Farm and ended his days in 1926 with his unmarried daughters, Edith and Bertha, at Wynnum (approximately two and a half kilometres from Signal Hill). Unwittingly, a fitting elegy for Wassell had been written in the Brisbane Courier in 1886: Such work as this reformatory shows can only be carried out as a labour of love. Hard and fast rules, however excellent cannot cope with the various exigencies of such an undertaking. It requires great judgment combined with experience to know when to insist and when to relax the ordinary rules and regulations. The institution has worked its way gradually, feeling its way at every step: no rash experiments are tried, but as the need arises consequent upon extended growth it is supplied.* Ironically, when Wassell died in 1926 no mention was made in the Courier's obituary to his twenty-eight years of service at the Reformatory. It rather chose to point out that after 1899 he gave his time to 'alleviating the sufferings of the unfortunate'.*" Throughout the two decades under review the government only twice — in 1883 and 1884 — published an annual report. For the rest of the time the public had to rely on MP's questioning of the estimates or general questions in the Parliament. The new buildings had been a progressive step, but they also failed to address the fundamental need for diversified trade and agricultural training. Instead the Reformatory was located in a convenient position to provide cheap labour for the Q.D.F. and local government enterprises. The subsequent relocation of the Reformatory to Westbrook, the framing of a comprehensive Bill to amalgamate the administration of all classes of State Children, the demise of institutionalised orphanage care — all indicated that the 1890s were a period in which the winds of change were stirring, even if they were not yet blowing a gale. ENDNOTES 1. Brisbane Courier 20 May 1886. 2. Colonial Architect to Under Secretary for Public Works 19 March 1879 COL/A274, 1879/1161, QSA. 3. Colonial Architect to Under Secretary for Public Works 3 March 1880, 1880/1049 (top-numbered WOR/A202 1881/1196, QSA). 47 4. Colonial Architect (Stanley) to Under Secretary for Public Works 11 October 1879, 1879/5481 (top-numbered WOR/A202, 1881/1196, QSA). 5. J. Wassell to Under Colonial Secretary [hereinafter UCS] 12 June 1883, COL/A364 1883/3382, QSA. 6. A Visit to the Reformatory at Lytton, Brisbane Courier 20 May 1886. 7. P. Prideaux, "An account of the Lytton Defences and the Reformatory, March 1881", n.d., unpublished typescript, Publicity Department, Ampol Petroleum, Brisbane. 8. Plans showing the proposed removal of the Reformatory, WOR/A474 1901/290 No.3, QSA. 9. Colonial Architect (Stanley) to Under Secretary for Public Works 21 December 1880, top-numbered WOR/A202 1881/1196, QSA. 10. J. Ramsland, The Agricultural Colony at Mettray, Melbourne Studies in Education 1987-88, Melbourne, Latrobe University Press 1988 p65. 11. Callaghan & Company, quotation for timber, n.d., 1880/1356 (top-numbered WOR/A202 1881/1196, QSA). 12. J. Wassell to UCS 26 February 1883, COL/A354, 1883/982, QSA. 13. J. Wassell to UCS 16 September 1895, 1895/11349, COL/A796, QSA. 14. Anderson to UCS 14 December 1882, COL/A250 1882/6304, QSA. 15. Wassell to UCS 8 May 1886, COL/A465, 1886/3754, QSA. 16. COL/B35, 1895/4938, Entry Reformatories, 27 April 1895, QSA. 17. Anderson to UCS 4 March 1885, COL/A417, 1885/1532, QSA. 18. WiUiams to Colonial Secretary 5 November 1884, top-numbered COL/A435, 1885/6489, QSA. 19. Wassell to UCS 22 November 1884, top-numbered COL/A435, 1885/6489. 20. J. Ramsland, Children of the Backlanes, Sydney, UNSW Press, 1986, pp.116-138, 206-218. 21. Wassell to Colonial Secretary 31 August 1885, COL/A435, 1885/6489, QSA. 22. Williams to Colonial Secretary 23 February 1885, COL/A417, 1885/1844, QSA. 23. State Children Bill of 1895, top-numbered COL/A797, 1895/11349, QSA. 24. W. Drake to Chief Secretary 15 December 1896, HOM/A4, 1896/16762, QSA. 25. G.P. Parker, 'Lytton and Fort Lytton', typescript August 1983, Brisbane Public Relations Department, Ampol Petroleum, Brisbane. 26. Brisbane Courier 15 April 1881. The Western Flat below Signal Hill was described as having been cleared by the boys. 27. Report of the Superintendent of the Reformatory for Boys at Lytton for the years 1883 and 1884, Journals of the Legislative Council 1884 and 1885; Wassell to UCS 24 March 1885, COL/A417, 1885/1998, QSA. 28. Wassell to UCS 10 February 1892 COL/A751, 1892/1715, QSA. 29. Commandant French to Colonial Secretary 22 April 1890, COL/A613, 1890/3757, QSA. 30. ER Drury, Report of the Commandant for 1895, 23 August 1895, top- numbered HOM/A7, 1897/3947, QSA. 31. Under Colonial Secretary to Superintendent, Reformatory, Lytton 21 May 1890, COL/G57, 1890/1872, QSA. 32. Report of the Superintendent of the Reformatory for Boys at Lytton for the years 1883, 1884, Journals of the Legislative Council 1884 and 1885. 33. as above and Wassell to UCS 9 July 1885, COL/A430, 1885/5014, QSA. 34. Wassell to UCS 16 September 1895, top-numbered COL/A796, 1895/11349, QSA. 35. as for 32, report for 1883. 36. as for 32, report for 1884; Medical Officer, Brisbane to the Under Secretary, II October 1893, top-numbered COL/A751, 1893/12152; and Wassell, telegram to UCS 23 October 1893, COL/A751, 1893/12423, QSA; as for 6. 48 37. e.g. Bulimba United Presbyterian Church to Under Colonial Secretary 6 Decmeber 1887, COL/A529, 1887/9428, QSA. 38. Invitation first issued in 1886; Wassell to Under Colonial Secretary 7 October 1890, COL/A632, 1890/10527, QSA. 39. Wassell to UCS 31 December 1888 COL/A568, 1888/11067 and letters/telegrams 28 September 1886, COL/A483 1886/7523; 24 December 1887, COL/A530, 1887/10216; 31 December 1888, COL/A568, 1888/11067, QSA. 40. as for 32, report for 1884; Brisbane Courier 27 November 1888 p5. 41. as for 32, report for 1884. 42. Wassell to UCS, 16 September 1895, top-numbered COL/A796 1895/11349, QSA. 43. Wassell to UCS 13 May 1882, COL/A336, 1882/2654, QSA. 44. Wassell to UCS 16 Septebmer 1895, top-numbered COL/A796, 1895/11349, QSA. 45. Wassell to UCS 2 August 1883, COL/A366, 1883/3965, QSA. 46. Wassell to Colonial Secretary, top-numbered COL/A613, 1890/3936, QSA; refers to Captain Ackerley of Riverview; Wassell to UCS 24 February 1883, COL/A355, 1883/1198, QSA. 47. Wassell to UCS 7 March 1887, COL/A492, 1887/1960, QSA; mentions a boy aged 18. 48. Wassell to UCS 3 August 1882, COL/A342, 1882/4183, QSA. (A boy aged 14 sentenced to death for rape was a Reformatory inmate for three years.) 49. Police Magistrate, Brisbane to UCS 4 December 1883, COL/A375, 1883/6374, QSA. 50. Wassell to UCS 26 February 1883, COL/A354, 1883/983, QSA. 51. Wassell to UCS 16 March 1887, COL/A494, 1887/2277, QSA. 52. J. McGee to Colonial Secretary, 6 October 1893, COL/A751, 1893/11872, QSA. 53. A. Mortimer to Home Secretary, nd. 1897/10005 top-numbered HOM/A9, 1897/7528. 54. Wassell to UCS 19 December 1887, COL/A529, 1887/10076, QSA. 55. Wassell to UCS 7 January 1882, COL/A330, 1882/116, QSA. 56. Wassell to UCS 16 September 1895, top-numbered COL/A796, 1895/11349, QSA. 57. Wassell to UCS 11 July 1893, top-numbered COL/A792 1895/4878, QSA. 58. Wassell to UCS 21 November 1888, COL/A566, 1888/10154, QSA. 59. The 31 page Bill is included in the same letter file as a report of Wassc'l to the Colonial Secretary, top-numbered COL/A796, 1895/11349, QSA. 60. Brisbane Courier 14 January 1926 p.6.
Pages to are hidden for
"Naughty Boys The Education of Reformatory School Boys at Lytton "Please download to view full document