Tuesday, 23 December 2014

THE MURDER OF POOR HORACE AIKEN AND LITTLE ALBERT PETTET

THE MURDER OF POOR HORACE AIKEN AND LITTLE ALBERT PETTET
by Dave Wheeler
   When I go off on a tangent within this post I will use green italics like I am doing now. For more yarns hit the Home button up the top.  
   This site usually contains yarns which are Canberra and districts-centric, yet the only connection this one has to the Berra is that it was told to me by my late paternal granddad, Charlie Wheeler the 3rd, when he was visiting us in the Berra in 1970. The yarn was first published in “Tales of a Canberra Boy” under another title a few years ago.   
    Why I published the yarn initially was because when Charlie told it, it had a big impact on me, as he became quite emotional. It involved the murder of his 16 year old mate, Horace Aiken, in 1906. Horace was also known as "Tos" Aiken. 
    A younger lad aged 9, Albert Gordon Pettet, known as Gordon Pettet, the son of Thomas Pettet, a dairy man of The Esplanade, Pennant Hills, was also murdered on the same day, not long before Tos (Horace). Charlie however, when telling me the sad story, focussed mainly on Tos, as they were mates.
   I could also feel myself becoming emotional at the time, which seemed ridiculous given that the murders occurred long before I saw the light of day in 1952. But, it is a very sad tale, particularly since it involves kids dying way before their time. Maybe I also became emotional because I saw how upset Charlie became and I was aware that Charlie had lived to be an old man whereas Tos had experienced a shocking death when he was a mere 16.
    Albert Gordon Pettet was known as Gordon Pettet. I will address him as Albert Gordon as he is referred to as Albert in most of the newspaper reports.
   Charlie didn't tell anyone else in the family about what happened, which was probably because he was aware that he was by nature an emotional bloke and that he could have broken down while telling the story. I suppose when he told me about it he made the mistake of thinking his state-of-mind at that moment was such that he could retain his composure.
    Before I first decided to publish the yarn I made an attempt to find out something about what occurred, other than what Charlie told me, by way of official records, but I had no success. This was because it had been so long since I had heard the story from Charlie I could not remember the names of the victims or the perpetrator and I had nothing to go on. 
    Nevertheless, I published the yarn, taking the risk that I hadn't dreamt it all up, but when doing so I had to rely entirely on my memory of what Charlie had told me way back in 1970. It turned out however, I should have looked harder, because after publishing the yarn I came across an organisation called the "Beecroft and Cheltenham History Group." And after making contact with them I found they were well aware of the event and told me the details, including the names of those involved. They were also kind enough to send me links to newspaper articles of 1906 which reported what occurred in detail. (Thanks Rod). And it was after reading the said articles I was to discover I had left out some important facts and got other important facts completely wrong. 
    Although having said that, there are certain things Charlie told me which I remember very clearly and which left a deep impression on me, and those things were not reported in detail at the time in the mainstream newspapers. I refer to how close the murderer came to being lynched by a mob. 
   In regard to sources I am using for the finer details of this yarn, other than my granddad I am using an excellent compilation of what took place by the Beecroft and Cheltenham Historic Group, as well as various newspaper reports,  mainly a report from a 1906 edition of “The Cumberland Argus Fruit Grower’s Advocate.” The links are:
http://www.bchg.org.au/index.php/en/environment/public-utilities/police
   I am therefore rewriting the yarn mainly to correct mistakes and to add details I omitted in the previously published version. I am also however, motivated to rewrite it because I recently happened upon a tragic story regarding an event which occurred, ironically, in Stevens Street, Pennant Hills, Sydney, in 2008. This is the very same street in which poor Tos and little Albert Gordon were murdered in 1906.
    The more recent tragic event I refer to which occurred in 2008 involved a father murdering his 13 year old daughter then suiciding. It was covered by the journalist, Paul Bibby, of the Sydney Morning Herald in the first link and Larissa Cummings of the Daily Telegraph in the second link: 
    I wonder if the good residents of Stevens Street, Pennant Hills, are aware of their street's gruesome past.

   Although not indicated in writing, the shaded street above with the arrow on it is Stevens Street, Pennant Hills, Sydney. Thornleigh Railway Station, where the 1906 murderer began his quest to kill, is shown by way of a blue square next to the word "Thornleigh." Stevens Street is divided into two parts by the railway line. The events of which I write occurred on the greater part of Stevens Street.
    To begin the yarn, my grandad, the late Charlie Wheeler the 3rd, who was born in 1889, grew up on one and a quarter acres in the semi bush on Copeland Road, (the side which is east of the railway line), Beecroft, Sydney. Beecroft adjoins Pennant Hills. The area at the time was semi-rural, containing many orchards and market gardens. It was nothing like it is today.
    His land had a steep drop down to a creek where the local kids swam. They lived in a hut with a bark roof, and from what I gathered young Charlie did not receive enough nourishing tucker during his childhood. Their house had no tanks, and no electricity of course, and they had to carry their water by bucket from the creek. (The boys built their dad a more substantial house in later years).
    His dad, my great granddad, Charlie Wheeler the 2nd, was a floor tiler by trade, and I was told he was lazy and irresponsible, although I stress that is hearsay, and as he is not alive he is unable to defend himself against such an accusation. I was told however, he would usually walk past his employer in the mornings, and the employer would sometimes accost him in the street, asking him if he wanted any contract work. If he was not accosted he would apparently continue his walk and spend the day at the public library escaping into books and writing poetry. He apparently had some poems published in the “The Bulletin” and he called himself “The Bard of the Bourn,” “The Bourn” being the name of his Beecroft hut in Copeland Road. In recent times I have found several of his published poems in the National Library. 
  One of Charlie Wheeler the 2nd's poems I have in my possession is entitled "The Death of Dick." It was about how he had to euthanise his beloved dog, Dick. Charlie Wheeler the 3rd told us they got Dick as a result of him following Williamson, the bread carter, to their door in Copeland Road, Beecroft. The handwritten copy was difficult to read, so I may have got a few words wrong.
The Death of Dick
With deep regret a friendly hand destroys,
The vital spark that animates poor Dick,
Our good old dog, grown aged, weary, troublesome and sick,
No more shall Dick our near approach be known,
No more respond to whistle or to call.
His honest bark is hushed and neath a stone,
He lies beneath our boundary wall.
   Charlie Wheeler the 2nd's wife, Alice, left him after their five kids grew up. She gave birth to six kids but one died of scarlet fever.
    The photo above is of Charlie Wheeler the 2nd, my great granddad, at his house, "The Bourn," in Copeland Road, Beecroft, in 1924.
   When my granddad, Charlie the 3rd, left school, probably involuntarily, after assisting his very sick brother, George, he began at the age of 14 working in the grocery section of the general store owned by Sam Higgins, for 7 shillings and sixpence per week. The store was in Beecroft Road. He was required to pack groceries and other matter and deliver it around the Beecroft area by way of horse and cart.
  It must have been a very different world when Charlie began work in or around 1903. He told me he saw his first motorcar in 1905 as a 15 or 16 year old. It was owned by a Dr Lidwell, who was the doctor who was to first examine the bodies of Tos Aiken and Albert Gordon Pettet after their untimely deaths. Charlie stayed with Higgins until he was 17.
   The photo above is of my granddad, Charlie Wheeler the 3rd aged around 18. The photo was taken around 1907.
     As I have previously stated, Charlie had a mate of a similar age named Horace Aiken, who was known as “Tos,” who he led me to believe had some black ancestry. I had presumed he was Aboriginal when I last told this yarn, but I have since found out he was of partial indigenous African descent. I discovered that Tos's great grandfather, John Aiken, was born in Jamaica and came out here in 1796. He was a carpenter and a free settler. John Aiken's father in law, who was Tos's great, great grandfather, was named John Randall, AKA as “Black Randall.” He was a convict who was sent from England, although he was born in the USA and was the son of slaves. 
     John Aiken, Tos's great granddad, was granted 30 acre in "Field of Mars," County of Cumberland," by Governor Darling in 1831. The Aiken family settled in that area. Where the grant was is now bounded by Taylor Street on the west, Aiken Road on the south and across Hill Road to the west of the William Bellamy grant. Aiken Road, Pennant Hills is of course named after the Aiken family. 
    John Aiken's wife, Frances, shot through on him, and in the Sydney Gazette, in 1824, John placed the following notice:  
      "Where as my wife, Frances Aiken, had absconded from her home without any cause or provocation, I do hereby caution all persons from harbouring, or giving credit to the said Frances Aiken on my account, as I will not be responsible for debts contracted by her." 
John Aiken 26th Apr 1824'.  
   From what I have read some of John Aiken's descendants believe that one of John Randall’s wives, known only as Kitty, of whom Horace is allegedly a direct descendant through Kitty's alleged daughter, Frances, may have been Aboriginal. Others deny this and say Frances's mum was one of his other wives, and a Caucasoid.
      Tos, like young Charlie Wheeler, also drove a horse and cart for a grocer and delivered fruit and veggies. Tos worked for a grocer who serviced mainly West Pennant Hills, a Mr Turner, whose shop was in Pennant Hills. I suppose Tos and Charlie became mates because they were both grocer's boys.
    Tos Aiken’s dad, William Joseph Aiken, AKA "Black Billy," was a Pennant Hills orchardist whose family lived in a brick house opposite "Eaton's Hampden Hotel," which was on the corner of Pennant Hills Road and Railway Street, Pennant Hills. It is now called the "Pennant Hills Inn" and can be seen as it is today in the coloured photo below. The Aiken property was called "Hillside."



   The above black and white photo of Eaton's Hampden Hotel, Pennant Hills, taken in 1900, was opposite the Aiken family home and orchard. The hotel later became the Pennant Hills Inn, which is shown in colour directly above as it is today. As you can see, it has been drastically modified (vandalised) and it is surrounded by heavy traffic and housing. What a pity. Black Billy would roll in his grave if he knew. I don't know if the Aiken family house still stands. A reader may be able to tell me, 
    Living in Hunters Hill at the time was a 35 year old Chinese market gardener named Charlie Tye (aka John Tye). He had supposedly lived in the general area for around 20 years,  although the Goulburn Herald on the 3/9/1906 says he came from the Braidwood area, which would be where he first lived after arriving in the colony. See the link below.
   http://leathemhistorys.blogspot.com.au/2014/07/horace-atkin-15-and-gordon-pettit-11.html  
  If Tye lived in the Braidwood area he probably lived in Majors Creek or Mongarlowe, which were gold mining areas until the early part of the 20'th century. I don't know if he worked as a miner or market gardener or both. He would probably have been a  teenager at the time. There were large numbers of Chinese on the Braidwood goldfields in those days. A cobber of mine who owns an ex pub/brothel in Mongarlowe called "The Rising Sun," which operated as such until the early 20'th century, found a Chinese coin in its yard. According to the Braidwood and District Historical Society, on the following link, Mongarlowe had Chinese market gardens, which would have supplied the miners with fresh tucker. Squizzy Taylor's sisters sold themselves from "The Rising Sun" and elsewhere in Mongarlowe, and Squizzy called in to see them on one occasion. Being a responsible, sensitive and moral sort of bloke, he was probably concerned about their welfare and his family's reputation.
  The above photo shows my cobbers, left to right, Steve Kirby, Dave Yarra and Graeme Rossiter, outside the kitchen of "The Rising Sun," Mongarlowe. Graeme is the owner. The photo below, left to right, is Dave Yarra, me and Steve Kirby on its front verandah. Opposite The Rising Sun was a Chinese temple, or Joss House. Tye would have almost certainly walked within or around "The Rising Sun" when he lived in the general area. The link below tells of an opium pipe that was originally found on the banks of the Mongarlowe River. Maybe Tye left it there after having visited "The Rising Sun."The second link shows a SMH report on 27/1/1874 of the possible suicide of a Mongarlowe Chinaman named Ah Him who died from an opium overdose.
http://www.pittwateronlinenews.com/silver-opium-pipe-collectors-corner.php
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/1448594?zoomLevel=1   
 Tye was well-known around Beecroft and Pennant Hills. Charlie knew him, as did Tos Aiken. In such relatively sparsely populated semi-rural communities everyone usually knows everyone.
    According to Charlie, my granddad, Tye was a quiet sort of bloke who had caused no problems, but one day on the 15/8/1906 he travelled to Thornleigh Railway Station after having visited a mate, and for some reason decided to run amok with a tomahawk. 

Thornleigh Railway Station 1904   
   He tried to begin his killing spree at about 5pm by attempting to murder with his tomahawk a young girl named Leta Tomson, aged 18. Leta escaped injury by running into the ticket office and passing through another door.
     Do any readers know what sort of life Leta lived after her narrow escape?
    He then tried to murder a 21 year old bloke named John Edward Hockley, who was employed as a slaughterman for a Mr Pollard. Johnny was with about a dozen other blokes who were standing at the station. He stated in the coronial inquest, as reported in the Argus, the following:
  "About 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon I was on the Thornleigh station. I was standing with my back towards the Chinaman (who is now in Court), and received a blow on the back of the head. I ran out a little bit, and turned round, and then received another blow between the shoulders. Then I received another one on the side of the face. The Chinaman in court struck the blows. I saw him raise the tomahawk to strike the second blow. I ran to Calvert's hotel for assistance."
   I wonder how Johnny, as a slaughterman, felt after being on the other end of the blade. 
   After Johnny ran to Calvert's hotel to seek assistance the station master got his postboy, Arthur Welsh, to get Constable McDonald from Beecroft. The assistance of Constable Allen from Hornsby was also sought. 
    Apparently the crowd tried to subdue Tye at the station, but he made a run for it, and according to the Beecroft Cheltenham History Group he crossed the line still carrying his tomahawk, scaled the bank and then disappeared in the vicinity of St Joachim, (which is now the St George Maronite Catholic Church). Then, in the gully at the bottom of Stevens Street, Pennant Hills, he came upon 9 year old Albert Gordon Pettet.  At that time Stevens Street was mainly bush.      
   You can see on the map above that Stevens Street is divided into two parts, with it being separated by the railway line. If Tye crossed the railway line it could mean that he crossed onto either side, depending on what side of Thornleigh Station he was on when he set upon Johnny Hockley. We can however, conclude that he crossed into the greater part of Stevens Street to perform his murders, as it was reported that after he crossed the line he went towards St Joachim, which is now the St George Maronite Catholic Church and is on Yarrara Road, Thornleigh.
     Albert Gordon Pettet was described as a bright little lad. He was returning from Blitchford's with an empty billy can in his hand after having delivered them milk upon his dad's direction. Albert Gordon was the ninth son of Thomas Crick Pettet, a dairyman of "The Esplanade," Pennant Hills.
   Tye then set upon poor little Albert Gordon with his tomahawk. The Clarence and Richmond Examiner described the attack in part in the following way:
   "The lad was helpless before the man, who fell upon him and madly hacked him about the head. The attack was a most savage one, for when discovered by those who followed Tye, the lad was almost unrecognisable."
   Thomas Pollard, a witness, later described how he, along with others, discovered the remains of poor little Albert Gordon's body, "alongside of whose billy can lay, as it had dropped from his nerveless grasp."
    After that Tye approached Tos Aiken, who, after having delivered groceries to the Hines family in Stevens Street, had parked his cart on the road outside the Hines house. 
     What happened next was witnessed by Mrs Hines and her 5 daughters, who described how Tye walked up quickly towards Tos with his hand behind his back, which was obviously holding the tomahawk. He went straight up to Tos and said something to him which was inaudible. When Tos stooped down Tye struck him a blow to the back of his head. 
    When Tos fell to the ground Mrs Hines called out "Run Tos; run for your life Tos!" Tos scrambled up and tried to get under a fence dividing the road from William Thompson's place opposite, but Tye came upon him and chopped him with the tomahawk "as though he were chopping wood.
   After killing Tos, Tye turned around and came at the Hines women with his tomahawk dripping with blood. Mrs Hines and her daughters rushed into their dining room, bolting the door behind them, which Tye tried unsuccessfully to break into. The mother and two of her daughters escaped into the garden mistakenly leaving her other daughters in the house. A neighbour, Jim Shields, who was probably related to Tos on their mother's sides, and who, according to the Goulburn Herald (3/9/1906) had a daughter being married on that day, then broke in and rescued the smallest girl. 
   Jim Shields' mother was a Bellamy, as was Tos's. The Belamys were also early landholders in the area. Bellamy Street runs off Stevens Street. Charlie Wheeler the 3rd recounted a yarn involving his cobber, Joe Bellamy, which was later copied and published by the Beecroft and Cheltenham History Group on the following link:
 http://www.bchg.org.au/index.php/en/people/individuals/s-z/142-wheeler-family
   By then the news had spread and more people were approaching the house, which resulted in Tye barricading himself inside the main bedroom. 
   Constables Allen and McDonald then arrived on the scene and according to the Argus some forty or more people had assembled, and if ever a man was near being lynched, that Chinaman was.” 
    The crowd started to throw stones through the bedroom window, with at least one striking Tye, who had lit a fire in the room with the bedding. The people however, threw in water and doused it. 
   Charles Aiken, a relative of the now deceased Tos Aiken, battered the bedroom door open with a piece of wood, and constables McDonald and Allen then overpowered and handcuffed Tye. It was not however, without a struggle, which left McDonald with an injury. Tye was then taken to Pennant Hills Police Station and at 6.42 pm he was put on the train from Hornsby to the police cells at Ryde. 
     
   Although the Argus does state that the 40 or so people who were present at Tye's capture came close to lynching him, it seems to be the only local paper that included that detail, and it did not elaborate on the actions of the crowd. The Adelaide Advertiser on the 17/8/1906 however, went as far as to report that the crowd were yelling out "Lynch him!" They of course would not have had a reporter in Sydney and would have had to rely on what their Sydney colleagues told them. 
    
   I have recently had contact with Pat Dewey, who I believe to be the president of the Hornsby Shire Historical Society, and I was told the Hines house, where Tye was captured, was located at 18 Stevens Street, which, according to google maps, is where the large brick house with the red car out the front in the above photo now stands. Unfortunately the original house was demolished about 20 years ago, which is a great shame. If it was the Hines house, why wasn't it heritage listed?
   Tos Aiken's murder is described as having taken place while he was trying to get under a fence which divides the road from William Thompson's place, which was opposite the Hines house. As it is unlikely the Thompson's front boundary was changed when the area was subdivided, the fence Tos was trying to get under when he was being murdered probably ran where the hedge on the left of the above photo now grows, should the murder have taken place in that area. If so it means Tos was murdered somewhere along that hedge-line. I don't know if the house opposite 18 Stevens Street is the original Thompson house, but if it is it should be heritage listed. Jim Shields, who came to the Hines women's rescue and who had a daughter being married that day, is described as a neighbour. I don't know what side of the Hines' house he lived or if his house still stands. Do any readers? 
    The Argus report, as shown further down, states in part that there was a distance of about 200 yards (about 183 metres) between the bodies of Tos Aiken and Albert Gordon Pettet. If the Hines house was at number 18 Stevens Street and the distance between the bodies was recorded accurately, and if, as reported, Albert Gordon was murdered in a gully at the bottom of Stevens Street, I estimate that his murder took place in a gully on the same side of Stevens Street as the Hines house within close proximity to the turnoff into Fulbourne Avenue. I don't know if Fulbourne Avenue existed at the time. Can any readers assist in regard to a precise location of poor Albert Gordon's murder?
   Maybe the Sydney media at the time engaged in self-censorship. I say this because I can recall quite clearly my granddad, Charlie, who had mates who were in the mob, telling me the mob had in its possession a rope which was strung around a suitable tree, and they were ready to "give him (Tye) an artichoke," a common expression of the time, which is the title I gave to my first attempt at this yarn.
     He also told me that the coppers found it more difficult to subdue the mob after Tye was captured than it had been to capture Tye. It was apparently not just a case of them giving the mob a verbal command to stay back. And as Albert Gordon and Tos's relatives would have been in the mob I can see why they would have behaved in the way my granddad told me. I'm actually surprised the coppers were able to walk away with Tye.
   
   The above photo is of Charlie Tye aka John Tye after "the derbies had been slipped upon his wrists."   
   In retrospect I can see why the papers might have engaged in self-censorship. If they had have given a detailed description of the crowd's behaviour, such as how they strung a rope around a tree branch, it may have forced the authorities to prosecute people for behaviour which most of the locals would have thought was entirely understandable. And if they did prosecute as a result of what was reported in the papers it could have meant a boycott of the papers by readers and advertisers.
     To understand what happened after the arrest and the general mood of the community I will quote various parts of the Argus report, as follows:
   "The prisoner gave no trouble after the derbies had been slipped upon his wrists, and the journey from Pennant Hills to the Ryde lockup was entirely without incident. 
   Left behind at the Pennant Hills railway station was Constable McDonald, who had still numerous duties to perform, as a preliminary to the inquests that would necessarily have to be held next day. When seen there by 'The Argus' representative, his right hand was covered with blood. He was just as he had come out of the fray, and made light of the fact that a piece had been taken clean out of his hand at the joint of the little finger by the keen edge of the tomahawk, with which the Chinaman had committed the murders, and with which he had made a desperate attempt on the constable's own life. 
   With the warm blood still trickling from his hand, McDonald continued his duties, and in company with 'The Argus,' visited the homes of the stricken families, viewing the bodies of the murdered boys, also the scenes of the ghastly crimes, and making other calls which were necessary to piece together the narrative of that shocking afternoon's work."
 Another part of the Argus report states:
  The dead bodies of 'Tos' Aiken and Albert Gordon Pettet were taken to their respective homes, where they were examined by Dr. Liddell, of Beecroft, who gave it as his opinion that death must have been instantaneous in each case. A distance of about 200 yards separated the corpses when found. Aiken was lying on his face, and had no less than seven wounds, four on the back of the head, each one of which had penetrated through the skull into the brain, causing brain matter to exude, a gash on each shoulder, the keen blade having penetrated his clothing and sunk deep into the flesh, and another on the leg. Pettet had a gash extending from the lobe of the right ear to the cheek bone, the whole width of the tomahawk blade, and a considerable depth, while the skull had been severed right across.
   The scene at both homes was heartrending, and both families have the sympathy of the entire district. This is the first occasion upon which the Ryde lockup has been used for the confinement of a murderer. The prisoner slept for a while after being lodged there. 
   He conveyed to the police that it would be better for him to be dead, and several times he asked them to shoot him. He also said he knew 'Tos' Aiken well, that he was a good fellow, and that he was sorry, but it couldn't be helped'. In explanation as to why he had killed him, he said: 'Something, went wrong here,' indicating his forehead. Incessantly he would laugh merrily ; then he would ask to be shot by the police. He also said he had knocked his head on the cement floor, and conveyed the impression that he might possibly attempt self-destruction by knocking his own brains out during the night. Asked if he had had a good sleep, he said it would be better for him to sleep under the ground (meaning the grave). 
   He gives the impression that he is now feigning madness. When seen by an 'Argus' representative in the cell about 11.30 p.m., he was lying on his back, still handcuffed, with the blankets tucked under his feet, as though he knew how to make himself comfortable.
The Argus reported the funerals, in part, as follows:
     The Coroner gave orders for the burial of the victims of the Pennant Hills tragedy on Thursday afternoon, and the interments took place yesterday (Friday). The most profound sympathy is felt and manifested for the bereaved families, and the funeral cortege was the largest ever seen in the district.  An immense number of beautiful floral tributes and expressions of sympathy were sent in from all parts of the district.
   Albert Pettet was interred at the Wesleyan cemetery, Pennant Hills, and Aiken at the Church of England burial ground, Carlingford. The arrangements in both cases were in the hands of Messrs. W. Metcalfe and Co. The victims were both sons of well known residents, the first being Albert Gordon Pettet, aged 9 years, and ninth son of Mr. Thomas Crick Pettet, dairy man, of The Esplanade, Pennant Hills.    
   The second victim was Horace Henry Aiken, aged 16, son of Mr. William Aiken, orchardist, of Pennant Hills, whose fine brick residence almost opposite Eaton's Hampden Hotel, has, for many years, been a familiar land mark. Mr. Pettet, who has a family of 12, has been a resident of the place for upwards of 20 years, and Mr. Aiken is also a very old resident, both families being widely known. 
   The murderer is also known in the district, having some years back been employed as a market gardener by Mr Hughes, of Dundas, in which capacity he was, known to many as a hawker of vegetables.
End of report
  Headstones of Horace Aiken and Albert Gordon Pettet.
    Although buried in different cemeteries it appears the boys had a double funeral service.
Inscription for Horace Henry Aiken (known as Tos Aiken). I cannot read all that is inscribed on his headstone, but other than identifying him it states that he died on the 15'th of August 1906. He shares his grave with other members of his family, Charlotte and Herbert.
Cemetery:Carlingford Anglican  NSW
Inscription Id:7879634
Surname:Aiken
Given Names:Horace Henry 
Birth Date:Jul?1890
Death Date:15 Aug 1906
Age:16
Gender:M
Father's Name:William
Mother's Name:Hannah
Other People:Ada Elizabeth Aiken
Charlotte Aiken
Herbert Aiken
Remarks:son/William & Hannah
Nearby graves:Previous  Next  (may be related)Other Sources
Photographed and transcribed by: Brookhouse, Michael


Inscription for Albert Gordon Pettet - 
     As previously explained, little Albert Gordon Pettet was called Gordon Pettet. Inscribed on his headstone is, "Dear Gordon, the beloved child of Thomas and Mary Ann Pettet who was called away." It also says that he died on the 15'th of August 1906. Two of Albert's brothers were killed in WW1 and he had a sister who died in infancy.
Cemetery:Cherrybrook Uniting Church  NSW
Inscription Id:7065403
Surname:Pettet
Given Names:Gordon
Birth Date:1897?
Death Date:15 Aug 1906
Age:9
Gender:M
Portion:UC
Father's Name:Thomas
Mother's Name:Mary Ann
Remarks:son/Thomas & Mary Ann
Nearby graves:Previous  Next  (may be related)Other Sources
Photographed and transcribed by: Brookhouse, Michael
   If you click on the link below it will take you to a published copy of a letter kept in the Hornsby Library Historical Collections which was sent to the mothers of the murdered boys. It was written by a Mr Yee Sing. He expresses, on behalf of the Sydney branch of the "Chinese Empire Reform Association" and the "Chinese Merchant's Association" his abhorrence at the murders and his regret that one of their countrymen was responsible for causing such sorrow. The letters offer the mothers financial assistance. http://cdm15997.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15997coll3/id/36/rec/40
   According to the Goulburn Herald, 3/9/1906, both mothers were handed substantial cheques by the latter societies. Yee Sing (or Hing) also thanked Jim Shields for assistance. (Nomchong and Co from Braidwood were a part of the group. The Nomchongs are still in the Braidwood area).
   If you visit Nancy Leathem's excellent blog entitled "Nancy Leathem's trees and branches," on the link below, more details of the coronial inquest are quoted from the "Evening News Sydney." From what I understand Nancy may be related to both the Aikens and the Pettet's.
http://leathemhistorys.blogspot.com.au/2014/07/horace-atkin-15-and-gordon-pettit-11.html
  According to the "Beecroft and Cheltenham History Group" Tye was found unfit to face criminal charges due to a lack of mental capacity and was committed to Parramatta Lunatic Asylum where he remained until at least 1919. I have read elsewhere that he believed he had to kill three people to get to Heaven.
   I had previously presumed he would have "danced on nothing," another expression that was used at the time for hanging, but that did not happen. I wonder if he died inside the asylum.      
    Tye was unusual in that Chinamen at that time in Australia had a reputation of being law-abiding and honest. And from my observations I believe that other than the small numbers of Triad Chinese who are living here today most still are. But many people in earlier times who came to Australia without a ball and chain did not have a history of being law-abiding in their countries of origin, and I would not be surprised if Tye had a history of losing control in his home country and came to Australia to escape the consequences of his actions. Who knows?
    I also wonder what it would have been like to live in the Beecroft/Pennant Hills/Thornleigh area in 1906. One report describes the murders as taking place 19 miles from Sydney, meaning the area must have been so rural and so far from the centre of Sydney it was not really considered a part of Sydney. And although those who lived in that area in that era lived hard lives, their lives would have been far less hectic than those who live there today. 
    Last time I travelled through Beecroft and Pennant Hills I did not enjoy gazing at a world of tar, cement, too many humans, too many buildings built too close to each other, too much noise and too many cars travelling far too quickly. 
    But, next time I travel through Pennant Hills, Thornleigh or Beecroft I will probably find myself visualising a peaceful semi-rural scene with young Charlie Wheeler and young Tos Aiken driving their horses and carts laden with fruit and veggies. And, with their youthful exuberance, they will wave and call out to each other as they must have many  times many years ago.
  I may  also visualise an innocent, trusting and hardworking little 9 year old boy named Albert Gordon Pettet, carrying a billy can full of milk through the fields. 
UPDATE 31/5/16.
   I received an email yesterday from a bloke named Bob Piper. Bob is a first class military and aviation historian and professional researcher based in Canberra, (MARS). His contact details can be obtained through the following Australian War Memorial link. 
https://www.awm.gov.au/research/infosheets/research_agents/
   When I last had contact with Bob he solved for me the mystery of an RAAF plane crash on Mt Ainslie, Canberra, that occurred during WW2. I had asked for assistance on the matter from the Canberra Times, who did a story on it, because I could find nothing that was written about it. All I had was what my deceased maternal uncle had told me. I did however, have in my possession the plane's engine plate, as my uncle had given it to me. He had taken it as a souvenir when, as a boy, he and his mates had gone to the crash site.
    The crash was kept quiet during the war, and subsequently forgotten. Whenever I told anyone about it I was disbelieved. Bob however, after having read the Canberra Times article, managed, after a lot of work, to unearth the details of the crash, and I wrote it all up on the following link on this blog.  http://acanberraboy.blogspot.com.au/2013_03_01_archive.html
   But that's not all!! By pure coincidence Bob told me he was in Stevens Street, Pennant Hills, yesterday, talking to a lady named Pat Dewey, who is the president of the Hornsby Shire Historical Society. Bob was discussing with her the Charlie Tye murders, as Bob had grown up in Thornleigh and was fully aware of them. Bob's dad had actually written about them in the "Thornleigh Progress Association" newsletter during the 1950's. 
   Although it is unlikely my grandad and Bob's dad, being of different generations, knew each other, the chances of them having had friends in common would be virtually 100%. The irony of it all was that Bob told me that when he was in his teens and he tried to tell girls about what occurred in Stevens Street he was not believed, as was the case for me when I tried to tell people about the plane crash on Mt Ainslie. I however, did not attempt to tell girls about the Mt Ainslie crash or the murders in Stevens Street as they thought I was weird enough as it was.   
    Anyway, Bob put me into contact with Pat, and after making contact with her I now believe the Hines house, in which Tye was captured and which was located directly opposite to where Tos was murdered, was at 18 Stevens Street. That information is of great historical significance if correct, and I have every confidence that it is, because it pinpoints almost exactly where Tos was murdered. And from that information we have a good estimation of where Albert Gordon was murdered based on other recorded information.Thanks for the info Pat,and thanks for contacting me Bob.
  If you are connected to this incident as a relative of persons I have mentioned or in any other way and you believe I have got any of the facts surrounding the event wrong, or if you have any further relevant information or photos, please email me. My email address can be obtained by hitting the contact button above. You can also leave a comment below if you wish.
DAVE WHEELER
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