On this day February 14: Bartholomew Gough & Thomas Wright

bartholomew gough thomas wright railway house

Late on the night of February 14 1882, Bartholomew Gough snuck Thomas Wright into a back room at the Railway Boarding House opposite the St Nicholas church at Penrith for a quick f_ck. However, following an unfortunate incident of coitus interruptus, they ended up facing a criminal court.

Throughout history, in times and places that criminalised their orientation or identity, LGBTIQ+ people faced persecution from authorities. But they also risked exposure by fellow citizens. Happily, history does record innumerable instances of people turning a blind eye to other people’s then criminal sexuality. However, every society includes arseholes who can’t wait to cause other people pain. Albert Upton was one of those people.

Upton kept the Railway Boarding House in the town of Penrith, about 30 miles west of Sydney. Around 11 pm on February 14, he spoke with Bartholomew Gough, a previous tenant, near his side gate. Bartholomew then went through the backyard and into a small room at the back of the house. Upton’s cook, Cranky Joe, was on one of two single beds. Bart took the other. Tom Wright snuck in and joined him soon after.

But a little while later, Albert Upton crept into the room.

Within an inch or so of Wright’s fundament

“I took a lighted candle in with me, and thus saw both prisoners lying on their left sides, Wright nearer the wall and Gough outside. Wright’s trousers were lowered, exposing his behind, which was turned towards Gough. He was awake. Gough was also lying in the bed, his trousers unbuttoned, and his person (cock) in his hand, and within an inch or so of Wright’s fundament (arsehole) shaking it about.”

Bartholomew Gough and Thomas Wright no doubt got the fright of their lives, caught in an act which could cost them years in prison. Upton berated them, doing his best impression of the fine, upstanding citizen he undoubtedly was not.

“This is a fine game you are carrying on.”

“Let it pass this time,” pleaded Bart.

Upton’s stepson saw him sneak to the room and followed. 12-year-old John Nelan caught sight of the men at the same time as his step-father.

“Wright had his trousers unbuttoned and hanging about halfway down. I could not see his bottom as I never looked. Gough had his trousers unbuttoned but I did not see his person.”

Upton raced to the nearby police station and returned with Sergeant Frederick Fowler. Gough and Wright were still there, sitting on the bed. Noticing Thomas Wright’s still unbuttoned trousers, Fowler immediately arrested both men for sodomy.

Medical examinations

Back at the station, Fowler sent for Dr Brady, the Government Medical Officer. A conviction for sodomy required evidence of penetration. Minus convincing eyewitness testimony, police often relied on medical ‘evidence’. Although the examining doctors swore an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, the scientific basis of their evidence is questionable. And a doctor might endanger future income from such examinations if his evidence cost the police a conviction.

In Barcaldine in 1922, police charged a man with the sexual assault of a young girl despite a lack of substantive evidence. Their case collapsed when the highly experienced and much respected Dr James Cook concluded from his examination that the girl had never had sex. Them, a few months later, when the cops charged two men with sodomy, they called on a younger, less-experienced doctor to conduct the examinations. His evidence secured a conviction.

The fundament was very relaxed

Dr Brady’s testimony provided compelling evidence that sodomy had occurred.

“I first examined [Thomas Wright’s] front privates and found the penis somewhat limp and moist, the moisture representing semen. On putting back the foreskin, I found all underneath very wet — the lower part of the abdomen and the hair over the pubes very wet. The tail of his shirt was wet with sticky fluid, emitting the well-known odour of human semen.”

Brady tore off the damp section to keep as evidence.

“I then found the cheeks of the anus smeared with fluid resembling semen. The fundament was in a more relaxed state than natural, and more red than natural, also moist. I cannot state from my examination that penetration had taken place, but the fundament was very relaxed and in a flabby state. This relaxed state was very likely to have taken place from some foreign substance being brought against it, such as an erect penis…

“I cannot tell what was the wet substance on his shirt, only from the odour. I afterwards examined Gough. On examining his penis, I found the glans a little more red than usual, and a little moisture under the foreskin. I found no trace of Semen or discharge on his shirt. His fundament was in a normal state.”

To sum up Brady’s conclusion: Bart was the top. He f_cked Tom and then pulled out and came all over his arse, probably just as Upton interrupted the fun. Hence Upton’s description of Bart shaking it all about. Tom also found the experience pleasurable, the cum under his foreskin and on his shirt indicating he too orgasmed.

At Bart and Tom’s trial at the Central Criminal Courts, it seemed a conviction was assured.

A shilling

But Bartholomew Gough and Thomas Wright lucked out in the lawyer assigned to them by the judge. Mr Nash was curious about Albert Upton’s evidence.

Bart insisted he paid Upton 10 shillings to stay at Railway House on February 14. He was not broke. Fowler deposed to finding a pound in his pockets. But Upton’s only excuse for barging into the room was that Gough and Wright had not paid to be there. When Nash recalled him, Upton equivocated.

“Gough may have given me a shilling – that evening or in the daytime – but not then – I will not swear whether he did or not – I was so excited at seeing them commit this offence that I cannot recollect – he may have given me a shilling.”

Nash addressed the court.

“Upton, who appears excitable, red in the face and generally unstable in manner, says that he was sober… As to his general habits of sobriety, [he] refers me to Sergeant Fowler who says he is generally a steady man, but sometimes a very unsteady one.”

Sergeant Fowler lied, excuse the expression, like a pig in shit.

Railway House

Railway House was originally the Railway Inn until Albert Upton lost his liquor licence. He came by the pub through marriage. Mary Upton inherited the Railway Inn on the death of her first husband, young John Nelan’s dad. NSW did not legislate property laws for women until the 1890s so when she married Albert Upton, her possessions became his.

In 1879, police requested that authorities deny Upton a liquor licence.

“The class of individuals frequenting the house were of the lowest caste — prostitutes and vagrants, suspected and convicted thieves.

“[Upton] is a reputed drunkard; convicted of gaming with dice, being drunk and disorderly, and for assault.”

“There is always an offensive smell from the house on passing the premises.”

The police alleged Upton constantly ripped off his patrons and left those who passed out from drinking lying in the bar until he had a chance to rob them.

And the police officer who made these accusations — Sergeant Frederick Fowler.

Upton had also been arrested for bashing both his wife and sister-in-law. A few months after the Bartholomew/Wright case, Upton was again charged with assault.

Beat him over the naked body

“Albert J. Upton, charged with committing an aggravated assault on his step-son, John Nelan (12), by cruelly beating him over the naked body, with the buckle end of a strap, has been arrested by Sergeant Fowler.”

He served 4 months in jail for that.

But even before that arrest, Sergeant Frederick Fowler knew exactly what sort of person Albert Upton was. However, his eagerness to obtain a conviction for sodomy meant he didn’t care. This was the world our forebears lived in — whatever it took to bring them down.

However, Mt Nash did his job well.

The jury retired just long enough to enjoy their complimentary cup of tea and returned with a verdict of Not Guilty.

It is nice when our mob get an occasional win.

Read more: February 13 <— On this day —> February 15

To read the transcript of this and other historic NSW trials, check out Peter de Waal’s Unfit for Publication.

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