Snippets of Queensland Queer History

queer queensland

Snippets of Queensland Queer History focussing on men and boys who came into contact with the Queensland judicial system.

Chroniclers of human existence generally need to indulge people of power. So biography and narrative account often serve as promotional hype for prevailing agendas and majority sentiment. People outside the mainstream wander onstage for brief cameos and history documents only scattered glimpses of their lives — snippets.

Queer Queensland: a youthful blackmailer

Back in the day, Australian newspapers routinely published the names of victims of sexual assault — including children — and of people found not guilty of sexual crimes.

In 1902, the Brisbane Truth deliberately chose not to name a man accused of sodomy. That was quite remarkable at the time.

“A man, who described himself as of Irish birth, but a Jew, was charged with an unnatural offence with one Alexander M’Kay. John Alexander M’Kay, a youth of 19 years, said that he had known the accused for a few years. In May 1900, M’Kay went to the accused’s place, and while there, the prisoner committed a certain offence. He had visited the accused several times since. Nothing bad occurred until January 18 of this year. On that occasion, the witness was pretty drunk. Accused told him to go and lie down. He did so and went to sleep. On waking up, he found his clothes disarranged.”

Young Mr M’Kay testified that he consented to sex the first time but not the second. (The silly boy never comprehended until the court hearing that consenting to male-on-male sex was a crime.) The defendant strenuously denied the accusation. “It is an infernal lie and a case of blackmail!”

Despite the prosecution witness admitting to consensual male-on-male sex, the magistrate dismissed the case without hearing from the defence. The expensive lawyers hired by the accused never needed to say a word. Unusually, no other local paper reported on the proceeding, and even the normally brazen Truth only hinted at the identity of the accused. It appears likely he was a citizen of some influence.

Queer queensland
John Alexander M’Kay

Queer Queensland: Leapfrog in a Toowong Paddock

About midday on a Saturday afternoon in 1906, Constable Martin noticed two naked lads in a paddock at Toowong. According to Martin, 15-year-old Fred Allen and 14-year-old Charles Chadwick were “in a certain position.” Martin charged the lads with “one of those horrible offences against Nature, which, of late, have unfortunately been only too frequent.”

Papers described the boys as “respectable-looking and well-dressed.”

It seems they came from well-off families.

“Both defendants were remanded for a week, bail being allowed in £40, and a surety of £40 in each case. This was immediately forthcoming.”

£80 was a fortune at a time when most Australian families survived on under £200 a year.

By the time Fred and Charlie returned to court, the charge was downgraded from sodomy to indecent exposure. They escaped with a £2 fine each in default 30 days in the slammer. It seems, during their week on remand, someone arranged a deal.

queer queensland
Fred Allen and Charles Chadwick

Queer Queensland: a very queer doctor

William Francis Green and James Thomas Fletcher, both 20, did not get off so lightly two years later.

Constable Odewahn interrupted Willie Green fcking Jimmy Fletcher in Margaret Street, Brisbane, at about 8.45 pm on a Friday night. “I didn’t finish,” complained Willie.

But he was less cocky in court, loudly protesting that Jimmy led him astray. The judge concurred. James Thomas Fletcher already possessed a conviction for fraud. Additionally, police alleged they’d received complaints about him propositioning men. Cops suspected Jimmy Fletcher was a ‘city queen’, persistently loitering in the CBD with intent to solicit.

James Thomas Fletcher went to jail for six years for a single sex act. William Francis Green copped two years less on account of being led astray.

Over the following decades, James Thomas Fletcher would be known by numerous other names. Dozens! Cyril McIntosh was the favourite. Preferably Dr Cyril McIntosh. Cyril was a rather talented conman who might have succeeded in his scams more easily if he had stopped pretending to be a doctor. Time after time, he turned up in a town carrying a stethoscope, seemingly intent on setting up a practice, carrying out complimentary examinations of lodgers at the male boarding houses where he stayed, and running up bills at local businesses.

Dr McIntosh served one prison sentence after another during his lifetime. Other than a second conviction for allowing someone to fck him, most concerned fraud committed in association with impersonating a doctor. Cyril always came undone rather quickly because police all over Queensland and NSW had heard of the notorious pretend doctor.

queer queensland
Cyril McIntosh

Queer Queensland: The Gay Crusaders

Strathmore Crane and Sydney Carter were both born in Toowoomba in 1908. Syd’s mother died when he was young. Strathmore’s mum loved her son but couldn’t control him. At 16, the two boys hit the road together, knocking around country towns, working odd jobs and committing petty crimes. After Strathmore served a short prison sentence, the pair joined a travelling vaudeville company as comedians. Perhaps The Gay Crusaders, who toured country Queensland in 1926, much lauded for their versatility (as entertainers, of course.)

To explain their close relationship, Strathmore and Sydney pretended to be brothers, adopting the aliases Allan and Herbert Stewart.

In April 1926, the ‘brothers’ stole a motorbike from Brisbane’s Albert Street and rode to Ipswich. On the way home, they attempted to hold up a small store at gunpoint but found a nearly empty till.

“You are a fine pair,” said the shop owner, “robbing a man poorer than yourselves.”

Strathmore and Sydney rode back to town, dumped the bike near Musgrave Park, and walked home to their Makerston Street boarding house. Police picked them both up the following day. In their room, the cops found a trove of stolen goods, including a camera and a banjo mandolin.

queer queensland
Strathmore Crane and Sydney Carter

Medical examination

Justice Blair sentenced Strathmore to 18 months in prison and Sydney to a year. Suspicious as to the real nature of their relationship, he asked for a medical examination of the prisoners. Authorities believed at the time that the appearance of the anus could reveal evidence of regular anal sex. The Chief Justice also requested the lads be kept away from hardened criminals in jail to give them a chance at reform.

He was probably more concerned about protecting them from rape. A journalist imprisoned in Brisbane’s Boggo Road Gaol in 1922 wrote of the particular danger to juveniles in the prison system.

“If I had the misfortune to have a son — a boy in his teens — convicted, I would shoot him in the dock.”

In the year of Strathmore and Sydney’s birth, a former prisoner on the St Helena Island Prison in the mouth of the Brisbane River gave the Truth an extensive interview about his time there.

“If the number of unnatural offences committed was made known, people would be horror-stricken.”

Strathmore and Sydney disappear from history after the expiry of their prison sentences. Let’s hope they went off somewhere and enjoyed a pleasant life together.

Some more snippets: Convictions for Consensual Buggery in Colonial Australia.

Gotcha: Jack Boyd, a Queensland byword for homosexuality.

A history of Queensland Police and LGBTIQA+ Queenslanders.

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