Breamlea, Victoria

Breamlea, Victoria

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Ellen Tamo nee Clarke

Firstly, let me thank all those people who have expressed their love and concern for me whilst I have been so sick with pneumonia for the last two weeks. While I've been stuck in bed, I've tried to do a little more investigating.  So here's what I found out....

My great great aunt Ellen Clarke married Stephen TAMO in 1876 and lived in Malop Street, Geelong.

A court case was reported in the Geelong Advertiser in October 1885.  The article was called "Life in Malop Street East."

Three women who also resided in Malop St. east were the defendants.  One of them was called Mrs. Jessie McDonald who was charged with being the "occupier of a house frequented by idle and disorderly persons, having no lawful visible means of support."  In 1885 terms, running a brothel.

A couple of local constables had been given the duty of observing the house, and gave evidence. Constable Croucher deposed that he had seen quite a few men get admitted to the house, and named many of the men's names.  He had visited the house sometimes in the company of Constable Overend, and even had a glass of beer there. Mr. Toohey the prosecutor mentions that " it is usual for constables when going into these kind of houses to be asked to shout."  Mr. Dwyer responds incredulously "At two shillings a bottle?"  Constable Croucher says "The woman asked me to shout beer."  Constable Croucher also mentions in his evidence that he knows the neighbours around the house (including my TAMO relatives) and a Mrs. Miller, who seems to be the main complainant.

There seems to be a lot of different accusations flying around, including that the constabulary got drunk and did some name calling.  All the men who were named were incredibly surprised to find out that the house was, in fact, a brothel.  Not one of them had gone for an improper purpose.  Some had just gone to find others and happened to be there.

One of the men named was interesting to me.  His name was Henry Martini, and one of the girls goes into the bedroom with him and calls out, referring to him as Jack. A Jack Martini was well known to our family, but I don't know if this man is the same Jack Martini. Anyway, Martini deposed that the police were lying and he didn't know that the defendant's house was a bad place.

Mr. Pardey J.P. states that he "cannot see any reason why such a large number of respectable young men should have been brought here and accused of being idle and disorderly persons.  They have been ruthlessly and unmercifully brought to the court to try and prove a case for the police."

The bench decides that the case has not been proven that the people who frequented the house were not idle and disorderly. The court then turns its attention to Mrs. McDonald.

Constable Croucher swears that he had a conversation with Jessie McDonald, telling him that she was making a good living with the other two girls.

Mrs. Miller, the main complainant, was blind and lived with her daughter near the McDonald house, and had often been woken by drunken men banging on her door asking for Jessie.  Mrs. Miller said: "Mrs. Tamo lives near me; she is a respectable person."

Stephen Tamo deposed: "that he resided close to the defendant's house for eleven years.  He had no reason to complain of the conduct of Mrs. McDonald.  He had a family, among whom were daughters.  To Mr. Toohey - He had seen a man and woman sitting in the house when he went there to complain of some fowls having been poisoned.  He had never heard any rows in the defendant's house.  He did not know if the house was a brothel.  The defendant, he believed, was the wife of Jimmy Whitely.  He knew Whitely for six or seven years.  He had frequently seen him in Geelong.  He had signed a petition stating that he did not consider the defendant's house a nuisance."

James Whitely then deposed that he was a butcher and married to Jessie, supported his wife and had a house for her.  There seems to be more to the story though. "To Mr. Toohey - I have been working at Allen's for five weeks.  I reside at Tamo's.  I was married to the defendant by Mr. Couves this morning.  In the presence of Mr. Tamo and the girl Giles [one of the other defendants]. I slept at the defendant's house last night.  I do not know what is being done in the house, but I have been supporting the defendant."

Confusingly, the court rules that despite it's previous decision that no disorderly conduct was proven and the people were not idle and disorderly, Mrs. Jessie McDonald is guilty of being the occupier of such a house.

The court is immediately notified that the case would be appealed.

This isn't the end of the story however, Less than two weeks later, Ellen Tamo would take proceedings against Jessie McDonald for using insulting words in a public place.  More on that in the next article.

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

Trove Citations
Article identifier
Page identifier
APA citation
LIFE IN MALOP-STREET EAST. (1885, October 13). Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1926), p. 4. Retrieved October 24, 2015, from
MLA citation
"LIFE IN MALOP-STREET EAST." Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1926) 13 Oct 1885: 4. Web. 24 Oct 2015 <>.
Harvard/Australian citation
1885 'LIFE IN MALOP-STREET EAST.', Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1926), 13 October, p. 4, viewed 24 October, 2015,
Wikipedia citation

{{cite news |url= |title=LIFE IN MALOP-STREET EAST. |newspaper=[[Geelong Advertiser |Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1926)]] |location=Vic. |date=13 October 1885 |accessdate=24 October 2015 |page=4 |publisher=National Library of Australia}}

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