The 1935 Curse of Lover’s Lane includes a brawl, fatal accident, murder, and death on the front steps of Woolworths, and most startlingly of all, a femme fatale. I told a version of this story on West Bremer Radio.
It was shortly after five o’clock on the afternoon of Saturday the 25th of May 1935, when Colin Shelton from Ipswich rode his bicycle to Condon’s shop at Toowong in Brisbane. He left his bike outside and went in to see Eliza George who was working there.
Colin waited at the end of the counter because it was almost closing time and there were still two customers. Colin had turned twenty years old exactly two weeks before. He had met nineteen year old Eliza in Ipswich and they began seeing each other.
The shop in Toowong was on a street known locally as ‘Lover’s Lane’, but the events about to unfold were nothing like it, and Eliza appeared to be somewhat of a femme fatale.
Colin lived with his family at Silkstone in Ipswich and had been a good student. His mother was well known in the district and president of the Ladies Guild at the All Saints’ Church of England at Booval. She had also famously baked the first birthday cake for Radio 4QG which in 1925 had become Queensland’s first radio station. Today’s it’s part of Australia’s Radio National network.
In 1934 Colin met Eliza in Ipswich, and that’s when things began to go wrong.
Just months later, Colin’s mother died aged just forty-one, and his cousin was killed when he fell off scaffolding at Ipswich’s Railway Workshops. Then young Colin fell in with the wrong crowd and a pair of knuckle dusters began to be the first thing he put into his pocket each morning.
It was just a few months afterwards that Colin rode his bicycle to the shop on Lover’s Lane to see Eliza.
Colin had been there for a couple of minutes when the shop’s owner arrived. This was sixty-three year old Timothy Condon who claimed to be a former soldier who had been gassed in the First World War.
“Haven’t I told you before to keep away from here — get out,” Condon said to Colin when he saw him.
The boy stood up to the man and a fight broke out, with Condon pushing the boy down the steps, out of the shop, and onto the ground. Colin threatened to come back with his gang, but was simply given a black eye.
The case ended up in court and Condon was fined £4 which was around a week’s wages back then.
The femme fatale effect continued for those connected with young Eliza, because not long later Condon was dead.
Colin didn’t see Eliza after that, he married someone else and became a truck driver for the Ipswich City Council. He was later the driver in an accident that caused in the death of an eighteen year old motorcyclist at East Ipswich.
Eliza, meanwhile, left Condon’s store and went to work at Webster’s biscuit factory where her mother ran the store.
Eliza married a Scotsman who went on to be convicted a number of times of illegal bookmaking.
The curse may have ended when she later died in Ipswich after suffering a heart attack on the front steps of Woolworths.
However, the Curse of Lover’s Lane didn’t end there. Eliza had a son who worked as a fitter in Ipswich. He was acquitted of murdering his wife with a knife, but was convicted of unlawful killing on grounds of diminished responsibility.
If you ever get forced to go shopping and get told that the shops won’t kill you, then remember the shop in Lover’s Lane, the biscuit store at Webster’s, and Woolworths in Ipswich. Yes, shopping can kill. And so too can Toowong’s Curse of Lover’s Lane.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A VERSION OF THIS STORY TOLD LIVE ON RADIO.
Macs Cash Store corner of Sylvan Road and Croydon Street Toowong 1969 – Brisbane City Council
Colin James Shelton – Truth, Brisbane, 23rd June 1935, page 23
Timothy Condon – Truth, Brisbane, 23rd June 1935, page 23