Murder on the dance floor

This is a story about true love that triumphed despite a horrific series of events that centred on Marburg in Queensland one hundred and sixteen years ago. I told a version of this story live on West Bremer Radio.

It was at Hatton Vale in 1938 that August Bussian married a girl from the Harm family. The same families again united twelve months later when August’s sister Emma also married a Harm.

But the two weddings only happened because love coincided with the death just three months earlier of August’s grandfather August Bussian Senior. The fatalistic sequence of events began over thirty years earlier.

On Friday the 27th of January 1905, there was a dance at the Marburg School of Arts. Twenty-year-old Frank Harm was enjoying a night out when suddenly, at about 11.30pm, he was confronted by an older gentleman.

Frank Harm

A fight broke out, a knife was produced, and Frank Harm was stabbed in the face and arm. There was almost murder on the dance floor at Marburg.

The attacker was the grandfather August Bussian Senior who was quickly arrested.

What had happened was that the Bussians ran a dairy, and every day sent their daughter Maria with the milk to the Prenzlau Creamery. That’s where Frank Harm was manager. When Maria was just fifteen years of age, she had a baby – and she pointed the finger at Frank Harm.

Old August was broken hearted over his daughter and went to the Marburg School of Arts that fateful night intent on getting some sort of admission or offer of support.

As a result of the attack, old August appeared in the Ipswich Courthouse, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to three years hard labour. But the sentence was wholly suspended because it seems the chief justice Sir Pope Cooper who heard the case could see a justification.

Sir Pope Cooper

Old August never forgot what had been done allegedly by a member of the Harm family. In the meantime, the life of his daughter Maria went from bad to worse.

In 1916, Maria got married. Six years later, she suffered a breakdown and was sent to the Laidley Hospital, Willowburn Mental Hospital and finally the Goodna Mental Hospital. She was diagnosed with delusions of persecution.

While Maria was there, her husband petitioned for divorce. You see, he’d met another woman, and having received a promise of marriage, he had to get rid of his wife.

Maria passed away shortly afterwards in 1938. Her father August Bussian Senior died in 1939. It was only later that year that his two grandchildren August and Emma felt safe to marry the niece and nephew of Frank Harm.

And so despite there almost being murder on the dance floor at Marburg, romance won through and the Bussian siblings married their true loves.

Meanwhile, Frank Harm, who had allegedly caused all the trouble, he spent thirty years as a councilor on the Laidley Shire Council and was president of the Show Society.

And in 1940, Maria’s husband and the other woman separated – this came after he blew up her car with gelignite when she refused to marry him.


Photo credits:
Marburg School of Arts – Wikimedia Commons
Councilor Frank Harms – Queensland Times, Ipswich, 15 July 1939, page 13
Sir Pope Cooper Chief Justice of Queensland 1903-1921 – National Library of Australia


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