The crazed milkman

Over eighty years ago, in Ipswich west of Brisbane, Queensland, there was a milkman who preferred to deliver the milk hot. I told a version of this story on West Bremer Radio.

In 1941, Philip Grant, 28, did the same thing every morning – before sunrise he got out of bed, left at his home on Pine Mountain Road at Brassall, collected the milk from his father’s dairy, and did his deliveries working as a milkman.

His milk run was in North Ipswich, and that year, in the depths of winter, Philip changed his routine – after delivering the milk at each house, he began setting fire to them.

On the 18th of August he delivered the milk, and then set fire to a kitchen owned by Eliza Weldon.

The very next morning on the 19th of August, Philip went all-out and started six fires on the same run.

Firstly, he set fire to a garage owned by George Archibald.

Then he set fire to a shed owned by Richard Savage. Savage’s son was one of the founders of the iconic Australian business Golden Circle.

Richard Savage

Philip then set fire to a house on Birdwood Lane owned by Edward Summerville. Summerville worked in the wagon section of the Ipswich railway workshops.

Next, Philip set fire to a house on Musgrave Street owned by William and Grace Bryce. This house would later be the scene of multiple killings and William and Grace’s son would shoot dead the alleged killer.

Philip continued his milk deliveries on Pine Street and set fire to a garage owned by John Taylor. Taylor had only nine fingers after he’d caught his hand in an engine at the Blackheath Colliery

Philip’s deliveries descended to an all-time low the following week on the 24th of August when he set fire to a lavatory owned by Sydney Bowker. Bowker was the secretary and later a life member of the Ipswich and West Moreton Cricket Umpires Association.

And then just over a week later on the 3rd of September, Philip stepped well over the crease when, just part way through his run, he set fire to a house owned by Joseph Gray. The house was occupied by Colin Johns who wasn’t even a customer.

That unscheduled delivery was Philip’s downfall, because as he drove his truck down Hill Street early that morning, Constable Lloyd Ingram was quietly following on his bicycle. The constable watched and saw Philip deviate from his deliveries and set fire to the Johns house.

Constable Lloyd Ingram

Upon being arrested and taken to the North Ipswich police station, all Philip had to say was, “Well, it looks like I am going to be here for some time – how about taking the truck out to my dad so he can finish the run for me?” 

The charges were eventually not proceeded with. Instead, a couple of months later Philip put his firing skills to good use when he enlisted in the army for the Second World War and went on to serve in New Guinea and Borneo.

Meanwhile, Philip’s father Sydney Grant took over the milk run.

His dad Sydney didn’t have his son’s same fiery obsession. But Sydney loved the work so much that he wanted the milk to last as long as possible.

You see, over the ensuing few short months, Sydney was convicted four times of watering down the milk.

Finally, after the war was over, both father and son were out of the milk business completely.

Philip spent the rest of his life delivering bread, and his father Sydney lived a far more sedate life as a newsagent.

They were never allowed to deliver milk again.


Photo credits:
Milk truck at Belshaw’s Dairy at Upper Kedron c1930 – State Library of Queensland.
Richard Savage – Ancestry uploaded 2015 by mcdowell96.
Detective Constable Lloyd Ingram from delegates to the Eight Conference Queensland Police Union Brisbane – Queensland Police Museum.


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