The newspaper headlines screamed Boxing Parson Battered and Knifed in His Bedroom, Brutal and Murderous Attack, and Murders and Secret Documents, and yet the extraordinary events from one hundred years ago remain a mystery. I told a version of this story on West Bremer Radio.
The Reverend J.M. Daley was a young, unmarried man from Ireland and England. He suddenly appeared in Queensland, Australia, in June 1924 when he was appointed the assistant minister to The Reverend H.M. Wheller on the Ipswich circuit of the Methodist church. Rev. Wheller later became the president of the Methodist Church in Queensland.
In July, Daley gave an address in the Ipswich Town Hall for the Loyal Orange Lodges at an anniversary service of the 1690 Battle of the Boyne. In December, he spent a few days in Southport, and then returned to his home at Booval, Ipswich, at around 9pm on the night of Saturday the 27th of December 1924.
The extraordinary events that follow is how Daley himself reported them – or was said to have reported them – by newspapers of the time.
The minister saw two men standing at the door of his bedroom. One man attacked him, while the other man began ransacking through Daley’s books and papers. The padre had considerable experience at pugilistic training back in Ireland, and so the two intruders were forced to join forces against him.
One of them produced a knife and began slashing at Daley. The knife tore through his vest and grazed his chest, but fortunately the wound wasn’t serious. Daley was pushed against the door and the knife was buried into the wood just missing his head. Daley lurched onto the bed when again the knife just missed him, slashing the pillow and the mattress. Daley and one of his adversaries rolled across his bed from one side to the other, locked in each other’s desperate clutches. Twice Daley was nearly scalped, with chunks of hair being cut from his head.
While the parson continued fighting one man, the other smashed a wash basin down on Daley’s head. As Daley fell to the floor, he managed to call out to his neighbour Mr. Kentish. The neighbour heard the cry, grabbed half a brick which was the only weapon that he could find, and ran to the back of the house, shouting out Daley’s name as he went. Both assailants fled just as one was about to certainly stab Daley to death.
Two police and an ambulance arrived at the house. The preacher refused to talk, insisting that he regarded the events as his private affair. However, when Mr. Kentish had first scared off the attackers, Daley was heard to mutter, “They can’t get the papers, for I haven’t got them here.” Daley disappeared for a period following the assault, still refusing to talk even to Rev. Wheller.
Alleged incidents from back in Ireland began to surface. It was said that Daley had come into conflict with a powerful organisation which had influence around the world. It could have been the Illuminati.
Daley’s sister and brother had both been murdered. A persecution against Daley had followed him with unremitting fervour to Australia. Prior to the Booval assault, when Daley had been lodging at Newtown in Ipswich, his room there was ransacked, and documents stolen. The two men of the Booval assault had in fact followed Daley home from his holiday at Southport.
There was circumstantial evidence that dark forces in Ireland were behind the events. Ireland had just emerged from three years of bloody war, with the Irish Revolution followed by the Civil War.
We now know that a cousin of one of the most infamous women in the Irish struggle was living at Southport at the time that Daley was there. The woman was Kitty O’Shea. She was an aristocratic Englishwoman whose secret adulterous affair with Irish nationalist leader Charles Stewart Parnell led to his political downfall and changed the course of Irish history.
I’ve searched and metal detected the site where Daley may have visited. I found a bullet projectile and coins dating from the period, but nothing that could definitely be linked to him.
Just weeks after the attack, Daley resigned from the staff of the Home Mission Society. Later, he made his last reported public appearance at a service of the Undenominational Church held in the Ipswich Town Hall. Ironically this had also been the location of his first reported public appearance.
Daley then disappeared from the public record – just as suddenly as he had appeared eighteen months earlier.
Who he was – or what was the motive of the Ipswich onslaught – may never be known. The three men who knew never talked and were never seen again.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A VERSION OF THIS STORY TOLD LIVE ON RADIO.
Daley Headlines – Truth, Brisbane, 4th January 1925, page 9.
The Reverend H.M. Wheller – Wesley Mission Queensland.
Ipswich Town Hall c1902 – Ipswich City Council.
Kitty OShea – Wikipedia Commons.
1900-1920s relics metal detected from the Southport historic site – Harold Peacock.