What not to give your mother

Over a cetury ago, this mother was so shocked by the gift that they all ended up in court. I told a version of this story live on West Bremer Radio.

On the 12th of June 1908, Mrs Eliza Murray gave a kitchen tea party at her home in what today is Liverpool Street in North Ipswichm Queensland. It was in honour of her daughter’s approaching marriage.

Twenty or thirty guests had assembled. While the festivities were in full swing, a strange-looking woman delivered three parcels to the house. That’s when the excitement started and they all ended up in the Ipswich courthouse.

Ipswich courthouse

Mrs Murray was the wife of a carriage builder in the nearby Railway Workshops. Her daughter Miss Beatrice Murray was betrothed to Mr Eleazar Thornton of Silkstone. He was an ambulance driver and an attendant at the Ipswich Hospital for the Insane.

The woman who accepted the parcels and brought them inside was Caroline Budd. Her husband was John Budd who was one of the great characters in Ipswich history.

John Budd said he was the founder of the Australian navy, invented a hydro power scheme, met the Duke of Gloucester in Ipswich and claimed to represent all the Devonshire people in Australia, and even ran for parliament against Frank Cooper who was the deputy mayor of Ipswich and later the Premier of Queensland.

John Budd

Mrs Murray was so frightened by the parcels that she took the woman who delivered them to court. The strange-looking woman was in fact a young gentleman called Herbert Leney who was disguised as a woman.

When the parcels were opened, they were found to contain, among other things, a certain item that was considered offensive in nature.

The parcels had been given to Leney by his friend Joseph Dann who had previously been been fined for bathing within view of Canning Street in North Ipswich, and recently had been hit by a cart while riding his bike in Down Street.

Mrs Murray sued, seeking £50 damages for defamation. She claimed that the parcels had been “maliciously published” and that the contents so appalling that it meant she was “a worthless and contemptible person, unfit to be in the community, and should be shunned, ridiculed and despised.”

Despite Mrs Murray’s protestations, the judge found that there was no case to answer, and so only awarded five shillings expenses for each of the witnesses.

As it happened, the two young men involved, Herbert Leney and Joseph Dann, were both good friends of Mrs Murray’s future son-in-law Eleazar Thornton. The whole thing had been a family joke, but the bride’s mother simply didn’t see it that way.

What was in the parcels that was so bad? The contents were merely described as three large saucepans and “a certain unmentionable bedroom utensil” that contained offensive matter. No other details were ever revealed.

The actual utensil that so shocked the mother one hundred and fifteen years remains a mystery to this day.


Photo credits:
Mothers day flowers – Emma Guscott Photography, Moonpig.
Old Ipswich Courthouse – Wikipedia Public Domain taken by Soozle 2009.
John Budd – State Library of Queensland.


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