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John Tyson Part 2 - Heading-banging blacksmith, mishaps and controversy aplenty


We continue our tale of John Tyson, following his adventures throughout Myrniong and Bacchus Marsh in the late 1800s.

Whilst assisting some workmen in July 1868 to pull down the old blacksmith’s workshop to make way for a new one, John Tyson met with a rather nasty accident. As he passed under a beam, it fell on him, injuring his shoulder, fracturing a bone in his hand and, more seriously, cutting his head badly in a few places resulting in him narrowly escaping death. As fortune would have it, Dr William Bone was close by at the time and promptly attended to the patient. The newspapers were pleased to report on their “respected neighbour” John Tyson as being “out of danger and progressing favourably”.

Dr Bone first arrived at Bacchus Marsh in September 1865 and lived at Parkside Cottage, Stamford Hill, where he also conducted his medical practice. He and his wife quickly became respected members of the community. However, 1867 brought controversy which hit the national papers and the entire colony was gripped with the scandal and innuendo taking centre stage for the good Doctor and one of his patients.

The patient’s husband, Rev. J. C. Sabine, minister for the Church of England at Bacchus Marsh alleged Dr Bone acted inappropriately while medically examining his wife, resulting in court action in front of a Judge and Jury of the Melbourne Supreme Court. The judge admonishes Dr Bone for comparing Mrs Sabine to Potiphar’s Wife (refer to the story of Joseph, Book of Genesis, where he has lots of sons, a fabulous coat and dreams to share). 

The judge directed the jury that, should they consider Dr Bone guilty, they should award him the heaviest damages to be seen to punish and discourage. However, the trial resulted in a victory for Dr Bone, with the judge declaring certain members of the community used scuttlebutt and gossip to undermine a worthy citizen’s good reputation...

Dr Bone left Bacchus Marsh due to ill health (operations for multiple cancers) in mid-1869, selling all of his furniture and goods. However, once his health improved, he relocated to Castlemaine by the end of that year, where he conducted his regular medical practice as well as three government positions as Medical Officer. One of these included the Castlemaine gaol where he attended the execution of Ah Pew, the child murderer who was executed in May 1870.

Another injury came John Tyson’s way in July 1874 when his pony stopped suddenly, then took off again causing Mr Tyson to fall off, sustaining a partial dislocation and fracture of his right shoulder. Sympathies from the locals were extended to him, with wishes of a quick recovery from this serious, yet simple, accident.

A couple of months after John’s pony mishap, he advertised his blacksmith’s shop and adjoining resident to be let by tender. With the connections Tyson had established over the years in the district, as well as his well-stocked and lucrative business, this opportunity was pitched as “a good opening for a steady man”. Mr C. Myers from Ballan presented himself as that steady man and took up the offer, commencing in the new year.

After just four months of trading since January 1875, “steady” turned to “unstable” and Mr Myers departed John's blacksmith shop in Myrniong, mainly due to the reduction in business. As a result, John decided to take back the forge, much to the delight of the many existing customers of the area. Hugh Meikle, having recently completed his Blacksmith apprenticeship, was employed as his assistant. Hugh’s reputation as the “foremost blacksmith in town” was well earned after taking over one of Tyson’s former employers – Vere Quaille’s blacksmith forge and shop in Bacchus Marsh.

John Tyson continued trading in the forge until October 1882 when he again leased the business after taking up the tenancy of The Plough hotel.


NEXT WEEK: we meet a horse named Midnight

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