Horse Riding Incidents: An Occupational Hazard of Policing

The following article was published in the February 2019 edition of Police Down Under – the journal of the Australia Section of the International Police Association (IPA). The article is reproduced here with the permission of the author, Robert Cochrane, IPA Social Coordinator (Queensland Region) and Committee Member of the Friends of the Queensland Police Museum.

Introduction

The introduction of motor vehicles into policing saw a marked a reduction in the number of horse riding incidents and a corresponding increase in motor vehicle incidents. Of the 147 police officers remembered on the touchstones of the new Queensland Police Memorial in the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, 18 died as a result of incidents involving a falling horse.[1] This article overviews five such events where, sadly, Queensland police officers received fatal injuries on duty as a result of a horse riding incident. It also highlights how a seemingly mundane policing task can change dramatically without warning and the consequences can be so severe.  

The Queensland Police Memorial – Brisbane City Botanic Gardens

C.A.T.B. buggy with a wheeled litter ca. 1898 – John Oxley Library, SLQ. Neg 343

Constable Arthur Lowe

On Monday, 19 October 1896 Constable Arthur Lowe who was stationed at the Oxley Police Station, attended a parade in Brisbane (City) about 11 km away. At about 6:00 pm, while returning to Oxley his horse shied at a culvert not far from the station. The horse stumbled and fell to the ground with Lowe still in the saddle. Lowe, who was unconscious from the fall, was taken to his home and attended to by Dr Charles Kebbell who ordered his removal back to Brisbane.[2]         

Arrangements were made for a goods train to take Lowe to the Roma Street railway station where he was met by the City Ambulance Transport Brigade (C.A.T.B.) and conveyed to the Brisbane Hospital. Lowe, still unconscious, arrived at the hospital at about 1:30 am and it appears that he died soon after from a fracture to his skull and concussion of the brain.[3] Lowe’s wife, who was in ill-health at the time, accompanied him to the hospital.[4]

Constable Lowe was 32 years of age and was transferred to Oxley only a few months before his death. He had two children, one aged 8 years and the other just 6 months.[4] The body of Constable Arthur Lowe was interred in the Toowong Cemetery (Brisbane) on Wednesday, 21 October 1896. Police Commissioner William Parry-Okeden, Chief Inspector Stuart, Sub-inspectors Urquhart and Marrett took part in the procession along with approximately 80 members of the Queensland Police.[5]

Lowe was born in England and he was a sailor at the time he joined the Queensland Police on 1 September 1887  – Registered No. 226. During his brief police career, he served at Brisbane, Windorah, Tambo, Brisbane, Gatton and Oxley. In 1892 he received a reward of £5 ($10) for the arrest and conviction of Charles Taylor and Cornelius Dwyer for robbery with violence at Tambo.[6]

Sub-inspector Michael Broderick

Little detail is known of Sub-inspector Michael Broderick’s incident other than on about Wednesday, 5 May 1909, he fell from his police horse while on duty at Charleville[7], about 683 km west of Brisbane.[8] For several days he lay unconscious and in a critical condition in the Charleville Hospital. The following Friday, his condition improved for a while before deteriorating rapidly. Doctor Pratt of Roma travelled to the Charleville Hospital to consult with Doctor Clarkson regarding the condition and treatment of Broderick. Unfortunately, little could be done and he died shortly after 11:00 pm on Sunday night.[7]

His funeral on Tuesday, 11 May 1909 was an impressive one and largely attended. Businesses in Charleville closed temporarily, wreaths were received from the Commissioner of Police, Non-commissioned officers of Roma, local businesses and the people of Charleville. The local police appeared in dress uniform. Sub-Inspector Broderick’s favourite grey mare followed behind the hearse as it made its way through the streets of Charleville with the bells of all the churches tolling. Broderick’s coffin was draped in the Union Jack, with his sword and helmet atop.[9]

Michael Broderick was born in Ireland in January 1856 and came to Queensland in the early 1880s.[7] He joined the Queensland Police on 23 December 1885 – Registered No. 55[10] and rose rapidly to the rank of sergeant. He was stationed at Toowoomba, Windorah, Longreach and then to Charters Towers where he was promoted to senior sergeant within a few weeks of his arrival. In 1905 he was transferred to Townsville and the following year to Brisbane (Roma Street) with the rank of third class sub-inspector. While in Brisbane he was a prosecutor in the police court. Towards the end of 1908, he was sent to take charge of the police district of Charleville, with the rank of second-class sub-inspector and held that position up to the time of his death.[7]

Sub-inspector Broderick’s grave in the Charleville Cemetery (PM1562)

Constable Robert Orme’s grave at Clermont

Constable Robert Orme

Clermont is an agricultural town in Queensland, about 275 km south-west of Mackay.[11] In December 1905, some men reported to police having seen the body of a man on the Northern Road about 100 km from Clermont. Constable Robert Orme of the Clermont police was dispatched to bury the body. Orme endeavoured to get a man to accompany him, but failing to do so, he set out alone on troop horse Excellent on the afternoon of Saturday, 23 December and camped that night at Black Ridge. The following day, he met two men about 30 km to the north of Black Ridge and this was the last time on which he was seen alive. On 27 December the manager of the Lanark Station (Tinsdale) came upon the body of Orme’s horse on the Northern Road about 55 km north of Clermont. It appeared the horse had been dead for about two days. Tinsdale reported there was a large stake behind the girth (straps used to keep a saddle in place), which appeared to have entered the horse as it was galloping through the scrub. Constable Orme’s revolver, a pick and a shovel were with the horse.[12]

Tinsdale despatched an aboriginal tracker in search of Orme and that evening, a Mr W Casey met up with the tracker who said that Orme was dead in a gully. Casey brought the sad news about the fate of Constable Orme to Clermont. Sergeant O’Neill went to the scene and later reported that tracks showed Orme was on his return journey and was attempting to make a shortcut to water from “the thirty-three-mile” at night and got into a dense scrub. His horse got a stake through its chest and evidently, it fell on him. The back of Orme’s head was terribly crushed and the tracks showed that after being injured, he got up and walked a few metres, fell, crawled a few metres, and then fell into a small creek. Sergeant O’Neill was satisfied that Orme buried the body of the man that he was sent out to bury and was hastening home to arrive on Christmas Day.[12]

Descriptions of the nature of the “staking” of Orme’s horse are vague but is reasonable to assume it was a tree branch and the horse ran into it. There are discrepancies as to where the horse was actually staked. Tinsdale reported it was staked in the girth while Sergeant O’Neill said it was staked in the chest. Inspector Toohey later received information that the horse had been staked in the neck.[12]  Wherever the horse was actually staked, it appears the injury was sufficient to cause its death. It also appears certain that Orme was seriously injured when his horse fell on him and he succumbed to his head injuries in a nearby creek – presumably a dry creek bed.

Robert Orme was a horse breaker when he joined the Queensland Police on 13 September 1893 – Registered No. 119. He was first stationed at the Police Depot (Brisbane), and then at Banana, North Rockhampton, and Clermont. He married Mary Ann Josephine O’Sullivan on 19 March 1900 and, at the time of his death, he was 38 years of age and had a child aged about six months.[13] There is no record as to the identity of the man that Constable Orme was sent out to bury.[12]

Senior Constable Henry James Fetherston

Henry James Fetherston was born in 1859 in Watergrasshill, Cork, Ireland.[18] After immigrating to Australia, he was appointed a constable in the Queensland Police on 12 June 1878 – Registered No. 52.[14] He was transferred to Maryborough which is located on the Mary River approximately 255 kilometres north of Brisbane.[15] As a single man, he resided in a small room at the side of the Maryborough Police Station. In March 1882, he was promoted to the rank of Senior Constable.[16]

At about 5:00 am on Sunday, 22 February 1885 Senior Constable Fetherston was riding his horse from the Maryborough Police Station to a police paddock on the banks of the Mary River at Tinana.[16] Tinana is on the opposite bank of the Mary River to Maryborough. It was originally a separate town, but it is now effectively a suburb of Maryborough.[17]  While riding his horse, it is believed he was thrown and landed on a log at the side of the road before being crushed by the falling horse. Fetherston died at about 7:00 pm the following day from severe internal injuries. He did not marry and did not have any known children.[16]

Senior Constable Fetherston was an active member of the Maryborough Rowing Club, a local cricket club, and he was highly thought of by the community he served.[17][18] Shortly after his death, a number of his friends, the citizens of Maryborough, and local police decided to erect an impressive monument over his grave in the Maryborough Cemetery.[19]

In 2012 retired police officer Noel Sparks and his wife Denise were visiting the cemetery when they stumbled across Fetherston’s dilapidated grave and took an interest in him. Their interest led to the discovery that although Senior Constable Fetherston had died as a result of injuries sustained while on duty, his name was not recorded on the National Police Memorial in Canberra nor the Queensland Police Service Honour Roll. Further research and a report by Sergeant Neville Zarckovich, Officer In Charge, Howard Police Station resulted in Senior Constable Fetherston’s name being added to the National Police Memorial and the Queensland Police Memorial in 2016.[18]

Fetherston (second from right) with other members of his rowing team. (QPM resources – H J Fetherston)

Constable Robert Alexander in 1926

Constable Robert Alexander

Eidsvold is a small town and locality in Queensland, approximately 160 km west of Maryborough. Today, the town is the self-proclaimed Beef Capital of the Burnett and it is a hub for the regional cattle industry.[20] On 10 April 1926, about a year after being transferred from Maryborough to Eidsvold to fill a vacancy, Constable Robert Alexander was mustering horses in the course of his work at Eidsvold when he was thrown from his horse. The horse fell on him and he sustained internal and spine injuries. Alexander received treatment at the Eidsvold hospital before being transferred to the Maryborough General Hospital. He did not recover from his injuries and died on 21 May 1926.[21]

Robert Stewart Robertson Alexander was born in Scotland[23] and joined the Queensland Police on 1 February 1923 – Registered No. 2622.[10] At the time of his death, he was 26 years of age, married and had one infant daughter. He was the fourth son of Robert Alexander of Toogoolawah.[21][22]

Epilogue

This article is submitted to promote knowledge of the Friends of the Queensland Police Museum (FQPM). The organisation is a committed group devoted to the advancement of the Queensland Police Museum (QPM) and to the enhancement and effective sharing of knowledge concerning the history of policing in Queensland. The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance provided by the staff of the QPM. More information about the FQPM is available at http://www.friendsqpmuseum.com.au/

The touchstones of the five officers on the Queensland Police Memorial.

Column 1 – Right leg – Front – Row 3

Column 3 – Right leg – Front – Row 2

Column 5 – Right leg – Front – Row 3

Column 2 – Right leg – Rear – Row 2

Column 1 – Right leg – Rear – Row 4

References

[1]          https://www.police.qld.gov.au/aboutUs/commemoration/. Accessed 9/12/2018

[2]          Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), Tuesday, 20 October 1896, page 4

[3]          Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), Wednesday, 21 October 1896, page 4

[4]          Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1881 – 1922), Monday, 26 October 1896, page 3

[5]          The Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 – 1934), Friday, 23 October 1896, page 21

[6]          QP Service History – QSA File No. 1040

[7]          Queensland Times (Ipswich, Qld. : 1909 – 1954), Tuesday, 11 May 1909, page 4

[8]          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charleville,_Queensland. Accessed 29/12/2018

[9]          Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld. : 1874 – 1954), Tuesday, 11 May 1909, page 6

[10]        Queensland Police Book of Names 1864 – 1974

[11]        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clermont,_Queensland. Accessed 9/12/2018

[12]        Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954)  Friday, 26 December 1930  Page 6

[13]        QP Service History – QSA File No. 1457

[14]        QP Service History – QSA File No. 526

[15]        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maryborough,_Queensland. Accessed 29/12/2018

[16]        Queensland Police Museum Resources (H J Fetherston)

[17]        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinana, Queensland. Accessed 10/12/2018

[18]        Fraser Coast Chronical, Friday, 23 June 2017. Article by Boni Holmes

[19]        Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld. : 1860 – 1947) Wednesday, 23 December 1885, page 2

[20]        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eidsvold, Queensland. Accessed 24/12/2018

[21]        Queensland Times (Ipswich, Qld. : 1909 – 1954) Monday, 24 May 1926, page 6

[22]        The Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 – 1934) Friday, 28 May 1926, page 19

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