In choosing 1892 as the time setting for THE HOMECOMING, I hit gold (no pun intended) when I realised the notorious tale of the ‘Missing Mace’ of the Victorian Legislative Assembly fitted perfectly into my timeline.
If you are wondering what a mace is... It is a ceremonial object (based on a medieval weapon) used as a symbol of the authority of Parliament. It is sacrosanct... to interfere with the mace is to undermine the whole authority by which a parliament sits. Physically it is huge... about 1.5 metres long and traditionally made of precious metal and jewels. So very large, very awkward and very heavy!
Bearing that in mind... On a dark and stormy night (I'm a writer...) in October 1891 the then mace of the Victorian Legislative Assembly was found to have vanished from its locked box in a locked room.
The disappearance of the mace was first reported in this ilk (see also this longer account from THE AGE's archives: Click HERE ) :
Australian Town and Country Journal Sat 17 October 1891
THE MACE STOLEN
The mace belonging to the Victorian Legislative Assembly has disappeared. It appears to have been stolen from Parliament House by some daring thief in broad daylight. When the House adjourned on Friday Oct 9 the mace was carefully taken away and locked up in its case in the Speaker’s ante-room. It is looked after by the caretaker who acts at night as the custodian of the whole building. When the room was entered some time later it was found that the case had been broken open and that the mace was gone. Three detectives are engaged in the investigation. The mace is made entirely of Victorian gold, and is valued roughly at £250. It is difficult to understand how so cumbrous an article could have been carried away in daylight without attracting attention.
Police were called in, the papers and gossip mongers went to town and the months passed but still the mace remained missing. Meanwhile the rumours abounded, the most persistent being that the mace had been removed by certain members of the Assembly itself and was last seen at a notorious brothel in Lonsdale Street (Madame Brussels) where it was employed in a lewd parody of parliamentary proceeding. The morally upright members of the community seized on this version of events as an opportunity to show up the moral depravity of the governing class.
It took two years for a full parliamentary enquiry to be launched. It came no closer to solving the mystery. However it did flush out the Parliamentary Engineer, Thomas Jeffrey. Jeffrey, it was reported, hailed a tram on the night of the disappearance carrying a mysterious MACE SHAPED object wrapped in brown paper (see above description of said object). When questioned Jeffreys was evasive, claiming he was in the habit of taking wood home. He couldn’t prove it was wood he had taken home that day but neither could the police prove it was the mace. No conclusion could be reached or charges laid.
A substantial reward was offered, blackmail attempts- made even years- later but to this day no sign of the missing mace has ever been found. Who is there to say my solution isn’t any more plausible than the most common answer: It lies at the bottom of the Maribyrnong River.
For an amusing, and more in depth look at the Mystery of the Missing Mace… I recommend reading this article or the account on the Victorian Parliament's own website.
Concluding the Maiden’s Creek trilogy… It is now 1892 and twenty years have passed since the events of THE GOLDMINER’S SISTER. Daniel Hunt and Charlie O’Reilly are now adults and making their own way in the world, but the traumatic events of their respective childhoods have shaped their lives and there are questions to resolve. The pull to return to Maiden’s Creek is strong. Thrown together when the town is threatened, they must work together to save a friend but murder and lurking danger and the secrets that they hold threaten to keep them apart . Will love be enough to bring these two very different people together?
Parliament House: Parliament House Melbourne, with cable tram in Spring Street at bottom right.
PROV, VPRS 12800/P1 Photographic Collection: Railway Negatives: Alpha-numeric Systems, H 4910.
Victorian Legislative Assembly Mace: Parliament of Victoria website