On 31 March 1880 Patrick O’Sullivan, publican of After the fight O’Brien ran across the paddock the Burton Hotel in Denmam St (now part of St Johns towards Brougham St but was caught by Sergeant Rd), died after being involved in a fight with three of O’Connor and Constable Angell. By the time the pub’s young customers. On a Sunday three weeks O’Sullivan died, Scowen was already locked up in earlier he had refused drinks on credit to labourers Darlinghurst Gaol where he was serving a 14-day John O’Brien, John Scowen and Henry Sykes and sentence for the assault and battery of his father. pushed them out of the bar. During the ensuing Witnesses at the inquest – held in the University scuffle on the footpath outside, O’Brien threw a Hotel – included O’Sullivan’s treating doctor James sandstone rock at O’Sullivan with such force it was Markey and Glebe locals Robert Duxbury, a embedded in the victim’s skull, fracturing it.
Like many of Glebe’s hotelkeepers, O’Sullivan was Irish and Catholic. Born in the and 13-year-old Joseph Madden. O’Brien was County Cork seaport Bantry, the 35-year-old left a charged with wilful murder, (she married John Cahill in 1901 and died at Kingsford in 1947). The Burton Hotel’s licence passed to his widow.
After the fight O’Brien ran across the paddock towards Brougham St but was caught by Sergeant O’Connor and Constable Angell. By the time O’Sullivan died, Scowen was already locked up in Darlinghurst Gaol where he was serving a 14-day sentence for the assault and battery of his father. Witnesses at the inquest – held in the University Hotel – included O’Sullivan’s treating doctor James Markey and Glebe locals Robert Duxbury, a bricklayer’s labourer living in Mitchell St, George Milwain of Lorne House Denman St, Sarah Jane Law, and 13-year-old Joseph Madden. O’Brien was charged with wilful murder, and Sykes and Scowen with aiding and abetting.
At their trial the three pleaded not guilty before 1947). The Burton Hotel’s licence passed to his Justice Faucett. Scowen smirked and played to the widow. gallery and, like his companions, did not react when the guilty verdict was announced despite uproar in the packed courtroom. The jury recommended mercy but Faucett sentenced the men to death, noting their aggression, habitual use of foul language and their irregular and bad lives. He regretted having to perform his duty on such young offenders. The colonial Press editorialised the Glebe killing as a warning to larrikins everywhere.
Shackled in irons in Darlinghurst Gaol after the trial, Scowen and Sykes appeared oblivious to the danger of their situation but O’Brien was uneasy and restless. As it turned out, their death sentences were commuted. Nineteen-year-old Sydney-born Sykes, with no prior convictions, was discharged from Darlinghurst after serving six months’ hard labour and appears not to have re-offended.
O’Brien was sent to Berrima Gaol to work on a road gang for ten years, the first two in irons. By the time of the Glebe offence, he had already had eight convictions for drunkenness and had been locked up for using obscene language and for inciting a prisoner to resist arrest. Irish-born and Roman Catholic, O’Brien had arrived in Sydney as a six-year-old in 1866 with his mother Johanna on the immigrant ship Racehorse to join his father Richard on the goldfields.
Whether he was the same John O’Brien who in the 1890s was imprisoned on various assault and robbery charges is uncertain. In 1880 a Richard O’Brien was living in Glebe St next to Shaftesbury Gardens but that connection is also unproven, as is the admission of an eight-year-old John O’Brien to the Randwick Asylum in 1867.
More is known about John Scowen whose family home from the mid 1870s was 53 Brisbane St. (tucked in behind Broadway between Wattle Place and Mountain St, this private road was shortened and renamed in 1875. The Scowens’ house became number 51 Howard St.). John was born at Windsor in 1862, the third son of Julia and John Scowen, a Roman Catholic house painter. Advertising his occupation as ‘house decorator’ and his policy as ‘good wages for a poor man and a short working day’, John senior made an unsuccessful tilt at local government in Windsor before moving to Ultimo ca 1873. By 1894 he had relocated to Redfern, and then Waterloo where his wife died in 1896. John senior died aged 83 at Redfern in 1908, his given occupation horse dealer.
Of John and Julia’s nine surviving children only two seem to have stayed clear of the law. Charges included attempted rape, theft, assault (in one case resulting in death), having no visible means of support, and resisting arrest. Sarah Scowen spent time in Darlinghurst Gaol; her brother Richard was admonished by one magistrate as a ‘bit of an old trickster’.
At the time of the Glebe offence, John junior had already been locked up for indecent behaviour and assault and battery. His 1880 death sentence was commuted to seven years on a Berrima Gaol road gang. He quickly re-offended after release in 1887: in June he was sentenced to three months’ hard labour for stealing, in September to two months’ hard labour for indecent language, and in December to two days in the cells for loitering. The following January he was given a month’s hard labour for assault. In March, now with an alias Donovan and given occupation barber, he and two accomplices ransacked a Surry Hills house where two children were alone. (Scowen sent the boy out twice for beer.) Sentenced to seven years, he was released on remission in August 1893, after which he seems to have had only minor brushes with the law. John Scowen died at Redfern in March 1931.