A tangental exploration of the dark swamps of PrahranPresented by: Cam Knuckey, printmaker & illustrator
Come along on a journey with Cam Knuckey as he talks about the sordid history of Prahran. From boy floggings, baby farming, brothels, rapes and murders to the trials in the Prahran Court, explore the relationship of the gays of the period in contrast to the high life and Town Hall Balls and Banquets of the rich establishment that sat and judged them.
Sodomy was rife in the colony from the moment the British arrived here.
So all over Britain they rounded up "fallen women" and sent them out here to distract the men. It just didn't work.
Bushrangers were outside the law. Despite being the folk heroes that they were, some certainly weren't straight ("Captain Moonlight" mourned his shot male lover).
Later, amongst the black swamps and flooded streets, in the grip of alcohol and poverty, unwanted newborns were dropped into cesspits, baby farms moved in, brothels flourished, domestic abuse and murder stalked the streets and alleys of Prahran.
Whilst Chapel Street grew into a shopper's dream of department stores and the well to do landowners, developers, councillors and magistrates attended banquets and Mayoral Balls at the Town Hall.
Although the newspapers never mentioned the sodomy, "unnatural practices" and other euphemisms were used. The Police and the Courthouse waged a silent war on "gay" men whose exposure meant ruin, both social and financial, including sentences of hard labour and flogging at the hands of a criminal called "The Flagellator" who also doubled as "The Hangman".
Meanwhile in 1910, commenting on the nightlife of the gardens in Greville Street, the Head Gardener said, "one would hardly credit what disgraceful orgies took place on the open ground!"
The battle over the replacement of the fences surrounding the gardens raged in the Council, letters, petitions and newspapers for months.
Across from the park Leggett's Ballroom held up to 6,000 well dressed dancers most nights, with free entry during WW2 for thousands of US Military nightly. (Blankets were supplied for those soldiers who needed to stay the night !)
Those fences never got replaced...
Image: Cam Knuckey