Friday, 12 July 2013

Squizzy Taylor Myths

Let me start this by saying that I consider Squizzy Taylor to be nothing more than a common criminal and I think that his criminal lifestyle should not be glamorised, as it seems to be at the moment. However, over the years I have been asked if Taylor ever spent time in this area and have been told of possible sightings - so in this post I intend to try to work out fact from fiction.

First myth: Squizzy Taylor's sister, Mrs Bufford, ran the Hallam Hotel and he was a frequent visitor there. (Click here for an account of this)  According to a report in The Argus of July 12, 1927 Elsie Bufford took over as licensee of the hotel in July 1927. Previous to this she had been at the Commercial Hotel in Yea, and a report in the Alexandra and Yea Standard said Mrs Bufford sold this hotel in  February 1927. Squizzy Taylor died October 27, 1927, so he may have been a frequent visitor for the three months before he died, but she wasn't his sister.  According to the Indexes to the Births, Deaths and Marriages, Leslie 'Squizzy' Taylor had three sisters and four brothers - one of his sisters, Irene,  died as an infant; Gladys married Leslie Mouldey and Alice married Alfred Wiggin. His parents are listed as Benjamin Isaiah Taylor and Rose Jones. Elsie Bufford was born in Corowa in 1892 to Dougal McDonald and Maria Green. She married George William Bufford in 1916, it was obviously not a happy marriage as an article in the The Argus of April 14, 1937 (reproduced below) shows she was granted a divorce from her husband on the grounds of desertion.

Elsie held the Hallam Hotel licence until October 1933. I am not sure where she went after that but she was at the Colbinabbin Hotel from at least 1936 until August 1938.  She married Reginald Skews in 1938 and died in Red Cliffs in 1956. So the myth is that Taylor visited the Hallam Hotel because the licensee, Mrs Bufford, was his sister. Mrs Bufford was not his sister and she only had the Hotel for three months before he was killed, so I am saying that this is a myth and has no basis in fact!

Second myth: Squizzy Taylor attended the races at Nar Nar Goon and Garfield. According to the book by Hugh Anderson The rise and fall of Squizzy Taylor:  a larrikin crook, Taylor was a keen race goer and started his 'legitimate' working  life as a apprentice jockey. Garfield held races from 1902 to 1933 and there were races at Nar Nar Goon until 1942. Both towns were on the train line, so access was easy. So, this myth is plausible.

Third myth: Squizzy Taylor frequented Cannons Creek. Why first reaction to this is 'Why would he bother?' Today, of course, this area is a pleasant town but in the 1920s, and before, it was really nothing but coastal scrub - the first land sales in the area didn't take place (according to the Shire of Cranbourne Rate books) until 1930, three years after Taylor died, so at the time there would have been nothing but a few fishing shacks, the holiday house of Sir Aaron Danks and the house of the fisherman, Nicola Nicolella. There were no shops and no hotel, it was around seventy kilometres from Melbourne and past Cranbourne the roads would have been dirt tracks. It was a long way from the bright lights and social activity of Taylor's inner Melbourne haunts. Anderson has reports of him in Frankston (which was a holiday destination in the 1920s)  and St Kilda, so there were plenty of closer places to go to the beach.  I am saying that, once again, this is a myth and has no basis in fact.

Fourth myth:  Squizzy Taylor had a hide out in North Garfield.  There is a property in North Garfield Road that is currently on the market and this connection is one of the 'selling points'. Once again, my reaction is 'Why would he bother?' In the 1920s North Garfield was pretty remote, the property that is for sale is 5 kilometres north of the highway and about the same distance again into the township and about 85 kilometres from the inner suburbs, Taylor's usual haunts.

Apparently, Taylor was on the run from police from around mid 1921 until September 1922. According to Hugh Anderson it was impossible to say where Leslie Taylor spent all his time during those months, but fantastic stories were current throughout his Pimpernel period of him being seen, here, there and everywhere, in many disguises as a quick change artist. Anderson said he may have spent time  in the cellars beneath the old Bijou Theatre, then a flat in East Melbourne and in the summer he lived in St Kilda. He was also nearly caught during a robbery in Elsternwick during this time. Taylor wrote various letters to the newspapers at the time to taunt the police. It takes both money and connections to be able to hide out from the Police for over  a year and  for Taylor, his sources for both would be found amongst his supporters in the inner city. Garfield was a small town, strangers would have been noticed, and as Taylor carried out at least one robbery during this time, it would seem that he didn't have a years supply of money under the bed to maintain his lifestyle and there are more targets to rob in the city rather then Garfield.

Another rumour I have heard connected to Garfield is that a female acquaintance of his grew marijuana on the hide out property and took the train to town periodically to sell it, on his behalf. It seems like an awfully long supply chain - it was nearly ten kilometres to the Station, along some fairly quiet roads; Taylor had both enemies and the police looking out for him all the time, it just sounds like a woman would be fairly vulnerable to being captured or attacked by either parties. So the myth is that Taylor had a hide out in North Garfield. I am saying that this is just  myth and has no basis in fact.

If you are a Taylor supporter, then I am happy for you to present facts to prove that I am wrong!


Linda said...

I reckon everyone will claim him. He is said to have been a frequent visitor to Lindenow South, where he had a girlfriend! Long way.

Heather said...

I agree Linda. Lindenow South is even more implausible than Cannons Creek and Garfield North. Even today it's a 270 km journey from the inner suburbs, with the unsealed roads (with no by-passes) and slow cars of the 1920s it would have been about a two day trip just to get there. I don't know how he had time for a life of crime with all the running around he was allegedly doing.

Ron said...

Hi Heather

The story as I know it, is that in the 1920 / 30's there was a prohibition on selling alcohol within a 20 mile radius of Melbourne on a Sunday. This is why on every major highway leading out of Melbourne there is a major hotel around the 20 mile ( 32km ) mark. This is why Squizzy like many others of his type made regular Sunday trips to the Country. According to legend Hallam was his favourite spot. It has also been suggested that he had a sister who lived in the Pearcedale area ( maybe this is where Cannons Creek comes in ), where he would go from Hallam if it was too "hot" to return to Fitzroy.

Heather said...

Thanks Ron - we may never know the truth! I do believe that he must have loved to travel, with the amount of "Squizzy" sighting there are around the State. Thank you for reading our blog!

sacdtodvda said...

Thanks for the additional information about Elsie (McDonald) Bufford's second marriage.

PS: I have no particular interest in Squizzy Taylor, but if the story ever comes up then it's yet another family myth I can shoot down in flames!

Janet said...

Some friends of mine have moved into a house in Tecoma and were told that it had links to Squizzy Taylor as a hideout, that his mother may have lived there. We haven't found any details to support the story. The house is an interesting one with two doors in almost every room which would certainly help someone with a quick getaway if necessary. There are about 4 different doors that lead to the outside world as well, even one from the basement area. This weird design may have created the myth.

Greg said...

We have heard that he may have spent time in a house on Long Island Frankston. The house built in the early 1900's has locks on every internal door as well as the external doors.

Michelle said...

I have actually read a news paper artical from a friend of our family had. It was kept by their deceased grand father. His great grandparents actually lived in Devon Meadows on a few acres of bushland. They had their children and my friends grandfather was in his 20's. There was a big commotion one day & when his great grand father and grand father went scurrying through the bush to see what was going on because nobody used to pass through the small town. There were a few police who had hunted Squizzy down on horseback and he was hiding in their old pig shed in the middle of their bush. It was well known to all the old original locals back then. Their grandson brought the news artical to the Devon Meadows Primary where we all attended and showed it for show and tell. His great grandparents originally owned the land which was then passed on to his own grandparents where his father and 2 uncles were born & when they married also lived on the one property until about the last 20 years where they moved to Cranbourne and Blind Bight. This was a TRUE story and not a myth.