Heist at Hurstville

JHP384.1 Former Bank of Australasia, Princes Highway, Kogarah, 1974

The early development of Kogarah was given a huge boost with the opening of a branch of the Bank of Australasia in July 1885.  Local businesses, including the Municipal Council, had a convenient place to deposit takings and negotiate loans.  The first bank manager was the youthful William Lippmann, aged 23, who was promoted from the bank’s St Peters branch.  While at St Peters, he had been befriended by W G Judd, who was in the process of founding the Hurstville Steam Brick Company, and Judd may have had some influence over Lippmann’s promotion.

The bank premises were at the corner of Hogben Street and Princes Highway, and the manager and his family lived on the upper floor.  (The building still stands, at 111 Princes Highway and is currently home to Papandreas, Rajani and Co, chartered accountants.)

Lippmann played an active part in the life of the growing Kogarah community.  He was secretary of the Kogarah Bay Rowing Club and the Kogarah School of Arts, and he was an auditor of Kogarah Council’s accounts.  Hurstville Council also opened an account with his bank.  The increasing flow of business from Hurstville prompted the bank to establish a receiving office there, which was overseen by Lippmann.  Lippmann assigned his collecting clerk, Arthur Dunlop, aged 19, to attend the Hurstville office, which was initially in Forest Road near Treacy’s store, at the corner of Alfred Street.

Dunlop’s routine involved attending the Hurstville office from 10 to 12 each morning, and then returning to Kogarah on the train with the day’s takings.  The train left Hurstville station at five past noon, which meant that sometimes he missed the connection.  If that happened, he had no option but to bush-bash down to Kogarah.

On 18 March 1890, he followed the same procedure, toting the day’s moneys in a black leather bag – £141 in gold and notes.  But Dunlop’s daily routine had been observed by 26-year old Cornelius Dyer, an unemployed labourer from Marrickville.  Dyer hung about near the railway station turnstiles.  When Dunlop approached, intent on catching his train, Dyer struck him as he was going through the turnstile, and after a brief struggle grabbed the bag and made off across the railway line heading for the bush.  Dunlop, stunned, called out for help. 

His cries were heard by J B Ireland, a Carlton grocer, described as ‘a burly man’.  Ireland pursued Dyer on horseback and caught him 500 metres from the station.  Police Constable Alexander arrived, and a subdued Dyer was taken to Newtown Police Station.  At the Quarter Sessions in April, Dyer’s lame excuses were waved aside, and he was sentenced to 12 months’ hard labour at Darlinghurst Gaol.

Cornelius Dyer

The surprising element in this story is the amount of money being handled.  £141 in 1890 translates to some $20,000 in today’s money, more than one might expect from a day’s trading in the Hurstville township of the time.  If Dyer had escaped with the loot, his face would have been a picture when he opened the bag!  Alas, he did not mend his ways, and was jailed again the following year for coining, and several more times in later years, usually for forgery.  The mugshot above is from the Darlinghurst Gaol Book for 1890.

The Bank of Australasia, which the local member Sir Joseph Carruthers described as ‘the backbone of the district’, found itself too far from the centre of things in Kogarah, and in 1905 relocated to new premises in Regent Street, designed, for some reason, to present an Old English appearance, complete with weathercock.

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