Saturday, September 22, 2007

Forger and conman tricked Sydney radical publishers

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
1890 Sydney, Australia: The first edition of the Australian Workman, official organ of the Trades and Labour Council (TLC) in Sydney (a founding organisation of the Australian Labor Party), following the demise of the Australian Radical almost exactly a year earlier.

The first editor was Rev. Dr (Theodore) Oswald Keating, MA, DD, LLD, who had just stepped off a clipper ship from Britain in July and had some writings published in Truth's earliest numbers. The proprietors of the Australian Workman were impressed with him and under the circumstances of the Maritime Strike of 1890, pleased to have a clergyman's name on the masthead. By the end of October, the 'clergyman' was suing the newspaper for 5 pounds for wrongful dismissal.

Dr Keating was in fact Joseph James Crouch, a forger and conman who had impersonated clergy of various denominations for thirty years, been imprisoned a number of times, and robbed and abandoned a widow he had married for money in England. In the USA, in 1881, he had conned many, including the prominent American clergyman, Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, who lent him money as well as his pulpit. He could speak fluently in several languages, including Hebrew. He also plied his craft in Canada, and in Dublin, Ireland, he had been known as a brilliant Protestant preacher. In Kilmainham Gaol, he was the 'guest' of the Governor, who had had him for dinner as a guest of honour just a fortnight before.

After having been found out, Crouch, still calling himself Rev. Dr Keating, went back to the owners of Truth, the politicians William Nicholas Willis and Adolphus George Taylor, and demanded monies (the residue of 50 pounds) they had promised him for a novel and some articles they had published. They refused, and the parties disputed for several weeks. One day in November, Crouch went to Taylor's Woollahra home to carry on the battle, but Taylor was not in, so Crouch was invited in by the servant, 12-year-old Mary Ann Brown, whom Crouch seduced on Taylor's drawing-room sofa. The matter ended up in court with that incorrigible reprobate John Norton giving information but not sworn evidence against Crouch, who defended himself and got five years, but did not live to serve out his sentence. He was found dead the next day in his Darlinghurst Gaol cell, possibly by a poisoned pill brought in at his request by his wife Polly ...

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