Monday, March 8, 2010

Whiskey au Go Go

This rather low-res black-and-white image records the scene at one of Queensland's most violent crimes. It is a nightclub, burning out of control in Fortitude Valley in the early hours of the morning. It is 8 March 1973, thirty-seven years ago today. It is the Whiskey au Go Go. 
 (Photo at www.news.com.au)

This photograph shows police inspecting the scene on the following morning.
(Photo: Courtesy Queensland Police)

In the late sixties and early seventies, Brisbane's Fortitude Valley was the equivalent of Sydney's Kings Cross - illegal gambling, strip clubs and prostitution - all of which existed because of police corruption that was finally uncovered by the Fitzgerald Inquiry. Drugs, protection rackets and all sorts of other seedy activity were not only rife, but also condoned by Queensland "wallopers" (police) right to the very top of the organisation.

Fifteen people died at the Whiskey au Go Go on that fateful night. This was Australia's worst mass murder before the dreadful Port Arthur shootings occurred in 1996 (NB: of white people - there have been horrific massacres of Aboriginal Australians by whites - see the comments below this post and here is a link to the one discussed there). 


Two men, John Andrew Stuart and James Richard Finch, were convicted of murder as a result of the deaths that were caused by the fire, and they were sentenced to life imprisonment in Brisbane's Boggo Road jail. The prosecutors alleged that, as part of a scheme to terrorise and extort Valley business operators, Stuart and Finch had thrown two cans of petrol into the Whiskey au Go Go building and set them alight. The nightclub was on the top floor of the building, and the unfortunate patrons were trapped by the inferno that started on the ground floor. 

The two accused men denied all charges and claimed that they had been "verballed" by police. The sensational trial was delayed when it was discovered that Finch had amputated a finger and swallowed wire while in custody. 

After conviction, both men took part in a hunger strike which cost Stuart his life. Finch was released from prison in 1988 and deported to Britain. It is claimed by interviewer Jana Wendt that Finch had admitted his crime, but upon realising that he could perhaps be extradited back to Australia to face more charges of murder, he once again swore his innocence.(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

The building that housed the Whiskey au Go Go is this one
in St Paul's Terrace, still standing after what must have been major refurbishment following the fire.


Click here for a Google Map.

tff

Next: West End to University link

8 comments:

  1. As Evan Whitton has pointed out (SMH 24 Feb 1988, p4) commenting on the Fitzgerald Inquiry, this wasn't "Australia's worst mass murder" until that time - at least 27 Aborigines were killed at Myall Creek in 1838. So the above entry is (unwittingly) implying Aborigines are not people.

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    Replies
    1. I'll pay that my daughter wrote a book of poems about such things Crow Dreaming

      Delete
  2. ahuramazda: Firstly, thanks for taking the time to comment on this blog.

    I confess absolute ignorance of the Myall Creek massacre until reading your comment. I am therefore embarrassed that my education and interest in Australian history has failed on this point.

    However, your assertion that there is an implication that our indigenous citizens are not people is a bit beyond the pale.

    I challenge you to read other posts in the blog, eg "Brisbane - the River City" and "Buddhist Temple" to determine my attitude towards aboriginal people and other minorities.

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  3. Sure, point taken - it was completely unintentional and I'm not saying you're racist or ignorant or intend to mislead or anything like that. If you go check out Evan Whitton's article, well, I guess we are both just expressing frustration that people make this assertion. Maybe I just didn't do it very well.

    Link:

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=n28pAAAAIBAJ&sjid=h-QDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2735%2C6090021

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  4. Thanks.

    Since reading your first comment I have spent hours reading accounts of various atrocities committed by whites against aboriginal people.

    It is a shame that most of us do not know more about this subject. One would have to conclude that it is a deliberate omission from history texts.

    I am heartened to see that there is now a memorial at Myall Creek and that there has been a reconciliation of sorts between aboriginal descendents and white descendents of people involved all those years ago. There is an ABC documentary "Bridge over Myall Creek" that discusses this aspect.

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  5. I have altered the article to make the point you have raised.

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  6. Hi there. Is there any information available anywhere about the building itself? How long it had been the Whiskey Au Go Go before the event occurred?

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  7. I'm afraid I don't know.

    Perhaps another reader may have that information.

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