Friday, July 1, 2011

Goanna salve

Excerpt from Brisbane Courier, Monday 23 October, 1922
Mr. J. C. Marconi, the well-known manufacturer of certain ointments, received fatal injuries during a fracas in Elizabeth-street, near the Sovereign Hotel, about 5 o'clock on Saturday afternoon. Mr. Marconi, his eldest son, and a friend were walking along the footpath in Elizabeth-street, and passed some men walking in the opposite direction Evidently recognising one of the men, Mr. Marconi said, "Good day" and "How are you?" One of the men, it is stated, made an opprobrious remark, and Mr Marconi's son turned round to question the speaker. This started an altercation, and Mr. Marconi's friend, seeing that matters were becoming serious, went off to summon the police. Mr. Marconi proceeded to the assistance of his son and is said to have received a blow which felled him to the ground. He was unconscious, so the Ambulance Brigade was summoned, and after giving first aid removed him to the General Hospital, where he was admitted, but died about 6.30 the same evening.
A post-mortem examination was held on the body at the morgue yesterday morning by the Government Medical Officer (Dr. Espie Dods), who found that death had been caused by a fracture of the base of the skull.
The late Mr. Marconi was a public spirited man, a member of the Balmoral Shire Council, and on one occasion stood as an Independent candidate for the electorate of Bulimba. He is survived by his widow, three sons, and three daughters, the youngest being six years of age.
Up to a late hour last night no arrest had been made in connection with the incident.


The unfortunate man who was killed in this incident was Italian immigrant and entrepreneur JC Marconi. He arrived in Australia in 1866 and lived at Bulimba. Whilst travelling in the outback, he observed an aboriginal man treating a snakebite wound with goanna fat. Marconi liked the idea, and after experimenting with some added ingredients, launched his Goanna Salve onto the Australian market in 1910. The manufacturing and sales were carried out from his home in Oxford St, next to the ferry terminal.

What's more, the ointment really worked. It became very popular during WWI, when diggers found that it helped almost every ailment from tinea to piles. Some even used it to oil their guns. Marconi payed a bounty for goannas, and
until they were protected in 1918 kids from all over Queensland would capture them, render off the fat and send it to his factory. Interstate goannas were then hunted for a time, but gradually the ointment was produced without the goanna oil ingredient.

After JC Marconi's untimely death, his family continued to produce and sell their Goanna products until 1982, when the business was sold to another entrepreneur, Euan Murdoch, who had formed Herron Pharmeceuticals in 1980. Herron is a Brisbane based manufacturer of vitamins and pharmaceutical products, now part of the Sigma Pharmaceuticals company. Sigma have since moved the manufacturing part of the business to Victoria.

A couple of footnotes to the story. Marconi was well-known and very popular in Bulimba. After his death, children made up the following little schoolyard chant:

"Old Marconi's dead,
Knocked on the head.
Goannas are glad,
Children are sad.
Old Marconi's dead."

Marconi's assailant, Arthur Eddington, was caught and arrested by police. After a hung jury in the first trial, he was tried a second time for the unlawful killing of Marconi and found guilty, although the jury recommended clemency because the death resulted from a melee. Eddington was sentenced to a year's hard labour.

Click here for a Google Map.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...