The Brisbane Truth was noted for its sensational headlines from when it began to be published in Brisbane in 1900 up until its demise in 1991.

Sundat Truth Newspapers delivery truck 1940

Truth Delivery Van 1940. State Library of Queensland

It often focused on detailed reporting of court cases involving murder, divorce and other sensational items. Here’s an example from 1909 dealing with fraud..

Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 - 1954), Sunday 25 April 1909, page

Truth (Brisbane) 25 April 1909 page 2 (Trove)

The article is an account of a case in the Small Debts Court at South Brisbane. A widow named Sarah Addison was thinking of running a business to support herself and her children. She wanted to live on a hill as she thought that it would be better for her poor health.

Whilst visiting Highgate Hill, she met a certain Harold Coleman who was running a grocery store at the corner of Gertrude Street and Gladstone Road. The shop is still there though its appearance would have changed considerably over the intervening years.

The many small shops scattered through Brisbane’s inner suburbs were almost all grocery or butcher shops in the days before supermarkets first appeared in the 1960s. A large majority on Highgate Hill seem to be either real estate agents or hair salons these days.

shop corner gertrude and gladstone

The shop on the corner of Gertrude Street in 2017

Coleman told her he wished to sell the business due to ill health and was asking £80, with the stock alone being worth £70. The approximate value of 80 pounds in 1909 is around $11,000 today. Sarah didn’t have much money but was running a dairy at Newmarket and asked Coleman if he could help sell her cows. Instead he suggested she take out a mortgage of her property and she managed to get £100 from a Building Society.

Coleman managed to talk Sarah out of doing a full stocktake, telling her ” It would be too much for you, have a cup of tea.”  He mentioned his role in the local church. ” It’s not my business to take anyone down, I have a higher calling in life than that that”, he told her.

Harold Coleman

The upshot was that Mrs Addison eventually paid Coleman £70 for the business only to discover later that much of the stock was fake. For example, large sealed tins of tea lining the shelves were in fact all empty. A full stocktake came up with a total value of £31, 7s and 9½d. Coleman refused to refund any money, saying ” It is too late now”.

The bench gave a verdict for Mrs Addison for £25, as well as costs of court.

Grocery store of H. V. Birchley Brisbane ca[1]. 1909

A large grocery store in Brisbane, 1909. State Library of Queensland

A Highgate Hill Con Man

One thought on “A Highgate Hill Con Man

  1. Pingback: The Yodelling Milk Money Thief and Other Scoundrels | Highgate Hill and Its History

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