A Story of Murder, Madness and Penance

I just completed reading The Mayne Inheritance by Rosamond Siemon, who received a doctorate in history from the University of Queensland, and eventually served as Alumni officer at the University of Queensland where she must have heard all the stories about the Mayne family. She has done comprehensive research in writing this book, and though much controversy surrounds the murder of Robert Cox on 26 March 1848, she was quite convinced that the confession of the murder by Patrick Mayne on his deathbed in August 1865 was quite likely to be fact. The evidence she explains clearly suggests, though with circumstantial evidence only that Patrick Mayne murdered Robert Cox on Kangaroo point for a sum of money that Mayne used about a year latter to purchase a butcher business on Queens Street in Brisbane. The resulting rumors and sense that the Mayne family had bad blood caused Patrick’s and Mary’s five children never to marry.

The author’s evidence suggests that Patrick, his eldest son, Isaac, and eldest daughter Rosanna suffered from a mental disorder. This might explain Patrick’s violent behavior throughout his life, Isaac’s suicide, and Rosanna’s apparent depression and extensive care needs throughout much of her life in the monastery.

It appears that the only member of the Mayne family with a clear mission in life was the youngest of Patrick’s children, James Mayne, despite the many rumors starting with his father’s revelation just before dying. James trained as a surgeon in London, returned to Brisbane to be a respected surgeon and eventually become the lead administrator at Brisbane Hospital. He eventually stepped down from those roles to focus on the family business, and minimizing the impact his siblings had on rumors.

It was James who had the two stained glass ascension windows of his siblings, Isaac and William designed and placed in St. Stephen’s Cathedral Catholic Church. It was James who built the Queen Street Arcade where his father’s butcher shop had been. James also led the decision to gift the University of Queensland £50,000 to locate it in St. Lucia suburb of Brisbane. He also made sure, though he would die before his sister Mary Emelia, that all the remaining assets of the Maybe family would be donated to the University of Queensland Medical School. University of Queensland uses this money to support chairs in medicine and surgery

However, it was more than a half century after the last Mayne child died that in 1995 the medical school at Herston was named the Mayne Medical School. As the author Siemon states:

False stories have been researched and shown to be what they are – cruel fabrications. It is a sad commentary on society that the good spread by James and Mary Emelia Maybe in their lifetime, which continues long after their deaths, took so long to be proudly proclaimed. The fact that some members of their family inherited a rogue gene and were driven by forces they could not control does not mean that money donated by James and Mary Emelia is tainted. They gave to the University of Queensland its main campus at St. Lucia, the large Veterinary Farm at Moggill, the valuable site of “Moorlands” and an income which by 1995 had grown to almost $1 M a year to support the Faculty of Medicine.

Rosamond Siemon. The mayne inheritance: a gothic tale of murder, madness and scandal across the generations, 1997, pp 210-211.

Author: T.P. Caruso

Retired from a healthcare and biomedical research career and now enjoying connections with anyone interested in history, geneology, healthcare, leadership or consciousness.

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