A true crime story
The more I discover, the more I feel that I am Randy, but instead of telling the story of Ernest Hemingway. Though I am telling the wider story of the Crutchy Push, I am mainly following the leader Valentine Keating as he was one of the more prolific members of the gang. The book will follow the Crutchy Push, touching on other members’ stories and how they all fit into the story.
Valentine was born in 1878. Son of Irish parents who had come to Melbourne to escape the potato famine. Found selling matches on Collins Street and was made a Ward of State with his brother and sent to a boys’ home. Ran away from the Boys Receiving Home and was on the run for 3 weeks. Started building up a reputation by stealing items which included oranges, trousers and a coat. Was called as a witness in a murder trial of his fellow gang member, who was charged with killing Crutchy Push’s gang leader. Became the leader of the Crutchy Push, though there are records that show he was classed as the leader before then. The gang ran around Melbourne using their crutches as weapons to stab people they didn’t like in the groin. He got 5 years in jail after assaulting a police constable. In jail was brought up on charges of making ‘two toilet brushes without authority’. Opened a sly grog shop. Worked for Ted Whiting (Squizzy Taylor’s nemesis). Married a young woman just months after his long-time girlfriend died as one of the Spanish Flu. Had a kid. Got charges dismissed on receiving stolen sly grog. Got arrested at a party for riotous behaviour. A year before he died was found drunk behind a car early in the morning. Contracted Tuberculosis and died in 1930 at the age of 50 years old.
I. Am. Not. Making. This. Shit. Up.
The idea of being chased by a gang of thugs down a dark alleyway is one thing, but discovering that the entire gang is on crutches, with legs missing on several of them is even more terrifying. The Crutchy Push was a Melbourne gang who terrorised the city at the turn of the 20th century and proved themselves a force to be reckoned with.
Correction: I want to say that in the interview I say that Harriet Adderley died of the Spanish Flu. This is incorrect and I appologise and wish to state that, her correct cause of death was a rupture of the aorta, aneurysm and hemorrhage.
THE CRUTCHY PUSH, WITH ONE EXCEPTION, CONSISTED OF THE ONE-LEGGED MAN. THE EXCEPTION WAS THE ONE-ARMED MAN WHO KEPT HALF A BRICK IN HIS SEWN UP EMPTY SLEEVE. HE LED HIS FOLLOWERS INTO BATTLE SWINGING THE WEIGHTED SLEEVE AROUND HIS HEAD. BEHIND HIM CAME THE MEN ON CRUTCHES – EACH ONE EXPERT AT BALANCING ON ONE LEG. THE TIP OF THE CRUTCH WAS USED TO JAB AN OPPONENT IN THE MIDRIFF. WITH THE ENEMY GASPING FOR BREATH THE CRUTCH WOULD BE REVERSED AND THE METAL-SHOD ARM REST WOULD BE USED AS A CLUB.Sydney Morning Herald, 1953
USING THE WORD ‘CRIPPLE’ IN MY BOOK?
Cripple, defined by Macquarie Dictionary
1. someone who is partially or wholly deprived of the use of one or more limbs; a lame person.
Though considered offensive now, my intention is to accurately portray the way it was being used at the time. In the historical context of the subject, cripple was used widely to describe Valentine and members of the gang. A newspaper headline referred to them as ‘Melbourne’s Cripple Gang of Hooligans’.
WHAT PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SOURCES HAVE I USED?
Primary sources included: Government and Police Gazettes; Trial and Prison Records; Newspaper Articles; Births, Marriages and Deaths Records and Electoral Rolls.
Secondary sources included: History Books and Articles.
CAN WE SEE YOUR SOURCES?
Sure, they can be found here at Crutchy Push Bibliography.