On February 19 1922 my great uncle, returned WWI veteran Arthur Singleton, was arrested. According to a later report by the Ulverstone police he was in a disturbed mental state. Like many men, he had never recovered from his war service. As one of the first Australians to enlist, Private Singleton had been at the dawn landing at Anzac Cove, fought in the bloody Battle of Lone Pine and served on The Western Front in France. He returned home to Tasmania in October 1917, with a severe shoulder injury and suffering from Shellshock (now known as Post Traumatic Stress).
MAN’S STRANGE BEHAVIOUR – STRUGGLE FOR REVOLVER
Last evening, Sergt. Tomkinson, of Ulverstone, received information that a man named Arthur Singleton, a farmer residing at Upper Castra, had presented a revolver at his wife, who is an inmate of the Ulverstone Hospital, where she is receiving medical treatment. Shortly afterwards, the Sergeant observed a man driving down Reibey Street in a jinker, and hailed him, asking him to stop. However, the man drove on and Sergt.Tomkinson jumped into a motor car and went in pursuit, overtaking him at the bridge. On questioning him, the Sergeant states, he noticed the man’s hand going in the direction of his inside coat pocket, and concluded that a weapon was hidden there. He seized Singleton’s arm, and a struggle ensued, the pocket being torn away. The Sergeant finally secured the weapon, an automatic revolver, loaded in seven chambers. Singleton was locked up, and will be presented at the court this morning.
(Advocate February 20)
Reiby Street Circa 1920
Advocate, Thursday 23 1922 – Yesterday the man Arthur Singleton, arrested by Sergeant C.E. Tomkinson, and who had been remanded for three days, was brought before the Warden (Cr. A.S. Lakin) and Mr T. Bingham, J.P., on a charge of being deemed to be a person of unsound mind. Evidence was given by Elizabeth (Lizzie) Mary Singleton, Sergt. Tomkinson, Ethel Blanche Watt (Matron of the Ulverstone Hospital) and Dr. F.A. Ferris. The bench decided to send Singleton to the Launceston Reception House for observation for a period of 14 days.
Following his discharge from the Reception House Arthur returned home, but clearly he and Lizzie were still having problems. A few months later the couple appeared before the bench again.
Advocate, July 12, 1922 – SEPARATION SOUGHT Before the Police Magistrate (Mr V.N. Stops) at the Court House yesterday afternoon, Elizabeth Mary Singleton sought separation from her husband, Arthur William Singleton, on the ground of cruelty at Upper Castra, and asked that the children be given into her custody. Mr Leslie Hudson appeared for complainant, and Mr J.A. Henry for defendant. Mr Hudson said that the parties were married at Lindisfarne in 1918. After the marriage they came to Ulverstone and resided at South Road for 18 months, during which time the eldest child was born. They later moved to Upper Castra, where the second child was born, and after this the trouble started; before that they got on together pretty well. At this point complainant’s counsel suggested that his honour should deal with the case in chambers. The police magistrate gave his assent, and the public left the room. When the hearing of the case had terminated it was learned that his honour had made no order, nor did he pass any comment on the case.
It appears that Mr Stops simply advised Arthur and Lizzie to patch things up and get on with their lives. Of course, there was little hope of that. Memories, particularly of Gallipoli, tormented Singleton. He often saw family, friends and members of his community as ‘the enemy’ and physically attacked them.
In what was a strongly patriarchal society, it was rare for a woman to be granted a legal separation. Certainly Lizzie would have found it difficult to support herself and the children.
In September that year Lizzie Singleton left home, placing Winifred, and Joyce, then aged four and two, into foster care in Launceston. The little girls remained in care for nine months, until they were removed by their father in June 1923. He took them back to his soldier settlement farm, but was totally unable to cope. It was at this point that he walked off the property and returned to his father’s farm just outside Ulverstone. John Singleton took in his increasingly unwell son and his granddaughters.
Unfortunately, the elderly widower’s housekeeper was unhappy with her increased workload and threatened to leave. It wasn’t long before another solution had to be found. The youngest child, Joyce, was sent to live nearby with an aunt.
Several months later the aunt wrote a letter that would have an enormous impact on her nieces’ future, and break their father’s heart.
FOR THE SECOND PART OF THE STORY, CLICK HERE.