There were a number of celebrated criminal trials at the Daylesford Courthouse. This week, we highlight two of them in our continuing series on the history of Daylesford Courthouse Complex, the current home of the Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre (DNC).

Celebrated Trials and Cases

Even before the new courthouse opened in 1863, Daylesford, like many early gold rush towns in Victoria, witnessed a number of notorious criminal cases that garnered much attention and publicity, both within the township and beyond.  A memorable example from 1859, described as ‘one of the most remarkable legal cases in Daylesford’s history’ saw seven local men charged with assault after another was tarred and feathered following a disagreement over a game of cards.   The trial, before magistrate F. C. Doveton, spread over three days, during which time countless witnesses gave evidence ‘giving great amusement to the packed court’, while allegations were made against the victim and even the magistrate himself.

The Murder of Margaret Graham (1864)

Another case, from the 1860s, widely reported in the Melbourne press, demonstrates the colourful judicial history of Daylesford during the gold rush era.

The brutal murder of local barmaid Margaret “Maggie” Graham in 1864, and the subsequent capture, trial and execution of her murderer, generated an unprecedented amount of publicity throughout the entire colony.  Eighteen-year-old Maggie had married a goldminer, George Graham, only six weeks before her death, and the couple lived in a modest two-roomed cottage in Albert Street.

After midnight on 28 December, Maggie’s husband returned from a late shift at the Wombat Creek mine to find his door unlocked.  He entered the bedroom where, as one contemporary source put it, ‘a frightful spectacle met his gaze: there lay his poor murdered wife, the victim of unparalleled brutality, with her throat cut in several places and the room in perfect disorder’.   Graham sought help from a neighbour, who ran to the police station at the far end of Albert Street and duly returned with Constable Irwin and a local surgeon, Dr Frank Wadsworth Doolittle.  They were later joined by Sergeant Whelan, Detective Constable Walker and Constables Mansell, Dawson and Brady who took possession of the dwelling and began their investigations.  During an examination of the crime scene, Detective Walker found a man’s smoking pipe, which, according to Maggie’s husband, did not belong to him.

The following day, it was found that William Drummond, the District Coroner, was in Woodend and thus not available to preside over an inquest.  In his absence, a makeshift inquest was held by a group of impatient local magistrates, but this was quickly adjourned and, as one source out it, ‘this clumsy interference with the function of the Coroner materially diminished their chances of discovering the murderer’.   Drummond duly returned to Daylesford and a formal inquest was held at the courthouse on 4 January 1865.  One witness gave evidence that she had seen a man, identified as David Young, loitering in front of Maggie Graham’s house on the night of the murder.  Five days later, Young was captured by one of Daylesford’s mounted constables, Henry Michael Brady, who came across the accused near Kingston, some sixteen miles away.  Young was brought back to Daylesford, placed in the town’s lock-up and brought up before the magistrate the following day.

Young’s trial was subsequently held on 26-27 July 1865 at the Circuit Court in Castlemaine.  Many residents of Daylesford were called to provide evidence, including seven members of the local police force.  It transpired that David Young, an itinerant worker, had camped near the Grahams’ cottage just before Christmas, and made unwelcome advances to Maggie.  On the night of the murder, he was alleged to have entered the locked house via the chimney.  The clay pipe, found by Detective Walker on the following morning, became the key evidence and was eventually proven to be Young’s property through the testimony of a former employer.  Young was sentenced to death and was executed on 21 August 1865, becoming the first man to be hanged at the new Castlemaine Gaol.

Next week:  The Bizarre Death of Magistrate William Drummond (1868)

 Looking Ahead to Course Offerings in 2023!  

Are you a teacher or trainer or someone with a passion for a subject that might interest others?  We are starting to look to the courses we might be able to offer to the community in 2023.  We are always on the lookout for tutors so if you have a special interest or skill you would like to share, come and have a chat with us or give the manager a call on 53483569!

Spirit Connections – Upcoming event

You are invited to join Spirit Medium, Lindie Gunston, for a powerful evening of audience readings at the Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre.

Lindie is a well-loved Psychic, Medium and Teacher, who empowers and inspires her audiences through her authentic Psychic, Spirit and Soul connections.  Her connections will leave you feeling uplifted and inspired to take those next steps on your journey, whether receiving a reading of your own, or listening to someone else receive a reading.  Treat yourself to an evening of Inspiration, Connection and Reflection, knowing that you are in safe hands and will be amongst like-minded souls. Experience the healing that this evening will bring by simply being present in the room.

This event may be filmed for promotional purposes. By buying a ticket you understand that you may appear in a brief video clip in any of Lindie Gunston’s social media channels. There will be some seating available for people who don’t wish to be filmed.

The event will be held on Friday 16th December in the DNC Paddock Room. Arrive by 6.45 pm for a  7:00 pm start. The event will finish by 8.30 pm. 16+ only. No babies or children.

Tickets are $45 plus a small booking fee and available online from trybooking.

Please note that not everyone is guaranteed a reading and tickets are non-refundable.

DNC Joke of the Week

Two drunks were walking home along the railway tracks. The first drunk says, ‘There’s a hell of a lot of steps here’. The second drunk says ‘I’ll tell you what’s worse, this hand rail is low down.’

[Don’t forget, if you’ve got some better jokes, send them to and we’ll publish them (Remember, this is a family publication! ?).  We’ll even include your name if you wish – or you can protect your anonymity!]