Last week, our series of stories describing the history of the Daylesford Courthouse Complex (the current home of the Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre (DNC)) featured a notorious murder case.  This week tells a bizarre story around one of the early Magistrates.  Our thanks to the Daylesford Museum for helping us in our historical research.

The Bizarre Death of William Drummond (1868)

William Henry Drummond (c.1828-68) was a particularly colourful character in the history of Daylesford.  According to one recollection, he had been ‘long and honourably connected with the Victorian Public Service’.   Formerly an officer in the 89th Regiment of Foot, Drummond migrated to Australia in August 1856 to take up a position as Chinese Protector on the Beechworth goldfields.  Described as a ‘very powerful fellow’ in John Sadleir’s Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer, Drummond went on to administer a number of other Victorian goldfields before taking up his position in Daylesford on 2 November 1864.  He remained here for about three years, during which time he was noted for his ‘straightforward and independent discharge of his duties’.  He was evidently a determined and mercurial public figure, with one obituary noting such personal qualities as ‘large self-esteem’, ‘acute mind’, ‘native humour’, and an ‘extraordinary retentive memory’.

He was possessed of nerves of iron and extraordinary determination – in fact, he seemed insensible to fear, if not to danger.  When he had once resolved to accomplish any object, nothing would turn him from his pursuit, and had his judgment been equal to the strength of his will, he would have occupied a far more prominent position.

The death of magistrate Drummond was another notorious episode in the judicial history of the township, although the event itself, and the subsequent court case, actually took place in Melbourne.  Suspended from duty in Daylesford, Drummond had been sent to Melbourne in May 1868 to answer allegations of financial irregularities.  While socialising with a group of friends, he heard of a presentation given at the Canterbury Music Hall by Joseph Shires, a self-proclaimed ‘medicine man’ who demonstrated his skills by allowing a tiger-snake to bite his arm, then applying an antidote and continuing unimpeded.  A sceptical Drummond decided to prove Shires a charlatan by allowing himself to be bitten by the snake.  Turned away by the proprietor of the music hall, Drummond arranged a private meeting with Shires at a nearby hotel, during which he was bitten on the wrist by a snake and had the antidote applied.  Drummond, however, became ill within a few hours, and quickly sought advice from Dr Halford, Professor of Medicine at the University of Melbourne, who prescribed a course of rum and brandy with forty drops Sal Volatile every four hours.

The next morning, Joseph Shires arrived at Drummond’s house in South Yarra to administer a second dose of antidote.  Dr Halford had given strict instructions that Shires not be admitted and, although the attendant physician was in favour of applying more antidote, Shires was turned away.  Drummond died later that day, and Shires was subsequently charged with manslaughter at inquest.  This, however, was overturned at the trial, when the judge ruled that Drummond would presumably have survived if Shires had been permitted to administer a second dose of antidote.  Indeed, one newspaper even asserted that it was Dr Halford who should have been tried, as he had ultimately prevented the antidote from being applied.

Drummond’s obituary in the Daylesford Mercury praised the town’s former magistrate and warden, while wryly noting that ‘from a pretty intimate knowledge of his character, we can state that he was just the man who would be likely to make the rash experiment that has ended so fatally.


Do you know someone who wants to work in the Childcare industry?

DNC will be running a CERTIFICATE III IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION course next year!

This course is designed to prepare students for work as an assistant in Centre-Based Care, Occasional Care, Pre-school Centres, Family Day Care and other Children’s Services settings.

The course will suit people seeking employment in the Early Childhood Education and Care sector, or workers who are required to gain a nationally recognised qualification.  Placements will be completed locally at the Daylesford Day Care Centre.

COURSE OUTLINE: This course is designed to prepare students for work as an Assistant in Pre-school centres, Occasional Care, Centre-Based Care, Family Day Care and other Children’s services.

CAREER PATH: The qualification provides participants with the opportunity of employment as an Assistant in a child care facility.  It will also provide a pathway to a Diploma of early Childhood Educations and Care.

The course is fully funded if a participant meets the eligibility criteria.   If not eligible for the fully funded option, a nominal fee will be payable by the participant.

To register your expression of interest, or to receive a Course Plan, please email us at or call the office on 53483569.

More info on our website .


Joke of the Week

Tom and Anna are both 60 years old and have been married for 40 years.

One day they go for a walk and all of a sudden a good fairy stands in front of them and says, “You’ve been married for so long and you’re so cute together, I’ll grant you a wish each.”

The woman is beside herself with joy and wishes for a trip to Thailand.  Poof!  She’s holding two tickets to Thailand and a five-star hotel voucher for two.

Tom says, “Wow, this is the chance in a lifetime!  I’m sorry, darling, but I wish I had a wife that’s 30 years younger than me.”

“Are you sure?” asks the fairy.

“Yes!” replies Tom without hesitation.

Poof once more!  – and he’s 90.

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