Arthur Wilcox Manning, the subject of the 1868 attack by Frank Bowerman. SLQ neg. no. 68273.

Arthur Wilcox Manning, the subject of the 1868 attack by Frank Bowerman. SLQ neg. no. 68273.

Under Colonial Secretary Arthur Manning was not aware of the effect his letters were having on the recently demoted Leyburn police magistrate, Frank Sydney Bowerman, until an angry and pleading Bowerman appeared in his office in William Street on the morning of 24 November 1868. Manning’s reply to the confrontation was to tell his visitor that information about Bowerman’s alleged misappropriation of funds was going to the Colonial Secretary that very day.

Bowerman left, only to return in the early afternoon pleading to be able to repay from an advance in salary. Manning advised that it was too late.  A letter from Bowerman’s wife requesting more consideration brought no change in the situation. According to newspaper reports, Bowerman then drew from beneath his coat an American tomahawk that he had just purchased at Simmons General Store. He struck Manning five times on the head and neck, opening up his skull.  Under Colonial Secretary Manning survived, but doctors advised he would have to retire. In consideration of what he had been through, the Queensland government passed the Manning Retirement Bill, providing the retiring public servant with a £600 annual pension for the rest of his life – which lasted a further three decades until 1899.

Frank Bowerman was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison at St. Helena in Moreton Bay.  Endless petitions organised by his wife eventually brought his release, five years later. Tragically the telegram telling of this good news arrived on the day his wife died.

Frank Bowerman was the son of Henry Boucher Bowerman, whose water colour sketch of Brisbane in 1835 tells us so much about the Moreton Bay penal colony. Frank Bowerman committed suicide one night in 1894 in the Botanic Gardens, Sydney.

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