top of page

A Touch of Whimsy

Doomed from the Get-Go

This is the story of one man’s life-long battle against the system in which he lived; his was a world where all cards were stacked forever against him, with dice forever loaded and odds totally un-even.

His was a life played-out on a gameboard inhabited by snakes and no ladders.

Though desperate to be a gentleman, Captain Melville had to fight forever to survive.

Throughout his short existence (35 years), Francis McNeiss McNiel McCallum (1822-1857) spent the bulk of his life in institutions and though best known as Captain Melville much of his time was spent masquerading as others - Francis or Frank McCallum, Francis McNiel or McNeiss, Edward Melville or Mulvell or Tomas Smith.


This short somewhat depressing video,

from the days when

a chip on your shoulder

could be the size of an iceberg,

tells of one man's fight

against a system.

solitary confinement 3.jpg

With sound

solitary confinement 3.jpg
solitary confinement 3.jpg
solitary confinement 3.jpg
solitary confinement 3.jpg
solitary confinement 3.jpg

Additional Sources worth reading…

Click image...



The Sydney Empire, 17 August, 1857



The Kiama Independent, and Shoalhaven Advertiser Fri., 28 May, 1880, page 4

Captain Melville the Bushranger.


Adelaide Register Mon., 15 Jan., 1923, Page 9


Hobart News, Thursday, 3 July, 1924, page 3


A Murderous Career

Truth, Sunday, 3 March, 1935, page 22

Bushrangers — Noted and Notorious


Polite Bushranger Was Wild Beast in Gaol

Though the link to Fyansford is somewhat tenuous,

'My Playroom' is just the place for telling such a story; 

one with strong undertones of tragedy

and personal defiance against the odds.

Annotation 2019-03-18 162100.jpg

I can't help but ponder:

  • Was it 'Nature' or 'Nurture' what done poor Francis in?

  • Was this but another case of class distinction at its very worst?

  • Did anyone ever think that there must be an underlying causal problem within their society?

  • How long would I have lasted in Francis' shoes?

  • Is it the case even in today's world

      that there is a deeper story to be told behind every prisoner?

Francis Melville

Captain (self-titled) Francis Melville (1822-1857) saw himself as a ‘gentleman bushranger’ about whom there was “created a legend of the cultured gentleman of good address and scholarship turned highwayman, considerate to those whom he robbed, courteous and charming to women, and a nineteenth-century Robin Hood. Yet he was a swaggerer courageous behind a brace of pistols and a skilful confidence man destroyed by the penal system and his unbalanced character” (Australian Dictionary of Biography).

“…. at Bruce's Creek the bushrangers robbed Thomas Warren and William Madden of £37 but gave them £10 for travelling expenses. On the 24th (1852) they held up two bush workers at Fyansford. In Geelong they (Melville, under the alias of Thomas Smith, and William Robert Roberts) put up at Christy's inn, dined and visited a brothel. Melville's boasting and £100 reward for his capture induced a woman to warn the police“.

Captain Melville.jpg

Francis Melville

“Captain Foster Fyans committed them on 3 January 1853 for trial before Judge Redmond Barryon 3 February (at the Geelong Circuit Court). On charges of highway robbery, horse stealing and assault and robbery, Melville was sentenced to a total of 32 years' hard labour. Imprisoned in the hulk President, Melville attempted on 4 June to bite off a sergeant's nose; he was beaten by the warders' 'neddies' and given twenty days' solitary. …” (Wikipedia: Frank McCallum, alias Captain Melville, alias Francis Melville)

Captain Melville ~ 


An early newspaper depiction of Captain

An early newspaper depiction of Captain Melville

Anchor 1
The Little Folks.jpg

MELVILLE'S CAVE ~ A bush story for boys and girls

A serialised story for "the Little Folks" by Henricus (1880)

From the South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail

Source:  Express and Telegraph (Adelaide, SA: 1867 - 1922), Wednesday, 13 October, 1880, page 2

Included in Wednesday and Saturday editions


Readers may find this story offensive as it reflects the mores of the times and does not fit with current attitudes. It is also written in a form very much of the period. While I find the form charming and quite telling, I understand how others might see it as unacceptable. The following is but a single chapter, from a nine-chapter serial. Links to other chapters are provided below.

Readers might find the historic photocopied files arduous and occasionally difficult to decipher. To gain a more readable form click the download tag (far LHS) and then download using the Text form.

For more of the party’s adventure see:


By Henricus.

Chapter 1 Introductory - Preparing for Pleasure Sat., 21 Aug, 2880


Chapter 2 Further Preparation – Fairies and mermaids Wed., 1 Sep., 1880


Chapter 3 The Journey – Accidents Wed., 8 Sep., 1880

Chapter 4 The Cave - Wed., 15 Sep, 1880

Chapter 5 Fish, Opossums and wild dogs - Wed., 22 Sep,. 1880

Chapter 6 Kangaroos – Tracks – Enemies Wed., 29 Sep, 1880


Chapter 7 The girls in danger – Jimmy the black - Wed., 6 Oct., 1880

Chapter 8 Defence of the cave - Wed., 13 Oct., 1880

Chapter 9 Last attack – Bill’s danger – Rescued Wed., 20 Oct., 1880


bottom of page