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George Marshall. Electro Convulsive Therapy. Nurse Thomson. Cleland’s Curiosity and Lawsons Secretive Work


George the dark Malay, with all the troubles in the world. Lying dead in the Mosman scrub for fifteen days, being torn around by rogue possums and bush rats, some semblance of a soft copy Rubiayat lying around him somewhere. A couple of pencilled asterisks by a particular verse. His Rubiayat.

” Ah, make the most of what we may yet spend,

Before we too, into the dust descend:

Dust under dust, and under dust to lie,

Sans wine, sans song, sans singer and sans end. “

Omar Khayaam’s Rubaiyat was selling well in those days. Blame the war. A book of romantic Persian verse to be sent home to the little woman, or the lonely bride. Or be tucked into a pocket to be read in a tent and under torchlight.

George also had his poison his cup and flask – a lemonade bottle. Only the mountain top missing George; how you quested.

George was a marriage of great fervour to shifting hopes. And he was troubled to hell. There was his small book of poetry, ‘ Just You and I ‘ published and ignored. The Bunbury doctors in Western Australia thought him insane and had him taken to the Heathcote Asylum after George had expressed his desire for the sea to take him from his unwanted life.

George was a painter without a brush, a poet without a reader.

Talkative and philosophical at all times. Ask me anything he might have said at some dinner table. He enthralled all who knew him well and there were many he entertained.  He was kind, George, and generous to Gwen the hairdresser. Gwenneth Graham.

Gwenneth knew his heart. I’ve heard it said before that all hairdressers do that, know your heart.

Gwenneth bled herself to death in her warm bath not long after she was made to appear at the inquest into George Marshall’s suicide.

What isn’t clear anywhere are the questions they asked of this woman on that day. A Courtroom of White Men. A dead black man, his friend this white woman, the one who accepted his money. George’s gift to her. When he offered the money over lunch Gwen had laughed. George!

Three days later there was two hundred pounds in her bank account.


Australia. 1945.

George had propped his head up on a stone to await his end.  He would call that optimism for the eternal life to come. Nobly gone George, and good luck old lad. The convulsions would have thrown him everywhere.


Dr Colleen Fitzpatrick suspected Carl Webb had mental health issues and would ‘spiral down’ as did George Marshall who may have been been subjected to Electro Convulsive Therapy whilst in treatment at the Heathcote Mental Hospital after his attempted suicide.

After reading a couple of Alan Hamill’s posts {his link is below} he had me wondering too if Webb had undergone electro convulsive therapy and that was the reason Cleland was so interested in examining his brain, wondering if such a brutal treatment visibly changed its appearance. There is little doubt he was familiar with Parkside as his father, WC Cleland, was the asylum’s Resident Medical Officer in the late eighties.

Parkside Insane Asylum used all sorts of experiments on their patients as was noted in an earlier post. Perhaps that was the reason for all the secrecy when Lawson was working on the bust, Parkside being such an important Adelaide establishment and unwilling to be exposed as a place where some of its residents were killed during treatment. Better they be buried quietly in an unmarked plot in the asylum grounds.

Parkside also had a large complement of nurses assigned to the wards and given what we don’t know about Jessica Harkness during her early years in Adelaide, it’s possible she may have obtained some employment at Parkside, “a withered virgin in some hospital or another emptying pans and taking temperatures.” {words in italics taken from a letter written home by Jessica while overseas}

Parkside Lunatic Asylum

‘Initially preferring treatments such as bed rest and isolation, the hospital began to administer agents such as chloral hydrate, bromides, paraldehyde and barbiturates in the late 1800s. 1930 saw the introduction of arsenical treatment for syphilis derived dementia and by 1938 the hospital was trialling insulin shock treatment. Parkside also used electro-convulsive shock treatment, especially on those suffering with manic-depression or schizophrenia.’


‘Electro-Convulsive therapy was not the worst treatment used at Parkside by a long shot, in the 1940’s the American surgeon Walter Freeman had invented his own form of Lobotomy, ‘The Trans Orbital Lobotomy’. This lobotomy technique used an ice pick to stab through the skull behind the eye socket and scramble the frontal lobe on both sides of the brain. Often the patients weren’t administered an anaesthetic for this procedure, they would just be given E.C.T until they were in a catatonic state and then operated on.’

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Clive #

    Jessie and Parkside, if there was a connection with Carl Webb, we can then understand how she reacted to the bust.

    October 2, 2022
  2. A man boots up his computer, plinks up Google then searches on something amateur like ‘Physical effects of shock treatment, ie; electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
    We have another excuse for a new post.

    October 3, 2022

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