Alexander Bruce Kenney (1887-1917)
Minnie Matilda Williams (1889-1974)
Alexander Bruce Kenney was the middle child of eleven children of James Kenney & Mary Scholastica Thecla Walker (with one female child still to locate). He was born on 02 Aug 1887 in Dungog, New South Wales and moved to Western Australia with his parents in 1896.
This page has been assembled with information largely supplied by Donna Wieland, one of James and Mary’s great-great-grandchildren.
Minnie Matilda Williams was born in 1889 in Broken Hill, New South Wales, to Thomas Henry Williams & Minnie Matilda Thomas.
Alexander became a miner, and he and Minnie married on Wed 21 Apr 1909 in Boulder, Western Australia. From The Evening Star, Sat 24 Apr 1909:
A pretty wedding took place on Wednesday last at St. Matthew’s Church, when the Rev. E. M. Collick celebrated the marriage of Mr. Alexander Bruce Kenny and Miss Minnie Matilda Williams. The bride wore a most artistic and daintily trimmed bridal gown, being attended by her two little sisters as bridesmaids. Mr. Arthur Gallagher was best man. After the ceremony the party adjourned to the residence of the bride’s parents at Trafalgar, where a breakfast was laid and the usual toasts honoured.
They lived in Trafalgar in the Kalgoolie district and had three children.
01. William Thomas James (b. 1910, d. 1910)
02. Irene Florence Walker (b. 1911, d. 02 Mar 1993)
03. Wallace George Bruce (b. 29 Dec 1913, d. 10 Mar 1962)
The Kalgoorlie Miner carried a notice of the death of their first child on Thu 27 Jan 1910:
The Friends of Mr. and Mrs. ALEXANDER BRUCE KENNY are respectfully informed that the remains of their late beloved infant son, William Thomas James, will be removed from their residence, Cornwall-street, Trafalgar, at 4 o’clock This Day (Thursday), for interment in the C. of England portion of the Kalgoorlie Cemetery.
There seems to have been an ongoing issue between one of Alexander’s brothers and a couple of boys named Murphy. There were three short mentions and two long descriptions of an assault on Alexander by one James Murphy.
The West Australian, Fri 19 Feb 1915 and the Western Mail, Fri 26 Feb 1915:
At the Boulder Police Court on Tuesday James Murphy was charged with having committed an unlawful assault on, and caused grievous bodily harm to, Alexander Bruce Kenny. It was alleged that the assault took place in the Boulder subway on January 29, and Kenny was knocked down and kicked. His injuries necessitated a week’s treatment in the hospital. In evidence the complainant said that he had just left the hospital, where he had been treated for a strain received at his work, and was not in a fit condition to defend himself. The medical testimony supported this statement. Kenny said he had given no provocation for the assault, which, it appears, arose out of a disturbance some time ago between the brothers to both parties. Murphy, who reserved his defence, was committed for trial.
The Daily News, Fri 19 Feb 1915:
Violent Assault Alleged.—A charge of assault whereby grievous bodily harm was sustained was made against James Murphy, a butcher, of Fimiston, by Alexander Bruce Kenny at the Boulder Police Court last Tuesday, and resulted In the defendant being committed for trial at the March sessions of the Kalgoorlie Circuit Court. The alleged offence occurred In the subway leading from Boulder to Fimiston on January 29, and Kenny in evidence declared that the injuries necessitated a week’s confinement to a private hospital. Murphy, who was represented by counsel, reserved his defence. Bail was allowed in two sureties of £75 each, and himself in £50.
The Kalgoorlie Western Argus, Tue 23 Feb 1915:
ALLEGED GRIEVOUS BODILY HARM
On January 29 an altercation ocurred between two men in the Boulder sub-way leading from l Boulder City to Fimiston, and as the result, James Murphy was proceeded against by Alexander Bruced Kenny by summons in the Boulder Police Court yesterday, on a charge of having committed an unlawful assault and” caused grievous bodily harm to the plaintiff. The court was presided over by Messrs. H Glance, J. H. Stephens and E.R. Brown, J’s.P. Mr. M. B. Scott represented the plaintiff and Mr. P. F. O’Dea the defendant.
When the court opened the absence of the defendant was noted. The explanation tendered by his solicitor was that he was in business as a butcher, and had to take the place of an employee who had failed to attend work.
Mr. Scott entered a protest against the conduct of the defendant who, he declared, did not appear to realise the seriousness of the charge. There was a probability that it would Have to be finally settled before a supreme court judge. A bench warrant could be issued, but Murphy was so well known that he could easily be located.
Mr. Glance said that a warrant could be issued in the absence of the defendant, and pointed out to Mr. O’Dea that the time of the Court had a prior right of consideration over defendant’s business.
Eventually the court adjourned for ten minutes, and in the interim defendant arrived. The case was then proceeded with.
Alexander Bruce Kenny, the complainant, who is a miner residing at Trafalgar, stated that prior to the date mentioned in the charge he had been an inmate of Nurse Wright’s Private Hospital. He was receiving medical attention by Dr. Cameron for a strain in the side sustained during the progress of his work. On January 29 he was proceeding through the subway on the road to Fimiston in company with a young fellow named Dixon. Defendant and a man named Molloy were coming in the opposite direction, and they passed. Murphy called out that he desired to see him, and witness walked back. Defendant referred to an incident when witness’ brother had fought a brother of Murphy, and added that he intended “to dish him up in return.” He delivered a blow, which knocked witness down, and it was succeeded by several kicks. Witness said: “For God’s sake don’t kick me again! I am just out of the hospital.” Molloy tried to intervene and prevent Murphy from further kicking, but the latter pushed him away and threatened to ‘”deal out” to him as well. Turning to witness he said ‘You ___, I’ll put you back,” and delivered a kick in the right eye. Witness was finally assisted to Fimiston by Dixon. They called at the police station, but the constable was on duty. They went to the Perseverance Hotel to await the arrival of the police officer. Witness was bleeding freely, and persons at the hotel did what was necessary, and, after Constable Oswain’s arrival he was ordered to a doctor. He subsequently entered a private hospital, and remained there for a week. His right eye was severely cut, and the sight was affected for five days after leaving, the hospital. He was at a loss to account for the assault, as no provocation had been given.
Cross-examined by Mr. O’Dea, witness said that he had made no attempt to defend himself, as he was not in a fit condition. Had he been aware of Murphy’s intentions, he would have paid no heed to his call. He would not meet a man like defendant when well, as he considered Murphy too advanced for him. He had spoken to Murphy once since the assault in order to give him an opportunity of considering a course of action. He wanted compensation for the damage done, and would not have taken legal proceedings had Murphy agreed.
Mr. O’Dea: The object of those proceedings is to get compensation?
Witness: it is to get justice.
And the justice is to take the form of hard cash?—It was to get him before the court.
Dr. Cameron deposed that Kenny had been under his care since January 9, suffering from strains.
Mr Scott: In what condition of health was Kenney before January 29?
Dr. Cameron: ln a pretty weak state.
How long had he been under your care?—Three weeks at Nurse Wright’s hospital.
Proceeding, he said that he again saw Kenny on the 30th. when he had several injuries to the face. One eye was severely bruised, but the ball itself was not damaged. The injuries could be caused in the manner described by complainant, and he was kept under medical observation for an additional week.
Anthony Joseph Molloy, a miner residing at Fimiston, gave evidence that on the date of the charge he was walking from Boulder Block in the direction of Boulder, in company with Murphy, the defendant. When passing through the sub-way two men, Kenny and Dickenson, were encountered. Murphy spoke to Kenny, saying, “Here, I want you.” Witness walked on, but Murphy requested him to return, which, he did. The argument between the two men appeared to be about an old incident. Murphy, in formed Kenny that as his brother had “dished up” a brother of his some time ago, it was his intention to “dish up” Kenny that day. Kenny answered “You have struck me in a very bad time. I have just left the hospital.” Murphy then struck Kenny, the blow knocking him to the ground. He did not get up, and Murphy gave him a couple of kicks on the leg. Witness remonstrated with Murphy and asked him not to kick. Kenny rolled over, and he noticed Murphy kick the complainant in the abdomen. Witness requested him to desist, but he retorted “Get out of the road, or I will ‘crack’ you.”
Mr. Scott: What did you do?
Witness: I stood back, as I didn’t want to get a crack.
Proceeding, witness stated that Murphy appeared over excited and delivered a further kick on one of Kenny’s temples. Witness spoke to a young fellow who had been in company with Kenny, and asked him to notify a police officer. One was not available at this time, but later a tram car passed and Kenny was placed in it.
Mr. Scott: In what condition was Kenny?
Witness: He was sober anyhow.
I mean, was he in distress when walking?
Was any provocation given to Murphy?—I did not hear any, but I did not hear the whole argument.
Mr. O’Dea: Kenny was not taken unawares with the blow, was he?
Witness: Oh no, Murphy told him it was coming.
When the blow was being delivered, did Kenny assume to fighting attitude?—I did not much time to see. Murphy is not too slow, you know.
What kind of boots was Kenny wearing?—Leather, of course.
Were they light or heavy?—They were light.
Percival Dickson, a miner, who was in company with Kenny on the day of the charge, was the next witness. He described the assault, and said that he walked up to defendant, and said “hold on, Mr. Murphy,” but the latter took no notice. At the request of Molloy he went off to get assistance, but as none was available he returned. On the way back he met Murphy, who said, ‘Now, go and pick him up.” Kenny’s clothes were splashed with blood, and he complained of feeling weak. Subsequently he was taken to Boulder Block in a tram. This concluded the case for the prosecution.
Mr. Scott submitted that a prima facie case had been made out, and asked that defendant should be committed for trial at the March session is of the Kalgoorlie Circuit Court.
Murphy reserved his defence, and was committed for trial. Bail was allowed in two sureties of £25 each, and his own recognisance in £50.
The Kalgoorlie Miner, Wednesday 24 March 1915:
The case for the Crown was that Kenny and the accused, each accompanied by a friend, passed each other in the Boulder subway; the accused called Kenny back and a violent assault took place. Kenny was in a bad state of health and unable to offer any resistance or do anything except submit, and had it not been for the interference of the accused’s companion results might have been still more serious. The only justification suggested was that the complainant’s brother had done some serious injury to the accused’s brother.
Asked if he knew anything about this excuse Kenny said he did. It was a little over seven years ago.
Mr. O’Dea: Would you say you have been on friendly terms with Murphy during the last six or seven years?
Witness: Neither friendly nor unfriendly.
Have you a habit of giving a little snigger when you meet him? — Never.
Can you say he attacked you with no provocation at all? — Absolutely.
If he says you gave him one of these delightful sniggers would you deny it? — Yes.
Had he agreed to compensate you, would you have taken proceedings? — No; certainly not.
Since he was committed for trial have you seen him? — I asked him to pay the doctor’s expenses, hospital, chemistry, and eye specialist’s fees.
What was the inducement you held out? — I told him if the case could be withdrawn I would with draw it. I told him I was leaving the country with the Expeditionary Force.
These proceedings have been initiated for the purpose of exacting payment from Murphy? — Yes.
The Chief Justice: What’s the object of all this? I daresay he’s like a good many other people. If they can get compensation they will be glad to let the law take care of itself. It shows the spirit in which a great many prosecutions come into this court. They simply appear for themselves, but I shall simply ask the jury whether a crime has been committed. Though, if a crime has been committed, and the accused is willing to pay compensation, the judge sometimes takes a course which he might not otherwise take.
Dr. Cameron described Kenny’s injuries as a very badly bruised eye and bruises on this nose and stomach. He left after a week at Nurse Wright’s hospital.
Mr. O’Dea: What was the condition of his eye? — Pretty right, only he could not see out of it. (Laughter.) Only temporarily, of course.
Anthony Joseph Molloy, Murphy’s companion at the time, described the latter’ s condition as fearfully excited through drink. “I have known him for many years,” he said, “and I have never known him to be in anything approaching such a state.”
Seen afterwards by Constable Cowain, of Fimiston, Kenny had his right eye swollen, blood was coming from his nose, and apparently from his mouth, and his clothes were covered with it. He seemed very distressed. The defence was that Kenny gave the accused a sarcastic look as he usually did, and was at once invited to put his hands up. He did so and was knocked down first blow, not before getting in a blow himself. They were on a slope of the subway, and as Kenny rolled down the defendant declared he kept tripping over him and gave him one or two punches because he could not get up. He denied he kicked him at all.
Mr. O’Dea: Has there been any feeling between you?
Cross-examined, Murphy admitted that through worry and other things he had a good few drinks in and was very drunk at the time.
Mr. Brown: Probably your recollection would not be as good as if you were sober? — I can’t say.
Mr. O’Dea said he was. not going to set up that drunkenness was any excuse for a crime, but at the same time people who know the accused had no right when he was under the influence of drink to do any thing that would cause him annoyance. He thought the statement that there had been no provocation would be disbelieved. His Honour said it was not disputed there had been an assault, and he had never yet heard it suggested that because a man grinned in a way some one did not like, it gave justification for knocking him down and kicking him. There was only one question for the jury to decide, and that was whether they were satisfied that the accused assaulted Kenny in such a way as to interfere with his comfort or health, which the law said constituted bodily harm.
The jury found Murphy guilty, with a strong recommendation to mercy.
Mr. O’Dea asked that he be dealt with under the First Offenders Act. “It’s already meant his ruin financially,” he explained, “and I think, under the circumstances, he has pretty well satisfied the punishment his offence called for.”
Addressing Murphy, his Honour remarked: The jury had sent him a note expressing the opinion the case might have been dealt with elsewhere. They thought, and perhaps rightly, there had been a good deal of exaggeration, as there often was in such cases. At the same time he had committed a serious offence, for which drunkenness was no excuse at all, although, to his mind, there was a very great difference between a man who had been found guilty of committing an offence in cold blood and one who had been guilty of the foolish conduct of getting drunk. Accused would be bound over in his own recognisance of £50 and two similar sureties to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for twelve months.
Alexander joined the Expeditionary Force, as he had intimated, signing up on March 8, 1915 at Blackboy Hill WA (view the official records). His enlistment was mentioned in The Kalgoorlie Miner on Wed 03 Mar 1915:
RECRUITING AT BOULDER
ANOTHER 100 WANTED.
Five recruits were passed by the medical officer at Boulder last night for the Australian Imperial Force.
Lieutenant Long has now instructions to enrol another 100, therefore the area office will be open every morning from 10 to 12 noon to receive names. The next medical examination will be held on Friday next at 8 p.m., and those selected will leave on Sunday’s express. The following is the list of those selected last night: — H. J. Evans, L. Wright, H. J. Fraser, C. Spratt, A. B. Kenney.
In the official documents Alexander was described as a man 28 years 8 months old, 5′ 10” tall, weight 161 lbs, chest measurement 36″, of fair complexion, brown hair and blue eyes with a scar over the right eye. He was deployed as a private (#4286) to the 5th Reinforcements, 8th Battery, the Australian Field Artillery, serving at Gallipoli. He fell ill during 1915 (the papers show varicocele, which is an enlargement of the veins within the loose bag of skin that holds the testicles) and spent some time in No 2 Australian Stationary Hospital at Mudros on Lemnos Island, returning to duty on Christmas Eve, 2015. On 03 January 2016 he disembarked at Alexandria; almost immediately he went absent without leave for three days, and was punished by having leave cancelled for three months and pay stopped (however his detention of six days Field Punishment was remitted). In May 1916 he was sent to France as a driver, but, on 01 Aug 1916, he was wounded in action, an event reported in the Kalgoorlie Miner on Fri 1 Sep 1916 and The Daily News on Tue 05 Sep 1916:
Driver Alexander Bruce Kenney was wounded while in action with the Australians in France, and is now in the 3rd General Hospital, London. Mrs. Kenney, the wife of the wounded soldier, lives at Trafalgar.
Following several months in hospital in England he returned to France on 05 Apr 1917. He was killed in action on 18 Aug 1917. His personal effects (listed as handherchief, roseary, purse, pencil case, note book, devotional book, letter, tobacco pouch, metal ring) were returned to his wife Minnie. His daughter Irene and son Wallace received pensions of 20/- and 15/- (resp.) fortnightly, with Minnie named as Trustee.
There is a very sad twist to Alexander’s death. On 04 June 1917 his mother Mary had written to the army requesting that he be allowed to return to Australia to support the family. The letter reads:
No. 7 Manning Street
4th June, 1917
In regard to the return of my son Alexander Bruce Kenney, I wish his return on the grounds that I have lost my principle support William Kenney, who is now in Claremont Asylum, and there is very little hope of his ever getting better.
My husband has been out of work for several weeks. He is 68 years of age, and is in very poor health at present. I am an invlaid paralysed, with no hope of recovery, unable to put my wn clothes on. I am 66 years of age.
The daughter who looks after me has been very ill, and unable to keep on doing the work for me, and her own family; her husband is also a very delicate man, so he is unable to help me. My Daughter-in-Law would assist me if she could, but the pay is only sufficient for herself, for she has had a lot of sickness in her family to contend with, and also my dead daughter’s two children to be thought of, although not with me at pesent. Through a recent death we expect to be called upon to assist them. We reared them and only let them go to the other grand-parent, through my illness for a time.
My son Bruce left his wages to go and fight for King and Country, and as he has put in 2 years and 2 months since he landed in Egypt, I think under present circumstances his duty is at home.
At present his poor old father cannot get work, but able-bodied young men that should be at the front are in good fat billets. Trusting my son will be allowed to return.
I am, Sir
(Snd) [Mary] Kenney
P.S. If you refer to Mr. West, Sergeant of Police next door to me or my grocer, Mr. MacConnell, South Street, Freemantle, they can testify to the truth of my statement.
[It would have been daughter Mary caring for her mother; her husband Bill Hogan passed away on 01 Jan 1918. Leonora was the daughter who had died in 1910; her daughter Veronica would have been 10 and her son Jim 8. We assume the daughter-in-law referred to was Alexander’s wife Minnie. Ed.]
Mary’s claim was investigated by the Secretary of Defence and an H Robinson strongly recommended that favourable consideration begiven to this application in a letter dated 12 June 1927:
I respectfully report that I went to South Freemantly and made inquiries re Application of Mrs. Kenney to have her son returned from the Front.
I interviewed Sergt. West, Freemantle Police, and he informed me that he knows the people well, and they are in very poor circumstances. Mrs. Kenney is a cripple and cannot do anything for herself, her husband is an old man unable to get work owing to his advanced age.
I also interviewed a Mr. MacConnell, Grocer, South Street, Freemantle, and he states Mr. & Mrs. Kenney and family are very respectable, and in very poor circumstances.
Both Sergt. West and Mr. MacConnell state that they consider the application of Mrs Kenney to be genuine and worthy of consideration.
I also saw the writer, Mrs. Kenney. She is paralyzed, and has to be wheeled around in an invalid’s chair and cannot put her own clothes on.
The son in the Asylum is suffering from Paralysis of the brain, and the doctors have very little hope of him coming out alive.
The daughter who is living at home appears to be in a very delicate state of health, she has 3 children ages 6, 4 years and 10 months, her husband is a lumper, and is often out of work owing to illness. Mrs. Keneny also has two children at home belonging to a Foster Daughter, her husband is at the Front and she receives 3/- a day for their support. She has to pay 17/6 per week rent.
I may state from inquiries I made I am of the opinion that Mrs. Kenney’s application is a very genuine one and worthy of every consideration as the people appear to me to be in very poor circumstances.
[From Wikipedia: General paresis, also known as general paralysis of the brain, general paralysis of the insane or paralytic dementia, is a neuropsychiatric disorder affecting the brain, caused by late-stage syphilis. GPI was originally considered a psychiatric disorder when it was first scientifically identified around the nineteenth century, as the patient usually presented with psychotic symptoms of sudden and often dramatic onset. Ed.]
A Minute Paper dated 03 Jul 1917 and approved 07 July 1917 sated that a cable was then sent to AdminAust in London, stating
Please return 4286 Driver A. B. Kenny, 8th Battalion to Australia for discharge, Family reasons.
The cable was sent to the A.I.F. Depots in England. Since Alexander had returned to France, a cable was sent there and arrangements made for his passage home. On 22 August 1917 a cable was sent back from Fance stating that Alexander had been killed on 07 August. Given that the war ended on 11 Nov, this has to be a very unfortunate chain of events.
Alexander’s death was reported in locals papers soon after:
The West Australian, Wed 29 Aug 1917:
KENNEY.—Killed in action, somewhere in France, August 7, 1917, Dvr. Alexander Bruce, dearly beloved husband of Minnie M. Kenney, and loving father of Irene and Wallace. 32 Carnac-street, Fremantle; aged 30 years 5 days, late of Trafalgar. “Kalgoorlie Miner” please copy.
KENNEY.—Killed in action, somewhere in France, August 7,1917, Dvr. Alexander Bruce, dearly beloved youngest son of Mary and James Kenney, 7 Manning-street, Fremantle; also loving brother of Mary and Monica Hogan, Katie, Minnie. Dolly, Willie, James; aged 30 years 5 days. Melbourne papers please copy.
His duty nobly done.
The West Australian, Sat 07 Aug 1920:
KENNEY.—In loving memory of Driver Alexander Bruce Kenney, beloved husband of Minnie Kenney, and devoted father of Irene and Wallie, killed in active service on August 7, 1917.
To love, to have, and then to part
Is the saddest story of a human heart.
When alone we think, and sad tears flow,
We fancy we see you as nearlv six years ago,
And there in my dreams he stands by my slde,
And whispers these words: Death cannot divide.
Inserted by his loving wife and children.
KENNEY.—In loving semory of our dear son, Alexander Bruce Kenney, killed in France on August 7, 1917.
In our heart your memory lingers,
Sweetly tender, fond, and true,
There is not a day, dear Bruce,
That we do not think of you.
Our thoughts often wander
To an honoured, but unknown grave.
Your name is often spoken, Bruce,
In the home you died to save.
Inserted by his loving father and mother, J. and M. Kenney, North Fremantle.
KENNEY.—In loving memory of my dear brother, Alexander Bruce Kenney, killed in action in France on August 7, 1917.
Your true, good face I picture,
As now I pen these lines;
And in my thoughts they often live,
The bygone happy times.
Inserted by his loving sister, Monica Hogan, brother-in-law Matty Hogan, and his little niece and nephew, Merl and Mattie Hogan, North Fremantle.
The West Australian, Mon 08 Aug 1921:
KENNEY.—In sad but loving memory of my beloved husband, Drv. Alexander Bruce Kenney, loving father of Irene and Wally, killed in action August 7, 1917.
Bruce, how much we miss you,
No one on earth can tell;
And how many times we’ve wished You
with us safe and well.
Inserted by his loving wife and children, Irene and Wally.
The Western Argus, Tue 10 Aug 1920:
KENNEY.—In loving memory of my beloved husband and dear daddy, Dvr. Alexander Bruce Kenney, killed in active service August 7, 1917, loving son-in-law Mrs. and Mr. T. R. Williams, Trafalgar.
To love, to have, and then to part,
Is the sadness of our aching hearts.
—Inserted by his loving wife and children. Fremantle.
Minnie eventually went into the hotel business. The Daily News reported her acquisition of a license on Frid 27 Nov 1931:
THE LICENSING ACT, 1911.
APPLICATION FOR TRANSFER.
To the Licensing Court for the Fremantle District.
I, ALBERT FISHER, of John-street, North Fremantle, being the licensee of the ‘Sunnyside’ Wine Saloon, at John street, North Fremantle, do Hereby Make Application for a TRANSFER of the Rights and Privileges of the Australian Wine Licence held by me in respect of the said premises to MINNIE MATILDA KENNEY, of 80, Alma street Fremantle and I the said Minnie Matilda Kenney do Hereby Concur in such Application and request that the said Transfer may be made.
Dated this 26th day of November 1931.
Signature of Proposed Transferor.
M. M. KENNEY, Signature of Proposed Transferee
F. W. MARTIN, Town Hall, Fremantle, Solicitor for Transferee
She died on 23 Sep 1974 at Freemantle.