by Michael Shelford, 13th May 2018.
When 28 year old convicted burglar, safe cracker, cop shooter and gaol breaker James Henry Townley was doing time in Pentridge Prison in 1917, police were investigating the possibility that he may have posted stolen jewellery to friends or relatives in Adelaide prior to his arrest. South Australia Police were quick to downplay the likelihood of relatives being involved, stating that the Townleys were respectable, upstanding citizens and that James was very much the black sheep of the family.
Authorities at Pentridge Prison were intercepting all of his mail and amongst what they passed on to police was this heart wrenching letter from his mother:
“My dear son Jim,
I have been daily expecting a few lines from you and as it has not come I feel that I must write to you. Perhaps you do not like to write to me on account of the latest trouble you are in, but you must when you get the opportunity because it will help me to bear it better. I am your mother and I love you with undying love and shall always be the same to you while life lasts. I do not pretend to understand this new calamity or why it has befallen you, but it has to be borne somehow. Your brother Herbert is to be married in less than a fortnight. I hope you will be very happy. He has been engaged a long time, but I did not expect it quite so soon. Ted and family send their love to you. I think Ted would like you to write to him – he is very unhappy about you. Lily sends her love. I send to you my heartfelt love for you are very dear to me.
With love from all,
I remain ever the same, Your loving mother
A beautiful depiction of a mother’s unwavering love for her child. Happy Mother’s Day from Melbourne Historical Crime Tours.
© Michael Shelford 2018
Michael Shelford is a writer who specialises in Australian true crime. He is currently completing a book on Melbourne's crime scene c1890's to 1920's. He is also the creator and guide for the walking tour company Melbourne Historical Crime Tours.