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Dr. Blair and Forbes Winslow

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  • Dr. Blair and Forbes Winslow

    This thread is intended for research into finding the identity of L. Forbes Winslow's suspect based on the following letter he received in 1910.

    "G.P.O., MELBOURNE, " 10/6/1910. Your challenge is more than justified re ' Jack the Ripper.' You indeed frightened him away, for he sailed away in a ship called the Munambidgee, working his passage to Melbourne, arriving here in the latter part of 1889. He is a native of Melbourne, Victoria, but before his return had been in South Africa for several years. He was educated at the Scotch College here ; the late Dr Blair was a great friend of his family, and it was from him he gained his surgical knowledge, the doctor taking him with him to post-mortems. When he arrived in Melbourne he married a Miss , who lived only a little over a year, but she died from natural causes ; she was only dead a short time when I met him. He told me he had a hard time in London, and he was always buying sensational newspapers. I said to him, "Why do you buy those horrid papers ? They are only full of police reports of terrible crimes." He said, ' I want to see how things are in London.' Then he commenced reading the trial of a man named James Canham Reade. This man married and deserted several women, and finally killed one, for which he was hanged. When he had finished reading, I said, 'What a fearful fellow!' He said, ' Yes.' I then said, 'What about Jack the Ripper?' He said, 'Strange those crimes ceased once I left England.' I was astounded at his remark, and said, 'My God! Jack, I believe you did those crimes,' he having told me about living in that part of London previously. I tried to banish the thought from my mind, as I loved him ; but I referred to it many-times after, and finally he told me he did do them. I said, 'Why did you do those crimes ?' He first said, 'Revenge,' then said, 'Research.' I said, 'But you never made use of the portions you removed from those women ; what did you do with them ? ' He said, 'Oh, there are plenty of hungry dogs in London.' I wrote to Scotland Yard telling them all. Sir Robert Anderson answered my letter ; but as I had told him all I had to say, I did not write again till last year, but have heard nothing from them. It is my opinion they all bungled this matter up and do not like owning up to it. I even gave him up in Melbourne in 1894. The police examined him ; he told them he was in Melbourne in 1890, so they found this was true, and without asking him where he was in 1889 they let him go. He laughed, and said, 'See what fools they are. I am the real man they are searching the earth for, but they take me in one door and let me out of the other.' I even gave one detective a letter of his, but he only laughed at me. I asked him to have the writing compared with that at home signed 'Jack the Ripper,' but he did nothing. Now I have burnt his letters long since, but the monster's name is called Jack by relatives and friends. His brother told me he is in Durban, South Africa, employed by the South African Railway Co. He left here for South Africa about six years ago. Your plan is to get a sample of his writing and compare with yours. If you cannot find him there, cause an advertisement to be put in the papers purporting to come from his brother , who has been lost sight of for many years and has never claimed money left by his father to him. Advertise, and Jack will soon answer this, but to some address in London or South Africa. However, get his writing. He was a very good writer. He often used to attend St Paul's here, and I would tell him what a hypocrite he was. I only wish I could see you.
    I am certain as I am writing this he is your man. If only to prove how wrong they were to accuse that poor Irish student, I would be pleased if the charge was sheeted home to the right man, when I think of the suffering it has caused his people. As to Sir Robert Anderson saying it was a Jew, he must be a dreamer of the dreamiest sort, for he was the man who answered my letter years ago ; but they served me as they served you, with too little consideration, for I am certain we are both right. He always carried an ugly sheath-knife in his belt. When you frightened him away he came straight to Melbourne, and remained here till six years ago. What I regret most is that that poor demented Irish student should suffer for this man's crime. I did not know till this week that anyone was charged with those crimes, or I should have made a great deal more noise than I have done, knowing as I do the real culprit. Since starting this letter I have ascertained his proper address.

    "You ought to have no difficulty in getting a sample of his writing. Go very careful about all inquiries, as he always told me he would never be taken alive, but would kill himself on the first inkling of being captured. That is all I can say at present till I hear further from you. I am sending this letter c/o P.M.G. to insure its safe delivery, as I only got your name and opinions from a newspaper cutting ; but you are quite right.

    "Wishing you success with this, and hoping to hear from you soon."

    To start this research I have found a possibility for the "Dr. Blair" mentioned in the letter. Supposedly, Winslow's suspect was a great friend with Dr. Blair and gained his surgical experience from him.

    Dr. John Blair, MD, F.R.C.S Edin. (1835-1887)
    Late President of Medical Society of Victoria
    Member of the Royal Society of Victoria
    Fellow of Obstetrical Society of Victoria
    Senior Surgeon to Alfred Hospital, Melbourne and Chairman of Medical Staff.

    Dr. Blair sounds like a great guy until you dig into his past a little. Here is a link to a news clipping I found on him where he was on trial (1872) for drugging a patient and trying to molest her. The second link provides the verdict where the jury voted in his favor. He sounded guilty to me; what do you think?

    A couple other items of interest with Dr. Blair.

    Dr John Blair was admonished by the Royal Society of Victoria after bragging about performing a kidney operation with a pen knife only to see his patient die of a post-operative illness

    Regarding the Village of Blairgowrie, Victoria.

    Blairgowrie (Perthshire). Blake (1977) states that the name does indeed come from the place in Perthshire, Scotland. The Rosebud & District Historical Society, on the other hand, mentions a Dr John Blair, suggesting that he gave the name to the area in 1878.

    More to come, hopefully, but if anyone is interested in searching for the friend and protege of Dr. Blair, known to family and friends by the name of Jack, and left England in 1889, feel free to jump in. He may have learned to remove kidneys with a pen knife from Dr. Blair and tried it out in Whitechapel.

  • #2
    Blair Obituary


    • #3
      S.S Murrumbidgee

      The Murrumbidgee did sail from London in 1889 arriving in Adelaide on 20 Sept. The voyage took 43 days and 22 hours. It left London on the 3rd of August,1889. Shortly after the McKenzie murder.

      The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) Sat 21 Sep 1889


      • #4
        The passenger and crew lists for that vessel are available on Ancestry.


        • #5
          There are Victoria marriage records (might not be complete) on Ancestry for that period, so presumably the way to go would be to find a name from the ship's list marrying soon after the ship's arrival, with a death for the spouse soon after that, and hopefully said name disappearing from the electorals soon after, though I don't think the Ancestry rolls go that far back.


          • #6
            Thanks, Robert.

            According to the Forbes letter, the suspect married after he arrived in Melbourne. So out of the list, I have it narrowed down to five men. Four of the five appear to have been traveling with their families. Presumably wives and children. The rest are either women or too young to make sense.

            Those four are:

            William Barratt aged 43
            John Horn aged 37
            William Humphries aged 46
            Peter Johnson aged 32

            The odd man out, travelling single is:
            Reulin Megsin aged 56

            The press report I poster earlier stated there were 20 passengers on board the ship. The passenger list shows 22 but two of the 22 were named Pilkington. The ship's Captain was named Pilkington. So they either included the Captain and a relative or two relatives of the Captain. Both the passengers are named Arthur Pilkington. Have I confused you yet?

            I vaguely recall a ripper story of a suspect either being or having a brother that was thought to be ship's captain. Does that ring a bell?

            P.S John Horn was travelling with John Horn aged 11. Possibly a son? He makes the most sense so far, as far as age and the nickname Jack.


            • #7
              Chris Scott, Chris George and Chris Phillips did some work a few years back on this I see. Chris Scott includes the passenger list in this link.



              • #8
                The Bartley's were interesting on Chris's list as there was an army surgeon listed in medical directories as Alexander Fisher Bartley that I looked at when you first posted about this, Jerry.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Debra Arif View Post
                  The Bartley's were interesting on Chris's list as there was an army surgeon listed in medical directories as Alexander Fisher Bartley that I looked at when you first posted about this, Jerry.
                  Thanks Debs,

                  The Bartley's came over on the ship that arrived in April of 1889. The letter writer stated this man arrived in the latter part of 1889. That's not to say she (letter writer) may have been wrong. I will look into Bartley anyway.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Jerry Dunlop View Post
                    Thanks Debs,

                    The Bartley's came over on the ship that arrived in April of 1889. The letter writer stated this man arrived in the latter part of 1889. That's not to say she (letter writer) may have been wrong. I will look into Bartley anyway.
                    Yes, that's true. I couldn't resist a quick look earlier on after your first posts and Alexander Bartley jnr was the only 1889 passenger listed in the results on Find my past for that ship!


                    • #11
                      I'm not at all confident about the Ancestry marriages for Victoria. If you try 'John Smith' you only get a couple.


                      • #12

                        I'm not too sure we need to be looking for a doctor. That is if this story is even true. The lady said Dr. Blair was a family friend and the doctor would take him with him to post-mortems. The man was also said to have been employed by the South African Railway Co. That was told to her by his brother. Unless he was involved in a "surgical" way with the railroad, it sounds like his career as a doctor failed or was non-existent.

                        If the story is true in some small way, this kind of guy seems to fit the profile of Jack the Ripper well. Just enough surgical experience to be dangerous, but not skilled.


                        • #13
                          If he worked his passage he may have been under crew.


                          • #14
                            Good point, Robert!


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Robert Linford View Post
                              I'm not at all confident about the Ancestry marriages for Victoria. If you try 'John Smith' you only get a couple.
                              There's an official online index to civil registration records for Victoria: