Monday, March 14, 2011

When Home once belonged to... a Bank Robber

Darcy Ezekiel Duggan was a bank robber and according to the Sydney Morning Herald, New South Wales’ most notorious prison escape artist.

In 1946, he escaped from a prison tram by cutting a hole through the roof with a kitchen knife and climbing out. Today that tram is on display at the Sydney Tramway Museum. Wikipedia details another time when he reportedly escaped from prison, leaving a note on the wall of his cell which read “Gone to Gowings”. He spent 30 years in prison; half his life.

For the other half spent outside of prison, he had to live somewhere. And for some time he lived in a terrace house in Sydney’s inner west; a terrace house that eventually belonged to friends of mine.

While restoring the old house, they discovered more stories of the home’s past. During a visit to the local demolition yard looking for windows, my friend met a man who used to live in her street and ‘run the best two-up game in Sydney’ in the backyard. Another time her husband saw a family sitting in a car outside the house staring in. The father explained how it was once a boarding house and his whole family lived in one room. He wanted his children to see that not everyone grows up in a big house.

A house with a colourful past and colourful characters; but were there any signs of Darcy Duggan’s occupation? Perhaps. A loose brick in the kitchen wall was always a curiosity. A brick my friends spent many years not moving. A loose brick seems an ideal hiding spot for gold, money, jewellery. Might Darcy have left something behind when he was put in prison?

Sadly, the house was not going to give up that secret. When they finally did move the brick nothing was revealed. But elsewhere in the house, who knows?!

Darcy Duggan Police Photo 1949 © State Library of NSW

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