The Bower & Collier Family History

Research by Colin Bower

Brecht One-Name Study

Nellie Brett

It came as a big surprise when we learnt that George Henry Brett (born Brecht) had married a Mary Ellen (Nellie) Casey in Australia in 1912.

What sort of woman she was and what kind of life she led with a criminal like George Brett we do not know but articles in 1917 give us a clue:

The Telegraph, Brisbane 24.10.1917

"Shooting Sensation

Woman at Breakfast Creek

Condition not dangerous

A sensation was created in a house in (?) Amy Street, Breakfast Creek, last night, by a young woman named Nellie Brett, aged 35 years, shooting herself in the left breast. She now is in the General Hospital and her condition is not regarded as being dangerous.

It seems that Brett and another woman live in the house. Last night Brett went into a room and locked the door on the inside. Shortly afterwards three shots were heard. The other woman tried to open the door without success, and then endeavoured to get into the room by the window. She saw that Brett had a revolver in her hand.

The alarm was raised and soon the police, the ambulance and Dr -(?) Dods were on the scene.

On entering the room, Brett was found lying on the bed. An inspection of the revolver showed that it contained empty shells. When questioned, the unfortunate woman admitted that she attempted suicide.

Brett wrote a note apparantly addressed to a man, who according to her is in gaol. The note complains that a person unmentioned  will not leave her (Brett) alone, and that she is going to do away with herself. She expresses her love for the person to whom the note is addressed."

George Brett in Gaol

Another (undated) newspaper article (but written about the same time with George Brett in gaol) shows Nellie to be a formidable woman!

Nellie Brett - 1917

The article is written with tongue in cheek with Nellie giving Annie Simpson a black eye (an eye "in mourning").

"One Lady to Another

Scratch As Scratch Can

In Albert-street


Nellie Brett is 35, red of hair, and as the wife of "Tich" Brett she enjoyed a part of his notoriety what time that character was uncrowned king of Spring Hill.

When "Tich" went to Beggs Road to do laundry work (presumably gaol), Nellie's lot became happier and she endeavored time and again to lead a straight lfe.

But she fell by the wayside from time to time, and appeared befiore a magistrate in some court or another.

On Monday, Nellie appeared before Magistrate Archilbald on a charge of doing grievous bodily harm to Annie Simpson. The charge was broken down to one of common assualt, and Nellie pleaded guilty, being fined £5 or one month in gaol.  

Annie Simpson is a litle woman who appeared in Brisbane some time ago, from Rockhampton.

Annie appeared in court with one eye in mourning, a tribute to the weight that Nellie Brett put into the reprisals she pursued Annie with.

It was December 14. The shades of night had fallen and Erebus had cast his mantle over the city. In Albert-street the electic lights stabbed the darkness here and there.

Annie Simpson, somewhat laboring in her walk, strolled along the thoroughfare.

Along came Nellie Brett, large of frame, and redolent of drink. Her eyes pierced the gloom and beheld Annie cruising in the offing. Nellie approached and opened fire in the best Spring Hill style by hurling verbage in which an intimate history of Annie's life was intermingled with oaths.

Annie retaliated and prepared for action. Her nails were in good order and she would show the other that no one could cast aspersions on her character and get away with it.

But Annie had not reckoned that Nellie was an adept at catch-as-catch-can and a painter of eyes of some note. Nellie's fist landed in Annie's eye with a wallop like the kick of a mule. At once Annie went into mourning and let out a wail like a banshee bushed. Constable Smith heard the call of distress and he bore down on the scene.

Nellie was standing over her adversary and begging her to get up and have another go, but Annie remained prone.....

According to (?) Segeant McGrath, the cause of the trouble was that Nellie suspicioned that some time ago Annie had done the stool pigeon act and had her pot with the police in a matter affecting Nellie's liberty

But now Annie's wounds will be salved with the golden guinea. Half the £5 fine inflicted on Nellie will be paid to Annie."

The Truth, Brisbane Sunday 13 July 1919

Nellie Brett's Bother
A House Under Suspicion
Prosecution by South Brisbane Council

Crying, "I am only Mrs. Kerr's tool." Nellie Brett, a good-looking young woman, pleaded guilty in the City Summons Court on Friday to a charge under the by-laws of the South Brisbane Council on information that, being the occupier of a house, and being required by the city inspector to furnish a list of names, ages, sex, and occupations of persons residing in the house, she failed to do so.

Mr. McGill, who appeared to prosecute, said the house had been the cause of considerable bother to the officers of the South Brisbane Council. Defendant occupied the house as manageress for Mrs. Kerr. Numerous complaints had reached the council concerning the place, and while it could not be proved that the house was one of ill-fame, certainly great disorder occurred there. It would be remembered that a girl who had been abducted from Sydney had been rescued from there by an inspector of the South Brisbane Council. However that was before Nellie became manageress. The by-law provided a maximum penalty of £50.

Mr Cameron, Acting P.M., imposed a fine of £3, with £2 5s 6d. costs, in default, 14 days' imprisonment. Seven days were allowed to pay.

"SPOTTING" WITH "FRIEND" 12 February 1925

About 1 o'clock yesterday, Nellie Brett, according to a police prosecution yesterday afternoon, met a man near the Oriental Hotel. They had a number of drinks. After a while, the "friend", who is a foreigner, off a visiting boat, felt a hand in his pocket, and looking round saw that it was Nell's. The police were called and the woman arrested. She appeared before Mr. H.L. Archdall, G.P.M., in the Police Court yesterday afternoon.

She pleaded guilty to stealing £1 from the person of Herbert Eria.

A fine of £3, in default 14 days imprisonmwent, was inflicted.

The Truth, Brisbane Sunday 15 February 1925


Ginger Nell is the monniker given by her intimates to Nellie Brett, who, many a time and oft, 70 to be exact, has landed in the watchtower well and truly stung. She generally manages to raise the bail, however, and in the wee sma' hours she is led away from the inhospitable police receiving depct. Nellie has never made any pretensions to being a con woman. She has never even tried the gentle pastime of shoplifting. All her convictions have been for drunkeness and sultry language, while a few other minor offences go to make up the three score and ten. She always seeme to have some money, but apparently on Wednesday she ran short of that necessary evil. That was not to her liking at all.

She spotted two foreign seaman form one of the boats, and as they glanced with approval on her shapely legs she realised that her chance to replenish the depleted coffers had arrived. A few wicked glances from her flashing orbs, a little magging, and Nellie was being regaled by the new arrivals with plenty of good Australian booze.

Afterwards she decided that she had had enough of the foaming nectar and it was time to get to work. Accordingly she let her hand wander, but although the seamen's English was lamentable their wits were very sharp. One of them did two ten bob notes rather than wake Nellie up he was wise to the game. His cobber excused himself and went for the cops. That's why Nellie faced Mr. H.L. Archdall, C.P.M., last Wednesday amd pleaded guily. She was treated in the nature of a first offender and let go with a fine of £3  or 14 days. Nellie will never make a con woman. She's convinced of that by now.


Colin Bower
19 February 2018

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