The Canberra Museum and Gallery’s location was a mystery to me. It is a rather large museum tucked away right next to the Canberra Theatre. Despite living in Canberra for nearly 15 years I never knew it existed.
On display is an exhibition about King O’Malley. I soon learned after walking in he was not an Irish king but an American who became a member of Cabinet in the Australian Parliament.
The man himself is a mystery.
It is unknown how old he really was, or where he came from. It is thought he is from Kansas although no birth certificate is available to prove this. His dates of birth are conflicting. As the exhibit shows he changed his birth date in his diaries, as well as publicly stating conflicting dates.
His sole major contribution to society appears to be a law which made children born out of wedlock legitimate so long as their parents married later. Although he also proposed a law to ban women working in hotels unless they were related to the publican.
However, he is portrayed in the exhibit as a man who stood up for people’s rights.
He said of the future site of Canberra that it was so dry a cow going on vacation there would have to bring a water bottle, but then when elected to Cabinet, publicly supported the site.
Before coming to Australia he was an insurance salesman in America, where he had questionable business dealings. O’Malley was blackmailed about the release of these details to the Australian public. He fought a defamation battle against a man whose name escapes me. In any case O’Malley won the legal fight, however, his previous life in America was forever the source of public concern.
Adding to my wholly mysterious experience was a flushing water sound. I first thought this may have had some relevance to an object I had not yet reached in the exhibition, although I believe it was originating from two large pipes hanging overhead.
As I have already said the whole event was a mystery, however, it is a mystery well worth taking a look at.