After all the recent troll-comment-posting kerfuffle here, I’ve been extra careful about checking comments before letting them onto the site. So, when a very specific identification of the Somerton Man was recently posted in a comment to Cipher Mysteries, I emailed the fairly-unlikely-sounding email address to verify it (but didn’t get a reply).
Despite this caginess, I decided to have a look anyway. Our anonymous commenter claims:-
“Thomas Torrance Keane, born in Charters Towers in 1896 to Isabella Beaumont and her husband[d] Francis C Keane. Himself a part of the extended Beaumont clan and known to the Harkness family through Thomas’s marriage to Clarice Isabella Victoria Beaumont. Although he is noted as being deceased in 1949 this is probably a red herring. He was the Somerton Man.“
As names go, “Thomas Keane” has quite a lot going for it: specifically
* the “Unknown Man” / “Somerton Man” was wearing a tie marked “T. Keane”;
* his possessions included a laundry bag marked “Keane”;
* they also included a singlet marked “Kean” (omitting the final “e”)
Having said that, at the time police seemed quite sure that nobody called “T. Keane” was missing… but it’s entirely conceivable that one might have somehow evaded their net. Furthermore, the commenter names two (both very real) roads where this Thomas Keane and his [alleged] wife [allegedly] lived:-
“The family lived in Frankston, on the Cranbourne Road and before that on Davey Street“
How many of these specifics could I test?
Well… because Charters Towers is in Queensland, the obvious first stop was the Queensland Births / Deaths / Marriages (BDM) website. There I found item 1892/B50671 – the birth of Thomas Torance [note the single-‘r’] Keane, son of Francis Charles Keane and Isabella Beaumont. The Queensland BDM also has item 1949/B21184 – the death certificate for (without much doubt) the same Thomas Torance Keane (which I haven’t yet seen).
On Trove, I found Clarice Isobel (“Peg”) Beaumont’s 25th August 1942 wedding to Private Thomas Lawson Harkness, A.M.F., which is why she subsequently appears in the archives (1942-1980) as Clarice Isobel/Isabella Victoria Harkness:-
The charming auburn-haired bride looked sweet indeed in her gown of ivory moire taffeta, hand-embroidered, with beads and sequins at the neck, and falling full from a tight-fitting waistline. It was buttoned up the back and extended into a long train. The long sleeves came to a peak over the wrist. She wore an embroidered net veil flowing from a top-knot of double white violets. The veil was loaned by a Geelong friend. The bride carried a sheaf of white heather and double violets.
Also according to Trove, the couple had a baby daughter on 20th June 1943: they were then living at 32 Davey Street, Frankston where they stayed until at least March 1945. Note that this was Thomas Lawson Harkness Jr: his father (Thomas Lawson Harkness Sr) was a merchant seaman born in London in 1888, who moved to Australia, and married Ellen Lee in 1916.
As numerous Cipher Mysteries readers will doubtless already be shouting at their screens, Thomas Lawson Harkness Jr’s sister was none other than Jessie Ellen Harkness (b. 1921, Marrickville, NSW, d. 13/5/2007), known somewhat better as “Jestyn“. It was her phone number on the Somerton Man’s recovered Rubaiyat that first brought the police to her door: and it was her anonymity that was protected by Gerry Feltus (and others) for so many years, up until the Internet made all such politeness and civility seem untenably quaint.
At this point, I hope you can see the problem I’m facing: I’ve been sent these anonymous messages (from “Ayuverdica”) that seem to be confusing (the very real) Thomas Lawson Harkness Jr with (the also very real, but essentially unknown) Thomas Torance Keane. Is this just an accident, memory playing tricks on someone? Or am I being set up by a particularly sophisticated online troll trying to muddy the waters for everyone, for obscure reasons currently unknown?
Really, what did Thomas Torance Keane have to do with any of this Harkness-related family history? Maybe nothing, maybe something, maybe everything. Right now, I have no idea whatsoever, I simply can’t tell.
But perhaps you can. Perhaps if we leave the Harknesses to one side and find out more about the life (and indeed the death) of Thomas Torance Keane, we will be able to eliminate him from our enquiries… or perhaps we won’t.
I don’t personally have access to Australian genealogical databases, but I know that quite a few Cipher Mysteries readers do. So this is the point where I stop and hand my (admittedly fairly thin) portfolio over to all you nice people.
Basically, what can we find out about Thomas Torance Keane? What happened to him? As always, dot dot dot… Good luck and happy hunting!
Update: I also found the following advert in Trove, placed in the 11 Jan 1941 Sydney Morning Herald. It may or may not be related, but here it is anyway:-
Keane – Any person knowing the present or past whereabouts of Thomas Keane, the husband of the late Sarah Ann Keane (who died September 13, 1940), please communicate with The Equity Trustees Company, 472 Bourke Street, Melbourne, Victoria.