Constable Joseph McCUNN
Constable Clifford James BUSH
New South Wales Police Force
both Stationed: Clarence St Police Station
Struck by a Motor Vehicle
Event & Death 5 August 1932
Funeral 8 August 1932
both buried, side by side, in the Church of England portion of Rookwood Cemetery.
On the evening of 5 August, 1932 Constables McCunn and Bush were performing special traffic duty at the southern end of the Sydney Harbour bridge. During the operation they were on foot and stopping passing vehicles, using a torch. A vehicle appeared travelling from the northern side of the harbour and was signalled to stop by one of the constables. The vehicle did not stop, however, and struck both constables with considerable force. Constable Bush died instantly and Constable McCunn died about an hour later at the Royal North Shore Hospital.
The Mercury newspaper of 9 August, 1932 described the funeral of the two constables as follows:
CONSTABLES’ FUNERAL – An Impressive Spectacle Viewed by 100,000 Persons.
Sydney, August 8 – There have been few more impressive spectacles in Sydney than the funeral to-day, amid affecting ceremonial, of Constables Joseph McCunn and Clifford James Bush, who met their deaths in tragic circumstances while on duty on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and whose remains were laid to rest side by side under great ramparts of beautiful flowers in the Church of England portion of the Rookwood Cemetery. Pathetic figures in the vast assemblage at the gravesides were the men’s widows, one of whom collapsed during the service, and had to be carried to her motor-car. One hundred thousand persons or more, with bared heads, viewed the long and impressive cortege. The police force was represented by 500 or more men and officers of all ranks. Among the others present was the ex-Commissioner of Police, Mr. James Mitchell.
Constable McCunn was born in 1909 and joined the New South Wales Police Force on 30 October, 1929. At the time of his death he was stationed at No. 11 Division ( Petersham ).
Constable Bush was born in 1906 and joined the New South Wales Police Force on 26 October, 1927. At the time of his death he was stationed at No. 1 Division ( Central Police Station ).
The Sydney Morning Hearld
Saturday 6 August 1932 page 13 of 22
TWO CONSTABLES KILLED ON BRIDGE.
Car Driver Arrested
Two constables were killed on the Harbour Bridge last night, when a motor car which, it is alleged, they had signalled to stop, crashed into them.
They were:- Constable Clifford James Bush, 26, of the Clarence-street Police Station. Constable Joseph McCunn, 23, of the same station.
The driver of the car was subsequently arrested and charged with manslaughter.
The two police were on special patrol duty near the southern pylon shortly before 9 o’clock last night. They were engaged in checking the tail lights on passing motor cars and frequently stopped and cautioned motorists whom they considered were travelling at too fast a speed or were infringing any other traffic regulations. They were both standing in the centre of the bridge roadway, one watching in either direction. Traffic was exceptionally light at the time.
A large sedan car swung on to the bridge from the northern end, and the police watched the dazzling headlights crossing the harbour. As it approached them, one of the constable, the Police alleged, signalled the driver to stop. The car crashed into the two men, with a terrific jar.
The two police, it is assumed, were struck by the bumper bars of the vehicle, which were ripped off by the force of the impact. One constable was flung to one side of the roadway, and the other in the opposite direction. Bush was hurled bodily into the iron railing on the side of the bridge, and his body was found lying in a crumpled heap in the gutter. He had been terribly mangled. Both his legs were broken in two places, and the flesh had been shockingly lacerated. His head had struck the iron work, and he had died instantly.
His companion was lying on his back on the road. He had received frightful injuries to his body, concussion, compound fracture of both legs, and extensive abrasions.
Constable Pike, of the George-street North police, who was on duty at the toll office, saw the two bodies lying on the roadway. He rushed to the scene, and called an ambulance. He was more than 300 yards away from the two men when he noticed a motor car, the radiator of which had been crushed back against the engine, and the windscreen and lights had been shattered. According to his story, the three men inside the car were apparently unaware that they had hit anything. The engine was still running. All the men appeared to be dazed.
The two constables were taken to the Royal North Shore Hospital in the Central District Ambulance. Constable McCunn was admitted immediately for attention, but died later in the night.
The Metropolitan Superintendent of Police, Mr. Mackay, happened to be passing at the time, and attracted by the long queue of cars and onlookers, he pulled in to make investigations, and immediately took charge of the inquiries.
It was learned that the three occupants of the car, who are well-known city men, had been returning from a function at a North Sydney golf club when the accident occurred. They were taken to the George-street North police station for interrogation, and were later interviewed by the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Childs, and the Chief of the Criminal Investigation Branch, Mr. Prior. Detective-sergeant Almond and Detectives Alford, McDermott, Robinson, and Gregory were assigned to the case.
The victims of the tragedy, both of whom are married, will be accorded a police funeral.
Early this morning, Michael William Polson, of Cook-road, Randwick, was charged with having feloniously and maliciously slain the two policemen. He was admitted to bail in £100 on each charge. The police state that the other two men in the car were John Ferrier, of Manly, and Joseph Bannister.
The Maitland Daily Mercury ( NSW )
Saturday 6 August 1932 page 1 of 10
” It Was a Perfectly Clear Accident ” — Counsel
TWO DEAD No Negligence COURT SEQUEL SYDNEY, Saturday.
At the Central Court today, Michael William Polson (48) appeared on a charge of having feloniously and maliciously slain Constables Clifford Bush and Joseph McCunn. He was also charged with having driven a motor car on Bradfield Highway in a manner dangerous to the public.
Detective-Sergeant Allmond said the two constables were on duty on the Harbour Bridge last night when the car failed to stop, and crashed into them. Both were killed. Witness said defendant was a well known man. He had an excellent reputation and a good record as a motor driver.
Mr. Dovey, for Polson, said It was a perfectly clear accident, in no way due to criminal negligence on the part of his client, ” who, more than anyone else, regrets the unfortunate happening. ”
Polson was remanded until August 22 on bail of £200.
Earlier Press reports of the double fatality show that it occurred with distressing suddenness.
The constable were patrolling the roadway of the bridge, Seeing the car approaching, they stepped towards the centre of the roadway, apparently to stop it. The car continued forward, and struck both constable. One was hurled 10 feet to one side, and the second policeman 20 feet on the other.
The force of the impact was so severe that the front portion 0f the car was badly damaged – the radiator was knocked out of position, the headlights were smashed, and the bumper bars torn off.
LYING ON ROADWAY .
Constable Pike, who was on patrol duty on the southern approach, did not actually see the accident, but observed two forms lying on the roadway, near the pylon. He ran forward, passing the car, which had come to a standstill, and picked up one of the constables. Realising that one was dead, and the other in a dying condition, he raced back to the police watch house to telephone for medical assistance.
The driver of the car, and two passengers, one of them an estate agent, and the other the father of a prominent golfer, accompanied the police to No. 4 Police Station, where they were questioned.
Polson was a racehorse trainer
The Sydney Morning Herald
Monday 8 August 1932 page 7 of 14
BUSH and McCUNN -The Funerals of the late
CONSTABLES CLIFFORD JAMES BUSH and JOSEPH McCUNN will leave the Private Mortuary Chapel of Mrs P Kirby and Son Ltd, 265 Elizabeth street Sydney THIS MONDAY at 1.15 p m for the Church of England Cemetery Rookwood. The Dean of Sydney Rev. Dean Talbot will conduct the services at the Chapel and graveside.
Mrs P KIRBY and SON LTD, Motor Funeral Directors
Phone M2221-2 265 Elizabeth street, Sydney
The Relatives and Friends of Mrs ELINOR McCUNN and ADRIAN are kindly invited to attend the Funeral of her dearly beloved HUSBAND and his FATHER, Constable JOSEPH McCUNN which will leave the Private Mortuary Chapel of Mrs P Kirby and Son Ltd, 265 Elizabeth street Sydney THIS MONDAY at 1.15 p m for the Church of England Cemetery Rookwood
Mrs P KIRBY and SON LTD
Motor Funeral Directors
Phone M2221-2 265 Elizabeth street Sydney
McCUNN – The friends of Misses ANNIE and JEAN McCUNN are kindly Invited to attend the funeral of their dearly beloved BROTHER Constable Joseph McCunn which will leave the Private Mortuary Chapel of Mrs P Kirby and Son Ltd 265 Elizabeth street Sydney THIS MONDAY at 1.15 p m for the Church of England Cemetery, Rookwood.
Mrs P KIRBY and SON LTD
Motor funeral Directors
Phone M2221-2 265 Elizabeth street Svdney
News ( Adelaide, SA )
Monday 8 August 1932 page 6 of 8
The Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 9 August 1932 page 10 of 14
There have been few more impressive spectacles in Sydney than the funeral yesterday, amid affecting ceremonial, of Constables Joseph McCunn and Clifford James Bush, who met their deaths in tragic circumstances while on duty on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and whose remains were laid to rest, side by side, under great ramparts of beautiful flowers in the Church of England portion of Rookwood Cemetery.
Pathetic figures in the vast assemblage at the gravesides were the men’s widows, one of whom collapsed during the service, and had to be carried to her motor car.
An unobtrusive figure in the assemblage was that of Mr. Michael W Polson, who was accompanied by Messrs. J. B. Ferrier and J. Bannister. The floral tributes, which were conveyed in several cars, and which were placed on one car in striking pyramidal form, included two massive wreaths from Mr. Polson.
One hundred thousand people or more, with bared heads, viewed the long and impressive cortege as it proceeded from Mrs. Kirby’s funeral parlours in Elizabeth-street, along that thoroughfare, under the railway bridge into Hay-street, and thence along Pitt street, and past Central Square to the Mortuary Station, en route to Rookwood, where there was another vast concourse. Drawn together by a common bond of sympathy, the spectators occupied every vantage point. From countless windows in the city, thousands of people momentarily stayed their daily course to watch the passing of the cortege.
As an imposing official ceremonial, impressive in the quiet dignity of its pageantry, it was a striking expression of a city’s sympathy and respect for two men who had died at their posts.
From the funeral parlours to the hearses, side by side, and through an impressive avenue lined by the police as a guard of honour, to the gravesides, six stalwart, broad-shouldered constables carried each of the coffins. Mounted constables headed the cortege. Then came the Police Band, with muffled drum; then a big detachment of uniformed police, and immediately in front of the hearses, the Deputy Premier (Mr. Bruxner) and the Chief Secretary (Mr. Chaffey), representing the State Government; the Commissioner of Police (Mr. Childs), and the Under Secretary.
Chief Secretary’s Department (Mr. Harkness). Walking on both sides and at the rear of the hearses were small detachments of police. Next came several cars laden with floral tributes; another long file of uniformed police, plainclothes men, police roundsmen, representing the Sydney Press; representatives of the Central District Ambulance ; a big body of Sydney’s fire fighters, whose helmets glittered in the bright sunshine, and the representatives of other allied establishments.
Every now and again there ran down the long line of officers and men the swelling and sinking notes of the Funeral March as the bandsmen walked with slow, measured steps behind the brilliant cavalcade of men sitting their horses like statues. Thus, amid striking manifestations of respect for their memory, were the two constables laid to rest, with the hymn “Abide With Me” being softly rendered.
The Police Force was represented by 500 or more men and officers of all ranks. Among the others present was the ex-Commissioner of Police (Mr. James Mitchell).
DEAN TALBOT’S TRIBUTE.
Dean Talbot, in his address at the graveside, said the city had been deeply grieved at the deaths of these two men; the scene that day was a touching expression of its sorrow. The men whose passing the city mourned were the representatives of a force which, with untiring vigilance, protected the lives and the property of the community. The police, in the execution of their duty, were frequently in danger, and were conspicuous in such circumstances by their heroism and bravery. The police of New South Wales had won the admiration of all law-abiding citizens, and it was in that spirit of admiration, mingled with feelings of sorrow, that the community had that day paid its striking tribute. Those whom they mourned that day had been taken with tragic suddenness. The community sympathised with their relatives, and trusted that God would comfort them in their great grief.
The chief mourners were the widows of the two men and their families, and a large number of relatives.
Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate
Tuesday 9 August 1932 page 5 of 10
LARGE CROWDS Funeral of Constables HARBOUR BRIDGE SMASH SYDNEY, Monday. Thousands of people assembled in Elizabeth and Oxford Streets this afternoon, to witness the funerals of Constables Clifford James Bush and Joseph McCunn, who were struck by a car and fatally injured on the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Friday night. The crowd was so dense that traffic was disorganised.
After a short, impressive service in the chapel of the funeral parlours, the coffins were carried to the waiting hearses, and preceded by a detachment of mounted police, the cortege moved off for the mortuary station. Immediately behind the mounted police came the Police. Band, and 400 police representing all ranks. Among the members were the Commissioner of Police (Mr. W. H. Childs), the principal administrative officers in the metropolitan area, the Chief Fire Officer ( Mr. Nance ) and 100 members of the Metropolitan Fire Brigades.
The hearses travelled side by side, and were followed by six cars laden with floral tributes. Two magnificent wreaths were sent by Mr. M. W. Polson, the driver of the car which was involved in the fatal smash. Mr. Polson also attended the funeral. There was another large crowd at the Rookwood Cemetery. The Chief Secretary ( Mr. F. A. Chaffey ) and the Minister for Transport ( Mr. M. F. Bruxner ) represented the State Government.
BRIDGE LIGHTING RESTORED.
One result of the tragedy is that the authorities have directed that until further notice the bridge shall be fully illuminated. A few weeks ago the Transport Department issued instructions that the number of lights should be reduced by two-thirds in order to save £4000 a year in the cost of electricity.
The Canberra Times
Tuesday 23 August 1932 page 1 of 4
Trainer Charged with Manslaughter
At the Central Court, today, Michael William Polson, horse trainer, was charged with having feloniously slain Constables Joseph McCunn and Henry James Bush on the Harbour Bridge on August 9 and with having driven in a manner dangerous to the public.
He was remanded until August 30. It was stated that the coroner’s inquiry would be held on that day.
The Dubbo Liberal & Macquarie Advocate ( NSW )
Tuesday 30 August 1932 page 1 of 6
HARBOUR BRIDGE TRAGEDY
Polson on Manslaughter Charge
The Coronial inquiry commenced today into the deaths of Constables Clifford James Bush (26) and Joseph McCunn (23), who were killed on the Harbour Bridge on the night of August 5.
Michael Polson, horse trainer, who was charged with manslaughter, was present in court.
Detective Robinson told the court that Polson said to him, ” I didn’t see them. I did feel a bump and the car seemed to get out of control. I had difficulty in stopping. The light on the bridge is very bad, and I was not driving at more than 25 miles an hour. ”
Raymond Mcintosh stated that he noticed the two constables standing 10 to 12 feet from the railing. They were in the shadow between the lighted lamps, and appeared to be comparing notes, and not aware of the approach of the car. Witness said there was a crash, and he saw one of the constables hurled into the air.
The inquiry is proceeding.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 31 August 1932 page 12 of 20
POLSON DISCHARGED BY CORONER
The City Coroner (Mr. May) yesterday found that Constables Clifford James Bush and Joseph McCunn met their deaths from injuries accidentally received through being knocked down by a motor car on Bradfield Highway on the evening of August 5.
When Mr. Barry (for the police) stated that there was no further evidence to offer on charges of manslaughter and dangerous driving against Michael William Polson, the driver of the car, the coroner ordered that he should be discharged.
Mr. May said that no doubt the widows, with their children, would have the deepest sympathy of everyone. The two young constables had left their homes full of health, and in doing what they conceived to be their duty met an untimely end. He reminded them that Mrs. Bush was a widow for the second time.
He added that he considered that the Crown had taken the right course, but there was no evidence that Polson drove in a manner dangerous to the public or at a speed dangerous to the public.
Detective Robinson said he interviewed Polson and Ferrier and Bannister, who were with him, on the night of the accident. Polson said he did not see the constables. He felt a bump, and after that the car seemed to get out of control. He had difficulty in stopping the car, and when he did stop it Ferrier got out and went back. He returned and said there had been an accident.
Witness said Polson told him that he had been to the Manly Golf Club playing in a competition all day. They did not return direct from the golf club to the city. They stopped for about half an hour at Furlong’s Hotel. Polson told him he did not have a drink there, but the others might have had a couple.
Detective Robinson added: ” Polson said he was not going faster than 25 miles an hour at the time of the accident. He said he was not a fast driver. I asked him how he came to run the constables down. He replied that he did not know. He did not see them. The lights on the bridge were very bad. ”
“NO SIGNS OF LIQUOR.”
In reply to Mr. De Baun, for Mrs. McCunn, witness said he did not detect any sign of liquor on Polson when he saw him after the accident.
The following questions were asked Polson by Detective Robinson at an interview on the night of the accident, and were contained in a statement handed to the coroner:
” Your statement in respect to the amount of liquor you had is somewhat at variance to the statement by Mr. Ferrier and Mr. Bannister in respect to you having a drink at Furlong’s Hotel on the way from the club – Mr. Polson: I may have had a lager there, but I am sure I did not have two lagers. They may have been paid for, but I did not have them.
Did you purchase the two bottles of liquor which were in your car at the time of the accident? – No. I did not. They do not belong to me.
Mr. Ferrier states that you purchased the liquor at the club-house about 7 p.m. – Polson ( to Ferrier, who was present at the interview ) : I am sure you are making a mistake. I had no need to purchase liquor.
Raymond Edgar Mcintosh, engineer, said he was driving across the bridge in the direction of Newcastle on the night of the accident. The constables were standing together in a shadow between two lighted lamps. Witness was 50 yards away when he first noticed them. He saw their faces, which appeared like two discs suspended in the air. A second or two later he realised they were policemen.
Witness said he noticed a car approaching from the north end of the bridge. The constables had their backs to it. They seemed to be unaware of the approach of the car, and witness realised that an accident would be certain. There was a crash, and he saw one of the constables being hurled in the air. At the time of the accident every third light on the bridge was lighted. The car which struck the policemen continued on for 100 or 150 yards before pulling up.
Superintendent Mackay said he questioned Polson on the bridge, and added: “I said to Poison, ‘It appears to me that you have had a drink.’ He said, ‘Yes; I have been to the Manly Golf Club, and had a couple of lagers there.’ I then said to Bannister, ‘You also appear to have partaken of drink.’ He said, ‘Yes, I was with Polson at the golf club. We had a presentation there. Afterwards we had some drink.’ Ferrier did not appear to have had drink, and I did not question him. I said to Polson, ‘What speed were you doing?’ and he replied ‘Between 25 and 30 miles an hour.’ I said to him, ‘Did you not see the constables?’ and he said, ‘I did not see them, and I was looking ahead at the time. I had no idea I struck them. This is a dreadful affair. I wish to – the bridge had not been built.’ ”
Witness said he asked Polson and the others questions in the presence of Dr. Angus Murray. Afterwards he took Dr. Murray aside, and the doctor said to him, “They have had drink, but in my opinion they are not under the influence to such an extent as to render Polson incapable of driving a car.”
Witness added that when he (witness) was on the bridge the visibility was bad. Extra caution should have been taken in driving a car on the bridge on that night.
Bannister told witness that he thought a piece of the bridge had fallen on them.
In reply to Mr. Dovey (for Polson), witness said the observant motorist would have seen the constables as objects rather than as men. Any speed over 25 miles an hour was excessive on that night. The proper speed was between 15 and 20 miles an hour.
Superintendent Bennetts said the constables had received their instructions. Their duties should not necessarily have brought them together. All traffic constables were issued with white gloves, but he did not know whether the two constables had them on on the night of the tragedy.
Constable Charles Ernest Pike, who was on duty at the bridge on the evening of August 5, said he approached a car driven by a man he now knew as Polson. The engine of the car was racing and the car was moving slowly ahead. Witness applied the hand brake, and asked Polson where he was going. He replied that he was going home. Witness asked Polson if he knew there had been an accident. Polson replied that he did not, and asked where it was. A man he now knew as Bannister, who was in the back of the car, said there was a bump, but he thought it was only a rise in the roadway.
Witness added that the men in the car, with the exception of Polson, smelt strongly of intoxicating liquor.
CLASH WITH WITNESS.
Edward Hatton, taxi-driver, said he crossed the Harbour Bridge between 8.45 p.m. and 9 p.m. on the evening of August 5. He said he saw the constables 60 or 70 yards away. He saw another car approaching him.
Mr. Barry: Did you tell Detective Robinson that that car was travelling at 60 to 70 miles an hour? – Perhaps I did.
To the Coroner witness said the car was travelling at a good speed.
In reply to Mr. Dovey, witness said he called on Mr. Polson on the night following the bridge tragedy.
Mr. Dovey: You told him you could do him a lot of good and a lot of harm?
Witness: I did not.
Did you tell him you were broke? – No.
Are you broke? – No. I have a bob or two.
After that, you called on Mr. Hickey at his office? – Yes.
Uninvited? – No.
Witness said he did not call on Mr. Polson unasked.
Mr. Dovey: Who Invited you to call on Mr. Polson? – I do not know the man’s name.
You were ordered out of Mr. Hickey’s office?
– No, I was not.
You telephoned me at my private home?
Didn’t I tell you I thought you were a bad man, and would have nothing to do with you? – Yes.
Later, you came out to my home? – Yes.
And I told you I thought you were a blackmailer? – Yes.
And I threatened to get the police? – You had a stick: otherwise I would have punched you on the nose.
Have you ever been convicted? – That has nothing to do with the case.
Then, Mr. Dovey said (to the Coroner) : “I say openly in this court that the witness is nothing more or less than a blackmailer.”
Detective Robinson, recalled, said the white gloves of the constables were found in their bags at one of the toll houses.
To Mr. De Baun, John Ferrier, secretary of the Manly Golf Club, said he was of the opinion that the car was not travelling at more than 20 miles an hour. He knew that something had happened when the glass on the windscreen broke and pieces flew over Bannister and himself. Polson immediately began to pull up and came to a stop 80 to 100 yards away. Witness got out of the car and ran back. The liquor found in the car was purchased by him.
Mr. Dovey: Were you perfectly sober? Witness: Perfectly.
Joseph Bradshaw Bannister, bookmaker, said he was with Polson in the front of the car. He estimated the speed at between 20 and 25 miles an hour.
Mr. Barry appeared for the police to assist the coroner; Mr. W. R. Dovey (instructed by Messrs. John Hickey and Quinn) appeared for Polson; Mr. De Baun and Mr. Leonard ( instructed by Messrs. McCulloch and Buggy ) for the relatives of Constable McCunn; and Mr. Buggy for the relatives of Constable Bush and the Police Association.
Goulburn Evening Penny Post
Monday 10 October 1932 page 2 of 4
POLICE FUND Under the direction of Superintendent Mackay and Sergeant Lendrum, the fund to buy homes for the widows of Constables McCunn and Bush, who were killed by a motor car while on duty on the bridge, is growing rapidly. Receipts already total £300.