Lawson Crichton

Lawson Crichton was born in Coatbridge near Glasgow in Scotland in 1854. He ended his days in Lambton in 1906, as one of the town’s most prominent citizens.

Crichton arrived in Australia in 1875 and soon gained a position as assistant at the Hamilton Co?operative Store. In 1879 he married Agnes Logan Cherry, daughter of Robert Cherry of the Hamilton Hotel. In 1882 Crichton was appointed manager of the Lambton Co-operative store, situated on the north east corner of Pearson and Grainger Streets. In 1889 he resigned after purchasing a bakery business, but returned in 1896 as manager of the Hamilton and Lambton Co?operative Society.

Ralph Snowball’s September 1898 photograph shows Lawson and Agnes Crichton with several of their five children, and various employees in front of the Lambton store. For an interesting contrast in how some things change while other things stay the same, a close look at the signs on the store is instructive. One advertises “Cadburys Chocolate”, still widely enjoyed today, while another promotes “Bile Beans for Biliousness”, a product thankfully lost in history!

Lawson Crichton was active in many local institutions including the fire brigade, cricket club, football club, and several friendly societies and lodges. From 1899 to 1902 he was also a key member of the Lambton Citizens’ Committee. These were years when Lambton Council ceased to operate having been bankrupted by the failed electric lighting scheme. The Citizens’ Committee under the leadership of Crichton became the de facto local government, looking after sanitation, drainage and street repairs until the Council was reinstated in 1903.

Lawson Crichton died at his residence in Pearson St on 2 July 1906, aged just 52 years. The following day a funeral procession left his home and wound through the streets of Lambton. The impressively large attendance from the many groups he was associated a fitting testament to the high regard he was held in the community.

Lambton Co-operative Store, with Lawson Crichton (manager) and family. September 1898. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Lawson Crichton. Photo from “The Story of Lambton”, Newcastle Family History Society.

The article above was first published in the September 2019 edition of The Local.


Bile Beans for Biliousness

In Ralph Snowball’s 1898 photo, just to the right hand side of the main door is a sign that proclaims “Bile Beans for Biliousness Sold Here”.

Bile Beans were a completely fraudulent product created by Charles Edward Fulford and Ernest Albert Gilbert, and first sold in Australia in 1897. The product was a relatively harmless concoction of plant and vegetable matter, but was heavily marketed with pseudo-scientific attestations as a cure for all kinds of maladies.

Bile Beans marketing brochure c.1905. Archives New Zealand

A court in Edinburgh on 20 July 1906, ruling on a complaint from the manufacturers of Bile Beans about another company using the name, makes it pretty clear that Bile Beans were an elaborate scam. The British Medical Journal of 28 July 1906, reporting on the court’s judgement noted that the Bile Beans …

… were said to be made of Australian vegetable substances discovered by a Charles Forde. The place of the discovery, the mode of it, and the instrument of it were all deliberate inventions, without any foundation in fact.

The truth was that the complainers [the Bile Bean Manufacturing Company] had formed a scheme to palm off onto the public a medicine obtained from America, and they created a demand by flooding the country with advertisements, placards, pamphlets, and imaginary pictures. The complainers desired protection for the name “Bile Beans,” but being themselves engaged in perpetrating a fraud upon the public, they were not entitled to any such protection.

Despite the clearly articulated fraudulent nature of the product, it continued to be marketed aggressively and sold throughout the world, with its supposed benefits morphing over time. At various times Bile Beans were claimed to cure an astonishing number of ailments, including …

  • Biliousness
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Dyspepsia
  • Headache
  • Piles
  • Female Weakness
  • Pale faced girls
  • Irregularities
  • Bad Breath
  • Pimples
  • Blotches
  • Dizziness
  • Liver and Kidney Troubles
  • Heart Palpitation
  • Pain in Back and Side
  • Lack of Physical Tone
  • Heartburn
  • Tired Feeling
  • Debility
  • Anaemia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bad blood
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Rheumatism
  • Flatulence
  • Influenza

By the 1930s the product was being marketed as a weight loss pill for women, with advertisements proclaiming that …

“Slenderness can be yours without dieting or fatiguing exercise if you just take Bile Beans. Just a couple nightly and you’ll slim while you sleep.”

Advertisement, Launceston Examiner, 21 Oct 1938.

Thankfully the marketing of ineffective dietary supplements using pseudo-scientific claims of efficacy, targeting women with insecurities about their body image, could never happen in our modern age.

Lambton Citizens’ Committee

The following is a brief timeline of Lawson Crichton’s involvement in the Lambton Citizens’ Committee.

  • 3 Mar 1900 – appointed to the committee
  • 2 Jun 1900 – appointed as chairman of the committee
  • 21 Sep 1901 – retired as chairman, but stays on committee
  • 5 Apr 1902 – last mention in the newspaper as being on the committee

Community involvement

In the article I mention that Lawson Crichton was active in many local institutions. A search of Trove shows that he was very busy indeed, being involved in the following activities

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
5 Jun 1879
3 Jun 1879
Marriage of Lawson Crichton to Agnes Logan Cherry.
3 Jul 1906
2 Jul 1906
Death of Lawson Crichton.
3 Jul 1906Funeral notices for Lawson Crichton.
3 Jul 1906"HAMILTON & LAMBTON CO-OP. SOCIETY. LAMBTON & HAMILTON STORES CLOSED TO-DAY on account of the death of the General Manager, Mr. Lawson Crichton."
4 Jul 1906
3 Jul 1906
Lawson Crichton's funeral.

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