Category Archives: Port Phillip history

What happened in Port Phillip in 1842: May 1842 Pt.II

Feting the gentleman captors

Not a lot else happened in May, other than the excitement of catching the Plenty Valley bushrangers. So grateful were the good people of Melbourne to the ‘young gentlemen’ who  were feted with capturing them, that it was proposed to hold a dinner in their honour:

it is proposed to give the brave little band of amateurs who succeeded in capturing the bushrangers, a public dinner.  This is as it should be: no men more honorably deserve such a mark of public respect.[PPH 3/5/42]

A venerable list of Port Phillip Gentlemen put their names to the proposal (including Cavenagh, Arden and Kerr – the editors of the Herald, Gazette and Patriot respectively)

Bushrangerdinner

The Port Phillip Herald reported that

The Forthcoming Dinner for the captors will take place Thursday next 26th May at Royal Hotel, tickets 35 shillings each, can be obtained until Wed evening from the stewards. His Honor, Judge Willis, had signified his intention of being present, but has declined on account of the sentence not having yet been carried into effect upon the unfortunate men.   The partition wall between the large front room above stairs and an adjoining back apartment will be removed [PPH 24/5/42]

But then, as the night of the dinner drew near, the editors of the Press learned that the Stewards of the dinner had decided to omit a toast to ‘The Press’, the same insult that had been levelled at them at the Governor’s Dinner as well.  As a group, the editors decided to boycott the dinner.  They wrote to the guests of honour:

To Messrs Snodgrass, Fowler, Gourlay, Chamberlain and Thomson.  Monday 25 May 1842. GENTLEMEN As the absence of every one connected with the Melbourne Press from the dinner to be given to you tomorrow by your fellow-colonists cannot fail to be observed and commented upon, we are desirous that our absence should not be considered as indicating any want of respect for you, or any disinclination to join in a tribute we think you have well deserved. We feel it due to ourselves, however, as the representatives of the Press of the Province, to shew, by our absence from the dinner our sense of the indignity (a second time offered to us) in the exclusion of “The Press” from the list of toasts to be given, under the authority of the stewards, every other toast of a public nature which it is customary to give on such occasions, being inserted in the list which has been furnished to us.  We have the honor &c  Wm Kerr Ed. Patriot, Geo Cavenagh Ed. Herald, A.F.A Greeves Ed. Gazette, T. H.Osbourne, Ed. Times.

And the gentleman guests wrote back:

To Mr Kerr and the Editors of the Melbourne Journals.  Wednesday evening.

GENTLEMEN- In the names of Messrs Gourlay, Fowler, Thomson and myself, I beg leave to acknowledge the receipt of your communication, and to inform you that our position, as guests to the gentlemen who have tendered us so handsome a testimonial, prevents us interfering in any way with the arrangements they may have made with the Editors of the Melbourne papers for our entertainment.

Permit me to express our regret on our hearing, for the first time, your intention to deprive us of the pleasure of your society on the forthcoming occasion, which we were led to expect from having observed the names of Messrs Kerr and Cavenagh- two of your body- on the list of those gentlemen who offered us so flattering a compliment. I have the honor to be, Gentlemen, Your obedient humble servant, Peter Snodgrass. N. B. Mr Chamberlain being absent from town prevents his replying to your letter. P. S.  [PPP 26/5/42]

After the publication of the correspondence, there was a meeting of “a large number of gentlemen” who intended going to the dinner, who resolved that the toast would be proposed in defiance of the Stewards. Then the Stewards had a meeting behind closed doors on the afternoon of the day on which the dinner was to take place and they decided to propose the toasts themselves, and issued cards of admission to the reporters at 5.30 with the dinner to start at six. The editors returned the tickets with the intimation that “the Editors could not think of exposing their Reporters to an indignity, they were themselves staying away from the Dinner to avoid” [PPP 30/5/42]

And so, avoid it they did, but being newpaper men after all, the Port Phillip Herald  did publish a report of the dinner after all.

THE PUBLIC DINNER Pursuant in the previously notified general meetings at the Royal Exchange Rooms, as fully reported in the columns of the Melbourne Press, a public dinner was given on the evening of Thursday, to the gallant captors of the bushrangers now in the condemned cells awaiting execution – more especially to do well deserved honor to Messrs Fowler, Gourlay, Snodgrass, Chamberlain and Thompson, to whose heroic conduct the inhabitants of the province owe such deep gratitude for the early termination of the career of as desperate a gang of banditti as ever infested the Middle District. [PPH  31/5/42]

The Port Phillip Gazette wasn’t too impressed with this break in editorial solidarity:

 Our contemporary the Herald diminishes our regret at the inability to report the dinner, having published yesterday a full account of the proceedings, by its own reporter.  As the note to Messrs Snodgrass, Gourlay, Fowler, Chamberlain and Thompon, signed by all the Editors, commences with these words- “Gentlemen, The absence of everyone connected with the Melbourne Press &c“- we presume it was not read by the Editor of the Herald, or it is obvious that he neither could consistently attend the dinner, nor give a report of it, because he would not have exposed his reporter to an indignity he would avoid himself. [PPG 1/6/42]

But the celebrations didn’t finish with just a dinner.

MASONIC COMPLIMENT- On Wednesday evening last, at a meeting of the Lodge of Australia Felix, Mr Stephen proposed that a token of regard should be offered to Messrs Gourlay, Fowler and Snodgrass for their heroic conduct in capturing the bushrangers. It was consequently resolved, unanimously, that Masonic Medals, according to their rank held in the order, should be presented to the above named gentlemen upon which should be engraven an appropriate inscription. Although unusual for the Masonic body to take cognizance of [indistinct] circumstances, yet from the fact of there being no less than three out of four of the “intrepid band” freemasons, the [indistinct] deem it a fitting occasion, in no way opposed to the constitution or traditions of the craft, to mark their [appreciation?] of the service rendered to the community; and the public will learn from this …that whilst Masons acknowledge [?benefits?], the fraternity are ever ready to [indistinct] their lives in protecting…their country when duty calls them into action.  [PPH 28/5/42]

Duello

It was a rather propitious time for Peter Snodgrass to be revelling in all this public adulation, because there was the little matter of an appearance in the Police Court which might otherwise dimmed his lustre. I find it really strange to juxtapose boggy, unmade Collins Street, with its tree stumps still visible, and all the aristocratic geegaws of ‘cutting’ someone dead and challenging to a duel, as if they were in the streets of London.

THE DUELLO. At the Police Office on Friday last, Messrs Peter Snodgrass and John Maude Woolley were bound over to keep the peace towards all her Majesty’s subjects, but particularly towards Captain George Brunswick Smyth. From the evidence of Captain Smyth, it appeared that one the previous day he met Mr Snodgrass in Collins-street, but not being desirous to rank any longer in the list of that gentleman’s acquaintances, he had given him “the cut direct”. In the evening of the same day Captain Smyth received a visit from Mr John Maude Woolley, whom he described as anything but sober; Mr Woolley announced himself commissioned by Mr Snodgrass to demand an explanation from Captain Smyth, touching his reasons for shunning Mr Snodgrass, and in the event of his inability to assign a satisfactory reason, to name a friend with whom to arrange the preliminaries of a hostile meeting on the following morning. Captain Smyth, however, declined acceding to either course, and hinted his desire to be freed from the presence of a visitant in Mr Woolley’s condition, whereupon Mr Woolley, threatening postings, horsewhippings and all the other numerous ills a club life is heir to, left the house. In the morning Captain Smyth brought the parties before Major St John, at the Police Office, and they were bound over to keep the peace [PPP 23/5/42]

Two views of the hospital

A temporary hospital was opened in Bourke Street when it became clear that the very first hospital in William Street, open only to convicts and new immigrants, was inadequate.  The Port Phillip Gazette was full of praise for the institution:

THE TEMPORARY HOSPITAL. On Tuesday last an opportunity was afforded the writer of inspecting the temporary hospital in Bourke-street, in the company of Dr O’Mullane, one of the visiting surgeons. This institution, it may not be generally known, is supported entirely on casual charity, and the funds are hardly sufficient to enable it to drag on its existence. It was originally proposed to build a permanent hospital, towards the maintenance of which it was intended to apply for the appropriation of certain revenues which are in like manner afforded to a similar institution in Sydney. A public meeting of its supporters decided that the building should not be opened until £800 had been collected by subscription; the great distress prevalent during the past hot season induced the same parties to consent to the establishment of a temporary hospital, which was placed under the control of an interim committee. The ministers of the various congregations in Melbourne, who were appointed on the committee, have been using the greatest exertions- especially, we are warranted in saying, the Rev Mr Thomson- to incite the charitable feelings of the more wealthy inhabitants in its behalf; but at various times the funds have run so short as to leave not enough even to defray the purchase of bandages and other trifling articles of daily use.  The object of our personal notice is both to record the public thanks which are due to the gentlemen in the management of the institution, and to raise more abundant means for the continuance of their services.  The professionalists who have charge of the patients are Drs O’Mullane, Wilkie, Meyers and Thomas; these gentlemen, as well as either of the resident clergymen, will receive the donations of the charitably inclined, and apply the receipts to their proper purposes  [PPG 11/5/42]

The Port Phillip Patriot was somewhat less charitable

Several worthless characters in town, keeperss of houses of ill-fame and persons of a similar description, have taken it into their heads that the temporary hospital (towards the maintenance of which they have never contributed a farthing exception in the shape of drunken fines) is quite at their disposal whenever any of their unfortunate inmates have become incapacitated by disease or sickness from following their loathsome trade. Some of these fellows will take no refusal, but will hurry the patients up to the hospital door, bundle them in and then off, and leave them. Some days ago a trick of this kind was played by a worthless fellow named Hyams, well-known in the police records, who left at the door of the hospital in a dying condition an unfortunate woman named Maxwell, who after running a career of dissipations for several years in Hobart Town, had come here to perish. On Wednesday week another worthless fellow of the name of Young who keeps a house of very questionable fame in Bourke street, nearly opposite the Southern Cross Hotel brought a young girl, one of the inmates of his house, who was suffering severely from erysipelas in the leg, and bundled her down at the door of the hospital in the midst of all the rain, and there abandoned her. The Committee would do well to being some of these worthies before the police, and Major St John we daresay would contrive to read them a lesson they would not forget for some time. [PPP 5/5/42]

Another indigenous execution on the way

The newspapers carried news that three indigenous men were being brought to Melbourne from the Port Fairy district to face the court. It was a rather indirect route to Melbourne from Port Fairy via Launceston.

THE ABORIGINES Three aborigines from Port Fairy arrived in town, via Launceston, on Tuesday evening last, having been forwarded by Capt Fyans, from Port Fairy in charge of a trooper of the Border Police. Their names are Rogers [sic], Cock Nose and Jupiter; the former is charged with the murder of Mr Clement Codd, in the neighbourhood of Port Fairy, about 18 months ago, and the two latter with stealing and spearing sheep and cattle. Mr Seivewright, the Protector, it is said, had thrown the shield of his protection around Roger, though there is abundant poof of his guilt, and Capt Fyans had actually to resort to stratagem to get the murderer taken into custody  [PPP 19/5/42]

This story has further to go.

How’s the weather?

I’m missing the first week of May, but for the rest of the month the warmest temperature was 65(17.8)  on 13th of May   and the coldest temperature was recorded on 24th May with a high of  48 (8.9) and a low of 39 (3.9)

This Month in Port Phillip: May 1842 (Pt.1)

In May 1842 the talk of the town was BUSHRANGERS!  There had been reports filtering into the newspapers from late April about a spate of holdups and invasions and by early May it was clear that the same gang was involved. They were dubbed the Plenty Valley Bushrangers.  I wrote about them at length here, (complete with map!) so follow the link and read about their spree and capture before coming back here to follow up with the trial.

Reenactment of a bushranger robbing some travellers on a country road

Re-enactment of a bushranger robbing some travellers on a country road. Photograph taken by J.W. Lindt 1845-1926, State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/290418

Are you back?  On 3rd May an inquest into Williams’ death was held and the three surviving bushrangers were committed to trial.  Willis scheduled a special sitting on 11 May (even though the usual criminal session would be held on 16th anyway).

Rather controversially, Willis wrote to La Trobe immediately following the committal hearing but prior to the bushrangers’ trial, noting that should the death sentence be passed, “it would have a much more effectual example were that sentence carried into execution within a very short period instead of delaying it until the proceedings could be sent to Sydney and returned”. He suggested that La Trobe request permission from Governor Gipps to make the arrangements at the local level, and that Willis would announce the time and place from the Bench.[1] Governor Gipps in Sydney, however, would have nothing of it.  A terse letter reiterated the necessity, under the Queen’s instructions to the Governor, to bring every sentence of death before the Executive Council.[2]

The courtroom trial itself was unremarkable, beyond Willis’ alacrity in scheduling the  unnecessary special sitting on May 11.  His opening comments congratulating the captors for their services to the community do not seem to have attracted attention or criticism at the time. [3]  The three surviving prisoners faced twenty-four counts, all related to the shooting and wounding of Henry Fowler, the leader of the “gay and gallant Five”. There were other charges that could have been laid from the five-day outbreak of violence but only the charge of shooting with intent to maim, disfigure or disable carried the death penalty.  Given that the wounding occurred during a shoot-out, there was a heavy reliance on forensic evidence and crime reconstruction to prove that it was the bushrangers, and not the captors, who had fired at close range and at particular angle to cause the injuries sustained by Henry Fowler.  The prominence given to scientific evidence is striking, given the usual reliance on character evidence and eyewitness reports that was usually tendered to the courts. [4] The jury retired for an hour and returned with the guilty verdict.

Willis then held sentencing over for two days until the following Friday, perhaps in the expectation that a reply to his request to announce the date and time for execution might arrive.  The audience for the sentencing was more than sufficient: the crowd rushed into the courthouse as soon as it was opened and “both ingress and egress were forcibly prevented”. In the tumult a window was broken, and Willis threatened to clear the court if a “more discreet and distinct silence were not maintained.” [5] He ordered the three bushrangers to remain in jail “until such day as His Excellency the Governor shall appoint for your execution”.

This, however, was not the end of Judge Willis’ involvement with the bushrangers. The Port Phillip Herald of 24 May carried a startling report that Ellis, Fogarty and the now-deceased Williams had planned to murder Judge Willis as he crossed the creek on the way into Melbourne, but had been dissuaded from the plan by their colleague Jepps.  News of this reached Judge Willis, possibly through petitions that were forwarded to him by three settler victims of the bushranger, each mentioning Jepps by name as instrumental in restraining his partners in crime.  No doubt relieved at his reprieve from the fate of being a kidnap hostage, Willis wrote to La Trobe, enclosing the petitions of the settlers and submitting them “for your serious consideration, and that of His Excellency the Governor.” [6]

But too late, too late – the report had gone up to Sydney and now everyone just had to wait until June when the bushranger story met its sorry end.

oldtreasury

You can see an exhibition about Victoria’s Bushrangers, including the Plenty Valley Bushrangers at the Old Treasury Building Museum in Spring Street in the city.  It’s called Wild Colonial Boys:Bushrangers in Victoria and it’s on until August. It’s closed on Saturdays, but it’s open every other day of the week between 10.00 and 4.00 and entry is free.  While you’re there, check out the terrific ‘Melbourne Foundations of a City’ exhibition and the Melbourne Panorama- a display to spend hours looking at.

 

 

Notes

[1]Willis to La Trobe 3 May 1842, PROV 19 Unit 31 Encl to 42/1163

[2] E. D. Thomson to La Trobe 16 May 1842 PROV 16 Unit 31 42/1163

[3] Port Phillip Herald 13 May 1842

[4] Especially the evidence of Dr Charles Sandford, Judge’s notes enclosed in Willis to La Trobe 3 May 1842 PROV 19 Unit 31  42/1163

[5] Port Phillip Herald 17 May 1842.

[6] Willis to La Trobe 25th May 1842 PROV 19 Unit 31 42/966 enclosure to 42/1163.

 

This Month in Port Phillip in 1842: April 1842 (Part III)

What about poor George Arden?

You might remember that since February 1842, the young editor of the Port Phillip Gazette had been languishing in the Eastern Watchhouse, sentenced to a year’s jail and a £300 fine for contempt of court over an article he had written in his newspaper.  During March, his imprisonment had become increasingly controversial, spurred no doubt by articles in his own paper, the Gazette, and through the support of the Port Phillip Herald.  Competing petitions were circulating Melbourne:  a petition to Her Majesty had been put up by Arden’s friends, while a counter-memorial, addressed to Judge Willis, pledged the support of the signers for Willis’ actions and performance as Resident Judge. Another petition to Governor Gipps admitted Arden’s wrongdoing but argued that after two months, Arden’s business and health were suffering badly and called on Gipps to remit the remainder of the twelve month sentence.

On 15th April, Judge Willis announced in court that, owing to Arden’s poor health and having succeeded in stopping the libels appearing in the press, he was willing to remit the rest of the sentence. “Your imprisonment has been as painful to me as it must have been to yourself” he claimed (PPP 18/4/42)- something that I very much doubt! He said that as the £300 fine rested with the Executive, he was not able to remit that part of the sentence, and gave him twelve months to pay it. The editor of the Port Phillip Herald, George Cavenagh, and George Thomas from the firm Thomas, Enscoe and James, stood surety for Arden’s appearance in twelve months time to pay the fine. Willis questioned them severely in court over their ability to cover the £300 should they be required to do so.  As it turned out, the fine was remitted after all. Gipps turned the whole question of what could/couldn’t and should/shouldn’t be remitted over to the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General in Sydney, who said that Willis did not have the authority to remit any part of the sentence because that authority rested completely with the Governor. On 14 May Governor Gipps remitted the whole sentence (jail and fine) and reported on the whole affair to London. The Secretary of State for the Colonies approved of Gipps’ actions and expressed regret that Willis had behaved as he did.

The Port Phillip Herald, which had supported Arden throughout,  applauded Willis’ actions:

we sincerely thank His Honor Judge Willis for the important act of mercy which has been extended to a brother editor.  To say that we do not feel grateful to His Honor for this act of grace would be to belie our conscience; and most sincerely do we trust- in recording our determination to bury the past in oblivion- that our future course as an impartial and fearless chronicler of passing events, may be cheered onwards by bearing testimony to the fact that our Resident Judge has gained the united esteem of a happy people. [PPH 19/4/42]

The Port Phillip Patriot, no friend to Arden and a strong supporter of Judge Willis wrote:

Mr Arden certainly does not deserve, and we should think cannot expect further grace, for he had not even the courtesy to offer his thanks to the Resident Judge when unexpectedly released from a ten month’s confinement, and neither in word nor deed since has he shewn himself in any degree grateful for an act of spontaneous kindness on the part of his Honor, which has excited the admiration of every one in the province but him whom it most concerned.” [PPP 25/4/42]

Strike!

Even though there were accusations that the British government was ‘shovelling out its paupers’ to Australia, at first the emigration schemes were meeting a real need for labour in Port Phillip.  By early 1842, though, the ships kept arriving into an economically worsening situation.  Although Governor Gipps was no fan of government work schemes, infrastructure was needed and there was now excess labour available, and so a number of projects were commenced including the construction of roads and jetties. The newspapers kept up a steady stream of complaints about the expense of government works and the indolence of the labourers employed on them.

On 19 April 1842 La Trobe announced that the wages for unemployed immigrants would be reduced from twenty shillings a week to eighteen shillings a week.  Martin Sullivan in his Men and Women of Port Phillip (p. 219) suggests that about two hundred men went on strike.

IMMIGRANTS On Tuesday last, a large party of the Irish emigrants, who have hitherto been employed by Government on the new road to the beach, “struck” work, and mounting a loaf on a long pole crossed the breakwater when they were joined by another party of the same class, and then proceeded to the Superintendent’s Office to resist the reduction of their wages as intended on Saturday last.  Failing to see His Honor, they paraded past the new Church in the direction of the Flag Staff evidently in a state of excitement and bent on mischief.

The intelligence was communicated to the Bench, whereupon the Major hastily adjourned the Court, and putting the Riot Act into his pocket, mounted his Bucephalus, and galloping after them, overtook these gentry on the outskirts of the town.  The matter spread like lightning through the town and parties were seen in all directions hasting to “the row”.  The Major rode in amongst them, and enquiring their complaint, was told that the reduction in their wages deprived them of the means of getting bread. By the good humour and coolness of the worthy magistrate, most of the insurgents drew off, but a few of the more refractory spirits breathed “battle, murder, and sudden death.” In fact, we heard one fellow exclaim – “wouldn’t it be better to fight an’ die, than to live and starve,” by which sentence he punctuated by sundry gyrations with a black-thorn shillelagh.

On the Major’s return to the Police Office, the overseer of emigrants was in attendance and a list of their names handed into Court; he said he could not mention any of the ringleaders names, as they appear to rise en masse, the whole affair having the appearance of a previously concerted determination. The first four names on the list were taken and warrants issued for their persons. If prompt measures are not taken in this matter at once, serious consequences may ensure.  The origin of this disturbance arose from wages of the single men and men of small families being reduced from twenty shillings to eighteen shillings per week, and from this reduction of two shillings, they anticipated starvation. [Port Phillip Herald 22 April 1842]

The strikers didn’t get a lot of sympathy from the newspapers.  There was a strong anti-Irish undercurrent running through the commentary. The Port Phillip Herald, which was the most critical of the three newspapers didn’t hold back:

… in speaking of the whole generally, we may safely say that such another specimen of ignorance, and everything that can render human nature degraded, could scarcely be again witnessed in any other part of the globe. They must have come from the inland – almost impervious recesses of the mountainous districts of the south of Ireland, knowing little except what untutored instinct teaches, and directed by no other law than the impulse of a savage passion. We are well aware that many have been seduced from their homes by the misrepresentations of emigration agents and other interested parties, but we also know, and these very men who have been the ringleaders in the late “strike” cannot be ignorant, that scarcely one of them was ever before in a situation where they might be so comfortable. Even the ablest and best labourers of the peasantry of England, Ireland the Scotland, do not receive more than one shilling a day, out of which they have to pay house rent, and provide food and clothing for themselves and families, and, besides, work hard from morning to night; here they have 3s 4d a day, and food as cheap as in almost any part of the world; only a very moderate quantity of work is required in return, and they are at liberty to make their present situation a conveniency until they can enter into a better arrangement. As a proof that they are themselves aware of the present advantages, we may mention what we ourselves know to be a fact, that one of the men, who was the most prominent of the disgraceful characters who figured on Tuesday last, refused, only a few days previously £35, with free house, rations &c for himself and wife, and to shew also that they do not consider themselves hard wrought, we may adduce another example of one- also of the ringleaders, going to a ship-mate and endeavouring to persuade him to get upon the public works, as “he would only have to pass a part of the day with a shovel in his hand and come home with £1 in his pocket on Saturday night. [PPH 26/4/42]

The Port Phillip Patriot, which could perhaps be described as the most ‘radical’ of the three newspapers, didn’t have much time for them, either:

At least three-fourths of these fellows would have considered themselves happy in their native country if in the receipt of six shillings a week, and many of them scarcely ever saw a loaf of bread, or tasted butchers’ meat, before they embarked for Melbourne; it would be serving the ungrateful rascals but right therefore to turn them every one adrift, and let them shift for themselves. There is no fear of their starving, for there is abundance of employment and good wages to be had in the province by every body that is able and willing to work , and it would be wrong to encourage such black ingratitude by inducing the fellows to think they can’t be done without. When the immigration season re-commences we trust care will be taken to send us no more of these fellows. It is a notorious fact, that while these men have hung on, some of them for many months, every English, Scotch, and North of Ireland immigrant has been engaged immediately on arrival, and such, we feel assured, would be the result were half a dozen ships of well selected immigrants to arrive to-morrow. The importers of immigrants, who inundate us with this description of men, have much to answer for. [PPP 21/4/42]

I’m surprised that the Port Phillip Gazette ended up being the most sympathetic

… the event, we presume, is one of little moment, as regards the peace of society; for considering the badness of the times, few will say that the men have not been as well treated as possible; but as there certainly have been grounds for complaint, we ought not to look with indifference upon these evidences of discontent, however untutored. [PPG 20/4/42]

As it turned out, the strike was of little moment.  The men went back to work for eighteen shillings; more unemployed men kept being employed on government projects and the newspapers stopped talking about it.  For now, anyway.

A night at the Assembly Ball

Back in June and October of 1841 Melbourne hosted two assembly balls.  Now in April, there was a third subscription ball, although it was a much less anticipated event than the ball in October had been when Governor Gipps was in attendance.

THE ASSEMBLY BALL. “On Tuesday evening the 5th of April, the third of the annual subscription meetings, under the name of Melbourne Assemblies, was held in the long room of the Exchange Hotel, the decorations and refreshments under the able management of Mr Howe, confectioner, of Queen-street, were as brilliant as on former occasions, the party however was much thinner, not exceeding seventy ladies and gentlemen; but the last, we must recollect, was indebted for its superior attractions to the presence of His Excellency the Governor and suite. Owing to the delicate state of his lady’s healthy, His Honor the Superintendent was not in attendance. Messrs Airey and Cuninghame and Major St John were the stewards for the occasion. [PPG 9/4/41]

A night at the theatre

On 11 April the Port Phillip Patriot reported that the Colonial Secretary had granted an extended licence for three months for the performance of amateur theatricals.  The theatre generally was a source of anxiety about the ‘low types’ amongst ‘professional’ thespians and the boisterous, immoral behaviour of the patrons. To head off these criticisms, the license was granted to relatively ‘respectable’ men to act as stewards: Hon Mr Murray and Messrs Cavenagh (editor of the Port Phillip Herald), Kerr (editor of the Port Phillip Patriot), Stephen, Ebden and Baxter.  The theatre would only operate on Monday evenings, with surplus funds applied at the discretion of the stewards to such bodies as the Benevolent Hospital, the Mechanics Institution etc.

They engaged the Pavilion, (interchangeably called the Theatre Royal) a theatre that I’ve written about previously here and here. An advertisement duly appeared in the newspapers

robroy

[PPP 14/4/42]

Well, the evening went off with a ‘bang’. Literally.

The Aristocracy. — During the performance of the amateur theatricals on Mon day evening, a couple of Melbourne aristocrats, one a member of the Melbourne, and the other of the Port Phillip Club, amused themselves, and annoyed the audience by throwing fireworks among the ladies in the boxes, and otherwise conducting themselves so disgracefully that the Clubs to which they respectively belong, cannot, if they have any regard to their own reputation, allow them to continue members. One lady had her bonnet burnt through, and her face severely scorched by a burning squib thrown into the box by these worthy scions of the aristocracy ; and another was so dreadfully alarmed by one of the burning squibs bursting on her dress that she fainted, and has since had repeated fits of hysterics. Fortunately, enough of evidence has been obtained to bring home guilt to both of the ruffians, who, it turns out, are actually making their way through the Insolvent Court, and were therefore spending in this way the money which belonged to their creditors. Summonses have been issued to compel their attendance at the Police-office, and we trust Major St. John will deal with them in such a manner as will prove a warning to others.  [PPP 21/4/42]

Sure enough, the ‘Melbourne aristocrats’ fronted up to the Police Office to face charges of creating a disturbance by throwing fireworks into the boxes.  It was young Peter Snodgrass- and remember that name because we’re going to meet him again next month. He had written to the stewards and apologized and so none of the stewards wished to proceed against him. Major St John, in quashing the information, remarked “that he was not surprised that young men should misconduct themselves in such a manner when, as he was informed, the boxes which should have been reserved for families were filled with women of improper character” and threatened to write to the Colonial Secretary to withdraw their licence. Mr Kerr (one of the stewards) denied it and “though not himself in front of the house of the occasion referred to, he was aware that there were no females of improper character admitted, but the three who were brought there by the persons concerned in this disturbance, and they were prevented re-entering the Theatre when their characters became known”. In a little aside, the editor of the Port Phillip Patriot added that the Major should be more careful issuing such statements. “There were many highly respectable families in the boxes on Monday evening who of course will not feel greatly flattered by the Major’s complimentary remarks.” [PPP 25/4/42]

The Eagle Tavern and Theatre Royal

‘The Eagle Tavern and Theatre Royal’ by W. F. E. Liardet (1799-1878) Source: State Library of Victoria

http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/151529

And all’s well that ends well, as they say in the theatre, with the second performance the following Monday regarded as a complete, and highly respectable, success:

Amateur Theatricals.-— Monday night, the second occasion on which the theatre has been opened under the present license, was a night of complete success; the house was filled to excess before the expiration of the first piece. During the week which intervened since the previous performance, an alteration had been made in the interior with regard to the arrangement of the pit and boxes, which was obviously superior : the front boxes had been brought to the same level with the pit, and the division taken away so as to form one arena from the entrance to the stage: the side boxes were reserved exclusively for the parties by whom each had been engaged for the night, with the exception of the two nearest the proscenium, which were indiscriminately filled with respectable parties making choice of the situation. The agitation which had been made respecting  the questionable system of admission allowed by the stewards, on the last occasion, has effected, through the instrumentality of the Police Magistrate, a most commendable reformation; and respectable families have to thank Major St. John for the pleasure they enjoy of visiting the theatre, without being mixed up with scenes and persons of an objectionable class. The boxes were patronised by several ladies among whom were Mrs.D. S. Campbell, Mrs. David M’Arthur, Mrs. Hazard, Mr. Erskine, Mrs. Addis, Mrs.Harrison and Mrs St. John, besides Maj of St-John, Capt. Lewis, Mr. Ryrie, J.P., Mr, Commissary Erskine, Mr. Ensign Freeman, of the 80th, Hon. Mr. Murray, and a great number of gentlemen who filled the passages at the back of the seats, until standing room was lost. This, by the way, might be amended for the better: the backs of the boxes should be taken down, and another row of seats carried up, leaving only sufficient width between the wall and the uppermost seat for entrance and exit.  The passages at present are crammed, to the Inconvenience of the gentlemen themselves, who, to judge by their conversation, would prefer sedentary accommodation and in some cases to the serious annoyance of ladies, who have to crush through the ranks of coated and hatted loungers [PPG 27/4/42]

How about the weather?

Melburnians know that April is a changeable month. Our 1842 Melburnians found that out too.

THE WEATHER Since our last notice, has exhibited one of those sudden extreme contrasts for which, in these regions, it is so remarkable. The oppressive heat has been succeeded by squally weather and stiff sea breezes; considerable quantities of rain have fallen during the past week, bringing relief to nature, animate and inanimate. Through the whole of Wednesday and Thursday, it blew a fresh gale from the south-west which is now succeeded by a more genial state of atmosphere. [PPG 9/4/42]

On the 9th of April, it was 79 degrees (26C) but by the 27th of April, it was still only 49 degrees (9C) at lunchtime.   Ah- Melbourne! You wouldn’t be anywhere else for quids!

This Month in Port Phillip 1842: April 1842 (Part II)

Marry in haste, repent at leisure….

Assigned convicts in Port Phillip might only have had to attend one muster every New Year’s Day, but they were still convicts.  This was reinforced by the regulations involving marriage.

THE CONVICT SYSTEM — To prevent bigamy, and also to secure the government against being burdened with the support of the families of convicts, it has long been a standing ordinance of the government that no convict shall be married without leave first had and obtained from the Governor, and any evasion of this law is punishable as a misdemeanor. On Thursday last, a convict named William Beresford, who is assigned to Mr. W. H. Dutton, one of the largest importers of this detestable species of labour, was brought before the Melbourne bench, charged with offending against this law by marrying one Mary Hall, without the sanction of the Governor. The prisoner, it appeared, was married in February last, by the Rev. Mr. Forbes, of the Scots Church, to whom he represented himself as a free immigrant by the Thomas Laurie. The prisoner admitted his guilt, but alleged he had the consent of his master, who had advised him should any questions be asked, to pass himself off as a free man. Mr. Dutton when examined, admitted that he had given his consent to the marriage, but he denied altogether having advised the prisoner to deceive the clergyman. Mr. Simpson, who was on the bench, expressed in strong terms his disapprobation of the conduct of Mr. Dutton, who, as a magistrate, and for many years an assignee of convict labour, could not be ignorant of the enormity of the offence of which the prisoner was guilty. Beresford was informed that his marriage was a nullity, and sentenced to expatiate his offence by working for six months in irons. During the examination it transpired that on a previous occasion Mr. Dutton had given his assent to the marriage of another of his assigned servants named Spicer, but that worthy having been insolent to the clergyman who was to have united him to his ‘cara sposa’, the ceremony did not take place. The bench directed Mr. Dutton to bring Spicer before them forthwith that he might be dealt with also. Mr. Dutton’s conduct in this affair is altogether so inexcusable that we think the bench scarcely did their duty in failing to deprive him of the whole of his assigned servants. — Ed. P. P. P.  [Port Phillip Patriot, 11/4/42]

It was no doubt to warn young women about the dangers of hastily and ill-advised marriages to convicts-under-cover that the Port Phillip Gazette issued this warning on 20 April, directed particularly to female immigrants, new to the colony:

CAUTION TO FEMALE IMMIGRANTS.— The facilities for concealment which the free state of society in this district holds out to prisoners is often an inducement to runaway convicts to settle under the guise of emacipated or originally free characters. Bolters from Van Diemen’s Land and Sydney make their way to Port Phillip, and seduced by the means of earning an independence, are so incautious as to take up with some pursuit in towns or their vicinity, where contact with the police is certain to lead sooner or later to their detection. In some instances these men have the folly to marry, and thus entail misery and disgrace upon the unfortunate women with whom they become connected. Examples have come within our knowledge in which a “Bolter” at the time of his re-capture was to all appearance in the virtuous enjoyment of a livelihood industriously acquired and pursued. In such cases the question whether Government should not let them remain undisturbed so long as they continue good and useful members of society, has been sometimes raised, but so dangerous might the precedent prove, to the control of the convict population of neighbouring colonies that severity becomes unavoidable. Where free women have had the misfortune to be deceived into linking their fate with runaway convicts, the hardship of their position is extremely distressing, and should be a caution to them to avoid hasty marriages, and particularly with men, who, acknowledging that they have been prisoners are unable to produce their certificates of freedom. We have been led into these remarks by learning that two men are now in custody at the Eastern watch-house, one suspected to be a “bolter” from Van Die-men’s Land, the other a runaway convict from Sydney, both are married, and the unfortunate women are in great tribulation on account of the arrest of their husbands. If the suspicion be verified, the marriages are illegal, the children illegitimate, and any property acquired by their joint industry becomes forfeited to the crown. The women will be cast adrift under the stigma of having formed bad connections, and their fortunes; in all probability, will be for the future under a cloud. It is not without reason, then, that female immigrants should be careful of using the facilities which the state of society holds out to an early marriage. [PPG 20/4/42]

 

This Month in Port Phillip in 1842: April 1842 (Part 1)

On 6th April the Port Phillip Gazette published an article about the various denominations present in Melbourne at the time and their relative strength. I’ve never thought of Melbourne as being a particularly Catholic city, although even as I write this, I think of the prominence of Archbishop Mannix, and the Catholic-Protestant riots that were about to break out in Melbourne in 1843. I’ve always thought of Melbourne being more Presbyterian or Anglican, perhaps because of the more visible presence of their large city churches in Melbourne today. Nonetheless, it’s interesting that during 1842, the Catholic church was the most prominent in Melbourne with the Church of England coming a poor fifth. According to the Gazette, in order of size the churches were:

1. The Roman Catholics

The junction of Elizabeth Lonsdale Sts Melbourne

Edmund Thomas The junction of Elizabeth and Lonsdale Streets, 1853 (some ten years later). St Francis’ church is on the right hand side. Love the emu in the front garden (as if!)  Source: State Library of Victoria

http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/223224

I. — The Church of Rome, first formed under the Rev. Mr. Geogheghan, in 1839, now under the spiritual charge of the Rev. Mr. Stevens, has the largest number of communicants among the churches of Melbourne ; the attendance varies from seven hundred to a thousand souls; the permanent place of worship standing in Elizabeth street, is a neat gothic Chapel, constructed of brick; and calculated to hold a thousand sitting when completed; occasionally an assistant priest or deacon, is sent from Sydney, but no estimate has yet been allowed by Government for the stipend of a second priest.

 

2. The Wesleyan Methodists

Wesleyan Chapel with a view in Queen Street

Henry Gilbert Jones (1804-1888) Wesleyan Chapel with a View in Queen Street  Source: State Library of Victoria

http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/13069

II. — The Wesleyan Church ; the members of this society who are the followers of the celebrated divine Wesley, have fulfilled the observances of congregational meetings from the earliest times of the settlement, but were not provided, until lately, with a resident minister. The branch in Melbourne was at one time attached to the Church in Van Diemen’s Land, but has since been placed under. the charge of the Chairman in Sydney; the Rev. Mr. Orton, a Wesleyan Missionary, having resigned his duties in New South Wales, was induced to supply the urgent want of ministerial labour, but was lately relieved by the Rev. Mr. Wilkinson, appointed by the proper authorities at home ; their chapel which is situated in Collins-street, is attended by eight hundred people, and will require shortly to be enlarged to give more accommodation ; great pains have been bestowed on the vocal and instrumental music in the Wesleyan chapel and the exhortations of the minister, the prayers of the congregation, effectively blend with the innocent and harmonious attractions of the choir and organ; there are also ten local preachers attached to the congregations whose talents are a powerful aid to their spiritual ends.

3. Presbyterians

Elevation and Ground Plan of Presbyterian Church. I.e. Scots Church Collins Street Melbourne

Samuel Jackson 1807-1876, architect, Elevation and Ground Plan of Presbyterian Church (i.e. Scots Church, Collins St, Melbourne) (Technical Drawing) 1841. Source: State Library of Victoria

http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/120261

III. — The Presbyterians are a body in connection with the established Church of Scotland, the ministers of the provincial congregations acknowledging the superin- tendence of the synod of New South Wales whose place of convention is in Sydney. ‘The attendants at the Kirk in Melbourne are about equal to those of the Wesleyan body, and are under the zealous ministry of the Reverend Mr. Forbes, whose great desire has been to obtain as many assist-ants as possible for the religious instruction of the neighbouring districts; the Committee for Colonial Churches of the General Assembly in Scotland, has granted considerable assistance, by providing, no less than four ministers who are either forming congregations, or, have already received a call. The Reverend Mr. Clow, a private settler in Port Phillip, and formerly a chaplain on the East India Company’s establishment for the Kirk, in Bombay, was the earliest ministering clergyman to the Presbyterians of Melbourne, Mr. Forbes, the present incumbent, having having taken charge in 1838. This gentle man has signalised his ministry by his care for the advancement of education; and of the construction and character of the Scots’ School, we shall have much to say in the notice we shall devote hereafter, to the Schools of Melbourne; the permanent place of worship known as the Scots’ Church, is built on the Eastern Hill, or Collins-street East, and has been open for some time to congregational purposes, but is not quite finished in its interior arrangements.

4. Independents

Collins Street East from the Independent Chapel

Henry Gilbert Jones (1804 – 1888) Collins Street East from the Independent Chapel. Source: State Library of Victoria.

http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/130647

IV. — The Independents are a highly zealous and respectable body, under the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Waterfield, an amiable pastor of their church, who arrived in Melbourne in 1838, and commenced the formation of the community, over which he now exercises his professional charge ; like the clergymen of other establishments he might be a stipendiary of the Government, but in strict obedience to the principles of his church, he receives his support from the voluntary contributions of his communicants and attendants. The Independent Chapel was the first permanent place of worship completed and opened in Melbourne ; it has a facial plainness which consorts well with the neat conveniences of the interior, it is built in Collins-street, and neighbours with the Scots’ Kirk; the sittings are capable of accommodating about six hundred which nearly approaches the total muster of its congregation.

5. Church of England

St. James Cathedral

Chas.S.Bennett (1869-1930) St James Cathedral. This image was drawn in 1881 when the church was in its original location near the corner of Little Collins St and William Street. It was shifted to the corner of King and Batman Streets in 1913-14. Source: State Library of Victoria

http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/72322

The Church of St. James on the English establishment is shewing a front which no longer leaves it marked with inferiority ; the structure is as far advanced as that of the Roman Catholic Chapel, although the difference of materials and interior fittings, will place it last in the race of competition..

V. — The Church of England is the oldest in point of foundation but the last in scope of attainments ; mismanagement of its temporalities has done much to retard its growth, but later exertions have given it an impetus that will, we anticipate, insure the recovery of its proper position. For some period after the formation of the settlement, such part of the church services as may be performed by laymen were industriously discharged by Mr. James Smith, who was relieved in 1838 by the Rev. Mr. Grylls. At that time subscription lists were opened in aid of the permanent church, and other steps taken for the accommodation of the adherents. The circumstances to which we have alluded, but upon which we do not wish to expatiate, retarded the growth of the congregation and the completion of the church ; the former now consists of about four hundred members, out of a return certified by the census of two thousand in the town and its vicinity ; the latter will be a handsome stone edifice, built in a durable and costly style; when finished, which may be looked for in three or four months, the accommodation afforded will be the means, we trust, of re-uniting a community at present scattered and neglected. The Rev. Mr. Wilson, who succeeded Mr. Grylls, now translated to the incumbency of St. Phillip’s in Sydney, is about to proceed to Portland with the view of founding another church, while the Rev. Mr. Thomson remains as the minister of St. James’s, in Melbourne.

6. The others

VI. — Besides these are small bodies of Quakers, Baptists, and Jews, but whose numerical strength is as yet severally too small for the formation of a regular community. union bank.

This Week in Port Phillip 1841: 24 -31 December 1841

Of course, Port Phillip celebrated Christmas on 25 December, along with the rest of the British Empire.  In 1841, 25 December was a Saturday, thus providing a two-day holiday. It’s a sobering reminder of the rarity of holidays in the nineteenth century, with no paid leave available until 1935.

Christmas Day falling on a Saturday gave two consecutive holidays to the labouring classes, in whose pleasures, as well as that of the residents at large, the unusual coolness of the weather at this time has greatly contributed (PPG 29/12/41)

[Casualization and barely-restricted retail opening today means that a proportion of workers no longer get paid annual leave, or indeed two consecutive days holiday.  The traditional January-shutdown of industry is becoming a thing of the past, too.]

Christmas celebrations

I’ve written about Christmas in Port Phillip in 1841 here and about Christmas in Port Phillip during the early 1840s here.

However, on 5 January a letter was published in the Port Phillip Herald by a Mr. J.R.M. of Douttagalla, praising the simple joys of a Christmas ‘pic-nic’ on the Salt River. It all sounds rather too wholesome and improving:

 A PIC-NIC AT THE SALT WATER RIVER, CHRISTMAS 1841

“Here, for retreat in sultry hour

Some hand had formed a rustic bower;

It was a lodge of ample size

But strange of structure and device

Of such materials as around

The workman’s hand had readiest found”

 

I was repeating these lines as I entered “the sylvan shed” where our little party had laid out to pass the afternoon. But my attention was soon arrested by the exceeding beauty of the scenery around us.  There, in the foreground, and only a few yards from our feet, lay a noble sheet of water, calm as “a cradled infant”, and margined with various specimens of the monoperigynae and monopetalae. Up the slanting sides of the ravine grew the tall and stately tea tree and cleagni, interwined with the teazles and woodbines of the corisantherae, here and there pushing out a pretty pale corolla, as if beauty and innocence had been engaged in decorating grace.  Farther off in a deep recess, the gigantic gum-gree stretched forth its bare white branches, like a skeleton in a green house! Or like a dream of paradise after death had entered there! The field of view from the bower was such a picture of nature’s own beautiful embroidery as would have elicited and harmonized with the exquisite imagery of Claude Loraine.

The party consisted of no more than Mr and Mrs H____ with their six fine children and myself. The boys entertained us by reading and reciting in excellent style pieces selected for the occasion; and the little girls, playful and sportive as young fawns, went skipping about in all the happy enjoyment of domestic felicity…

The viands were in admirable keeping with this little family picture:- plain, substantial and elegantly laid on the greensward, canopied by wreaths of flowers and foliage, as if the Naiads and Limnades had consecrated this spot to retirement and primitive innocence…

On leaving this scene of rural and domestic happiness, I could not help reflecting on it with pleasure and admiration. There sat the fond father and mother in the bosom of their young amiable family, enjoying their pleasures, and participating their amusements. How truly rational these enjoyments! And how exalted they stand in contrast with other anniversaries I had previously witnessed of a Chrismas merry-making- where reeling riot and desecration had usurped the throne of intellect, and man- the lord of the creation- seemed to have forgotten dignity, abandoned reason, and trampled on gratitude to HIM whose name was announced at this happy season in “tidings of great joy to all the people,” and should fill the heart with love and joy, and ineffable glorification at a Christmas merry-making.  J.R.M. Douttagalla, 27 December 1841.

Getting rowdy

Perhaps it was too much Christmas cheer, or the warm weather, or the increase in numbers of immigrants, but it seemed that the newspapers- most particularly John Fawkner’s Port Phillip Patriot – were especially conscious of unruly behaviour among the labouring classes.

Rowdy groups appeared to congregate around Little Bourke Street, which by 1855 was a centre of Chinese activity.  Already in 1841 it was known as a slum area.

SABBATH BREAKING. A number of idle vagabonds are in the constant practice of openly profaning the Lord’s Day by congregating in Little Bourke-street and there amusing themselves by gambling with half-pence, playing at ball &c. On Sunday week we observed about thirty persons employed in these practices.  The non-apprehension of the ringleaders in these sports evinces a very unpardonable negligence on the part of the constabulary; we trust, however, that this public notification of the nuisance will have the effect of preventing  its recurrence. (PPP 27/12/41)

Nefarious activities took place off the street as well:

DISORDERLY HOUSE One of the greatest nuisances which has existed in Melbourne for some time past has been a house of ill-fame situated in a lane leading from Bourke-street. On Friday last, at the police office, two notorious characters named Peter and Elizabeth Toote, were fully committed to take their trials for keeping this nest of infamy. From the evidence for the prosecution, it appeared that scenes of the most revolting nature were there nightly carried on, and that it was also a receptacle for the most notorious thieves in Melbourne. (PPP 27/12/41)

On the 27th December there was a ‘riot’ in Brunswick Street Fitzroy (then known as New Town).

DISGRACEFUL RIOT – A most disgraceful scene took place on the night of Monday last, in the neighbourhood of Brunswick Street, New Town. Some vagabonds of both sexes, principally Irish, had congregated together and were engaged in fighting each other with sticks, tomahawks, stones or any other missile which they could conveniently obtain, accompanying their efforts with vollies [sic] of oaths and imprecations; nor was peace and good order restored the whole evening. As the constabulary force is to be increased by twelve men at the end of the present year, we trust that the authorities will see fit to station at least two of that number at New Town where they are much required. (PPP 30/12/41)

It was a shame really, as the Police Magistrate had just that day acquitted all but one of the revellers arrested over the Christmas/Boxing Day holiday:

VOTARIES OF BACCHUS. On Monday last, the Police Magistrate discharged all the parties, with one exception, who had been taken up during the Christmas holidays for drunkenness, the exception was that of an old offender, who has accommodated with a seat in the stocks for four hours. PPP 30/12/41)

Concert and Tradesmen’s Ball

There was more to do than brawl on Monday 28th, because it was the night of the Tradesmen’s Ball. It was held at the Pavilion Theatre, which I have described previously.

CONCERT AND BALL. By PHIL GARLIC

“.Past ten o’clock” sang out the watchman, as we were wending our way homewards through Great Bourke-street. “Past ten o’clock,” and the information came to us unexpectedly for we had been engaged in ” counting hours for minutes,” we had, in fact, been Romeo and Julietizing; the scene in Capulet’s garden was fresh in our remembrance, and as we soared along we repeated to ourselves

“The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars

As day light doth a lamp : her eye in heaven

Would through the airy region stream so bright .

That birds would sing, and think it were not night.”

How far we would have gone on in our rhapsody is uncertain, had not the Pavilion presenting the unusual aspect of an illuminated front burst upon our view, and we paused to inquire the meaning of such an appearance. Mr. Hodge informed us that the tradesmen of our infant city were celebrating Christmas by holding a concert and ball, and his kindness politely afforded us admission to the scene of festivity.

We will not say that our eyesight was dazzled by the beauty and splendour of the scene, but we must say that we were charmed by the neat dresses and happy faces every where visible. Many of the ladies were in “full dress” in honour of the occasion ; one in particular, who had arrayed ” the temple of her thoughts” (a very handsome little edifice it was) in artificial roses bound up with pearl white satin ribbon, we admired exceedingly. On the other hand, we will not deny that we experienced sincere emotions of pity for several of the dear creatures, who were compelled to hold their bonnets on their knees to avoid their being crushed, and were thus kept in a fidgety state, the whole evening; others very wisely tied theirs on the pillars, which had the double effect of putting them out of harm’s way and adding to the ornaments of the building.

We had scarcely taken a hurried glance at these arrangements when a gentleman in very ” dickey” apparel appeared and sang ” Sich a gettin’ up stairs,” which was received with great applause and encored. Then a little boy with a shrill voice sang “Isle of Beauty,” and after that a gentleman splendidly attired in a blouse, with a red button-up waistcoat, and light trousers announced that “as soon as the feenarly was over the ball would commence.” And accordingly we had the finale ” God’ save the Queen'”- but nobody seemed prepared for the ball.

On the contrary, the company, many of whom, to judge from the incessant popping of corks, were enjoying themselves exceedingly, were by no means satisfied with the banquet of sweet sounds dished up by the careful Hodge. Loud calls were heard for “Jack Rag,” and ” Jack Rag”, became with the rougher sex an almost universal cry, till at last we in our simplicity imagined that Jack Rag was a very boorish sort of person not to come forward and speak to his friends, seeing that they were so clamorous for his appearance.. ” Jack Rag” however, turned out to be an epithet conferred on the gentleman who sang ” Sich a gettin’ up stairs,” but he with a proper spirit disdained to appear when called upon so disrespectfully.

The singing, too, was properly speaking over, and Mr. William Cooper, a son of Vulcan, who officiated as master of the ceremonies, stept forward and with it a few stamps a la Richard the Third succeeded one by one in extinguishing the lamps in front of the proscenium, which, as they were severally operated on, sent upwards a I gracefully picturesque cloud of smoke. Loud cries were ‘ now heard for “Mr Cooper’s song,” but Mr. C. was “no wocalist,” and so he assured the ladies and gentlemen. “Cooper’s song,” reiterated a mischievous wag in one of the boxes to the right. ” Lay down,” responded that worthy gentleman looking daggers at the disturber, but the clamour was not so easily subdued, and the noise and calls for the song continued.

The master of the ceremonies looked excessively angry and excessively puzzled.- “Leave them to me, I’ll manage them,” at last imploringly whispered a hanger-on of the establishment  – ” Leave them to you!” indignantly replied the insulted gentleman; “No, I’m master here,” a demonstration which was received with loud applause. ” Ladies and gentlemen,'” continued Mr. Cooper, “but I won’t say the ladies, for they know how to behave  themselves, but I say, gentlemen, I’ve come here to enjoy myself, and I hope you’ve done the same, so don’t let us have no rows.’

Order was then restored, and Mr. C. intimated, that ” as Mrs. C. didn’t feel inclined, he would feel obliged if any lady would lead him off in a quad-drilll.” No answer was made to this appeal, but a respectable costermonger at length succeeded in giving  an impetus to the affair by promenading with a fair friend up and down the stage which would have been n delightful exhibition only that by keeping his hat on he somewhat, marred the effect. A country dance was soon arranged ; ” haste to the wedding,” was struck up, and “hands across” ” up and down the middle ” &c., &c., were gone through in beautiful style. One remark we feel bound to make— we hate egotism in every shape, and therefore we consider the conduct of the gentleman in top boots (” we mention no names,” but we believe him to be an ostler,) who danced in a corner by himself, highly reprehensible.

To conclude ; at eleven we were compelled reluctantly to leave the gay and be-witching scene of festivity, highly delighted at the exhibition of the happiness which prevailed throughout. We consider much praise is due to the getters-up of the affair, not only for the intention, but the successful mode in which they succeeded in carrying it out, and we therefore beg to wish them “many happy returns of the season.” (PPP 30/12/41)

A Christmas Box

I’m not sure about the receipt of Christmas boxes in general, but the apprentice working for the barrister Horatio Nelson Carrington certainly received a box around the ears two days before Christmas. It demonstrates how much physical punishment was condoned under the Master and Servant legislation then in force.

AN UNTOWARD APPRENTICE. — Mr.Carrington, the solicitor, had occasion on Thursday, to bring before the Police Bench an apprentice, for the most improper conduct. It appeared that the previous evening, upon Mr. C. going home and not finding preparations for dinner at five o’clock, as he had directed, he enquired of the boy the reason, when he coolly replied that he had better do it himself ;  naturally irritated, Mr, C. gave him, both correctly arid legally, a box on the ears, when the young urchin turned round and seized him by the lappelle of  the coat,  some knives were lying on the  table, and the boy made towards them, evidently with the view of stabbing Mr.C., who rushed him out of the room. Just as Mr. C. let go of his hold, the boy struck him a violent blow on the side of the head. A horse-whip being produced, Mr C. gave the boy a most judicious whipping, and then handed him to the care oft the police.

The Bench sentenced the boy to fourteen days in a cell, and Mr. Carrington said that he would give up the boy’s indentures and pay his expenses in the Seahorse to Sydney; he belonged to the Orphan School. Mr. C. said further, that the boy had the most vicious turn of mind when spoken to; he was constantly in the habit of replying,” My father was a lag, my mother was a lag, and I hope to be a lag myself.” No doubt the wish of this young gentleman will be carried out in due time. (PPG 25/12/41)

How’s the weather?

Southerly breezes ensured that the weather remained much cooler for this last week of the year. There was one day of 88 degrees (31 degrees) but the rest of the week was more temperate.

Fresh and strong winds or gales almost constant; weather cool for the season and much clouded but with little rain.

And with that- on to 1842!!!  (and 2017!)

This Week in Port Phillip 1841: 15-23 December

The Tasmanians, ‘the Van Diemen’s Land Blacks’, ‘Robinson’s Blacks’

The newspapers during this week were dominated by the trial of Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener which was heard before Judge Willis on 15 December 1841.  The women were acquited, leaving just the two men to face punishment. I will soon review Kate Auty and Lynette Russell’s book on the trial, and will no doubt say more about the case there. After my frequent mentions of this case on this blog, I’m sure that the outcome is no surprise. (See  here, here, here and here  )

Suffice to say, Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener were found guilty by the jury, with a recommendation to mercy on account of the “peculiar circumstances” of the prisoners’ situation. The Port Phillip Gazette thought that the jury’s recommendation would prevail:

…the verdict of condemnation was delivered a recommendation to mercy on account of the good character given of the condemned by the Chief Protector, and of the peculiar circumstances in which they stood. This rider is the most important point for our consideration and whatever may be the amount of dissent, we heartily rejoice that the province has thus been saved the disgraceful exhibition of a legal murder; for there can be little doubt that the recommendation of the jury will be attended to, so far, at least, to gain a respite for the criminals until the pleasure of the Queen in Council shall be known; and should, even then, that last decision be unfavourable to the principle of leniency, the long suspense endured by the prisoners and the [??] taken by lapse of time from the “force of example” will plead in favour of its practice  [PPG 22/12/41]

Then the Port Phillip Gazette reverted to a more familiar trope. Noting that the jury had pointed to “peculiar circumstances in which the prisoners stand”, the editorial went on

Wild and untameable from their nature, silent in their resentment, quick in their [indistinct] and fearful in their revenge, who can presume to say what notions slumbered in their untutored minds, ready to burst forth on the earliest opportunity that presented itself to their desires?  [PPG 22/12/41]

For now, the Port Phillip Gazette, along with the people of Port Phillip had to wait until the case reached its final conclusion in January.

To market, to market

The Melbourne Market opened on 15 December. There were, in effect, three locations of the Market:

  1. The General Market, situated between Williams and Market-streets, adjoining the Custom House and Police office, and facing the river was appropriated for the sale of 1. Fruit and vegetables. 2. Potatoes, 3. Dry goods 4. Poultry, butchers’ meat and fish
  2. The Hay and Corn market, situated in Flinders and Swanston-streets, was established for the disposal of hay, corn, fodder, straw, grass, grain and pulses.
  3. The Cattle Market, intended ultimately to be erected and opened for the sale of horned cattle, sheep, horses, pigs, goats, mules and asses; would for some time be held at the place known as the Auction Company’s yards which were leased for 6 months for the purpose.

Yesterday being the day appointed for the opening of the General Market; at an early hour drays loaded with vegetables &c. began to make their appearance, and shortly after the “gudewives” followed by little “gelpies” carrying the market baskets made their appearance.  The day altogether was an eventful one at the west end of the town, and created almost as much stir as would a coronation, an execution or even a Lord Mayor’s day in London.  [PPP 16/12/41]

The market provided a service, but it also sidelined small-time vendors who sold goods on the street.  In the Port Phillip Gazette of 25 December (yes- on Christmas Day), James Simpson J.P., Chairman of the Market Commissioners warned that

In pursuance of Section No 23 of the 3rd Victoria 1, No 19- Notice is hereby given, that any person or persons selling or exposing to sale any butchers’ meat, poultry, eggs, butter, vegetables, or other provisions usually sold in markets, in any of the street, lanes, entries, or other public passages, other than the market places appropriated for such purposes by the commissioners, shall, on conviction thereof before a justice of the peace, for every such offence forfeit and pay the sum of five pounds. [PPG 25/12/41]

Steam away!

The vast majority of communication between the various Australian colonies took place through steamer rather than roads.  The regular schedule of steamer voyages was as follows:

Steamers plying between Melbourne and various parts of the colony: The Seahorse– weekly to Sydney; the Corsair, three times a fortnight to Launceston; the Aphrasia, twice a week to Geelong; the Governor Arthur daily to Williams Town; and the Fairy Queen (which is now laid up undergoing repairs) daily to the shipping at Hobson’s Bay. [PPG 18/12/41]

Actually, the Governor Arthur wasn’t to ply between Melbourne and Williams Town for long, because a fire on the 23 December destroyed the craft at her moorings at Queen’s Wharf at 5.00 am.   Some bark had been placed on board near the boiler the previous evening in order to light the fire in the morning and the vessel burst into flames at 2.00 a.m.  Although the steamer was damaged, all the property on board was saved. The whole of the property on board has been saved. [PPP 23/12/41]

A grisly find

In the first week of December, the Port Phillip Gazette reported:

“MYSTERIOUS- On Thursday last, in consequence of the burial ground being found disturbed in one or two places, it was examined by the sexton who found the bodies of three infants.  They were surgically examined, but nothing found in the appearance of the bodies led to the supposition that anything unfair had caused death. They were again consigned to the earth. There is no doubt that the bodies were those of the children of poor people who could not pay for a more regular interment. This course is however fraught with danger, and might bring parties, although innocent, into serious difficulties.” [PPG 8/12/41]

The Port Phillip Patriot reported the discovery of another infant’s body the next day, making a total of seven children buried clandestinely during the previous two years.

…decency revolted at the bodies of infants being placed only a few inches below the surface, without any coffin, liable to be torn up by dogs and to become offensive and obnoxious in the burial ground. [PPG9/12/41]

Was it infanticide?  Or poverty?

The plea of poverty, if such a plea were offered, is no excuse for conduct so very reprehensible, and so open to suspicion of guilt, for there is no such poverty existing in Melbourne, and even if it did exist, there would be no necessity for resorting to an expedient so revolting. [PPP 9/12/41]

On 23 December the Patriot reported on an inquest held on 21 December at the Crown Hotel in Lonsdale street on the body of yet another baby found that morning (bringing the total to eight, perhaps?) The newly born male child had been deposited in a box and laid in a newly dug grave in the Episcopalean burial ground.  The child was three or four days old and a medical examination found a large quantity of water on the brain.  The verdict was

died by the visitation of God, to wit, of congenital hydrocephalus and not by any violent means whatsoever to the knowledge of the said jurors.

These jurors, too, criticized the way that the baby’s body had been interred. Still, at a time when there was no compulsory registration of births and deaths (which didn’t occur until 1853- there’s a fascinating podcast by Madonna Grehan about the implemention of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act of 1853 here) , and with no lying-in hospitals (or any hospitals for that matter at this stage, except for one for convicts) then it would be very possible for children to be born and die without a documentary trace.

Arrival of immigrant ships

The economy was becoming wobbly and after a much-publicized labour shortage for farm and domestic workers during 1840 and the first part of 1841, now wages were dropping and unemployment was rising.  And still the immigrant ships kept arriving, full of immigrants gathered either through privately-sponsored bounty schemes (which acted as a handy little earner for the immigration agent) or through government schemes.  Arrangements were made and departures had occurred months ago, at a time of economic optimism that was now rapidly fading.  I wouldn’t vouch for the accuracy of my transcription of these figures as the font on the newspaper is very fuzzy, but the almost simultaneous arrival of so many ships with so many immigrants must have been daunting:

Nov 4                    Diamond                             from Cork            336 imms

Nov 27                  Alan Kerr                             Greenoch            250

Nov 27                  Wallace                                Liverpool             320

Nov 29                  Francis                                  Liverpool             194

Nov 30                  Marquis of Bute                  Greenoch            234

Nov 30                  Mary Nixon                          Cork                       134

Dec 4                     Brackenmoor                        Cork                       136

Dec 16                   Ward Chipman                  Bristol                   370

Dec 16                   William Mitchell                Leith                      23

Dec 17                   Agostina                              Cork                       195

[PPG 22/12/41]

The Port Phillip Herald of  17/12/41 noted that the Ward Chipman had recorded 21 deaths, 19 of them children from dysentery brought on by the change of diet and want of nourishment  consequent on the long detention of the immigrants in Bristol.  I can only imagine the recrimination and sorrow among the families on that ship.

Picnic Time

On Tuesday 21st December Captain Cole held a picnic at Brighton. Obviously the ladies and gentlemen of Port Phillip were already in holiday mode on a Tuesday.

A splendid fete champetre was given on Tuesday last by Captain Cole of Melbourne, to nearly one hundred and fifty ladies and gentlemen.  Nothing could exceed the style in which it was got up; it is the first of a series of fetes to be given during the present season the fashionables of Melbourne.

Georgiana McCrae, whose sister-in-law Thomas Anne had become engaged to Capt George Ward Cole on the 11th, wrote about the picnic:

 Dr and Mrs Myer arrived in their carriage to take me to the picnic but on account of the wild-appearing sky, I elected to stay at home, and it was well I did because at three o’clock a southerly gale sprang up, which continued until five, with such a hurricane fore that the gentlemen of the party had to hold on to the tent with all their might to keep the canvas from being blown away.  Returning at dusk, there were upsets and bruises, even broken limbs…yet the Myers and our people escaped unhurt.[ Journal 21 December 1841]

Actually, it was just as well Georgiana didn’t go- a week later she gave birth to a baby girl.

How’s the weather?

The top temperature for the period was 92 degrees (33 C) but as Georgiana McCrae’s journal notes, it was pretty wild and changeable (as December can be, as we know)

Fresh and strong winds daily, variable and squally; very heavy squalls 15th and 21st, the latter accompanied by heavy rain, the weather otherwise fine. [15-21 Dec]

At a time when so many people were arriving – both immigrants and self-funded arrivals- it was no doubt fitting to give advice on how to cope with Melbourne’s weather. It’s rather amusing to see that obviously workingmen coped better with the heat, even though ladies, children and “parties who could escape from business for a couple of hours” benefited from a siesta.

THE WEATHER.  — Summer with all its sultriness is with us. The heat during several different days has been excessive; the drought, however, which usually accompanies its progress his not yet become so great, as to be a matter of Complaint. The supply of water, which for the want of a properly constructed weir  in the river to prevent the ingress of the salt tide from the bay -is commonly inferior, retains its sweetness. The sickness which was prevalent during the last season has been rarely witnessed in this; but the greatest caution should still be entertained in the matters of diet and exercise. The abundance of vegetables and fish will naturally make them common articles of consumption, but no article will be found so injurious as either of them when at all tainted or stale; and under any circumstances if eaten to excess diarrhoea will ensue. Exercise must consist of bathing, and riding or walking in  the cooler hours of morning and night ; exposure to the sun more than is necessary should be avoided, although it is certainly found that workmen may freely pursue their vocations during the greatest heat without apparent injury. Cleanliness and temperance are in such a season the greatest preservatives of health, and a residence, if it can conveniently be managed, by the sea is greatly preferable to the low heated atmosphere of the town. A siesta at midday for females,-children, and parties who can escape from business for a couple of hours, will be conducive to strength and cheerfulness. [PPG 18/12/41]

Mind you, gentlemen needed to be careful when bathing, lest they be fined up to one pound. Swimming was illegal:

within view of any public wharf, quay, bridge, street, road or other place of public resort within the limits of the town between the hours of six in the morning and eight in the evening. [PPP 20/12/41]