Category Archives: Port Phillip history

‘Jetties and Piers: a background history of maritime infrastructure in Victoria’ by Jill Barnard

jetties-and-piers

2008, 65 p. & notes

I came upon this publication by chance a few months back, while I was looking up ‘quarantine’ for my  posting about Port Phillip during March 1842.  The report had been divided up into separate PDF files, and my interest piqued, I set about finding the rest of the publication.

Update: The author has since made the whole publication available on their website. Thank you! You can find it at http://livinghistories.net.au/our-work/commissioned-histories/

The author, Jill Barnard, is one of the team from the Living Histories group of professional historians. As part of her conclusion, she  cites the  founding member of the Australian Association for Maritime History  historian Frank Broeze , who pointed out that Australia’s maritime identity is as important as “sheep and land, railways and goldmines, bushrangers and bankers” in shaping Australia’s identity. It’s certainly an argument that has been reinforced for me in reading about Melbourne’s earliest days through the three Melbourne newspapers. The shipping news took up nearly 3/4 of one of the four pages in each issue; people were constantly falling off boats and jetties; and overseas news finally arrived long after the event, on account of the vast sea distances being covered.

This publication, sponsored by the Heritage Council of Victoria focuses as its title denotes, on maritime infrastructure and thus reflects a ‘heritage’ approach, based mainly on structures and their usages. The report is divided into two parts: Part 1 deals chronologically with 1800-1850, then Part 2 adopts a thematic approach, adopting the Australian Framework of Historical Themes (2000, 2001). No longer being involved in curriculum development and coming from a historical rather than heritage perspective, I was completely ignorant of such frameworks. The Framework is explained in detail here, and the Victorian Framework (2010) which was developed to respond to it is here (ah- Federation at work!)  I suspect that the impetus for ‘frameworks’ reflects the late 20th-early 21st century desire for checkboxes,  wall charts and verb-driven, economy-focussed competencies and I must confess that the whole process passed me by completely. Will I live long enough to see this whole approach to conceptualizing history itself historicized? I wonder.

I suspect that the two-part structure of this report reflects the constraints that such a framework placed on the author. As she points out, during the earliest years of Victoria’s white settlement there was a scramble by both private investors and governments to provide sufficient infrastructure to keep pace with the ever-increasing needs, and such infrastructure served a variety of purposes for immigrants, merchants, fishermen, postal services and customs officers. Her Part 1, reflecting the years 1800-1850 progresses chronologically. In Part 2 she adopts a thematic approach, with the chapters directly linked into one of the categories or subcategories of the Australian framework:

1. Improving Victoria’s Ports and Harbours (Theme 3 Developing local, regional and national economies)

2. Migrating to Victoria (Peopling Australia)

3. Moving People ( Theme 3.8 Moving Goods and People)

4. Moving Goods and Cargo (ditto)

5. Defending Our Shores (Theme 7.1 Governing Australia as a Province of the British Empire and Theme 7.7 Defending Australia)

6. Commercial Fishing (Theme 3.4  Utilizing Natural Resources)

7. Making Ports and the Coast Safe (Theme 3.16.1 Dealing with Hazards and Disasters)

8. Boat and Ship Repair and Building (Theme 3.8 Moving Goods and People)

9. Accommodating Seamen (Theme 3.22 Providing Lodgings)

10. At the Beach: Using the Sea for Recreation (Theme 8 Developing Australia’s Cultural Life)

As Barnard points out in her introduction, this thematic approach does not necessarily serve her well. Different sites have changed their functions over time and do not fit into the neat themes of ‘recreation’ or ‘moving people’ that she has selected. Moreover, the thematic approach gave rise to a degree of repetition. As she admits, “it is difficult for the reader to simply follow particular sites or themes through from the beginnings of European settlement to the present day”. She’s right.

Notwithstanding  the author’s own misgivings , I found this an interesting read. Although Victoria has a long coastline, there are few deep-water harbours. The Heads made the whole entry to Port Phillip treacherous, and both Melbourne and Geelong ports were ringed with sandbars. The settlement of Melbourne  on the Yarra River up on the Falls (which I’ve often mentioned in this blog ) meant that there was no direct connection to the ocean, although a canal was mooted for some time. She doesn’t just deal with Melbourne and Geelong: she also discusses  Portland, Port Fairy, Port Albert, Warrnambool and Lakes Entrance, as well as fishing and boat-building ports along the Bay.   Coastal shipping remained dominant for a long time because overland transport was so slow to develop, and the development of railways often bolstered port activity.  Nonetheless, the infrastructure for getting goods on and off ships remained primitive for some time. She cites the example of timber-loading at Mt Martha (on the Mornington Peninsula) where logs would be tossed off the cliff-face, where they fell to the beach to be loaded onto small boats and from there, onto larger ships. No wonder the container, which reduced double- and triple- handling, made such a difference to maritime transportation.

Most immigrants and passengers arrived at Melbourne, although during the 1840s and 50’s  there were attempts to channel immigrants directly to the pastoral stations that were crying out for their labour by landing them at Geelong and to a lesser extent Portland. Vessels for specifically inter-state travel continued until 1961 when they were replaced by international liners who had several ports on their itinerary. Her analysis extends up to the mid-twentieth century as she traces the demise of Station Pier and other passenger wharfs, especially after the opening of Tullamarine Airport in 1970.

It was fascinating to read about the early defence arrangements for the gold-rich Port Phillip Bay, in what are now inner suburbs like South Melbourne and St Kilda. Although sometimes the fortifications took so long to construct that military technology rendered them largely redundant, by 1890 Victoria was assessed as being “the best defended commercial city of the empire” (p.42)  Fort Nepean has the dubious distinction of being the site for the first British shots fired in both the First and Second World Wars.

I’d heard of Sir John Coode and the straightening of the Yarra, but I hadn’t realized how much of a ‘go-to’ man he was for infrastructure works on all Victorian ports.  The cost for infrastructure like beacons and lighthouses was borne by the colonies because they benefitted directly from the port activity, but after Federation the Commonwealth government took responsibility for ocean or ‘highway’ lights. I’ve seen sheds cantilevered over the water on the side of jetties and didn’t realize that they were rescue boats, and now I have a new appreciation for the rocket and mortar sheds where a ‘breeches buoy’ , similar to a pair of trousers, allowed a person to sit in them to be winched to shore.

My favourite part was the final chapter ‘At the Beach’ which reflected popular cultural use of the beach, as distinct from the largely economic focus of the other chapters.  Promenading at the beach was more important than swimming at it during the middle of the 19th century. At first sea bathing was forbidden between 6.00 a.m. and 8.00 p.m. because men swam nude, although this restriction was relaxed in 1917.  I’ve long been amused at the presence of life saving clubs at the mill-pond like bay beaches (e.g. 1912 Black Rock, Elwood and Hampton) and ‘baths’ separated out from the sea but these no doubt reflect the change from ‘taking the waters’ for health reasons to recreational swimming. The seawall that runs along Sandringham, Brighton etc. was constructed between 1935 and 1939 using stone recycled from city buildings including the old Melbourne gaol.  Other fences were made of ‘basketwalling’ made of ti-tree (which I can just remember). Boat sheds and private jetties reflect the purchase of beach-houses by well-to-to Melburnians.

All in all, an informative and well-told read for those of us interested in Victorian history.  It does assume a familiarity with the ports and places under examination, so it’s a fairly localized publication. It’s an interesting exercise to see the narrative limitations when a thematic framework is imposed onto a narrative, especially when dealing with an extended 150 year timeline.  I also found it a challenging idea to restrict the focus to activities that leave a physical presence in the form of infrastructure.  This object-based,  heritage-focussed approach is not one with which I’m particularly familiar (or, I admit, completely comfortable), but is is one that probably reflects the economic and public uses to which history is put today.

aww2017-badgeI have posted this review to the 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge website.

 

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This Month in Port Phillip 1842: June 1842 Part 2

You might remember that during May there had been the trial of the Plenty Valley Bushrangers and having been found guilty, three of the four remaining bushrangers were sentenced to hang (one was killed during capture). Even though Judge Willis urged immediate execution as a lesson to all would-be bushrangers, this was a highly improper suggestion as the Governor in Sydney had to give his approval first. So much of June 1842 was spent waiting to hear from Sydney whether the prerogative of mercy would be exercised, and if not, when the execution would take place.

It has been fifty years since there has been an execution in Australia, the last being Ronald Ryan‘s hanging on 3 February 1967. However, Australians had a taste of the detailed reporting and in my view, the sheer bloody-mindedness of state execution with the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Indonesia in 2015. Although 173 years separate the executions, many of the narrative tropes about execution – particularly those related to penitence and religious conversion –  were just as present in 2015 as they were in Port Phillip in 1842.

In June 1842, although the excitement of the trial had abated, there were ongoing short reports about the condemned men in jail.  On 20th May the Port Phillip Herald reported that the condemned criminals were visited daily by three different clergymen, the Anglican minister Rev Thomson,  Rev James Forbes the Presbyterian minister, and Rev. Stephens, the Catholic priest. The paper reported that the culprits had not, as yet, shown the slightest sign of repentance. In fact, one was annoyed at his spiritual instructor questioning him about the number of robberies he had committed. They were confined together in a room about 10 feet square, the same as occupied by the “black murderers”recently executed in January. They were heavily ironed, with a constable in the room day and night and a guard at the door.

On 24th May, the Herald reported:

Since our last notice of these unfortunate men, we are happy to learn from the Rev.  Mr Forbes, who is unceasing in his visits at their cell, that they are shewing a marked improvement in their conduct, and attend now with much interest to their religious exercises. [PPH 24/5/42 p 3]

By June 7, they were reported as being “all truly penitent”. They sent for Mr Fowler, who had been shot through the cheek and ear during the capture of the bushrangers. They “fell on their knees and begged his forgiveness. Mr Fowler of course forgave them” [PPH 7/6/42]. Eventually the overland mail brought the news that the men were to be hanged on 28th June.

On the day of execution, the men were woken before day break by Rev Forbes, and Rev Wilkinson, the Wesleyan minister who was now included in the clerical contingent. The sacrament was administered to Jepps and Ellis by the Rev Mr Thomson. Just before 8.00 a.m. they were taken into the yard and their irons were struck off.  Jepps and Ellis undertook this with fortitude, but Fogarty wept bitterly for friends left behind rather than for despair of death.  The open cart drew up to the door, bearing the three cedar coffins. The men, who were “decently clothed” did not wear the white gowns worn by the indigenous prisoners Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheener who had preceded them to the gallows four months earlier. They did, however, wear white caps.  At 8.00 a.m. the order was given to ‘mark’ and the procession headed off with the military at the front and the mounted police at the rear.  Reverends Thomson, Forbes and Wilkinson walked arm-in-arm in front of the soldiers, while Rev Mr Stephens was on horseback.  The route was a mile in length, and unlike with the aboriginal prisoners who travelled in a covered wagon, the men were visible to all on the back of the cart, sitting on their own coffins, during the half-hour trip.  At the top of Lonsdale Street, the prisoners were ordered to look over their right shoulders to see “the fatal spot where their career of life was to be closed”.  Jepps and Ellis knelt on the ground with the “three reverend gentlemen” and prayed, while Fogarty was engaged with the Catholic priest at a short distance. [PPH 1/7/42]

The Rev. Mr Forbes appeared more painfully distressed than the poor victims of misdirected talents themselves; he had been led to take a great interest in the fate of Ellis, and had been unceasing in his endeavour to bring him to that sincere state of repentance which is the mainstay of the Christian creed [PPG 29/6/42].

One of the tropes of execution scenes is the ‘last dying speech’ ritual, conducted at the base of the scaffold.  In this heavily orchestrated performance, the speech was always a moment of  unpredictability because neither the clergy nor the authorities could control what the condemned prisoner was about to say.  But they need have had no fears about Jepps.

About nine o’clock, the prisoners having concluded the prayers, Jepps, taking a final adieu of his spiritual advisers, turned to the assemblage, and in a short but emphatic appeal to young men, exhorted them to take warning by his untimely end, of the fearful consequences of bad company, and the wretched end that awaits all who like him, deviate from the path of rectitude. He expressed himself resigned to his fate, and died in the belief of the Lord Jesus Christ. [PPG 29/6/42]

The Catholic Priest administered the sacrament to Fogarty on the drop, after which “he seemed more composed” while the Episcopalian minister read aloud the service for the dead. At the appointed signal the executioner pulled away the platform and the men were “ushered into eternity”. The Gazette reported that the men died in less than a minute, the scaffold having been “under the Sheriff’s directions, been constructed so as to avoid any of the extremely painful incidents which marked the last execution in the province.” [PPG 29/6/42] . However, the Patriot reported that Fogarty  suffered about three minutes after the drop fell,  in consequence of the knot of the rope shifting. [PPP 30/6/42]. According to the Patriot,

a company of the native police under the command of Messrs. Dana and Le Soeuf arrived from the station on the Merri Creek shortly after the drop fell. The men looked clean and well, and appeared to observe the awful sight before them with terror and dismay [PPP 30/6/42]

Reports of the numbers in the crowd varied between 1000 and 2000. The Patriot reported that very few women were present, while the Herald was shocked that so many females were present, although they were of the “rank of servant”. The Herald also complained that the men remained on the scaffold until the burial service had been concluded so that the crowd could see “the recumbent position of Ellis, the convulsive start of Jepps and the open and closing of the hand of Fogarty.”[PPH 1/7/42]

And so, the second batch of executions in 1842 were completed.  It was not to be long until the next execution was to occur, the last in Port Phillip for several years.

This Month in Port Phillip in 1842: June 1842

In my report for April 1842 I mentioned that a three-month licence had been granted for the performance of amateur theatricals at the Pavilion Theatre (also known as the Theatre Royal). There was always official squeamishness about the raffishness of the theatre and those who trod its boards.  In a valiant attempt to keep the theatre as ‘respectable’ as possible, this licence was for Monday night performances only, using amateur thespians (albeit under the directorship of Mr Buchanan). The whole proceedings were overseen by a board of stewards, most of whom were entrepreneurs or newspaper editors.

The Eagle Tavern and Theatre Royal

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

By June this three-month opportunity was drawing to a close. The Port Phillip Gazette reported a meeting of the stewards on 18 June in order to make plans for the future operation of the theatre:

The stewards of the Amateur Theatricals held a meeting in the Pavilion, at noon, on Thursday last, to audit the accounts, take steps for the renewal of the license, and order the entertainments for the closing weeks of the season, so as to invest them with the greatest amount of attraction. His Honor the Superintendent will be solicited to patronize the theatre on one night; the St. Andrew’s Society are prepared to support it on another occasion; the Odd Fellows and the Sons of St. Patrick will be called upon in turn; and the whole is expected to close with a grand amateur performance, in which histrionic talent will be displayed to an advantage hitherto unwitnessed in the province.[PPG 18/06/42]

Unfortunately for the stewards and their claims to respectability for the theatre, there was another little contretemps in the theatre-pit the very evening of the stewards’ meeting.

On Thursday night last, the Pavilion was made the scene of a confusion which has been unparalleled in the district. During the course of the afterpiece in which Miss Sinclair was taking the part of Mannette, some parties in the pit, sitting close to the stage, made use of offensive expressions, accompanied by notes of purposed disapprobation, that obliged the actress to stop and complain of the interruption ; Mr. Stephen, the honorary manager, observing one of the young men attempting to repeat his sallies, ordered a constable down into the pit to take him into charge. A number of gentlemen gathered round the offender, and prevented his capture ; the pit, boxes, and gallery immediately rose, and the uproar became general : the constables dealt blows; and the parties attacked, grappled with the peace officers: the throng in the pit, prevented any egress; and the performers, driven off the stage, dropped the curtain. One or two gentlemen having at length got order, Mr. Stephen addressed the audience; defended his own course in having given the party into custody, and expressed the determination of the Stewards, not to allow these repeated insults to themselves and the attendants to pass over. He begged them all to recollect, that the renewal of the license given to them for charitable purposes, was under discussion by a bench of Magistrates ; and, now that the principals of the riot were known, and would be dealt with at the Police Office, he trusted that they would not prolong the confusion. The performers, headed by Mr. Buckingham and Miss Sinclair, coming on again, sung a finale chorus, and the house was dismissed. Parties who have been in the habit of frequenting the Theatre, and exhibiting uproarious demonstrations of criticism, have been more than once warned not to push their conduct beyond the verge of decency. Had, however, the offenders in this instance, contented themselves with the common motions of inebriety, we should have considered a little wholesome exposure at the Police Office, next morning, quite sufficient ; but, what excuse is there for such an unmanly attack upon a woman? The pot valiancy, which led a number of gentlemen to shield the offenders, was not unexpected ; but, they never could have meant intentionally, to defend the cowardly attack which was made by their friends. [PPG 18/06/42]

The matter ended up before the Police Court the next day

A lengthened investigation took place at the Police Office yesterday forenoon, into the riot which had been occasioned at the theatre on the previous evening. The stewards representing that they were not anxious to press the charge, if a proper apology were made, Mr. Graves, who with Mr. Moles, were very conspicuous in annoying the ladies, took advantage of the reprieve opened to him. Mr. Davies, however, on the part of the performers, not thinking that an apology to the Court was sufficient to satisfy their interests, pressed the charge against the latter gentleman as having headed the fray. Upon the charge being substantiated, Mr. Moles was fined £5. The stewards will be justified, we consider, in denying these parties admission for the future. Several gentle men were also brought before the bench upon informations laid by the constables, for having both in the theatre, and subsequent to the performance, out of the theatre, assaulted the constables, opposed them in their duties, and otherwise acted in a disorderly manner. [PPG 18/06/42]

Mr Moles was fined, but a Mr McLauren, whom the actors also thought culpable, seemed to have escaped punishment.  The actors brought his actions before the public through a letter placed in the newspapers:

Letter to Mr McLauren. “We the members of the Amateur [Players?] feel it our duty to call upon you, in consequence of your gross conduct during the progress of the performance on Thursday evening last, to apologize to us [..iting?] for the very ungentlemanly manner you insulted the ladies of this company by your drunken remarks, otherwise, we shall feel it our duty to charge you before the Police Magistrate with obstructing the constables in the execution of their duty, also creating a disturbance in the Theatre. And we beg to call your attention to Major St John’s upright decision in the [?] of Mr Moles, and we shall also deem it expedient to publish an account of your conduct in the Melbourne journals. Your immediate reply is required. We are, Sir, Yours &c &c, George Buckingham, John Davies, James Southall, William John Miller, Richard Smith, James Warman, H. S. Avins, Robert Staisby, Richard Capper, Joseph Harper. [PPG 18/06/42]

Mr McLauren, however,  was snippy in his reply:

MR McLAURENS REPLY.  If I am called upon by the Stewards of the Amateur Theatricals, I may favour them with an apology, but I do not intend in the [?] instant to confer with subordinates. J. M. McLauren.  [PPG 18/06/42]

There was another letter of apology, but this was from the theatre manager, Mr Buckingham, who had come on stage to remonstrate with the rowdies and to protect the feelings of his actors:

To the Editor of the Port Phillip Gazelle.
Sir, — I trust that I may be permitted, through the medium of your journal, to reply to the observation made by the Patriot and Herald with reference to my addressing the audience at the theatre during the performance of “Therese” on Thursday week. The apology I made upon the occasion, I had hoped would have saved me from further animadversion, nor should I again advert to the circumstance, did not the censure appear to be unaccompanied by any palliation. It therefore is due from me to the public generally to remark, that the frequent interruptions from a portion of the audience, who seemed bent on annoying the performers by remarks which, from the propinquity of the stage to the seats in the pit, could not fail to he heard, compelled me to adopt the only course which at the moment presented itself. However ” improper and unusual” it may be for a performer to destroy the illusion of his character by a personal appeal to the auditory, still it should be borne in mind that the actor whose mind is wholly absorbed in the study of his performance, upon the recurrence of disapprobation, such as that complained of, is placed in a trying and difficult position. The fault, however, in this instance, was atoned for by the expression of my regret, and the public who received the ‘amende’ favourably, might have been spared any further appeal to their indignation. I have the honor to be, Sir, Your most obedient Servant,
GEO. BUCKINGHAM.

However, he didn’t get much joy from the editors of the Port Phillip Patriot who issued an editorial response to his letter directly underneath:

Mr. Buckingham has been too long on the stage to be ignorant that his very intemperate conduct on the occasion referred to, was calculated rather to augment than allay the mischief he com-plains of. However annoying the expression of disapprobation, deserved or undeserved, may be to a performer it is his ‘weird’, and he must ‘dree’ it in silence, relying, as he may safely do, that if it is unjust it will not be tolerated by any well disposed audience. The practice of interrupting the performance and addressing the audience whenever a solitary hiss, or other mark of disapprobation is heard, is altogether intolerable, and would not be permitted to occur a second time by any less good-natured audience than that which assembles at the Melbourne Theatre. If the occasion in question had been the first on which Mr. Buckingham was guilty of this decorum, we should have considered his apology sufficient, but it was matter of complaint before, and it was necessary that steps should be taken to prevent its recurrence in future. The Stewards will, doubtless, to the extent of their ability, protect the performers from insult, and put a stop to the unseemly interruptions by the blackguards in the disguise of gentlemen, which have given rise to this discussion; but if Mr. Buckingham, or Mr. any body else, so far forgets himself in future as to address himself to the audience without a legitimate cause for so doing, he may lay his account-with being hooted off the stage, and the verdict of any impartial jury in the world will be “served him right,”— Ed. P.P.P. [20/6/42]

On 20th June the Port Philip Patriot published an editorial of support for the extension of the licence, which would be decided the next day.

THE AMATEUR THEATRE.

The Magistrates meet in Petty Sessions, to-morrow, to determine as to the propriety of granting an extension of the license of the Melbourne Amateur Theatre. The Theatre has now been open for a period of three months, and, we believe, every person who has visited it, will admit that the performances have far surpassed his expectation, and that the audiences have been in every respect orderly ; indeed with the solitary exception of the disturbance referred to in another column, we have never in any part of the world seen an audience so uniformly quiet and orderly. The persons who occasioned the disturbance referred to, have been shewn that they will not be suffered so to misconduct themselves in future, and we doubt not the lesson will prove a salutary one. As there can be no reason why the inhabitants of Melbourne should be deprived of this their only public amusement, while the authorities have assurance that no evil consequences are to be apprehended from the Theatre being kept open, it would be hard if the extension of the license asked for should be refused. We do not, however, apprehend any such refusal, for we know that every magistrate who has visited the Theatre, has expressed himself most agreeably surprised and entertained, and it is not likely that those who have not been present will oppose the renewal of the license which the others are disposed to grant. [PPP 20/6/42]

However, by the end of June the stewards needed to wind up the season.

The Amateur Theatre — The performances at the Theatre on Friday night, the last night of the season, were under the patronage of the St. Andrew’s Society of Australia Felix, and the house being both very numerously and fashionably attended, the whole affair came off with great eclat. The former license having expired, the Theatre will be closed for a month or six weeks, within which period the renewal recommended by the Bench of Magistrates at the late Petty Sessions, is expected to arrive. In the interim the Stewards purpose effecting extensive alterations in the house, with the view of affording increased accommodation. The pit and the stage will be lowered so as to cut off all communication between the former and the boxes, and slips will be put on a level with, but separate from the gallery, thus enabling family parties to attend without being subject to the risk of annoyance of any kind. Care will also be taken to secure an efficient body of performers, so that in every respect the Theatre may be rendered deserving of the public support. [PPP 4/7/42]

 It took until 29 July for the permit  for the next season to arrive. This time it was a permit for twelve months, and the theatre was planned to reopen on Monday 7th August.

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]