Category Archives: This Week in Port Phillip District 1842

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 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 Month in Port Phillip 1842: March 1842

Another month-long summary, in a vain attempt to catch up. I think I’ve been too ambitious with weekly summaries and unless I find myself with too much spare time, I think my summaries will be monthly from here on.

The mad boy in the watchhouse

You’ll remember that at the end of February we left the young editor of the Port Phillip Gazette, George Arden, cooling his heels in the Eastern Watchhouse, situated on the south-west corner of what is now Exhibition Street and Little Collins Street.  He had been sentenced to twelve months jail and a £300 fine for an article he wrote criticizing Judge Willis. Perhaps a comparable analogy might be Julian Assange cooling his heels in the Ecuadorian Embasssy in London.  In both cases, the men remained highly visible, despite their incarceration, through their untrammelled access to media outlets (in Arden’s case, his own newspaper the Gazette ) and through the support of other ‘friendly’ media outlets. The Gazette made sure to publish every bit of pro-Arden and anti-Willis commentary that was written in the newspapers of adjoining colonies.

Well, Arden’s still in gaol throughout March too, but the unanimity in criticizing this trampling of the freedom of the press had broken down amongst the three newspapers in town.  The Port Phillip Gazette and the Port Phillip Herald continued to publish articles supporting Arden, while the Port Phillip Patriot, owned by John Fawkner and edited by William Kerr broke away from the other two papers and turned on Arden. Now he was “the mad boy in the Eastern Hill Watch House” who “continued to belch from the  distance upon all who have opposed his mad career, his semi-weekly collections of watch-house filth…” [PPP 7/3/42]

Reflecting this largely media-driven controversy, two opposing petitions were drawn up. The first, more properly called a ‘memorial’ was a statement of support addressed to Judge Willis, circulated and promoted by John Fawkner and the Port Phillip Patriot. According to them, it was launched on a Thursday night and quickly signed by

magistrates, clergymen, merchants, professional gentlemen and settlers from all parts of the country; the remainder comprises the great majority of the respectable shopkeepers and tradesmen in town (PPP 21/3/42)

It was presented by William Kerr to Judge Willis in his courthouse, and Willis most conveniently had an eloquent speech ready to give off the top of his head.  I must admit that I find it hard to imagine a group of people trooping into the Supreme Court today to deliver a signed statement of support from the populace- but who knows?

Meanwhile, on the other side, there was a petition being circulated by Judge Willis’ opponents, spurred by articles in the Port Phillip Gazette and Port Phillip Herald. This petition, addressed to Her Majesty was scorned by the Patriot as being a ‘hole-and-corner’ production, and in fact it was held back for months before it actually saw the light of day.

Add to this a civil case brought by Fawkner against the publisher of the Gazette for posters designating Fawkner as being under pecuniary obligation to Judge Willis [a claim, which we will see, is not as far-fetched as it might seem]. Oh happy days!

18C in 1842?

It was in the context of George Arden’s imprisonment that the Melbourne Debating Society conducted its March debate on the question “Ought there be any restriction on the publication of opinion?”. This nineteenth-century version of our 18C debate [i.e. about ‘freedom of speech’ or, as our Attorney General put it ‘the right to be a bigot’] drew on similar arguments to the ‘debate’ to which we’ve been subjected recently  [i.e. the right to free speech- although the Port Phillip arguments pertained to British rights guaranteed through the Magna Carta rather than Human Rights], and both ‘debates’ were equally rarified and self-absorbed.

Mr Smith then opened the question, referring to the benefits accompanying the investigation of public men and measures, by promulgating and analysing their probable tendency and results; he then alluded to Magna Charta [sic] in illustration of his opinions; his address insensibly fell into the unavoidable channel of the press, which he brought forward as the best and ablest corrective of public abuses (hear, hear) and deprecated the suppression of freedom of discussion and public opinion as one of the most serious invasions of constitutional right.  The press contained the greatest “expression of public opinion” and to that source, therefore, would the debate insensibly tend…. The strongest argument brought forward by the speaker was that adducable from the precedent afforded by the House of Commons, where not only the public measures and conduct of the highest officers are fearlessly canvassed, but even their private character and domestic relations aspersed. Yet there the public good promoted by the guardianship of the press, which if objectionable on one point, amply compensated by its public benefits of the other.  The speaker’s sentiments were well received and drew forth merited applause.

Actually, the question was a bit of a fizzer, because everyone agreed with the speaker and those speaking against the question “seemed little smitten with their side of the question”.   Unlike the 18C debate, the question kept coming back to freedom of the press in a political sense:

The members, as might have been anticipated, limited themselves to the sole consideration of the freedom of political discussion – one member certainly alluded to the promulgation of religious opinions, commenting on the various dangerous creeds existing in England, but like a bent bow the argument rebounded to its former political tendency.

No surprise, then, that when “at 10.30 the Chairman put the question to the vote, it was unanimously carried in the affirmative” [PPH 15/3/42]

A Day at the Races

The Port Phillip Gazette in particular was a hunting’ and racin’ paper, and so it expended many column inches to describing the March races which extended over several days. The first day seemed to be a rather rambunctious affair, exacerbated by the hot weather which in turn deterred the ‘gentle sex’ who might have been a moderating influence (or maybe not)

The first day was unhappily most ill-suited to the occasion- a hot wind set in at an early hour, and although deprived- owing to the lateness of the season, of much of the usual fierceness of our Australian Simoons [i.e. a dust-driven wind of the deserts of Arabia and North Africa], it could not but have a sensible-effect on the violent exertions of the horses, the excited motions of the men.  The heat and dust prevented the appearance of the usual number of carriages and of course of that fashionable attendance of ladies, to which we must admit the attracts of the fete owe half their grace.  At the hour for starting we may guess the numbers to have been at least three thousand, the mounted portion of which shewed appointments in horses and person of a decidedly good character.

The mounted portion, yes, but there was obviously a rabble there as well. Some of the earth-tethered individuals were soon the worse for wear and on being arrested, were tethered to a log in the sun.  Oliver Gourlay, riding past, expressed sympathy for the men shackled there, and ended up being arrested for his troubles. I’ve written about this in more detail previously. But I am interested in the sympathy that Port Phillip Gazette managed to muster for them, too (especially in the face of rather less sympathy extended to the indigenous prisoner Harlequin who was walked 153 miles while chained around the neck)

In the most public portion of that thronged area, a stake was driven into the ground, from which a bullock chain attached thereto by a ring was passed to a neighbouring tree; to this were dragged, as if with sacrificial terrors, the more unfortunate individuals who, earliest overcome with heat and exercise, were either drunk or noisy; handcuffed by the wrists, they were fastened on to the main chain and left to vent their ravings to the air under the rays of a sun, the heat of which on that that day attained the measure of 135 degrees! Picture to yourself, reader, a dozen human beings bound body and limb to a huge chain, their clothes rent, their faces begrimed with dirt and sweat, and streaked in many cases with the blood received in some previous fray- the beastly hiccoughs of intoxication mingled with the curses of brains maddened with drink and heat. The imagination can scarcely supply a more revolting scene. (PPG 5/3/42)

However, there were limits to the Gazette‘s sympathy and it recommended that the races be abolished completely unless they could be shifted to a location

[at] a distance, where the lower orders cannot so easily mix in their proceedings…. Race meetings should be encouraged, in order to encourage the breeding of horses, but if such scenes and such results destroy their advantages, LET THEM BE ABOLISHED.” [PPG 5/3/42]

People arriving: Sickness on the Beach at Pt Gellibrand

Even though  emigrant ships were flooding into Port Phillip, there was no formal quarantine station at this stage, and there would not be until the Point Nepean Quarantine Station opened in 1852.  When  the Manlius arrived on 16 February, Drs Patterson and Cussen embarked to inspect the ship, as was customary, only to find that 44 passengers had already died with fever. The surviving passengers were landed at Williams Town and taken by cart to Pt Gellibrand where they were accommodated in tents for two months [ a good report, about maritime infrastructure generally can be found here]. At first it was supposed that the disease had lost its virulence, but on 2 March, the Port Phillip Gazette reported that some previously healthy passengers had been taken ill, including the surgeon of the vessel.

A woman, otherwise in good health, left the tents to get water from the sea and was found, when her absence excited alarm, in a state of convulsion lying among the rocks. (PPG 2/3/42)

A further 17 passengers died, and were buried at Williamstown cemetery.

People leaving: Goodbye Rev Orton

In March 1842 the Wesleyan Methodists of Melbourne bade farewell to the Rev Joseph Orton when he returned to England.

Orton

https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Orton-264

Rev Orton had been in Australia for eleven years, working in both New South Wales and Van Diemens Land. Previous to that, he had served in Jamaica in 1825, where he fell foul of the law “through the arbitrary acts of certain magistrates, who determined to uphold the slave interest, sacrificed every other feeling of duty to that end”. (PPG 9/3/42) Refusing to obey an instruction not to preach the gospel at night to his slave congregation, he was imprisoned. The imprisonment broke his health, necessitating a return to England in 1829. After recovering his strength and “full of zeal for his avocation”, he sailed to  New South Wales, where he served for three years before his appointment to Van Diemens Land.  Learning of Batman’s excursion to Port Phillip in 1835, he visited Port Phillip the following year where, aware of the numbers of indigenous people there, he applied for and received orders to select a suitable reserve for the formation of a mission station. This was at Buninyong, near Geelong. Although he became increasingly critical of the running of the mission, he was persuaded to stay in the Port Phillip District to take over ministerial duties as first resident pastor until a replacement arrived. But by March 1842, in poor health, he had received permission to return home. The Port Phillip Gazette of 2 March reported that a sit-down dinner was held at the Wesleyan Chapel in Collins Street, attended by 150 people, followed by a religious service. Rev Orton was presented with a gold watch, but because he had lost his voice, he was not able to respond to the speeches given in his honour.(PPG 2/3/42) He didn’t have long to wear it, though,  because he died on the journey home. That was not the end of the Orton family connection with Australia, however, because his widow and children returned several years later.  Alex Tyrrell, who wrote a biography of Rev Orton, has written an interesting article in the La Trobe Journal (available here)

Speaking of ships…

I’ve long been aware that the ships moored out in the bay, unable to negotiate the shallows of the Yarra. Passengers either travelled out to the ocean-going ships by steamer or else by lighters.  I must admit that my imagination quails at the idea of unloading the cargo of ocean-going ships and their passengers onto such small craft. I was interested to see this scale of fees for transport to and from ships in the bay, Williamstown and Melbourne (PPG 9/3/42)

fees

Suburban Melbourne begins

Modern Melbourne is characterized by its ‘urban sprawl’ spanning 9,900 km2 (3,800 sq mi), according to Wikipedia.  In 1842, the spread of suburbs was greeted with pride. In March 1842 the area known as ‘New Town’ was announced as Collingwood (although parts of New Town are also in Fitzroy):

COLLINGWOOD. The suburb known as New Town, is to be, as already announced, properly laid out in the divisions of a town and streets aligned in a regular plan; opportunity has been taken of this act to give it a name, which displays on the Superintendents’ choice better taste than is usually adopted in colonial nomenclature. “Collingwood” is not only good, but singular and ejects at once the former commonplace designation. [PPG 9/3/41]

Later that month, the Gazette marvelled at the ‘villages’ surrounding central Melbourne:

VILLAGES AROUND MELBOURNE. In various directions the stranger may visit villages, which like offshoots from the town are springing up the beautiful suburbs of Melbourne. The oldest and largest of these, Collingwood, which from its proximity to Melbourne was long called New Town, will shortly be erected into a township. Continuing the course of the Yarra Yarra, in the direction that Collingwood lies, east of the town, Heidelberg presents, in its romantic name, an attraction which is enhanced by its pretty natural position, its productive qualities of soil, and its unobjectionable society. Pentridge lies to the north, on the line which is marked out for the principal road to Sydney- the small farms in the neighbourhood are numerous, and fill the fertile valley of the Merri Rivulet. To the south, on the seacoast of the harbour, Brighton has been lately founded, having been laid out on a portion of the first special survey taken in the province.  For invalids requiring the benefit of sea air and bathing this spot will possess qualities superior to inland localities. [PPG 30/3/41]

Stop thief!

My word- fancy robbing the Supreme Court itself!  It appeared that more than one daring thief forced open the window of the Judge’s chamber that overlooked the court yard of the Clerk of Works’ office.  They located the iron box of the Registrar, carried it through the court hose and made their exit by the folding doors in front, the key of which was inadvertently left inside. The safe was taken to Batman’s Hill and the cash taken, but not the documents. Unfortunately for Mr Pinnock the registrar, he had to make good the loss of about sixty pounds by this nefarious transaction (I wonder when it was deemed that employees no longer had to cover the cost of robberies?)  It appeared that the robbers had searched the Judge’s desk too, a half burnt tallow candle having been left close to the place where the judge sits.  (PPG 30/3/42)

Another robbery was perhaps less carefully thought through:

CURIOUS ROBBERY. On Monday night, between seven and eight o’clock some thieves walked into Mr D’Orme’s yard, the back of which runs upon Little Flinders-street and walked off with a tub full of dirty clothes put out there to soak before undergoing the regular process of manipulation. The fellows in their eagerness to secure the booty neglected even to run off the water, but succeeded in decamping without the smallest suspicion.  This is certainly the most curious instance of covetous taste that we have yet had to notice. [PPG 30/3/42]

Bedtime reading for the littlies

The Port Phillip Gazette of 2nd March carried an advertisement for the first children’s book written in the colony.

A MOTHER’S OFFERING. A copy of a little work, the production of a lady resident in Sydney, entitled “A Mother’s Offering” and intended for the use of children, was forwarded to this office by the Seahorse. Its chief merit is that it is the first attempt to write in the colony a work for children similar to those which in England are now looked upon with so much respect, as conducive to the cause of infant education. Its contents are in the shape of dialogues, and are well and easily supported between the mother and her family of boys and girls. Some natural phenomena peculiar to the colony are explained and a lively description of several shipwrecks which have happened on the Australian coast are detailed in an interesting style.[PPG 2/3/42]

It carried an extract from the book on 12 March which you can read here.  (The whole text, should you decide to read it, is here). It’s certainly a stilted way of writing for children, and the subject matter of shipwrecks and cannibalism seems a curious choice for children for whom any journey ‘home’ inevitably involved a long sea-journey.  For an absolutely fascinating account of the writing and authoress of this book, read Kate Forsyth’s blog post  about it (yes, the author Kate Forsyth). A great story on so many levels – probably better than the book itself, I should imagine.

And the weather?

The hottest day of the month was, as you might expect, on 1st March when the thermometer reached 90 (32.2), but it stayed warm right through March with 88 (31.1) being reached in the last week as well.

As the Port Phillip Gazette reported on 30th March:

After a long “spell” of delightful weather the falling season seems to have revived for a few days, and resumed all the heat of summer. On Friday last the atmosphere attained a degree of closeness which gradually increased through Saturday, Sunday and Monday, to a height of sultriness that was hardly exceeded in January; the north wind which blew during a great part of the time was not so intensely heated as in the earlier part of the season, but was equally oppressive. As it is now upon the verge of April, it may reasonably be calculated that we have fairly bid the Summer adieu and that the heat lately suffered is but the expiring gasp of his hot, unwelcome breath.