Thursday, 13 September 2018

Sunday 27th May

Great excitement all week here at the Vice-Regal Palace as my wife and daughters work themselves into a frenzy of expectation over the Theatre Opening tomorrow night.

As if it were not bad enough that I am expected to attend the damned thing, I am also, it seems, expected to  be thrilled by the thought.

We have been assigned a box on the side of the stage where we can be viewed, like monkeys in a cage, by the entire assembled throng. This is fortunate, as it means I can position myself so that my bad eye is facing the stage and at least I will not have to watch the show. There seems to be little I can do about hearing the show, comic songs and all.

The negotiations for the land by the Port Road are pretty much complete. The plan is this: a consortium of tradesmen have clubbed together with the plan of assisting their fellows of the working classes by obtaining land for them to live upon. Prices for land in the Township have become extortionately high and so these chaps have come up with a plan to buy a conveniently located country section, divide it into half acre lots and make them available for sale at a reasonable cost.

Since my land at the corner of the River, the Park Land and the Port Road is about as conveniently located as it is possible to be it is this that they have set their hearts upon.

The fellows are:  Morgan Richards; George Manton; Johnny Adams; Thos. Orsmond; Georgie Roberts; Ed Howard; "Piggy" Bill Bacon and Samuel Chapman. They hope to sell two hundred blocks of land and recoup their costs almost immediately.

Their original offer was £800. I countered with £1250 and after some dealing we shook hands at £1000 even.

I scored quite happily in this. Just as the fellows and I were making our agreements, in burst Light, Finniss and a few others of Fisher's party, who had clearly hot footed it to Government House to try and get there before any final deal was struck.

Without so much as a greeting Finniss told me "Whatever they have offered I am authorised to offer £100 more!"

Authorised by whom, I wonder?  Clearly Fisher, Hack and probably Morphett had been doing their sums and had seen that dividing land was a ready way to riches.

I looked the man up and down and told him that the other party had agreed already to £1000. This set him back on his heels, as he clearly had thought that I might have settled with the consortium for considerably less.

"Then I will offer you £1100," he said.

I smiled. The tradesmen looked apprehensive, as £1100 was clearly outside of their ability to pay.

"Tell whoever it might be who has authorised you" I said, "that I would rather lose £100 and do a service to the poor workers, than take your money and make rich men richer." 

And it was with considerable satisfaction that I dismissed them and asked the workmen to attend me later that day, once I had Strangways draw up an agreement for us to sign.

At the time of the recent killing of Enoch Peglar by some natives visiting the area there was a degree of outrage at my insistence the there be no reprisals carried out against the Aboriginal population. It was felt by many that the natives needed a lesson taught to them and one swift strike now would lay down the law and avoid many a problem later.

Well I was having none of that. One only need look at the other colonies to see where that policy leads. New South Wales has failed utterly to effect the civilisation of the natives and we are fortunate that South Australia is at a sufficient distance from there to allow the natives of Adelaide to remain ignorant of what has taken place there.

The recent events at the Swan River, where it came to be seen as sport to fire muskets near the Native camps and frighten the women, make a perfect illustration. The inevitable happened and a native was killed. There followed reprisals, with a large body of Native men, led by a bold and fearless chief, making severe inroads against the Colony.  

This ought to operate as a caution to the colonists of South Australia, to avoid the least appearance of enmity against the natives. A policy of kindness, patience and understanding will, I believe, be a productive and beneficial one.

By the passing of the Act of Parliament establishing the new province of South Australia, we have made the aborigines our fellow-subjects; under the protection of the same laws; entitled to the same privileges, both civil and religious.

Without a special regard to their welfare, it would be a crying act of injustice to seize upon their territory, deprive them of their kangaroos, and drive them back upon the walks of other tribes already reduced to the greatest extremities. No; I have determined that such would not be the case with South Australia. Their kangaroos would meet with protection on the main land as well as their own persons; and instead of reducing their
means of subsistence, every attempt would be made to supply them ‘with seed,, and, to instruct them in the art of raising food from the bosom of the earth. 

That destroyer of the human race, distilled spirits have been carefully withheld from them; and I have  used every exertion in my power to discourage the use, if not the
introduction, too, of ardent spirits to the Natives.

When Peglar was killed there was a deal of flap doodle on the part of the ninnies in the colony about "feeling unsafe" and being "murdered in our beds". I pointed out, at considerable length, that Pegler had been a damned fool, treated the Natives with contempt and probably got what he deserved, but the flap doodling ninnies were having none of it.

And so they sprang into action and did what every Englishman does best in a crisis - they formed a committee with a view to "dealing with the Native problem". After a series of interminable meetings the "Native Problem Committee" has achieved a series of decisions. They are:


1st.—That this Committee do meet once in every two weeks on the Monday evening at seven o'clock.   
2nd—That upon any emergency a Special Meeting of this Committee shall be called by a Requisition from any one of the Committee, addressed to the Secretary, who, on the receipt of such a Requisition, shall convene such a Meeting, specifying the subject to be discussed.
3rd—That all questions shall be decided by a majority of votes, and that in cases where, with the Chairman's vote, the votes become equal, the Chairman shall have the casting vote.
4th—That not less than five of the members of the Committee shall form a quorum.
5th—That when only five of the Committee are present, no question be considered as decided unless four members assent.
6th—That the General Meetings of this Committee be open to the public, but that upon the motion of any member, strangers be required to withdraw.
7th—That on all occasions when two or more of the members rise to speak, the Chairman shall name the member to whom the right of precedence shall appear to him to belong.
8th—That the decision of this Committee be communicated to the Government by the Protector of the Natives, or when deemed expedient, by an express deputation.
9th—That all subjects previously notified for discussion, shall have priority of hearing, according to the order in which they stand upon the Secretary's book.
I suppose it is obvious that all a series of long and tedious committee meetings has achieved is to decide how the committee will operate. The notion of a "Committee to deal with the Native Problem" making decisions that do, in fact, make some impact upon  the Native Population seems to have passed them by.

I predict that, whilst it may have been my Policy to treat the Aboriginals with a degree of decency, a committee filled with the committee minded might be more interested in efficiency and order. 

Now, my experience of the Natives is that efficiency and order is not high on their list of priorities and I foresee much trouble ahead.

Mary's art lessons with Milner Stephens have begun. They seem to come in three parts. In the first: Stephens and Mary sit sketching pots of flowers or bowls of vegetables with pencils and paper. Stephens looks over her shoulder and offers advice and hints. To his disappointment, I imagine, they are not left alone at all. Mrs Hindmarsh sits in the room with them as chaperon and glares at them with her glittering eye  each time they come within three feet of each other.

 The second part of the programme is a series of excursions with a group of local artists to paint watercolours "en plein aire" as I believe the French term is. While I have reservations about a daughter of mine involving herself in an activity of French origin, the presence of Milner Stephen, Fred Nixon, John Skipper, Mrs Stevenson and even, on occasion, William Light, add at least a veneer of superficial respectability to what could so easily devolve into bohemian laxity.

They have already painted views of Government House and I believe their next project is the Bank Building on North Terrace.

The third part of the lessons appears to be retiring to Lee's Coffee House and drinking strong coffee while discussing the problems of the world. Fortunately they are equipped with all the wisdom and experience of the young and so it seems apparent that the problems of the world will soon all be solved. And what will they do then, eh?

Monday, 3 September 2018

Sunday, 20th May, 1838

Well, well.

A report has arrived from London informing us that at the start of the year a meeting was held expressing the need to recall me back to England and appoint a new Governor here in my place.


I gather that reports received in London portray me as a vile tyrant, part Herod, part Tamurlaine, part Nero, with naught but contempt for the rule of law and decency. (Fisher, I dare say, will be cast in the role of Law and Decency)


It seems that I spend much of my time reclining on a divan while eunuchs fan me with ostrich feathers and slave girls cater to my merest whim.

No less than Durward Kingston is to be thanked for this nonsense. I understood that the little sneak had been sent back to England on some flimsy pretext in order that Light and the Surveying Party could be rid of the nuisance he provided.

Instead it appears that he was tasked by none other than Fisher to spread rumours and calumny about me, no doubt aided by letters from Gouger, Morphett and Brown.

I hear that he is shortly to return to our shores where he will, I do not doubt, be made to feel as welcome as a rat turd in a cheesewright's.

I have surprised even myself with the equanimity with which I have received this report. At first I was disappointed and even angry, but on reflection I have experienced a degree of relief.

When they brought me the news of the Magee hanging, and described the man dangling at the end of a rope while thousands looked on as he tried to save himself while the life was being choked out of him, my first thought was "Well, I know how he felt." The last eighteen months have been, truth to tell, most trying and if I am to be called home then perhaps I am well out of it.

I note that it is reported that I have been in dispute with "the respectable Colonists of South Australia", a charge I reject entirely. I have been in dispute with Fisher and his party, none of whom are in the least respectable or even respected.

And, as if to prove how little respected he is, Mr Fisher has found himself back in court as Complainant in a Law suit for a Libel: Fisher v Thomas and Stevenson. Much innocent pleasure has been had about the town as the details and the proceedings of the case have been circulated. 

The question on everyone's lips is simple. "When will Fisher realise that by repeatedly going to court to defend himself against allegations of sharp dealing, he is only bringing closer the point when people begin meditating upon the relationship between fire and smoke and the possibility of one without the other, and start to surmise that perhaps Mr Fisher is, after all, really a sharp dealer?" 

Or, as Mrs Hindmarsh said, with admirable clarity, "He keeps going to the courts because people are throwing mud. He punishes the people, but the mud still sticks."

Part of the fun, of course, is to witness the performance of Charles Mann, appearing for Mr Fisher. Mann has given it his all, chewing the scenery as he portrays Fisher as a moral family man, sacrificing all for the good of the Colony. The weight of the responsibility he carries, the awesome decisions he must make every day. And he yet still manages to be at home to dandle one or other of his children on his knee (presumably on a roster basis) and sing them a lullaby with a suitable Christian moral every night.

All through this overwrought farago, Fisher has sat trying to give every appearance of piety, but also to appear terribly let down and disappointed. The result has been that he has achieved the look of an early Christian Martyr who has just read the programme and realised that he is not to receive Star billing, but instead is second act before interval, meaning that he will be eaten not by the big names he was hoping for, but by a third-rate, provincial troupe of touring lions. 

The whole case has been brought about because some months ago The Register published letters from a person signing themselves "A COLONIST". These letters outlined clearly and in words all the Colony could understand, exactly what a mountebank Mr Fisher was in his business dealings.

Fisher, despite frantic efforts, was never able to ascertain with certainty who "A COLONIST" was, which meant that (a) he was unable to take legal action against his accuser and (b) that he was left with the suspicion that, since "A COLONIST", who was against him, could have been anyone, then perhaps everyone was against him. Uneasy fiddle the fingers that fiddle ledger books.

Since Fisher was unable to have his legal revenge on The Register over A COLONIST's letters, he has been watching the paper like a hawk and as soon as he saw Stevenson publish some pretty frank and fulsome opinions on Fisher's conduct in the land survey, he swooped upon them and landed them before the courts.

More fun has been had by all, of course, as the proceedings of the case have required the complete litany of Mr Fisher's dealings in the Colony as recorded in The Register to be read out in court. And so we have all been reminded of his selling of the barrels of salt pork, his cheats with the imported bullocks, his Timor ponies, his pauper labourers and their tree felling and, of course,  his 100,000 acres of surveyed land and the resultant injunction against him.

And all the while, however much this stung, poor old Fisher had to sit and keep giving his best impression of a Saint. At one point, I am assured by one in the court, steam was seen rushing out of his ears, giving him the look of a sanctimonious tea kettle.

Of course, Stevenson has been found guilty, but I fancy that if Jickling imposes a too hefty penalty upon him there will be plenty in town who will gladly throw a few pounds into a hat to assist him as thanks for the entertainment he has provided.

At the start of the week I took possession of two of my Country Sections of land. Numbers 353 and 476.

Section 353 is a triangular piece of ground to the immediate North West of the township with frontages to both the river and to the main Port Road. Section 476 also sits on the river, but to the East of the town.

Already I have been approached by a party offering me £800 for 353, which seems a reasonable return on the £73 I laid out for it. I believe I shall ask for £1250 and see where we land up.

Poor Walter Bromley has died. His body was found by the river where it appears he had gone to collect drinking water for the day. (A bucket was found next to him.) The medical opinion is that he knelt down to fill his bucket, his heart gave out and he simply never rose to his feet.

As kind and Christian a man as ever we had and a true friend to the Aboriginal population, I suspect he will not be the first to have his heart broken trying to reconcile black and white in this Colony.


On a brighter note this has appeared in the Register:

THEATRE ROYAL, ADELAIDE.

Stage and Acting Manager, Mr. BONNAR.
Leader of the Orchestra, Mr. LEE.
Scenery by Mr. LANGCAKE.
Propertus by Messrs MARSHALL & RADFORD

The Public is respectfully informed that a small, unique, and commodious Theatre has been fitted up above the Adelaide Tavern, Franklin-street, the audience part of which comprises nine dress boxes and a comfortable pit, and will open on Monday Evening, May 28 th.

The evening's entertainment will commence with the national anthem of God Save the Queen! by the whole company.

An Opening Address, written by a gentleman expressly for the occasion, delivered by Mr. Bonnar in the character of a Strolling Manager.

After which will be presented the admired play called

T H E   M O U N T A I N E E R S, 
or, 
Love and Madness.

Comic Song—Mr. Bailes.
"The British Oak' — Mr. Bonnar. 
Song, "Logie O'Buchan"— Mr. Elphinstone.

The whole will conclude with the laughable farce of 


T H E  L A N C E R S.

Doors open at half-past six—Curtain to rise exactly at seven.

Boxes, 5s. Pit, 2s.

Tickets and places for the Boxes may be taken at the Theatre every day from ten till twelve, and from one to three o'clock ; of Mr. Portbury, Hindley-street ; and at Messrs. Coltman and Co's Stores, Hindley-street, where plans of the Boxes may be seen.

Tickets for the Pit may be had at the Theatre ; at Messrs. Coltman and Co's Stores; at Mr. Portbury's, Hindley-street; at Mr. Fordham's, Franklin -street; at Mr. Rainsford's, baker, back of Forbes-square ; at Mr.Lines', opposite Hindley-street ; and at Mr. Paris's, North Adelaide.

Comic songs; a laughable farce; Love and Madness: the whole thing sounds perfectly foul. If the thought of Mr Elphinstone singing "Logie O'Buchan"  does not fill you with revulsion then you are simply dead inside and a loss to decent society.

And, it need hardly be said, Mrs Hindmarsh and my daughters are already planning what clothing they will be wearing.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Sunday, 13th May, 1838

I had mail from England this week, including a letter from Sir Pultney Malcolm who writes


"You have had a bad set to deal with. Had I been aware of the powers of the Commissioners, I would not have advised you to accept the Government. You are considered an ill-used man and when your case is known, will have the synpathy of all good men."

which, let's be honest, is all well and good, but damn all use to me now.

Ned Stephens is cutting up rough and accusing the Government of not paying Company bills.

Last year I ordered the company whaling boat to Boston Bay with a view to warning new arrivals to proceed to Nepean Bay, as there was sod all to be doing at Port Lincoln. Fisher, in his usual manner, countermanded my order and made other arrangements. I have since been informed that no-one ever so much as lifted a finger to prepare to sail for Port Lincoln and there was never any intention to do so. And yet I was presented with an account,  which I refused to pay, for the chartering of the boat and the cost of the crew to the Company. 

I also have to hand an account for the loss of a mare, borrowed by Tom Cotter, Government Surgeon, from the Company to go and visit a patient, probably to make the man drink senna pod tea. He returned the horse to the Company yard where two days later it gave birth prematurely to a foal and promptly died.

Stephens, naturally, blamed Cotter and presented me with a bill for the dead animal. Yet when I referred the account to Gilles, he discovered that the day before Cotter rode it, it was borrowed by David McLaren, a man who rides a horse as well as you might expect a Scottish Baptist to ride - that is: badly. Gilles advised the Company that responsibility for the death of the mare was disputed as it could easily have been McLaren's lack of equestrian prowess that brought on the birth.

Now Stephens is using my "non-payment" to try and have me over a barrel. A group of Cornish miners arrived in the Colony and I set them to work digging for water at Port Adelaide. With the exception of Methodist hymns, there is nothing a Cornishman likes so much as digging a hole and the lot of them set to with a will , drilling for water. 

But before they managed to proceeded too far they ran out of pipe and, having had their hole in the ground taken away from them, sat around looking even more glum and miserable than Cornishmen do normally. 

To cheer them up I ordered more materials from the Company stores, only to be told that there'd be no more supplies "on tick" while there were outstanding accounts to be paid.

So now I'll be needing to bring supplies in from Sydney or Hobart, with increased expense and fingers smacked by the misers in the Colonial Office in London. Damnation! 

Here at Government House we continue to be beset with George Milner Stephen blighting our lives. It occurred to me to set baits or lay traps in order to rid ourselves of him, but Mrs. Hindmarsh and the girls have taken quite the shine to the man and his easy charm.

The man cheats at cards. It has been my habit of an evening to spend time with Mrs Hindmarsh and the girls playing a harmless game of Five Card Loo, playing for buttons. Once Stephen started playing it was "shall we make it more interesting?" and we were playing for pennies. And damn me if he didn't win the lot. We caught him several times peeking at Miss and just as many times playing a low trump when he had a higher, which he clearly was "saving for later". At the time I took his reminders to "hold your cards up Governor. I can see every one you have!" to be friendly advice, but later realised that I was sitting in fromt of the mantle mirror and holding my cards up just gave him a better view. 

Mary assures me that with his talent at musical instruments, his singing, his painting, his poetry writing and his interests in Science he could be described, as she puts it, as a "Renaissance Man".

Sadly, what he could not be described as is "a lawyer", a deficit that might seem fatal in a man occupying one of the chief law offices in the Province. Still, charm outweighs talent I gather and such seems to be the principle Milner Stephen operates under.

Mary tells me that he has offered to take her on as a student of drawing and watercolours which I find suspicious. I spoke to him about it and he tells me that he hopes to "expand her aptitude", which I find doubly suspicious. I don't know about aptitude, but Mr Stephen may well find that I "expand his arse" with my military boot doing the expansion.

A terrible thought struck me during the week. There is still much speculation about the town as to the identity of the Hangman in the Magee execution. The rumours seem to favour the notion that the Cook of the South Australia Company was co-opted into pwrforming the deed. The Cook, however, denies all knowledge of the matter and has produced an alibi for the time of the hanging. However, all seem to agree that "a cook" was involved.

So it seems we are looking for a heftily built cook, incapable of any degree of competence. And for that description there can be only one candidate: The Mad Poisoner herself, Hangman Harvey!   

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Sunday, 6th May, 1838

What is wrong with this town that nothing can possibly happen without some damned fool of a jackanapes turning it into a circus? Can we do nothing without it descending into the sort of farce that would be jeered from the stage in the lowest theatre in London?

On Wednesday last it was time for Michael Magee to meet the awful eternal judgement that awaited him in the life to come.

During the past week I have heard many a Colonist tell me that the sentence of death might have been the law, but it was too severe for the nature of the crime. "He took a shot at Sam Smart and missed, Governor. Why should he die for that?" A fair question and one I could not really answer with anything other than "The law must be seen to be done."

It being a Wednesday a crowd of people who had, it seems, nothing better to do had made their way to the execution spot, just down from Strangways Terrace on the side of the hill by the River. I did not attend, but plenty of witnesses have informed me of what transpired. There are - what? - four or five thousand people in the township and there must have been at least a thousand of them there. Men and women, families, all of them with blankets to sit on and baskets of food, all of them there to see the show. And about nine hundred and ninety-five of them have waylaid me in the streets since to give me the benefit of their opinion regarding the matter.

Naturally the question at the forefront of all 1000 minds was the same. "Who would be the hangman?" No-one had heard if anyone had put their hand up for the £10 on offer and many thought that there was ever the possibility that the whole thing was for naught and they would all go home at the end of the day with no hanging and Magee's sentence commuted. The suggestion also circulated that Bushranger Morgan would be called on to do the deed as a condition of his own death sentence being commuted. The only thing everyone seemed to agree on was that it would be in the poorest taste for Sam Smart to act as hangman. I heard the phrase "conflict of interest" bandied about freely.

Well, at around nine o'clock all was clear, as a procession was seen coming through the trees towards the hanging location. At the head, our 10 mounted police rode in double file, sabres drawn. Behind them, freshly sobered up and with uniforms as spotless as could reasonably be hoped for, came the Marines.

Remarkably, they had bayonets fixed, which seemed a risk to all present, but they had complained about the police sabres "and how will it make us look Governor if the police are armed and we're not?" with the result that compassion over-ruled common sense and they were given permission to fix bayonets on the grounds of "sauce for the goose".

Behind them walked Charlie Howard, decked out in full kit and behind him came a wagon, pulled by two of Mr. Fisher's £500 ponies. And in the wagon was Magee, accompanied by as demonic a figure as has ever been seen in this Colony. The hangman.

The fellow had clearly decided that anonymity was the watchword for the day and had done all he could to ensure that none could identify him. He wore a black mask, seemingly fashioned from a cotton sack and painted with grotesque markings below the eye holes, suggestive of a nose and grinning mouth. He wore a shirt, belted, and trousers tied around the waist and ankles, both several sizes too big, but stuffed with, I imagine, straw, so that he had the appearance of a hunchback.

When the cart stopped it was seen that this Mr. Punch had been sitting on the coffin packed on board for the disposal of Magee's body, which seemed macabre enough, but even more so was the sight of Magee himself being forced, by lack of space, to sit next to his own executioner, atop his own coffin, which seemed not merely grotesque, but worse, tasteless.

At this point, as though the scene was not dreary enough, the Reverend came to life with the Service for the Dead. On hearing about ashes and dust and the resurrection, all rose to their feet. Partly from respect and partly to be ready to make a run for it if Howard went on to "make a few remarks". The only one present who seemed to take Charlie seriously was the Catholic Magee, who listened to the Reverend for a time, then fell to his knees in fervent prayer, probably thinking he could do better himself.

Charlie did not get to make any remarks however, as, to the relief of all, he was interrupted by a clatter and a degree of swearing as Mr. Punch attempted to get down from the cart. It seems that he could not see properly through the holes in the mask and was unable to find how to descend.

Magee's hands had been tied tightly behind him, but in order that he could assist the hangman in the descent from the conveyence, his bonds were loosened in order to allow him use of his hands.

Magee then stood and addressed the crowd with a surprising degree of eloquence and, the which we are unused to, brevity.

He admitted his guilt and the justice of the sentence but denied vehemently that he was an escapee and "on the run". He had never, he insisted, been in trouble with the law.

To be asserting this when standing on a scaffold with the expectation of a noose at any moment certainly suggests a degree of boldness of character that can only be admired and it was clear that the assembled crowd found themselves warming to the man.

While this was happening our hangman was clearing having second thoughts, the nature of the deed sinking in. As he greased the rope and swung from the end of it, the hunchback was heard to say "How it haunts me!"

The hanging being scheduled for ten, Sam Smart had set the alarm on his watch to sound, which it now did as did several others scattered through the crowd. "The bells! The bells!" cried the Hunchback, who lurched toward the prisoner.

Using a ladder against the tree he climbed up onto the cart, Magee offering him a helping hand, and placed a bag over the prisoner's head and then the noose about his neck. 

He then partly climbed and partly fell down the ladder and whipped up the horses.






Mr Skipper's sketch of the Execution

It was at this point that the thing became less "the law must be seen to be done" and more "the law must be seen to be believed".

In an ideal world the horses would have set off at a canter, Magee would have dropped sharply, allowing the noose to snap his neck and all could have gone home knowing that they had enjoyed a grand day out and that all was right with the world.

Instead, Mr. Fisher's small and sickly ponies walked forward so slowly that Magee simply slid gently off the back of the cart and hung there by the neck, still alive.

Mr. Punch, clearly deciding that he had performed all that £10 could buy, jumped on to the back of a nearby horse and high tailed it as fast as he could.

Meanwhile it became obvious that the buffoon had put the noose on wrongly, meaning that the knot, instead of tightening and killing the prisoner, was positioned under Magee's chin, both supporting the head and digging in to his windpipe.

Then, because Magee's hands had been loosened, he was able to reach up, grab the rope and lift himself up to ease the pressure on his throat. And, being able to breathe, he began to scream out, "Christ have Mercy! Save me someone!" as he slowly twisted in the wind like a joint before the fire. 

So distressing was the scene that the crowd began to call out, demanding that something be done. There were cries of "Cut him him down!" and demands of the Marines to render the coup de grace and shoot him. 

FInally someone had the bright idea of bringing back the hangman and one of the Police Troopers set off on horseback, riding like the devil himself. And all the while there came the screams of "Jesus, help me!" from Magee as he pulled himself up by the rope.

Sam Smart came forward and tried to address the crowd, telling them to remain calm, but the people were in no mood for placation and the whole scene threatened to become most ugly.

Then the Hangman was seen being escorted back by the Police Trooper. I say "escorted", but it seemed far more like he was being forced back at sabre point! When he arrived at the gallows he stood back and surveyed the situation for a moment and then, obviously deciding on a course of action, suddenly leapt up at Magee, grabbing at his legs and swinging from them.

 Magee, unable to support the weight of two by holding the rope, was forced to let go and the two men hung there while Magee slowly choked to death. It is said that it took nearly a quarter of an hour for the man to succumb and that during that time, even when all thought he had breathed his last, the body would twitch and low murmers were heard from beneath the sack covering his face.

And all the while Mr Punch hung from Magee's legs, while the crowd called out "Murderer!" and "Shame!" 

Is it worth pointing out that Magee's offence was only "attempted murder"? It seems to me that when the hangman is so incompetent that, in the course of his duties he is accused of a worse crime than the prisoner he is hanging, then we really do need to ask if we chose the right man for the job.

As it was the crowd was so incensed that, when he finally finished using the Prisoner as a Fairground Swing, he only managed to get away from the scene under Police Escort. Then, rendered sombre and dismal by the whole sorry business, the crowd slowly dispersed, few even waiting for Magee's body to be cut down and placed in his coffin. As one witness said to me, "We were there for a nice family outing to the execution. We thought that, in years to come, the children would appreciate being able to say that they had been present at the first public hanging in the Colony. And instead we had to watch barbaric horrors!"

They were quite upset by the whole incident. But not quite as upset, I imagine, as MIchael Magee.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Sunday, 29th April, 1838

How much longer can Fisher stay on as Resident Commissioner? His latest display of incompetence must surely give those nincompoops in London pause to consider whether he is the best man to represent them here in the Colony.

Seven months ago Fisher decided that what was needed here in the Colony was a supply of horses. (Editor's Note: See entry for Sunday, 17th September, 1937)  And so he hired himself a ship, the Lord Hobart, from the Company and sent it off to Timor on a shopping expedition to Timor with Cornelius Birdseye, in his role as Overseer of the Company's Flocks and Herds, on board to see to the selection.

Once there, Corney finds himself 120 Timor ponies and loads them on board. (In fact, they had shipped 119 and Corney lost count)

Then back they sail to Adelaide, arriving yesterday with their ponies on board.

And so do we now have 119 ponies running free across the Adelaide Plains? No we do not.

Because under the tender care of Mr Birdseye 112 of the horses died on board ship, leaving a mere seven ponies to survive the voyage. And of those seven, at least three of them seem good for nothing but dog's meat and would be best put out of their misery as a kindness.

So, seven months of travel and we are four ponies to the good. At the beginning of the month, Mr Hawdon arrived from Sydney with 20 horses for sale and Sturt is expected to arrive with more horses for sale any day now, which makes Fisher's four seem small beer indeed.

But how much did Mr Fisher's nags cost him?

Well now, Gilles has shown me the account Fisher has presented to him and it appears that McLaren advanced Fisher £600 for the purchase of the ponies. Fisher hired the ship from the Company at a rate of 21/- per ton per month. The Lord Hobart being a ship of about 190 tons and the voyage lasting for somewhat more than seven months we arrive at a figure of £1506-16-6d. Then we have money for Corney Birdseye and his men as well as sundry expences, meaning that these five ponies have cost just over £2600.

Gilles tells me that each pony has set us back roughly £520!

Gilles also tells me that he has positively no inclination to pay any money at all for Mr Fisher's shipping adventure and so I do not doubt that a legal action will soon be underway as Mr Fisher sues Gilles for the money. 

Having thrown two and a half thousand pounds overboard in the pursuit of enough horseflesh to pull a small coach, Mr Fisher now endears himself to the Colony by objecting to the formation of a Police Force on the grounds of expence!

The recent adventures of the Marines, what with court appearances, the leaving prisoners behind in the wilderness, as well as the accumulated ill feeling of the populace towards these drunken wild boys, who seem to have caused as much disruption as they have prevented, have meant that the Colony is almost unanimous in their desire for a proper police force. "Almost unanimous" because Fisher alone has objections!

We have found twenty brawny lads who are keen to take part - ten mounted police and ten foot - uniforms have been found, Mr Hawdon's horses reserved, tenders called for a police station and not one, but two letters from Lord Glenelg authorising both the formation of the Police Force and the related expenditure and all seems set fair.

Except that, like the fly in the ointment, Mr Fisher has decided it is not to be! It is too expensive! 

£2600 for a few ponies without so much as a turned hair! £800 for the Port Canal. But the security of the Province? Oh, no no no  no no! We cannot afford such a thing.

What he really means is that we cannot be spending money on an idea of mine because doing so might make me appear to be active in the protection of the colony.

Well, of course we can and we will. Indeed, we have and our proud new Police Force is up and running!

Of course the Marines were less than pleased until I told them that they needed to show the new men the tricks of the trade and as soon as they were told that they were the old hands, they were perfectly happy and have been out showing the ropes to the new men and giving the benefits of their knowledge, such as it is.

And speaking of "showing the ropes", Magee's execution date has been set for next Wednesday and, as I predicted, the whole place is at sixes and sevens getting ready for it. We have, it seems, found a suitable tree with a good stout, horizontal branch and a good length of thick rope has been acquired. But do we have a hangman? 

Hangman have we not.

The not inconsiderable sum of £5 was offered, but with no takers and hence the money was raised to £10. But, as yet, we have had no applicants for the job.

And, whilst I understand that acting as executioner and taking a man's life is no trifling matter, still... £10 is £10!

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Sunday, 22nd April, 1838

At the invitation of Bill Shephard, I went along this week to the "Adelaide Tavern", a new venture of Shephard's in Franklin Street. He has a hotel, accommodation and the intention to house a Theatre in the building. 

Sadly, I was not impressed. I realise that it is but early days for him, but his claim to "comfort on any scale" can only be credible if the scale runs from Zero to Three. Anything higher is quite out of the question. And his beef a-la-mode gives indication that "la mode" is "sec, dur et non comestible". He claims it is for "the convenience of strangers", which may well be true, as you certainly wouldn't want to subject friends to it.

He is currently casting around for theatrical types to appear in what he describes as a "glittering gala" of an opening night for his Theatre. Well, I wish him luck, but cannot help but think that the artistic resources of the Province might well be stretched to provide enough Thespian capacity to glitter even slightly.

But my strongest concern is his claim to be fitting the thing out in the style of theatres in Paris. I find this very worrying.


From the Gazette and Register 28/4/1838


 Shephard's claim that the theatre will be of the utmost respectability seems at odds with the French influence he claims to be following. The moral lassitude of the French theatres (and, indeed, of French society generally) is a by-word amongst those who practice regular habits and I need hardly sully these pages with a description of the outrages against rectitude associated with them, but suffice it to say that as a home for all that is loose, fast and free from nether garments, the Minor Theatres of Paris are hard to beat. So I'm told.

Well, we will wait and see.

Magee and Morgan have both had their day in court and both have been found guilty of "Shooting with Intent to Kill" whilst one "George Smith", alias "George Scroggins", an associate of theirs, has been apprehended and found guilty of Highway Robbery.

I had been unaware of the case of Scroggins and on first hearing I could not help but think that to change ones name from something as serviceable as "George Smith" to "Scroggins" showed no great judgement or intelligence. Also, to attempt "highway robbery" in a colony devoid of highways can only lead to a life filled with frustration. 

So Scroggins seems, at best, a frustrated simpleton. And since Morgan has already suffered four nights of terror on a Fleurieu Hillside and since neither he nor Morgan actually fired the pistol at Sammy Smart, I have determined to commute their death sentences to transportation. They were, it appears, convicts from Van Diemens Land, so it seems fitting to send them back there and let them be Hobart's problem.

After all, Franklin sent us Milner Stephen, so it seems only fair that we give them something in return.

Magee, however, I can find no extenuation for. The Court has passed a sentence of death and I fear that death it must be. He certainly intended to kill Sam Smart and even though his aim was bad, he fired the pistol with that intent. The Law must be seen to be done.

Also in court was one John Wadcot. And what was Johnny Wadcot, Marine of this Province, in court, being found guilty for?

A fortnight ago young Johnny was duty guard here at Government House. He decided, against all reason and sanity, to help himself to a cup of the coffee that the mad Widow always has brewing on the fire. 

The Widow's method of coffee making is to take a large pot, tip in about three pounds of ground coffee, add water and then place the pot on the hob to boil. After two or three days, when the muck has reduced to a sort of slow bubbling sludge she empties the pot and starts the whole process again. Anyone fool enough to try the foul brew finds themselves with palpitations and a good two days without sleep ahead of them. We have all learned to avoid the horrors of that black concoction. 

Wadcot, however, had not. He sliced himself off a dollop of the coffee, added milk and then took a mouthful. So disgusted was he that he spat it out and spilled the rest of the brew onto his shirt, where the black goo stained it and actually began eating away the material.

And thus he was caught stealing a shirt from Coltman's Stores and found himself up before the jury on a charge. 

I have told Jickling I will administer the punishment. I believe perhaps two cups of the Widow's coffee will be both punitive and reformative. 

Monday, 16 July 2018

Sunday, 15th April, 1838

When I said last week that I had hopes that the Marines could deal with collecting Bushranger Morgan from Encounter Bay I was, in the end, proven half right.

With frightening speed and efficiency and a precision that might almost pass as military to the unfussy, the Marines rode to Encounter Bay, making good time and getting lost hardly at all.

The morning after they arrived they shackled the prisoner and, making him march before them, set out for Adelaide. 

The problem made itself felt when they decided to stop for elevenses. It became perfectly apparent that whoever had packed the rations had miscalculated. The rations had been packed on the basis of six Marines taking two days to travel to Encounter Bay and two days back.

But the true fact of the matter was that there were seven people on the return leg of the journey not six and that seventh was on foot, meaning that the journey was likely to take a two and a half or even three days. Add to these difficulties that Private Fish had eaten rather more cake than was truly his share on the Southern trip and the direness of the situation will be appreciated. 

However,  like an answer to prayer, a solution presented itself and though some might cavil at its ethics, none can criticise it for a lack of boldness. 

They simply chained Bushranger Morgan to a sizeable tree, tossed him Fish's leftover cake and left him there, explaining that they were going to get more food and would be back for him.

They rode off and without Morgan to slow them made good time. Such good time that they decided that there was no need to hurry and, on the second day, to feel that they deserved an extra long lunch. By eating their supper rations as well, they made it into quite the slap up, drawn out affair. As a result it wasn't until dark that they rode down North Terrace and back to camp, exhausted after their exertions. They fell into bed and of course the next morning they slept in, meaning that it wasn't until nearly eleven that they reported to me to tell me of their clever idea and that Morgan was chained to a tree on the side of a hill in the wilderness, somewhere north of Encounter Bay.

Astonished, I immediately organised a rescue party, made up of sensible and reliable people who, taking  the least Spaniel like Marine as guide, rode South like furies, eventually,  after a deal of trouble, finding poor Morgan four fifths dead from heat, thirst, starvation and terror, having spent four days and nights in all weathers, fearful of native attacks and repelling wild dogs by kicking them on the snout. The search party unchained him and set about reviving him as best they could before bringing him up to town.

In the mean time I found an old slipper and a rolled up newspaper and made my way to the Marine's camp, where I gave some disciplinary training to my red spaniels. And a hard lesson it was.

Mr Hawdon has written me a detailed and informative report regarding his Overland Expedition down to Adelaide from New South Wales. I read it with keen interest.


The next time Bingham Hutchinson gives me some of his usual blatherskite I might present him with a copy of this as a model for him to follow. 

Fisher has announced that an advertisment will be placed in the next issue of The Gazette announcing the sale of trunks and stumps felled by his pauper labourers about the town. And no ordinary sale, where you come in, put down your shilling and take away your stump. Oh, no, no, no! Having produced the items for sale at cut rate prices, he is now determined to milk as much cash from the public as possible in the sale of them by selling them at Auction. Highest bidders only thank you and terms, cash only. Is there no bottom to the gaping maw of the man's mendacity?

There arrived in port today the Lord Goderich with some 150 souls on board and there are already extraordinary stories circulating about the town regarding their six month voyage out. I cannot imagine how anyone might take six months to make the voyage, but there are tales of violent disagreements between the Passengers and Captain Andrew Smith. 

Details are scarce, but there are tales doing the rounds of a mysterious evening in March with scenes of drunken debauchery resulting in the death of one of the party. So great were the disagreements between Captain and Passengers that they put in early, before reaching Rio, at Bahia, in northern Brazil, to calm things down. The ship then continued on to RIo with  Lt Edwards of H.M.S. Samarang in charge. The arguments were deemed so serious that it appears, on reaching Rio, that Hesketh, the English Consul, took control of the situation and placed Mr Wethem, the Master's Assistant on board H.M.S. Lyra in charge. 

I am told that the disagreements continued throughout the rest of the voyage and ill feeling ran so high that already, with less than twenty four hours in the Colony, there is talk of Court Cases and litigation and all the fun of the fair! 

I look forward to months of entertainment from these new arrivals and I imagine the rest of Adelaide agrees with me. Go it lads! Have at them!