Sunday, 28 July 2013

Sunday 8th January, 1837

Colonel Light this week began the surveying of the city acres. He has established a base line for the survey practically at the door of his cottage, which means either that he built the cottage to be near the baseline or else the entire city of Adelaide is sited where it is because Light wanted a few extra minutes in bed.

I am perfectly happy with the site Colonel Will has selected, although I could wish that he had placed it nearer to the ports and have suggested to him that he consider moving it either further down the Port Road, further down the Holdfast Bay Road or further down the river.

Light has pooh poohed all of these ideas, all for reasons that he makes sound convincing, or at least leave me befuddled, but I am not sure that the distance from the ports will not be an insuperable difficulty.

Mrs Hindmarsh has her own doubts. She is making a great deal of noise about Boston Bay and the views, even though both Light and I have tried to make the impractical nature of the suggestion clear to her. Of course word has got around and now it is said that I am being difficult and want the capital moved back to the Spencer's Gulph.

To top it all Mrs Hindmarsh was looking through some papers - probably looking for government letters for the cat TInkles to piss on (Satan's own hellish familiar. I refer to the cat, not Mrs Hindmarsh. Although...) - and has found a report from Captain Sturt about the mouth of the River Murray in which he gave a favourable view of the lakes he found there.

So now, of course, she has set her cap on the idea of a capital by the sea.
Charles Sturt

Based on a report by Sturt. Sturt! The man is a buffoon! As an explorer I wouldn't have trusted Sturt to find his own arse with both hands and a map to guide him. He was late for the Battle of Waterloo because he took a wrong turning at Bruges and ended up at Antwerp.

His great achievement was floating down a river and getting to the sea. Well, a block of wood can do that! All he had to do was sit tight and not turn left or right. Although one of the soldiers who was with Sturt told a friend of mine that every morning the great explorer needed reminding which way was downstream.

And this is the man on whom my wife is basing the future hopes of the colony. Well, my rule in marriage is "Anything for a quiet life" so I suppose I must send Light in his "Rapide" down to Encounter Bay so that he can tell my wife why Sturt  is a bollocks and his report is not worth a wet fart.

Mr Stephens, the Colonial Manager has, it seems been causing some commotion at Kingscote.

Not the most practical of men and promoted to a position where practicality might be considered by most a requisite .

Samuel Stephens

A liking for drink, coupled with a liking for selling it to others is one rumour. There are, I fear, others.

His plan to introduce South Australia Company banknotes as a stop gap measure has not been well thought through.

To start with, just getting some paper, cutting it up into banknote sized pieces and writing "This is worth sixpence" on it in pencil does not automatically turn the paper into money.

Second, the currency of England has "payable upon demand" printed on it and you really are able to stroll into the Bank of England, plonk down your ten pound note and demand ten pounds worth of gold. The colony is lucky if it could afford ten pence worth of gold at present and Mr Stephens writing "Payable if you're lucky" on the notes, whilst accurate, does not set a proper tone,

His plan for every tenth bank note to have "Toss you for it, Double or Nothing" written on it might be ingenious, but is not, I feel, advisable.

Mr Stephen's Banknote

Fortunately he is an employee of the South Australian Company and hence not my problem, but I cannot help but feel that when the excrement hits the punkah it'll be muggins here who gets to clear up the mess.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Colonel William Light - My Thoughts on the Man

Colonel William Light, Colonial Surveyor-General and generally all round good sort.

His father was old mad Frances Light, who did sterling service for the East India Co. securing Penang and its trade for Britain and, of course, stopping the French from getting a toe hold. It goes without saying that he went completely native while he did it and was generally rated as pretty much doolally, but chacun a son gout.

Light was, it seems, born in Penang and always claims that his mother was a Princess, the daughter of the Sultan. Well, believe that if you want, but from what I know of his father I rather suspect that she was of a much lower station, perhaps even in trade. Exactly which trade I would rather not say, but.... Well, there we are.

Even now, in his '50s Light cuts a dashing figure and in his earlier days, when he was rushing around Europe with Wellington, fighting at Waterloo and getting wounded at Corunna he must have been quite the ladies man.

He is, he tells us, of medium height, though the general opinion is "shortarse". His face is clean shaven excepting closely cut side whiskers, of which he is, it must be said, excessively vain and spends much time combing. He has salt and pepper curly hair, alert and handsome brown eyes, straight nose, small mouth, and shapely chin. Dear me - now I am sounding like I've been at sea too long, but he is - or at least has been in his youth - a good looking man.

Two minor points must be made. One is that once you realise that the man's mother was a Malayan native of some sort then it is hard to look at Light and not see something something slightly Asiatic about his features. Now I have known enough foreigners in my time who have been of great worth and believe my ideas to be sufficiently modern to be above judging a man because of his descent - unless, naturally, he is French - but I understand that Light's bearing the marks of the Orient about his features has been a burden to him in the past. As a Port Admiral I knew once said to me "If a man isn't all white he just isn't all right". And I know for a fact that Light, for all his talents, has had to push against that sort of nonsense all his life.

The second point is one no-one will even begin to talk about. The man's right leg is longer than his left. No-one ever mentions it and I would not to his face either, but it is true. There is a portrait of him in his younger days from his own hand (Editor's Note: Reproduced above) that quite clearly shows this oddity. I have heard tell that people say that this is simply a product of Light's amateur status as a painter, but no! the man is a trained draughtsman and an accomplished and published watercolourist. If he has drawn himself with one leg longer than the other then I think that is proof positive.

As far as his planning of the Capital is concerned I have no complaints regarding the surveying and planning of the land. He was efficient and effective, even with the hindrance of cotton headed staff like that man Kingston (Nota Bene: do find out his name)

However his plan for the city is not beyond criticism I fear.

When he first showed it to me I did say that I found it all a bit straight. The thing I love about London is the curved streets, the odd corners, the byways as well as the highways. Well Light's plan clearly has none of those, being all grids and boxes. I know Georgetown in the Sultanate of Kedah, which was laid out by his father, is similar in plan and I cannot help but feel a bit of competition with Daddy is evident (I nearly wrote envydent).

Everything in Light's plan revolves around four boxes - a big one south of the river and three smaller ones at an angle to each other north of the river. And within those boxes are more boxes, and squares and right angles and NOT A DAMNED CURVE ANYWHERE TO BE SEEN!

Even the eastern boundary of the city, which follows the CURVING line of a stream is not a CURVING road, but is laid out in right angles.

The road to the port is dead straight, as if he put one end of a ruler on the city and one end on the port and ran his pencil along it. In fact, I suspect that this is exactly what happened.

The road to Holdfast Bay would probably be the same except that he had to get it over two watercourses, so the road is dead straight between where the crossings are and so has two bends in it. Not curves, just bends.

There is a rumour that for Christmas 1836 Light's Housekeeper, Miss Gandy, gave him a new drawing set, consisting of a milled steel ruler and a set square and he felt obliged to use them when drawing up the city. In fact, some would have it that she stood at his shoulder making sure that he was using them. December 25th - receives a new ruler and set square. December 30th - begins drawing up plans for a city made up entirely of straight lines and right angles... well, I keep my own counsel.

I must also comment on his plan to have half the city on one side of the river and the other half on the other side on a hill. I don't think he's quite thought through how people are going to cross the river and get up the hill. There is a ford, but one ford is not going to carry all the traffic that can be expected as the city grows. A far from practical arrangement. I see bridges in the future and that means money (that we don't have).

The Colonel tells me that he intends to ensure that the main thoroughfare of the town will be wide enough to allow a bullock dray to perform a complete about face turn and go back the way it came. He tells me this as if it is a good thing, but I cannot help but ask why he expects the township to be infested with bullock drivers with no sense of direction. Or are bullock drivers, in Light's experience, notoriously indecisive? In either case I cannot see how a main street littered with turning bullock carts blocking the way is an advantage.

The man has been far from well of late and has started spitting blood, which he claims to be the result of poor dental hygiene, but the which I cannot help feel is the result of a consumption. Still, as long as this doesn't interfere with his work, I suppose I can put up with it if he can.

A word or two must be said about his private household arrangements.

When he arrived in the Colony - one of the first to arrive - he brought with him a young lady, a Maria Gandy, daughter of a Sea Captain in, I believe, Bedfordshire (though this last may be wrong) to act as his housekeeper.

There are those in the colony (my wife among them) who believe that the young lady does considerably more than darn Colonel Light's socks and I find her labelled as everything from his common law wife to his mistress.

Good God! The poor man is over 50 and unwell and the girl is just 23 or there abouts. I for one cannot believe that after a busy day of surveying and coughing blood poor Light races home with nothing but love on his mind. In his condition I am surprised if he stays awake long enough even to say hello.

And whilst it is true that he was a lady's man and a handsome devil in his day, I cannot believe that a pretty young girl of 23 summers would see an oldish man past his prime, and unwell to boot, as a great catch. Not when she could have her pick of just about any of the young eligible bachelors in the town.

But because they live in a simple cottage down by the river with nothing but a hung blanket between them at night some people have difficulty believing that Light is not getting either his short leg or his long leg over on a regular basis.

Certainly Charlie Howard has harrumphed about it on a number of occasions and has even gone to the extent of preaching sermons about the sanctity of marriage including one mighty sermon on Hebrews 13:4: Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. where he worked himself up into a quite a lather for over an hour and probably needed a cup of tea and a good lie down afterwards. Sadly both the Colonel and Miss Gandy were absent from the service on that day, the Colonel being in the Barrossa surveying and Miss Gandy being home, probably darning his socks like she is paid to, but everyone else enjoyed themselves hugely. Still, it would not be the first time that a Churchman added one and one and arrived at seven on a moral question and it probably won't be the last.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Sunday 1st January, 1837

Barely having time to scratch myself since Wednesday. I take some time now to sit and write a little of my diary.

First thing to record is the news of the visitors we have had on board the Buffalo.

In the evening of the 28th, whilst God alone what drunken excesses were enacted onshore, some the crew of the Buffalo managed to bring some natives on board. At first the natives refused their invitation, no doubt fearing the worst, but when some of the crew offered to stay with the natives "as hostages" (they said; although truth to tell, I think they were just, as my daughter would say "having a nosey") two or three older natives plucked up courage and allowed themselves to be rowed out to the ship. By the time I arrived back from the Proclamation Ceremony the crew had become best of friends with these men, who were, in all probability, chiefs of the tribe.

My cabin had been raided and a bottle of wine procured and the crew were playing the concertina and teaching the natives the words to a number of bawdy songs.

Being inexperienced in the ways of the grape, the wine took greater effect on the natives than was expected, but they left the ship well pleased with us, with themselves and with life in general, though how they felt the next morning I did not hear.

 Then, the marines went on shore this afternoon with the boat to collect supplies and whilst there noticed one of the natives - a young man of perhaps twenty five or so - coming close to inspect them. For all their faults the Marines are a friendly bunch and before long, through signs and gestures, a few grunts and smiles,  they had stuck up a friendship with the man. As is the natives' way he was completely naked, so the marines came up with the idea of giving him some clothing. Of course the spare clothing was back on board the ship, one thing led to another and before you could say knife the men had the native quite happily in the boat coming alongside.

When I saw what was happening I went down to greet him and between the Marines and myself we gave him a pair of trousers and a military jacket. My sister Anne suggested that we should leave him be as nature intended and not to dress him on her account, but I rather thought not.The jacket had yellow cuffs, which seemed to please our guest no end.

We were unable to ascertain the man's name. The native tongue seems, to English ears, a gentle and rolling lilt of a language, but it is hard to even identify individual words. For all I know he may have been telling us his name all afternoon and wondering why were such dolts. And certainly when I told him, in my kindest tones, "You may address me as either "Captain Hindmarsh" or "Your Excellency" " I saw not a flicker of understanding on his part.

I gave him a guided tour of the Buffalo and he was wide eyed with astonishment the whole time. Quite clearly he had never seen anything like it. Each time we opened a door or lifted a hatch he gave a cry of amazement and had a grin go from ear to ear, so he was quite obviously enjoying himself hugely.

After this it was time for our evening meal and we made it clear that he was welcome to stay for it. Since he managed to put away a pie, salt beef, jellied tongue, baked fish and plum pudding I vouchsafe to suggest that he enjoyed himself here too. We were surprised to see that after only brief coaching from my daughters he managed a knife and fork at least as well as young Johnny - possibly better.

After dinner he stayed on and listened to Susan attempt to play some modern bollocks called "Schubert" on the piano. Since Susan does tend to play with youthful enthusiasm rather than talent I am not sure what impression he gained of the pianoforte, or indeed of modern music, but he seemed too polite to run from the room in dismay. (I am always restrained from doing so by patrial duty.) Still, I venture to say that if you have never heard a pianoforte - or indeed any European musical instrument - you are hardly in a position to draw a distinction between the good and the bad.

At the end of the evening we put him back in the boat and rowed him ashore where he hugged the marines and then disappeared off into the night.

Heaven only knows what stories he told  his friends and family when he returned to them. If we could but see ourselves through the eyes of others....

But I might suggest, a good start to relations between the natives and ourselves and long may it continue.

I must say that I suddenly find myself a slightly wealthier man than I was last Sunday. Before we left England the South Australian Company set the price of land in the new colony at 17/6 an acre and then added (bless them) "with the price to rise to 20/- an acre on the arrival of the Governor in the Colony of South Australia".

Which means that when my ten tiny toes hit the sand at Holdfast Bay land prices jumped by two shillings and sixpence.

Now if, like me, you bought about 300 acres back when the price was twelve shillings an acre, then my feet on the sand meant a considerable profit. I am about one hundred and twenty pounds to the good and other colonists who were early buyers find themselves similarly enriched. Was there ever a more profitable walk on the beach?

I have discovered a fairly understandable reason for the state in which we found Mr Gouger's tent on Wednesday. It seems that Gouger was a bachelor gay at the time, Mrs Gouger having been indisposed for several days previously. In fact she was delivered of a son in the early hours of the 29th, so it seems churlish to complain that she had left the dishes uncleared and the beds unmade.

To her credit Mrs Gouger (her husband tells me) tried to keep her cries of pain and agony to a minimum during the Council meeting - she was, it seems, in the tent next door - and later, despite the pangs of childbirth, remained almost silent during the reading of the Proclamation, which shows a thoroughly decent and respectful spirit on her part, it seems to me.

I am much gratified by the Gougers' request that I stand as Godfather to the child which request I shall, naturally, accede to.

On Thursday Mrs Hindmarsh expressed a desire to go and view the site that Colonel Light has in mind for the new settlement. First we needed to get the donkeys ashore so that we could ride them up to meet the Colonel at his campsite.

I am unsure as to whose idea it was that Mrs Hindmarsh and I share the boat with the donkeys as they came ashore, but suffice it to say it was not entirely a success. Donkeys, it seems, do not have the sense to stand still as their are rowed ashore in a dinghy. They seemed to think they were a part of the corps de ballet at Covent Garden and performed les grande jetes from one side of the dinghy to the other. They also seemed unaware of the decencies regarding movements of the bowels in public and the boat seemed in real danger of being filled to the gunwhales. Moreover, I suspect Charlie Howard has been preaching at them because they certainly knew of Isaiah 16:11 "Wherefore my bowels shall sound like an harp for Moab, and mine inward parts for Kirharesh."

What with filling the boat with turds, passing farts of a biblical nature and dancing the mazurka, the donkeys were not good company. The boat rocked violently as a result of their exertions and I am sorry to record that Mrs Hindmarsh was thrown out into the water. Well, I say I am sorry, but in point of fact I thought it quite amusing. What I am sorry to say is that I lacked the good sense not to laugh. Fortunately she was only waist deep in the surf, and in no danger of drowning, but possibly in danger of an apoplectic seizure. I knew then, and was later proved right, that I would pay for my amusement as the day went forward.

The marines waiting on shore were quick to rush to her aid, but it did not help Mrs Hindmarsh's mood when one of them attempted a touch of levity as they assisted her to the beach by observing that "There wasn't room for you and your ass in the boat, ma'am."

Oh dear.

Fortunately the morning was sunny and Mrs Hindmarsh's clothing dried out quickly. Actually, it could have been snowing in Aberdeen and the fire from Mrs Hindmarsh's fury and rage would have dried her clothes out in a trice, but let that by. We were soon mounted on the donkeys and on our way.

However, the upset in the boat, my unfortunate laughter and the Marine's subsequent comment had put Mrs Hindmarsh in a dark state of mind. She was practically silent - never a good sign - as we followed the trail that had been marked out and by the time we met with Colonel Light it was clear that she was not in any mood to be pleased by anything.

The Colonel showed us some of the features of the site and explained the advantages of the river, which even in this heat still had pools of water, the wide flat prospect, the availability of building stone, the availability of land for agriculture and so on and so forth.

I was impressed with his work and agreed that the site he has chosen has everything we need to make a fine start to the colony.


All the while I was aware of a dark presence standing behind me. Perhaps it would have been wiser to say "Get thee behind me Satan", but instead I was foolish enough to utter the fateful words "And what do you think of the Colonel's site my dear?"

And at that point the floodgates opened and Mrs Hindmarsh, who had been ominously  silent all morning, launched a tirade of invective and abuse such as Light, I imagine, has rarely heard.

"This site", she said, "has no views. It does not thrill, There is no poetry about it, no beauty."

"Only half witted men would think that such a barren place might do," she said.

"It is too far from the sea and lacks the smell of the ozone that makes such a necessary impression on the soul. But coarse fools such as you would not appreciate such things, would you?" she said.

"These excuses for hills are ludicrously small and will not do at all. Not to mention that they are too far away from where you propose to live. They simply disappoint," she said.

Then, getting her second wind, she got going well and truly.

"What you are pleased to call the river is little more than a stream choked with weeds and does not impress," she said.

"The trees are stunted, spindly, silly things that offer no shade and shelter and will need replacing with oaks and elms," she said.

"The site we saw at Boston Bay was far superior. It not only thrilled, it resonated! Such views, such a prospect, such soulful poetry! The ozone there was thick enough to cut with a knife.  Unlike this place, the bay did not disappoint," she said.

And then, with a final, withering glance at Light, she demanded, "What, if anything, were you thinking when you decided to inflict this sad and sorry excuse for a site on us?"

It was, to be sure, an awkward moment.

If the ride to visit Light was silent, the back to Holdfast Bay was noisy indeed. Mrs Hindmarsh has made it clear that she expects me to challenge the siting of the colony and have it moved to Boston Bay and I suspect that I may need to. Yes, the Commissioners will complain and whisper about me behind my back, but Mrs Hindmash is able to lecture me from any angle.

I summoned Light to the Buffalo yesterday and explained the situation to him and he informed me that he had determined that the new colony would be on the site he had chosen.

SO... fun lies ahead.