Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Sunday 29th January, 1837

I have received intelligence regarding the settlement at Kingscote on Kangaroo Island and its progress since July last.

Well, I say "intelligence", but the truth is that where Samuel Stephens is, intelligence is not.

The man is a drunken blot on the landscape, a weeping boil on the backside of humanity. How he managed to be appointed as Company Manager is beyond mortal thought. I can only imagine that a hearty programme of pissing in George Fife Angas's pocket must have paid a healthy dividend.

As manager he has been given wide discretionary powers in the settlement which he has, it seems, interpreted liberally and exercised enthusiastically, The problem appears to be that the Company failed in its obligation to define the limits of his powers and Sam has taken that to mean that they have none.

Heaven knows that there are people who say - unfairly, I believe - that I can be a little high handed. But at least I have credentials from the King. Sam would be lucky to have a ticket stub from the Twickenham Ferry and he carries on like Lord Muck. In point of fact I am told that a few months ago the majority of the settlers at Kingscote were so tired of his carry on they simply downed tools and told him to stick it where the monkey put the nuts. It wasn't until one of the ship's captains stepped in as a peace maker that some semblance of reason and order was brought to bear. A fine manager there!

The less said about his marriage on the journey out the better. Suffice it to say that the woman is old enough to be his mother - my mother, in fact - and comment has been universal. Still, love lies where it does and who is to say other wise? Well, half the colony, apparently,

But his fondness for strong drink, his inability to write a coherent report and his lack of the nous to balance even the simplest ledger mean that he is certainly the least suitable person in the colony to be the Colonial Manager,

He will have to go and I don't doubt that when the reports I and others have written get back to England for Angas to read, then go he will.

Of course Sammy Stephens is just the latest in a long line of oddity centering around Kangaroo Island - or Kanguroo Island as Flinders preferred to spell it, but a few years in a Mauritius prison will do odd things to a man.

It would appear that either the natives did not manage to get across the water to the island or else they did, but later removed themselves, as the island seemed truly uninhabited when settlers first arrived. I have a theory that there were actually natives on the island, but when they saw the quality of the first Europeans they decided the neighbourhood was beyond saving and left. These first settlers were escaped convicts and whalers and you would never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Of all places, Kangaroo Island had the reputation as the most lawless place in Britain's Dominions.

Some ten or so years ago the government in Sydney sent a ship down to the island to round up the scum that hung about there. A thick eared clot by the name of George Sutherland had also gone down there and written a report that painted the place like some sort of land of milk and honey and the Directors of the South Australian Company - some of whom are pretty much thick eared clots themselves - believed every word of it.

So of course when they came to send out the Duke of York with Sammy Stephens on board as Manager they naturally gave him orders to set up a town on Sutherland's paradise.

Which was all very well until they got there and discovered that there was sod all milk and bugger all honey. Water was scarce, the soils were poor and as places to set up a settlement go it was pretty much a dog.

An attempt to set up a silk industry by planting a mulberry tree came to naught when it was realised that Sammy had left the silk worms home on the kitchen bench.

The man, it seems, could not even get the name correct. According to reports I have received the town was intended to be called "Angus" after, (surprise!) George Angus, our company's glorious chairman. Instead Sammy took it into his head to name the town "Kingscote" after dear old Henry Kingscote, who has been an ornament to the Company Board for some time - I say "ornament" because he just sits still and looks attractive without actually having a purpose.

Just why Stephens decided not to name the town after the Chairman is not clear, though I believe it has a certain amount to do with Angus being a Baptist and Stephens being a Methodist. Put two dissenters in a room and the heat and steam produced could drive a beam engine. For people who call themselves Christians they always seem to fight with a ferocity not seen outside the tribes of Africa or like the Whirling Dervish and I do not doubt that some ferocious disagreement on a triviality resulted in the change of name.

There is a theory that Kingscote is, in actuality, named after the other Henry Kingscote: the handy right handed batsman for the Marylebone Cricket Club, who appeared eight times for the Gentlemen in the annual Gentlemen v Players match at Lords Oval. I doubt this myself, but who can tell?

But despite the lack of drinking water, food and building materials; despite Sammy Stephens's incompetence as a manager; it would appear from the reports I have received that what made Kingscote on a par with the seventh circle of Hell was Stephens's predilection for comic music hall songs of a saucy nature. One in particular, called, I am ashamed to record, "What Goes Up the Leg of Aunt Elsie's Drawers", he sang so often that the inhabitants of Kingscote grew rebellious at the sound of it. Anyone found singing, humming or whistling it was instantly a pariah. The difficulty was that the tune was so infectious that everyone found themselves singing, humming or whistling it.

Small wonder that the settlement has all but collapsed and the people are, in the main, heading for the Capital to resettle. Just what Sam does when he sobers up and notices them missing remains to be seen.

As an aside from this, Widow Harvey and her breakfasts continue to be a travesty. On Thursday she produced things. She maintained that they were "Ayrshire Fritters". Dear God. What terrible sin have the poor people of Ayrshire committed that they must suffer eating these Ayrshire Fritters?

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