Friday, 11 October 2013

Sunday, 19 February 1837

Currently lying at anchor in the Port River, but soon to depart for Sydney is "The Isabella" which arrived 10 days ago with passengers and livestock.

The livestock seemed an odd mix to me - eight hundred sheep and seven head of cattle. You might have thought they could have made the cattle numbers up to a decent number. Seven seems hardly worth the trouble. And eight hundred sheep. Man alive! Where are we going to put them? We barely have fences enough erected for two donkeys and six pigs.

Fisher had the bright idea of getting the marines to build the fencing for them. Oh well thought! - let's delay building the Governor's residence so the sheep are happy!

Amongst the passengers was Sir John Jeffcott who is to be our Judge here in the Colony. A good thing he spent the voyage from Launceston surrounded by eight hundred sheep. It will be good practice for dealing with some of the people we have living here.

I had occasion this week to inspect the first horses to arrive in the colony. They arrived on board "The Africaine" from Hobart Town. A decidedly dubious group of nags that some knackers yard in Hobart was, I don't doubt, glad to see the back of. That didn't stop Mrs Hindmarsh setting her heart on having one immediately. "It would be so elegant and so fitting for the Vice Regal couple to be driving in a trap pulled by a fine bay chestnut, rather than riding about on those nasty donkeys," she said.

As I recall "those nasty donkeys" are the same "dear little donkeys" she couldn't do without in Rio de Janeiro.

I pointed out three flaws in her argument. (1) They are not "fine bay chestnuts". They are broken winded, sway backed things probably good for nothing but dog's meat. (2) We have no trap for one to pull. (3) We have no road to pull a trap on.

I also thought, but kept silent, that if we did bring home a horse , Borgia Harvey would try and cook it. Probably pass it off as Royal Ascot Delights.

Speaking of Lucrezia, I asked her to simply poach me an egg, thinking that here was something she could not make a mess of. I was looking forward to cutting open the white and mopping up the gooey runny yellow with some bread. What arrived was inedible, but I could at least amuse myself by throwing it at the wall of my cabin and watching it bounce back onto my plate. This I did for about half an hour, before Lucrezia herself stuck her head round the door and bellowed "How are yous gettin' on wiv that egg?" at which interruption I dropped the thing on the floor. One of the dogs pounced on it and swallowed it in one gulp. He has been costive for two days since, I suspect unable to pass the solid mass of the poached egg.

I need to appoint a person to fill the position of Protector of the Aborigines. I needs must say that, from reports I have read, the natives living in the area chosen for the colony are far superior to those living in the other settled parts of New Holland. Their friendly dispositions, honesty and inoffensive conduct have fairly put to rest any fears we may have felt for our safety before our arrival.

The official policy that I have been instructed to enact is that we are to bring to the natives the benefits of English culture and to bring them within the pale of Christian civilization. As Governor of the colony I shall of course do my duty and work to effect this. But within these private pages let me record that I have some doubts.

I look at these friendly, honest and inoffensive natives and then look at our own little community; full of petty jealousy and squabbles, drunkenness and meanness of spirit and I cannot but wonder: if the natives and ourselves were placed in the balance which would be found the more worthy?

Are we really inviting these people, whose wants seem few and who seem to me to have a touch of simple dignity about them, to come and join us so that they can be like Stephens, Fisher, Kingston and Gilles? I am unconvinced.

I suspect I am the only one in  the colony who sees how poorly it reflects on us when we engage in appointing a Protector of the Aborigines when the only thing they seem to need protecting from is ourselves.

Still, the one man in the colony who probably does offer an example for the natives to follow is dear old Walter Bromley. Just about the kindest man who ever wore shoe leather, he has spent the last six months or so trying to establish a school for the children at Kingscote. Since I am not exactly being knocked over in  the rush of people applying for the position I have offered it to Walter. He tells me he is not a well man, but I believe his heart is in the right place. If any man in the colony can establish a rapport with the natives it is Captain Bromley. Whether he is strong willed enough to protect them from the rest of us remains to be seen.

The one thing I would note about the natives is their extra-ordinary ability to set fire to things. Every time you turn around there is some native chappy setting a bush or a shrub or a sapling ablaze. It is a complete mania with them.

This had amusing results about a week ago when a ship, the "John Renwick" arrived at Holdfast Bay with 140 new colonists aboard. The natives, for reasons best known to themselves, had decided to set the hills behind Adelaide on fire. Flames leapt across the hills face until it looked like a wall of fire and the poor passengers on board ship took it as a signal for the terrible native hoards to gather and rush down in waves to drive us poor Englishmen back into the sea.

Hence the settlers refused to leave the ship and sat up all night, shivering on deck, shivering in fear at the thought of the impending massacre. Eventually I had to send a message across to the Captain from the Buffalo telling them that they were all silly sods and to shift their arses or they would have me to deal with and I would give them something to be going on with.

Silly buggers. But amusing none the less.

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