Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Sunday, 19th March 1837

This week saw the emergence of our own "Robinson Crusoe" story here in the Colony.

Back in January ten men from the Coromandel (Cpt W Chesser) jumped ship and headed for the hills - quite literally, as they were last seen heading up the Sturt River towards the uncharted hills.

This week they re-emerged, tired, filthy and dishevelled and gave themselves up to the marines saying that after the Hell they had been going through, living a life of terror and distress in what they termed "The Coromandel Valley", they threw themselves on the mercy of the courts and would rather life in prison than go on eking out a miserable existence in the Adelaide Hills.

Bugger them!

They are more nuisance than they are worth. "Throw themselves on the mercy of the courts" indeed! "The courts" at present consist of nothing more than old Jeffcott, swanning about with his gavel and wig and "life in prison" is hardly likely when we don't actually have one.

The circumstances of their capture I can recount fully, as it was I who took them prisoner. I had ridden out with the Marines on a reconnoitre to discover any French spies or New South Welsh convicts attempting to enter our territory when suddenly a man dressed in the scantest of rags stood up from behind a wattle bush and hailed me. At first I did not see him as he was on the side of my bad eye and I almost rode on, but the Marines alerted me to him and I turned to see the spectacle of ten ragbags emerge from behind same bush. How they fitted there I do not care to think about,  but they all cried out in piteous voices "Sanctuary! Sanctuary". One of the Marines rather wittily replied "No, thank you very!", but they did not seem to appreciate the humour.

I soon heard their story and then handed then over to the Marines, ordering them to march the prisoners back to the Bay. I rode on to alert Jeffcott about this and to take some legal advice.

The Marines duly marched them back to Glenelg then stood about in confusion wondering what to do, since none of them have any experience with taking prisoners. At length one of the Marines suggested that the prisoners might like a drink and before long the prisoners and their captors were singing drunken songs together in harmony and feeling that life was very fine indeed. Certainly the Coromandel escapees soon forgot their distress, though I hope to God they suffered the next day.

The Coromandel having long since departed the prisoners are currently billeted with the Marines on board the Buffalo; notionally "under arrest", although from the way Mrs Hindmarsh and I are kept awake by singing, concertina music and raucous laughter at all hours night and day it seems that never was there a more hilarious incarceration.

I have suggested to Jeffcott that he find them guilty of desertion, give them a lecture about the "hideous nature of a crime abhorrent to decent society" and then tell them to bugger off. We simply do not have the facility to be dealing with convicted men - certainly not ten of them - and we have need of ten able bodied men to further develop the Colony. And if they were so keen to stay then we might as well let them.

I have had occasion to speak before of our Company's geologist Johan Menge. The man is either a genius, a charlatan or a buffoon.

I received a report this week telling me that in the two short months he has been on Kangaroo Island he has discovered commercial quantities of Amethyst, Aquamarine, Carnelian, Rubies and Lapis Lazuli.

If true then Kangaroo Island might yet be the gemstone capital of Asia.

If false then I am left with the possibility that Menge has no idea of what he is talking about.

He included rock samples with his report and I am no expert, but I must needs say that they look more like bits of  old gravel than semi precious stones. In his reports he also seems to claim that he was led to the mineral deposits by angelic spirits. A pretty picture, but not one that causes me to be sanguine of the veracity of Menge's claims. I find myself doubting the efficacy of angelic intervention as a tool in mineral exploration.

Still we shall see.

With the Completion of the town survey by Colonel Light the time has come, it seems, to set our minds to naming the streets and parks.

I have let it be known that members of the populace interested in contributing suggestions should see their suggestions, in writing, to me here at The Buffalo. So far I have received several lists of suggestions each less enticing than the last. They range from the unimaginative - First Street, Second Street, Third Street and so on was one such - to the enthusiastic ravings of the apparently febrile.

One list - I suspect from Charlie Howard -  suggested naming the streets after people in the Bible.  And so we can have Abinadab Street, Bechorath Boulevard, Kerenhappuch Street, Abiasaph Road and the like. Rejecting this list means that we will miss out on walking down Zurishaddai Street, but it is a price I am prepared to pay.

Since the city is to be named after Queen Adelaide (or "Eagle beak" as she is affectionately referred to by many) - another suggested that the streets be named after Monarchs of England. I am sorry to record that I find the notion of the main street being called "Ethelred the Unready Avenue" unacceptable. And do we really need Ã†lfweard Road as an address? I think not.

My own list of suggested street names using Great British Naval Victories will, I hope, meet with greater favour. Trafalgar, Penobscot, Porto Bello, Navarino, Quiberon Bay all shall live on as they deserve in the street names of Adelaide. What could be finer?

Anything could be finer than the meal served up by Lucrezia on Thursday last. We had invited Moneybags Gilles to dine with us and the woman outdid herself by serving Moules Mariniere a la Provencal. Unfortunately she took the gilt from the gingerbread by announcing that she had been unable to procure the necessary mussels and so had made the thing with wombat. She assured us that we would barely notice the difference, but I beg to differ.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Sunday, 12th March, 1837

In Council this week I had occasion to both contradict and deny Fisher when he was demanding his own way.

He gave me an oily smirk and, in a sneering voice that fair dripped with sarcasm smarmed, "As Your Excellency wishes." And then Fisher, Brown and Mann sniggered and ribbed each other like schoolboys. The Registrar of the Colony, The Emigration Agent and the Advocate General carrying on as if they were naughty boys in the corner at some Dame School! If the meeting had gone on much longer I fear they would have produced pea shooters and started putting tacks on people's chairs.

I have had nothing but trouble with Fisher, the slimy bastard, and his cabal of bully boys.

Each time he sees me, his face shows all the welcoming warmth one might show to a turd in a Turkish bath.

He is not a man who takes "no" for an answer, something I imagine his wife has discovered to her cost. The poor woman seems to have had another three or four children in the past few months to add to Fisher's brood. I suspect he intends to keep having children in the unlikely hope that they will eventually produce a likable one. In the meantime the half man, half rabbit simply keeps on. 

I have had nothing but trouble with him since the moment after the Proclamation. He has been obstructionist, petty and vindictive. He harried the Marines this week because they were gathering wood for the building of my residence and he maintained that they were on his land. (I was unaware that any land had been sold as yet, but Fisher has staked his claim and dug his burrow ) He has tried to harass me at every turn, so much so that I took him before Robert Gouger as JP and had him instructed to keep the peace. 

At bottom is the trouble at the start of the voyage out here, when Mrs Hindmarsh threw Fisher and his brood out of the cabin and claimed it for her own. Fisher, a man who not only nurses a grudge, but exercises it and grows it into something greater, has never forgotten it and holds it against me completely.

When I took on the Governorship I did not realise that my decision making power would be shared (and hence diluted) with a collection of shopkeepers. Clearly Fisher and I are in disagreement about the extent of my jurisdiction. He doesn't want me to have one and I'd like to.

Perhaps I could suggest he needs to spend more time with his family so he can produce a few dozen more children.

Colonel Light, bless him, tells me that the survey of the city is all but complete and the town acres will be ready for sale in a matter of days. I must admit that the survey might have been finished rather sooner if it were not for an unfortunate incident involving Mrs Hindmarsh and my daughters.

We had all travelled up to the city site to meet with the Colonel so that he could show us the newest progress in his work. Light and I were in his hut and the women folk went walking while he showed me many impressive sketches, maps and diagrams.

Suddenly we were interrupted by my daughters bursting in to the room followed by my wife. In their arms each carried dozens of carved wooden objects.

"Look at what we found!" they cried as one, and went on to explain that these were strange artefacts, no doubt made by the natives! They found them half buried in the ground and who knew what strange and mysterious significance they might have to the natives in their ancient ways!

With a patient sigh Light explained that they were, in fact, survey pegs that he had carefully positioned and, judging from the number they carried, represented about a fortnight's work. I could do nothing but apologise, but it was clear from his demeanour that he saw my wife and daughters as damned nuisances, an opinion I could hardly disagree with.

In anticipation of the sale many colonists have set up camps near the edges of the site. Curiously they seem to have grouped themselves together according to which ship they arrived in. Those from The Buffalo have settled near the north western corner of the site in "Buffalo Lane", The group that arrived on The Coromandel are a little to the North. Those who came on the Tan O'Shanter have made camp on the western extremity of the site in what is known as "Forbes Camp", after Charles Forbes, a young man who has taken a lead amongst his ship mates.

Their huts are crudely made of sticks and reeds, but are hardly meant to be permanent. The settlers have no thought of order, stylishness or even convenience about them when they set up their huts. If a child threw his nursery blocks upon the ground they might well land in better order than these temporary settlements. And the huts themselves are both crude, dirty and ugly. They seem to be a banner making known the fact that "The Lower Classes Live Here".

With such a concentration of hoi polloi I expect to see an increase in crime presently. Wakefield had us believe that since the colony would be settled by hard working Christians and those of the monied  sort there would be little or no crime to be seen. Moreover, without the contagion of the transported convict our colony could grow as a place for gentlefolk.

 It should be noted that Wakefield was in prison (after a warmth in the breeches and a hole in his purse led him to kidnap and marry a child heiress) when he expressed his views regarding crime and the gentry, so grains of salt all round, I say.

Anyway, Wakefield was a dreamer, having visions of a perfect society (well, that and fifteen year old girls) and didn't need to make the whole thing really work. We might not be importing felons, but whatever Fast Eddy Wakefield says, I have no doubt that within a few short months we will quite be able to produce our own home grown ones.

Accordingly, this week in Council I set in train a Commission to ascertain the feasibility of the construction of a gaol. Whatsisface Kingston, who now, heaven help us, fancies himself as an architect, has offered to look into the matter, so I have no great hopes.

Meanwhile the greater number of settlers still reside at Holdfast Bay near the lagoon. We have learned that the natives refer to the lagoon as something like "Paddy will linger". But not linger too long I imagine, as the place stinks and is the home of avaricious, blood sucking mosquitoes, midges, fleas, rats and lice in great abundance. I admit that the rats, fleas and lice we might well have brought with us, but the smell and the mosquitos are entirely South Australian. It needs to be also said that camping amongst the sandhills might not have been well thought out. The winds, sun and sand have resulted in an almost universal opthalmia. Blindness is prevalent - though not, I hope, permanent - and all who live around the Paddy will linger lagoon complain of soreness and infection of the eyes.

Since the lagoon is so inhospitable the Council, under the influence of Fisher and his hangers-on - and I have seen more presentable hangers-on at the rear ends of sheep - have made two decisions regarding my accommodation. The lagoon is a damned uncomfortable and unhealthy place to live and so it had been decided that I am to live there. And in order to hurry us up from off the boat is has been decided that The Buffalo is to be used as a prison.

So the Marines, having proved incompetent at building Government house are to be set the smaller, easier task of building a temporary hut on the shore of the Lagoon. We have spent all week unloading furniture from the Buffalo and hoping that the Marines will have somewhere for us to put it. And if they do not get it built I know exactly where I will be putting it.