Sunday, 15 December 2013

Monday, 27th March, 1837

What a week it has been. So exciting that I have been unable to write my usual Sunday night summary of the week and have had to put off its writing until this Monday evening.

On Wednesday last the Council gathered at Light's cottage for his unveiling of the city plan.  We all dutifully "oohed" and "ahhed" at the thing, while Whatshisface Kingston pointed out the bits that were his idea and everyone ignored him.

No doubt the plan is a good one and will suffice, but there are rather too many boxes for my liking. "More curves," I kept telling him, but Light (as usual) seems to have done exactly what he wanted. I suspect the influence of Light's housekeeper, Miss Gandy in this. It is rumoured that she gave Light an engraved ruler and set square last Christmas and insisted in his using of it throughout his work on the plan.

Still, we all congratulated the Colonel, slapped him on the back and I made a small speech saying, "You've all done very well", or some such tomfoolery. Buggerlugs Kingston spent the rest of the afternoon telling all who would listen (and that number was few) that "His Excellency said that I had done well." Vulgar little oik.

The next day those of us who had purchased land back in England returned to what, I suppose, must now be called the intersection of the Northern and Western Terraces and the Port Road for the allocation of purchased acres.

It had been decided by Fisher that the fairest way of going about this would be to put all the numbers of the available acres in a hat and then each landowner to take turns in pulling out a number which would then be recorded in the Company Ledger.

The whole thing seemed rather undignified and smacked a little of the Lucky Sticks stall  at a Country Fair and I said so in no uncertain terms. Stephens, damn him, had the gall to make some comment about me being too grand to condescend to attend country fairs and warm words were exchanged between us. I believe I may have suggested that no country fair allow him attendance lest he turn it into a drunken orgy and he seemed to take exception to this. I might have also suggested that he could get yet another wife through the lucky sticks since he seemed to not be too fussy about who he married and this too was not received well. At length he calmed down and since there seemed to be no other choice available we agreed to this Cheapjack affair.

Of course, Fisher bollocksed the whole thing by not having a hat set by, but to no-one's surprise Whod'yamaycallhim Kingston pressed forward eagerly shouting "You can use my hat! Use mine!" The man was born in Ireland I believe, which explains a great deal.

Someone - I believe Brown - made the pretty comment that over five hundred numbered papers fitting in Kingston's hat proves what a bighead he is and all agreed.

In the event the draw of numbers was quite exciting and all who took part agreed that it was a fair way of dealing with the matter. Although Fisher, who wrote out the numbers, seems to have done particularly well, causing some to suggest that he marked the backs of the acres he specially wanted. I make no judgemental comment, but such sneaking and deceit would certainly not be beyond the wiles of the loathesome bastard.

Today we finally had the sale of unallocated town acres and great was the excitement. All week there were rumours of bargains to be had; of the South Australia Company being short of money and unable to meet its financial obligations and hence being forced to sell off vast swathes of land at knockdown prices. As a result of these rumours, the land sale was overflowing with people of the less wealthy sort, hoping to strike a bargain.

It seemed to me that this could only go in the favour of those of the better class of buyer, If the sale was full of bidders bidding at rock bottom then those with a copious supply of coin of the realm would need only bid what was, to them, a modest price in order to be the winning bidder. Hence, those who were at the sale hoping to buy land for next to nothing would be sure to be disappointed, whilst those who could afford to pay a realistic price might well pay less that they expected.

That, at least, was my thinking when I started the rumours.

In the event the sale went wonderfully well. Several hundred settlers gathered outside Mr Fisher's hut, some arriving the night before and camping out in order to be the better able to bid for prime lots. I am informed that Fisher was not best pleased when, at about three in the morning, some seventy settlers began singing songs of a bawdy and comic nature at his front door, like dirty minded carol singers. No doubt his herd of children discovered some new words with which to enliven their conversation.

To add to the misery, in the morning Widow Harvey arrived on the back of the Company dray, having travelled up from the Bay during the night. She was offering to supply the assembled settlers with breakfast and had made pies to try and sell from the cart. This had the twin effects of driving people in to the sale and also ensuring that the notion of a "pie cart" will never catch on in Adelaide.

Mrs Hindmarsh and the girls with their ceaseless preparations meant that we did not leave Holdfast Bay in good time. I had informed Fisher that the sale was not to start until my arrival and I thought I detected an air of some impatience when I entered the sale at about eleven.

I detected also an air of disappointment when the lower orders realised that the knock me down bargains that had been rumoured were not to be had and there was a deal of muttering and grumbling which I thought most ill humoured and impolite. Really, if people are so foolish as to believe every baseless rumour they hear they have no-one to blame but themselves.

Though let me add, I am gladdened that they do believe every baseless rumour they hear. Otherwise, what would be the point of starting them?

The outcome of the sale was that, for an outlay of just under 75 pounds, I am now the owner of a fair portion of North Adelaide and some delightful acres in the southern section as well. Add these to the acres I bought before leaving England and the country acres to which I am entitled once Light finishes his survey and I have become owner of a swathe of land that will, I do not doubt, increase in value manyfold.

I see this as some small recompense for the trials of Governing the colony and her people. If I have to put up with them I might as profit from them.

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