Thursday, 30 January 2014

Sunday, 30th April, 1837

I had my hopes raised to fever pitch during the week when the Marines came to me and told me that they had finally finished building the Government House on the river bank. Stupid of me to get my hopes up when experience tells me that where the Marines are involved catastrophe must surely follow, but I am ever the optimist and considered it at least possible they might have learned some thing from the experience of building our current bayside accommodation.

Vain hope.

As we headed up from the bay to the township, the Sergeant of Marines extolled the wonders of the new building. The thatching of the roof, he said, was as fine as might be found in any of the home counties whilst the walls were built of the best materials available. The Marines had even managed to procure glass windows for the front of the building.

I did point out that originally a building had been sent out from England in pieces that could be reassembled as a Government House - though it proved a flimsy thing of warped, thin boards. But it did have windows. So there was not need for them to "procure glass windows" as I already had them. At this point the truth came out - my glass windows were at the Port and the trip down there was - as the sergeant put it - "a bit of a fag". So to save themselves the journey they "procured others". What exactly this meant I did not ask, though later events made it clear.


Government House from the river, 1837



When eventually we arrived at the new building I was more than a little surprised. At first sight the building seemed - for its type - a well constructed and neat thatched mud and lath residence. However, as I drew nearer it became evident that the neatness and charm were, at  best, superficial. It is, as I feared, precisely the building one might expect the Marines to build. Within its three rooms a right angle is not to be seen in the place and the number of gaps around doors and windows mean ventilation will be no issue, though privacy will be out of the question.

The much vaunted windows are indeed in place, but a little quizzing proved that by "procured them" the Marines meant "found them lying on the ground and picked them up", as though windows grow like pumpkins here in the colony. I have since learned that in actuality the windows belong to either Morphett or Brown, so I will offer them mine at the Port in a spirit of "fair exchange no robbery". Of course it was robbery, but perhaps we can smooth things over. Thank God they were not Fisher's windows or I would never have heard the end of it.

I also needed to point out a lack of outhouses on the grounds. The Marines scratched their heads and looked befuddled, probably by what I had said about the lack of outhouses, though, in truth, who can tell? This is what happens when you have your house built on land by men used to the sea. There are no outhouses on a ship of the line and so they do not enter the mind of the seafarer. The Marines conferred and agreed that outhouses could be built on the swampy patch of land down by the river. I opine that this was not actually a part of the land set aside for the Government House, but they were undeterred and promised to "square it with those necessary". I dread to think what this means.

But the greatest fault in their work is the complete lack of a fireplace, chimney or hearth. Again, do not allow sailors to build a house on land. There are no chimneys on ships, so why would they need to place one in a house? I pointed this out - forcefully - to the men and they replied gnomically "Knock through... few bricks... make good... job's a goodun" which did little to set my mind at ease, but, it seems, was all I was going to be told.

However...

The next day Mrs Hindmarsh traveled up from the bay to see our new residence. It has never occurred to me before, but it should come as no great surprise, that after a life led around sailors Mrs Hindmarsh's language should have been enriched by a knowledge of the earthier aspects of our Anglo-Saxon vocabular heritage.

What did surprise me was the readiness, fluency and enthusiasm with which Mrs Hindmarsh used this knowledge as she gave the Marines a frank and fulsome assessment of their building, their abilities, their intelligence, sobriety, odour, parentage, and the manner of their procreation.

Even the Marines, salty dogs to a man, most of them hailing from the less salubrious areas of London and all of them no strangers to the richer idioms of our language, quailed before the onslaught of Mrs Hindmarsh's invective.

I felt an especial sympathy for the poor, ill advised devil who tried to pour oil on troubled waters by telling Mrs Hindmarsh: "Now, now, missuss, don't you be worrying your pretty head about all this. Leave it up to us menfolk to deal with these little things."

I found him sitting an hour later, his head in his hands, rocking back and forth and muttering over and over, "She shouldn't ought to be saying such things."

And in truth she shouldn't. But the upshot is that I have never seen the Marines work so hard or so fast. Fear is an astonishing thing.

Very nasty experience last Wednesday.

Light Fingers Howard, the noted Sneak Thief, had arranged a public meeting at the church - or, should I say, the stolen sail - with regard to establishing a Sunday School. I assume to teach the youth of the colony how to lie cheat and steal. Perhaps Hustling Howard is setting up a gang, using street urchins to become a criminal mastermind, like a fat spider in the centre of his web of lie and deceit.

And then, when I got there, I discovered that Bully Boy Fisher, the human rabbit, was to chair the meeting. I may need to work with him in the Council, but damned if I need to put up with the miserable coxcomb at any other time. And so I declined to attend. A friend suggested to me that it would reflect poorly on the Office of Governor if I was not there. And so I declared that "The Governor will attend. But Jack Hindmarsh will be absent."

I sat through their meeting and said not a word. And I hope it was a lesson to them.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Sunday, 23rd April, 1837

Appointed Tom Gilbert this week to be Postmaster General.

Be damned if I know what for... it's not like we have a Post Office and with so few people in the colony, the writing of letters is hardly necessary. You can probably shout and get your message there just as well. Still, we need someone to sort the mails from England when they arrive and old Tom seems as good a man as any. I have offered him 30 pounds a year as a consideration for this onerous duty, but with a bit of luck he may do it as a favour.

In point of fact, when we first arrived here in the Colony I gave him a number of instructions and he refused them saying, "I work for the Company, not you!" So if I happen to forget the 30 pounds then I suppose he can have his way and won't have to work for me still, will he?

He has been operating the Government Storehouse down by the river for some months and does a sterling job at ensuring that all things are spit spot and in their place. Just the chap to ensure that the mails get through.

A bit of a lady's man, I think... the eloquence and feeling with which he proposed the toast to "the ladies" at the Proclamation Day luncheon back in December suggested a warmth towards the fair sex - although, if memory serves, the toast was "Mrs Hindmarsh and the ladies", so he may have been hiding his true feelings.

Now, it is rumoured that Gilbert is a member of the craft of Freemasonry - just rumours, of course, as is the way with the Lodge. No names, no faces, just secret handshakes and what do they do with the goat?

But still there are rumours, and names like Gilbert and Gouger and Morphett keep popping up in them. Of course, you can't ask them and they certainly won't be saying anything about it themselves, but still, there's no smoke without fire.

But the name that occurs most often, and most surprisingly, is Kingston. Oozisface Kingston! who would have thought it?

(I really must learn the horrible little man's name. I can't keep calling him "Mr Kingston" to his face. I'm sure his name starts with  G. Or was it a D? "Godfrey"? "Giles"? "Gregory"? "David?" Durward rings a bell. Yes,,, Durward Kingston seems to be about right.)

(Editor's Note: Kingston's name was actually "George Strickland Kingston". Given the Governor's enjoyment of the novels of Sir Walter Scott it would seem that for some reason he has associated Kingston with the hero of Scott's 1823 novel Quentin Durward)

Durward Kingston's name regularly appears in stories about the Freemasons and, if they are to be believed, he is Grand Panjandrum amongst them. I find it hard to see how the insufferable little toad could be grand anything so I have no choice but to doubt the veracity of these rumours.

 Of course there are always those willing to assure one that the Craft of Masonry is nothing but a social gathering and a bit of fun and that all those stories about the extra-ordinary influence Masons have in political circles are nothing but malicious gossip. And to them I say that they bear the onus of proof to show, in the absence of Masonic influence, how someone so utterly devoid of talent, of intelligence, of charm and ability as Durward Kingston could rise to a position of importance in this, our new colony. If the stories are not true and the Masons are not secretly in charge then what other explanation can they offer for our Assistant Surveyor?

The man could not survey a view from a lookout. He could not lead a group in silent prayer. A blind beggar could beat him at charades. And yet, there he sits, second only to Light in determining the future of the Colony. It can surely be nothing other than the influence of the Lodge Brothers.

On other matters, the mad poisoner at home served us some things called Monmouthshire Muffins for breakfast this week. If my memory serves, the Wye valley runs through Monmouthshire and as I looked at my breakfast "Why?" was all I could think.

The Marines tell us, with a simple, childlike openness that either betokens enthusiasm or lunacy that within a week we will be able to see the new Government House. I hold out no great hopes, but will look forward to seeing what fresh disaster the Marines have managed to conjure for our delight.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Sunday 16th April, 1837

Not, I am pleased to say, the busiest of weeks.

We continue to settle in to our beachside accommodation and keep discovering new hidey holes. My particular favourite is the space between the billiard table and the upturned chaise longue and I have taken to having my morning cup of tea there.

I received a letter this week from His Nibs Angas who writes to let me know of the possibility of Silesian settlers traveling to our colony and asking what I think of this.

It would appear that they are devout followers of Martin Luther and are arguing with other devout followers of Martin Luther about what ought to go in their prayer book. It seems that it is bare knuckles and no holds barred over some triviality or other regarding the wording of the Eucharist Service.

I must say it evidences great piety in these Lutherans that they exercise their concentration enough during the service to even notice the wording if the Eucharist Service. Charles "Light Fingers" Howard (the sail thief) could probably recite verses of "The Jolly Tinker" during Communion and no-one would notice for all the attention they pay him.

Be that as it may, these Prussians are looking to head somewhere they can use the prayerbook of their choice and having been turned down flat in Russia and America have set their eyes on Adelaide as a last resort. It appears that Angas is of the opinion that they are just what the colony needs - industrious, pious and of good character - and God knows we have few enough of that sort here already. He also tells me that they make excellent sauerkraut and this, it seems, is meant to endear them to me!

Angas asks me what I think should be done and for myself I think he can put them where the monkey put the nuts. If they are so ready to argue amongst themselves about something as piddling as where the commas go in the creed, do we really need them out here mixing with the likes of Fisher and Brown, who see in-fighting as a casual recreation?

And they make wine. Heaven help us if they meet up with old Spongeguts Gilles, whose drunken rages are becoming the talk of the town.

However, all this, I fear, is not what Angas wants to hear and a good maxim in this life is "When Angas asks, give him the answer he desires." So of course I will write and say "Goodness me, Mr Angas! What a splendid notion! What a clever man you are!"

Anyway, these sauerkrauters still need to negotiate with the Company for passage, still need to receive permission to leave Prussia from the Emperor  and still need to arrange ships and travel, so even if all goes smoothly (and what are the odds?) if they are here inside of a twelvemonth I shall be astonished.

I am regularly astonished by matters of this sort. The Dissenting sects breed, divide and flourish with a luxuriance not seen outside the jungles of Java.

Only the other day I inadvertently gave, it seems, great offence to a chap who described himself as "A Baptist" in matters of religion. I mentioned the name of another settler who similarly described himself. My companion flew into a high rage and announced that he was a Particular Baptist whilst the other was a General Baptist and did I have the temerity to suggest that they might have aught in common? I might have thought that, with the total number of those answering to the name "Baptist"of any sort (man, woman an child)  probably numbering less than thirty in the colony , the last thing they could afford to do was squabble amongst themselves. Instead they divide and divide again into ever smaller cabals.

And really, do not start me on the Weslyans. Every ten minutes there seems to be a new variety. Weslyans, Methodists, Primitive Methodists, Not so Primitive Weslyans, Reformed Weslyans, Not Quite so Reformed Methodists. And none of them talking to the others and all of them claiming to be the only right one. They might dissent from the established church, but they all have a strong distaste for each other. I'll give a guinea to anyone who can properly explain the difference between them.

And then, not content with arguing amongst themselves they start in on other religions.

Howard the Master Criminal expressed to me his concern that we had in the colony a family of what he rather coyly referred to as "a descendant of Abraham" and what would we do to "bring them to the light". By which he means - in his mealy mouthed way - we have a Jewish family in the colony and Charlie wants to convert them and get them into his own congregation.

Silly bugger! Jew or not, Phillip Lee and is wife are as charming a pair as any in the colony and his work as a clothier is fine. I had him make me a pair of trousers and they fit like a glove and are damned comfortable.

Charlie is just annoyed that they get to spend Sundays without the joy of hearing him spouting forth with his unique mixture of banalities and long-windedness. Personally I cannot help but feel that if being Jewish means not having to hear Charlie Howard preach then I may yet convert. Circumcision seems a very small sacrifice.