Thursday, 9 October 2014

Sunday,11th June 1837

Gilles came to me all in a tizzy this week. So upset, it seems, that he had sobered up from the shock.

He informed me that, as Treasurer, he had been borrowing money hand over fist from the Montefiore family (of whom Jacob Montefiore serves as one of our esteemed Colonial Commissioners) and as a result the Colony is in hock to the tune of several thousand pounds.

I have to say this came as no great surprise to me. All the talk by Wakefield - the old lecher -  and his acolytes about the colony being self funding through the sale of land always seemed to me to be rose-coloured bollocks. And I never supposed for a moment that getting old Mr Moneybags Gilles drunk and touching him for a few shekels was ever the only way the colony was funded. So to hear that we had been pawning the silverware to keep the place running was hardly a revelation.

However, Gilles didn't seem to think that this was the main problem at hand. When we named all the streets the other week we had forgotten to name anything after Montefiore. Every other man jack of the Commission seems to have their name set for posterity to recall, with a street or a park or a river or some such - good God! - we gave LeFevre an entire peninsula - admittedly a small one - Morphett kept sniggering like a dirty minded schoolboy saying "LeFevre's got a small peninsula" which, after the fifth brandy, seemed funny I suppose.

But Montefiore - nothing. Either we did name something after him and lost the slip of paper with his name on it, or we were just too squiffy to remember it. And if Pascoe Grenfell has a street named after him for doing nothing more than donating an acre of land for Charlie Howard to set up a church on, then not remembering the man that's keeping the whole shebang running with his family's cash (and giving us a favourable interest rate as well according to Gilles) could be seen as a slap in the face.

The problem, Gilles pointed out, was that there seemed to be nothing left to name. We had already done everything we could think of to give us enough namable bits and pieces and there really seemed to be nothing left for Montefiore to hang his name on.

And then I remembered a story that's doing the rounds about Light at the moment. According to the story, when they were doing the city survey, Light stood on a hill overlooking Adelaide, gathered his party around him, pointed out over the site and said "Boys - this is the place for a city,"

There's some disagreement about which hill it actually was - some people say it was the big hill across the river, opposite the church land and some people say it was down by the stock yards outside Light's hut.

And it appears that Durward Kingston, the unspeakable little tit, was going around the town before he selflessly set sail for England so that the rest of us wouldn't have to put up with him saying that in fact he was the one who stood on the hilltop and said "Truly I say unto you, this is the place for a city."(Kingston seemed to think it was the most important thing said on a mountain top since "Consider the lilies.")

I asked Light about it and he tells me that what actually happened was this. He did stand outside his hut with his survey party, all basking in the morning sunshine, mugs of tea in hand and he did say: "What a grand morning! This is the place for a city!"

Later that day, when they were on the big hill above the river Copycat Kingston pointed and said "THIS is the place for a city!" Light, seeing that Durward was facing Northwest, towards the Port, turned him around, pointed in the right direction and said "No Kingston you fool! The place for a city is over here."

However, whatever happened, the point is that we haven't named the hill yet! Well, we have, but we called it "That Big Hill over the River".  Montefiore Hill. It has a good ring to it.

Of course Gilles got all sniffy about it almost straight away. Would people accept, he said, a name that was, as he put it, "so obviously foreign"? And of course, by "foreign" he was dancing around the word "Jewish".

Well, this is just rank, narrow minded prejudice.And  there are two things that never fail to raise my ire - petty-minded bigotry and the French.

Given the choice between the certainties of  well run Jewish banking and faith in Christian Charity I know what I'd choose as a basis for funding the colony.

So I have decided that yes, I will be naming that big hill across the river after Jacob Montefiore and if any of our small minded, miserable galoots of colonists don't like having a Jewish hill then they can come and see me and kiss my Gentile, Naval arse.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Sunday, 4th June, 1837

I received this week a letter from Kingscote on the island informing me that:
due to his eccentricities of manner and his unreliability of method, the Company has taken the decision to dispense with the services of John Menge, who has hitherto been employed in the position of Company Mineralogist. 
When we mention that in carrying out the duties of a mineralogist Mr Menge has left us uncertain as to what the duties of a mineralogist might really be, you will, I hope, appreciate the unusual nature of the position we take with regard to Mr Menge and our action in "letting him go". 
We are unsure as to what Mr Menge's future intentions might be, but he has our assurance that we wish him nothing but good in whatever in God's name it is that he thinks he is doing.
Yours etc
I should add that the letter was delivered to me at Government House by none other than Herr Johannes Menge himself, so I feel pretty confident that I can solve the mystery as to his future intentions.

Mad Menge has been loosed upon the mainland!

He has, he told me, been in the settlement for only three days and already has identified two diamond mines and a coal field - all, apparently, on South Terrace and within easy walking distance of his tent.

When I first read his reports on the mineral wealth of Kangaroo Island I was prepared to give the man the benefit of the doubt. However, when none of the gems and ores he anticipated eventuated it became clear to me that Menge was nutty as one of Widow Harvey's fruit cakes and he receives no benefit from me - I have no longer any doubts.

And soon, it would seem, he is to be joined by another just like him. The mind boggles that there might be two the same, but there we are it seems.

Herr Menge tells me that arriving soon in the colony from Sydney will a close and good friend of his: Augustus Schmidt, who.has recently returned from Canton where, Menge tells me - at length - that he has been bringing the light of Christian Knowledge to the oriental heathen. Though, Menge says, he has met with "limited success": the which I take to mean that he has been a dismal and utter failure!

I might presume that now he is coming here to our shores to fail at bringing the light of Christian Knowledge to our local natives. I really do not see what they might have done to deserve this.

I am at a loss to know whether to be sympathetic or celebratory at the news to hands that Advocate-General Mann has been ordered to his bed by Doctor Cotter because he has scurvy.

Assuming first that we can trust a diagnosis by Cut 'em Up Cotter (and this is an act of faith that even Charlie Howard might find hard to swallow) then this demonstrates two salient facts.

One - any colonist (and there have been many) who has referred to Mann as a "scurvy fellow" and thought they were using merely an illustrative figure of speech was in truth speaking more accurately than they knew.

Two - I can only assume that Mann has been negligent in his consumption of sauerkraut. If that is so then I can only think the better of him. I am happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with any man who refuses to eat the foul, salty, slimy stuff. I now hold the chap in higher regard than either Fisher or Gouger, which might not be saying much for him, since I hold those two at nought.

Lucrezia Harvey's daughter is now comfortably ensconced in Government house. A baby of less than a year old, named Harriet - "after me own firs name, ya rexcellency" as the Widow was kind enough to point out.

This came as a surprise as it had never occurred to me that Widow Harvey might actually have a first name. In point of fact I believe in the past I referred to her in writing as "Mrs W. Harvey" - the "W" standing for "Widow". But now it transpires that she has the mellifluous name of "Harriet Harvey". But I shall still think of her as Lucrezia, the Mad Poisoner.

When I remarked upon her giving the child the same name as herself she said simply, "I couldn't think of a better one," An extra ordinary lesson in how the mind works:  that this woman -  so devoted to flights of fancy in which ingredients the less imaginative, quite rightly as it proves,would consider incompatible are effortlessly combined in the most bizarre and hitherto unthought of ways to produce meals only the most foolhardy would treat as "food" - didn't have sufficient invention to think of a new name for her child. God God! in the short time I had the brat under my feet I have thought of several But it seems that the Widow, touched by the muse in her ability to produce slop, was left without gift in all else.

Mrs Hindmarsh asked her why she had hidden the baby away from us and she said that she thought that if we knew she had a child we might - to quote her - "terminimate her employ". I assured her that we would hardly throw her out in the street for having a child when we already turned a blind eye to the many other reasons she had given us to dispense with her service. At this she told me I was "a terrible tease" and threw her head back and laughed so hard that we were able to see all four of her teeth.

When I first came upon the baby I thought Mrs Harvey had left a lump of bread dough out to prove, so pale and dumpy was it. Mrs Hindmarsh has either entered her dotage or is deliberately trying to torment me as she follows me about the house, carrying the brat and saying - in a bedlamite tone - utterances such as: "Look at the big silly navy man!". When I found her using the official colonial seal as a teething ring I suggested that the child might play with its mother in the kitchen outhouse, but to no avail.

The child has not yet been weaned and no matter which room I enter in the house Widow Harvey seems to have got there first and flopped out her bosom in order to feed her child. "Don't worry, ya rexcellency." she shrieks, "I'm not in the least embarrassed!" Obviously - in fact, ostentatiously -not!

She has also told me, with reference to her feeding the child, that she was a dairy maid back home in England (caveat emptor at the term "maid" I think) and "now I'm like a big old cow!" To my horror she added "But at least I'm a good milker!"

Which does give rise to a terrible thought. Lately for suppers we have been served up many custards, possets, blanc-manges and junkets. So many milk dishes! Surely not.....

Sunday, 28th May, 1837

Thursday last I was shaken at the sight of a drunken William Light standing on a table in Fisher's kitchen yodeling the name of our new colony.

"Adelai - hee - hoo! Adelai - hee - hoo!"

If this is the much vaunted "culture" that traveling through Europe brings then thank the Lord I chose not to.

The occasion for this extraordinary display was the end of the committee meeting for the naming of the streets of Adelaide.

The committee was made up of Myself, Jeffcott, Gouger, Hack, Morphett, Stephens, Strangways, Gilbert, Brown and Gilles and, of course (no circus without a clown) Fisher. Light was there as well, although I don't recall him being asked. However, he told us that it was his map and if he didn't get a say then he'd take it home and not let us use it, so we had little choice but to include him. Besides, having hi there would avoid last week's embarrassment of having the map facing the wrong way.

When we met we all had a view of what the street names should be. Colonists had submitted suggestions and the thing bode well to be a serious attempt to name the streets of the town.

However within moments the things was at sixes and sevens. Fisher still insisted (interminably) that the naming was his prerogative alone, while the rest of us insisted, politely, that he shut his cakehole.

It would appear that every man jack of the committee had used the promise of "a street named after you" as currency, gaining goods and favours from those colonists anxious to be commemorated and only too willing to donate something to ensure the committee's favourable consideration of their claim. Several of the committee had a sheaf of papers noting that they had committed to naming a street after some local in exchange for goods or service. I myself had obtained some sheep from a fellow named Archer on the promise that I would name something after him.

Gilbert, who, after all, runs the Storehouse, seems to have had enough people promise him a street name in payment for a new wheelbarrow or a pickaxe that we could have, in all probability, just named the whole place after him alone. Gilbert Sreet, Gilbert Road, Rue de Gilbert.

Added to that the determination of the committee to ensure that they themselves were properly remembered and the whole process began under such a welter of obligations that any thought of accommodating such ideas as Charlie Howard's "Names of the Old Testament" List (Bezaleel Boulevard, Jehoshabeath Mews) or my daughter's list of "Names from Gothic Novels" (Otranto Road. Udolpho Street. Vathek Place. Ambrosio Avenue. Indeed!) were immediately expunged.

In fact between us we had made so many promises to people that we decided we had best split the roads running East & West at King William Street, just so we could use up more names. Fisher said that we could say that it was a mark of respect to His Majesty that no roads crossed the street named after him, but I don't think for a moment that anyone will buy such an obvious pig in a poke.

With the streets only half as long as they were going to be, at least the street numbers will be easier to fit onto the envelopes, which will keep Rowland Hill happy. Such a good idea was this that we also decided to split the North and South Roads as well, with the result that Morphett Street now mysteriously turns into Brown Street for no good reason and Pultney Street suddenly, and completely arbitrarily transforms into Hanson Street. Still, it meant we could keep another couple of promises.

We began the meeting with Gilles making two suggestions. The first was - unsurprisingly - that we have a few tots of brandy as we worked. The second was that rather than write directly on the map itself (as happened last week, allowing Hack to make a right bollocks of it when he tried to rub out a mistake) we write suggested street names on slips of paper and place them provisionally on the map, allowing us to move them around until we were satisfied.

The upshot was, of course, that every time someone sneezed, or opened the outside door slips of paper blew everywhere and we had to spend time finding them and putting them back where they were. And thanks to Gilles other suggestion, as the meeting dragged on and we became more and more lubricated, we became less and less capable of (a) finding all the slips of paper and (b) remembering where they had been placed on the map.

By the end of the night, with our job finished and four bottles of Gilles's brandy inside us, Light leaped onto the table - nearly spilling slips of paper everywhere again - and regailed us with his aforesaid celebratory display of Swiss yodeling.

Adelai - hee - hoo!

This morning Light - who looked just as dog eared as I felt (how much liquor did Gilles pour into us?) - delivered the final draft of the map of the City of Adelaide and I am perplexed by some of its features.

I cannot believe, for example, that sober we would have named entire city squares after Wellington and Whitmore, whilst only bestowing street names upon Angas and Wakefield.

I yield to no-one in my admiration for the Iron Duke, but his connection to the colony is pretty damned slim. So too with William Whitmore - a man Lord Melbourne once called "the most affable waste of a seat in parliament I ever knew". So why we rewarded them with a Square each when we only gave Wakefield - who came up with the plan for the Colony - and Angas - the Chairman of the Company and hence the employer of most of the committee - a street I do not know.

I can only surmise that, when sober, we placed the names properly on the map, but as the night wore on we became less and less able to replace them whenever they blew away.

Even stranger, I note that, as expected, all the members of the committee have their own thoroughfare named after them. Jeffcott Street; Gouger Street; Morphett Street; Strangways Terrace; Gilbert Street; Brown Street and Gilles Street all appear as expected. But Stephens Street and Hack street I searched for in vain. True, we named Barton terrace and Hack is usually referred to by this name, but the man claims he named it after his mother. So he has at least something. But of Stephens street is there no sign.  How did this happen? That every other member of the committee is celebrated in a grand roadway and Sammy Stephens has nothing. (I admit that he probably deserves nothing, but still....)

Light thought that there might be some clue on the draft map we used on Thursday and sure enough, when we looked we discovered the answer. We had, in fact, assigned the name Stephens, not to a streets, but to a largish crease in the paper and we had just been too drunk to notice the difference.

I do not imagine he will be at all pleased, but Light thinks that with luck we can keep him drunk and he'll never notice.

Walter Bromley sent me a letter this week telling me that some damned fool by the name of Hill shot a native dog, skinned it and sold the pelt for three shillings and sixpence. The buffoon didn't seem to take into account that the dog actually belonged to one of the natives and was a devoted companion. Bromley tells me that the native canine fancier is greatly exasperated at the loss, as well he might be. We may need to either find the man another dog to replace the one that was shot or else give him some sort of recompense. I have suggested that we pay him three pounds and give him either the three and six or the actual pelt back. 

Why people do not try and consider the feelings of the natives as if they were what they are: our fellow human beings, I do not know. Hill is a blight! I don't know what I need to do to impress upon the idiot colonists that there are an awful lot more of the natives than there are of us and if we upset them and they stop being friendly we'll find ourselves being speared back to London.

After much hint dropping by me people finally seemed to have recalled that it was my birthday last week. No gifts, but Mrs Harvey made a cake. So I was doubly disappointed.