Saturday, 3 January 2015

Sunday, 16th July, 1837

I predict entertaining times ahead in the management of the South Australia Company now that the new commercial manager has settled in and begun to hit his stride.

It was no secret, I think, that Sammy Stephens was not a satisfactory choice in filling the role of head of the company in the colony.

A taste for the imbibulous and a conviviality that has meant that many of his indentured workers seem to be employed only to provide him with drinking partners; an attitude towards account keeping and dispatch writing that could fairly be described as "whimsical"; an enthusiastic use of his idiosyncratic interpretation of the powers vested in him by the company as commercial manager that a Caligula or Heliogabalus might find erratic; a delight at being in the vanguard of every new project no matter its chance of success; a generosity completely at odds with sound business sense - rumour has it that the man has burned his way through fourteen or fifteen thousand pounds in the past twelvemonth; all these factors have meant that the company is in complete financial disarray and Kangaroo Island has gained the reputation of being a drunken orgy surrounded by water.

And into the middle of this farrago of incompetence is thrust David McLaren: as miserable a Scot as ever walked the streets of Glasgow.

I am told, by those who have spent time with him, that he was born into a family adherent to the Church of Scotland, but this not being of a serious enough tone for him he went over to the evangelical, Calvinist Scottish Congregationalists. Finding them of a rather too frivolous nature - they allowed smiling I believe and failed to hold that laughter was the path to damnation - he became a Scottish Baptist and hence reached the very terminus ad quem of Scottish dourness.

He wrote to me at one point before his departure from England and his letter was not filled with frippery and prinkum prankum. He was coming to South Australia, he said, not for a livelihood or to gain a sense of usefulness, nor even because he wanted to. But his sense of debt to Angas made him put aside personal pleasures and preferences and required that he act in a manner consistent with duty. A chuckle and a giggle in every line of it.

And now he has pitched up in Kingscote where he is required to work with that riot on two legs, Samuel Stephens. I say it will last three months. Less if Stephens tells McLaren the joke he told me about Adam and Eve and the cucumber.

Hutchinson is stomping about town complaining to any who will listen that his artistic sensibilities have been violated by me, by Stephenson and by Thomas when we rewrote his piece for the newspaper about the Ascent of Mount Lofty. It would appear that every word of the piece he wrote was carefully chosen for the exact effect it might produce in the mind of the reader and we hamfistedly ruined his piece. Buffoon!

My beer has not be entirely successful. It certainly brewed up well and has an excellent colour and a fine head of froth on it. However, on reflection it might have been improved if I had thought to wash out the sauerkraut barrel before letting the beer brew in it. The result is that the beer has a taste strangely reminiscent of pickles. It is not entirely unpleasant - or at least so I tell those who taste it - but it is not exactly the taste thought desirable in a beer. Fortunately I only made the one barrel of it, because no-one but me seems to want to drink it and I cannot afford to waste the materials by tipping this in the river. So I have rather a lot of pickled beer to drink over the next weeks.

It would appear that Fisher has been up to his usual tricks and all over a load of bullocks.

Throughout the colony there has been great want of means to transport goods and materials from place to place. The Commisioners, recognising this, have sent out a cargo of draught bullocks from the Cape of Good Hope for sale to the general public.

Along with the shipment of bullocks came a shipment of cows, once again, to be sold to the general public, for whom the possession of a cow - particularly to those with young children - would be of the highest value.

Now the rumour about town is that when the bullocks arrived Fisher offered his two sons the first pick of ten of the finest specimens, which, since they have established a carrying business between the Port and Adelaide must have been of benefit to them. He then offered the next eight to Gilles, his friend White and Stevenson. Only after these men had had their choice did the scraps get offered for sale - at high prices - to the public.

The cows seem all to have ended up on the farmlands of Mr Hack, who now seems to have a complete monopoly on milk in the colony.

As if this wasn't enough there is also talk that a shipment of salt pork belonging to the Commissioners was sold at a cheap rate to the South Australian Company. As a side light, what business the Commissioners of the South Australian Company had selling goods at cut rates to themselves in the guise of the South Australian Company is anyone's guess.

Be that as it may, that same pork is now being sold for the extraordinary sum of ten guineas a barrel to the general public by none other than Mr Fisher's two sons.

Mr Fisher, I fear, will shortly be asked some questions that he will need to answer very carefully.

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