Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Sunday, August 27th, 1837

Well, I must needs say that after an extra-ordinary two or three weeks I can now sit down and record what has happened, now that it is over.

It started with an insult and ended with Osmond Gilles being hit about the head and shoulders with a heavy club. It was nothing other than astonishing!

Some weeks ago an "anonymous writer" penned a letter to the Gazette demanding that Saint James the half rabbit explain himself to the colony about the way he has been running it. 

Naturally Fisher and his cronies did not take this well and have been on the hunt to discover who that anonymous colonist might really be. And the name that they arrived at was Osmond Gilles.

Of course they were wrong. I know for a certainty that it was not him who wrote the letter. Do I know who DID write the letter? People might think that, but I, of course, could not comment.

Robert Gouger, a man who would crawl up Fisher's arse if Fisher wanted it, made his opinion clear regarding Gilles at the time when I appointed the man a Magistrate. Gilles, I don't doubt is an increasingly difficult man, especially when he's had a jar or two and his public outbursts of outrageous temper, bad language and irascible behaviour  have become the talk of the town. But he needs to be kept on the right side of us all since his purse is about the only thing keeping the wolf from the door. If I can tickle his pride with a seat on the Magistrates Bench then it seems a cheap investment.

Be that as it might, some time ago old Gilles was in the Secretary's office when Gouger decided to express his opinion of the man freely and fulsomely. Topics on the agenda seem to have been Gilles's parentage; hygiene; bibulous habits; flatulence; intelligence; business practices; taste in clothing and dubious relationship with his sheep. I was unaware that Gouger was capable of such invective and admit to looking at him with new admiration now that I have heard this philipic.

Impressive as it was I couldn't help but feel that it was not good policy for the Colonial Secretary to be giving it fairly fruitily to the Colonial Treasurer. Particularly when we rely on the good graces of the Colonial Treasurer to keep the place afloat.

So. I suggested to Gouger that he apologise to Gilles. I doubt that he took this well, but take it he did and said that he would indeed pocket his pride and offer his mea culpa to old moneybags.

Thinking that I had cleared the matter up I heaved a sigh of relief and sat back in my chair, only to be told that Gilles wasn't having it! The insult had been made in Government House within the His Excellency's hearing, said Gilles and by God the apology needed to be made under the same conditions.

Gouger even went to him and offered his hand but Gilles held firm - the apology needed to be made in the presence of the Governor.

God's wounds and onions! Do I have nothing better to do than to listen to a couple of squabbling school yard brats kiss and make up after they called each other names?  Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

As it turned out I didn't need to worry myself.

Wednesday a week ago (the 16th) I was sitting at home, quietly snoozing, when Ted Stephens bursts into the room and he yells "For the love of God Governor! They're beating the tripe out of each other behind the feed store!" I had no idea what he was talking about, but once he had calmed down a bit and told me that Gouger, Mann, Morphett and Gilles were bare knuckle fighting in the streets, I found the soberest of the Marines, tidied him up a bit and sent him down to arrest the monkeys.

Which he duly did - surprisingly effectively for a marine - and brought them back to Government House and parked them on my sofa. Well I read the riot act to them, bound them over to keep the peace and told them to bugger off.

It appears that Mann found old Gilles wandering about the streets and invited him to come along with him to meet with Gouger.  He led him out to the yard behind Coltman's Stores and then it seems it was on for young and for old. From what I can make out it ended with Mann holding Gilles whilst Gouger whaled away at him with a shillelagh about the head and shoulders, ending only when the cudgel broke across Gilles's head,and all the while Morphett stood by offering encouraging words like "Go it Gouger! Give him one for me!"

It has been suggested that old Gilles has become so corpulent and round of late that Mann was holding on to him simply because if Gouger had given a good hit with the club, Gilles would have just rolled off and bounced off the stable yard wall, and the whole thing would have become a sort of crazed billiards.

But no matter the reason -  there we are. The Chief Law Officer of the colony holding down the Treasurer while the Chief Executive of the South Australia company, cheered on by the Company Land agent, beats the bejesus out of him.

I am certain such scenes do not happen in Westminster, Or if they do it is behind closed doors and not in a stable yard with half the town watching!

Of course I had to do something and I eventually managed to make the Council dismiss Gouger as Colonial Secretary. There was much shilly shallying from Fisher and Mann about whether or not I had the power to do so and whether it was the right thing to do or perhaps we could just let it all pass - "least said soonest mended" - but I really had no choice if I was going to make this look like a Government and not like a travelling circus troupe. "Roll up! Roll up! Try your luck with the bareknuckles Colonial Secretary!" A pretty picture.

Some have suggested that Gilles was just as much in the wrong and that he too should have been dismissed. Which is probably true, and it is undoubtedly unfair that Gouger alone lost his position. But the truth is that we don't owe Robert Gouger nine and a half thousand pounds, which we do Gilles. And if Gilles drops his bottom lip, starts to sulk and calls in his funds then we're all on the next boat back to Portsmouth and the natives can have their colony back.

Still, there we are. Gouger is dumped and Strangways appointed in his place. Gilles is happy and all's right with the world. 

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