Saturday, 14 May 2016

Sunday. 10th September 1837

Well, no sooner had I written the words "a quiet week and long may it continue such" last week and all Hell broke its gates and tumbled forth!

Let it be noted here at the start for any future reader that we have a Migrant Camp in the colony, situated in the Parklands opposite the end of Currie and Waymouth Streets. Here the new arrivals to the colony come and stay while they find somewhere to live and find work to do.

And the man in charge of this place is one John Brown, who revels in the title of Colonial Emigration Agent.

Three nights ago, just as I was preparing for sleep, Tom Gilbert arrived from West Terrace to say that there was trouble at the Hospital.

Colonial Emigration Agent John Brown.
The place, he said,  was in an uproar "because of the dead trollop.". Having nothing else to do at eleven at night I pulled on some trousers and boots and a coat and headed down the road to see for myself what was happening. Hearing the words "Trollop" the two marines on duty at the Vice-Regal palace decided that it might be best if they came along with me as well.

When we arrived at the Hospital I immediately realised what the problem was. A migrant - named Trollope - had died earlier that day I was told. It seems that the man had no relatives and no money so no-one could be called to collect the body and deal with it. And to be honest, I'm not sure if Dr Tom Cotter had much experience with people dying in his hospital. He barely manages to deal with the sick, so a corpse would almost certainly be well outside his field of expertise. 

I ordered the Marines to get a handcart and move the body down to the cemetery where they took turns keeping watch on it through the night.

The next morning I wrote to Brown to tell him that an indigent migrant had died in the hospital and directed him to arrange for the decent internment of the body. A simple enough request I thought and supposed that I would hear no more about it.

But oh no! This colony is infested with impertinent monkeys and Brown is another of them!

I get a letter back from him telling me that only paupers were entitled to a funeral at public expense and since the man had money owing to him from Colonel Lipson there was no money in the public purse available to bury him.

No money?? The poor dead man barely cold (though warming rapidly lying out in the sun) and Brown wanted to talk accounting! I sent him another note directing him to do the decent thing and bury the man.

He would, he replied, refer the matter to the Resident Commissioner and await instructions. He seemed to be of the opinion that it was his job to see to the welfare of the living and the impoverished migrants, and since the unfortunate Trollope fell into neither category then he was none of Brown's affair.

Meanwhile, at the cemetery, the flies were having a field day, no doubt organising picnic races on the flatter sections of the corpse, with perhaps a jumps course over his nose and ears.

I was about to send another letter to Brown telling him what I thought of him in the fullest terms, when a letter arrived from Lipson, informing me that not only did he owe the dead man exactly zero pounds; in point of fact, the dead man owed the Captain money since the Captain had advanced the dead Trollope wages back in London, which had never been repaid and which Trollope had squandered on tobacco, whiskey and wild, wild women in Rio on the voyage out.

Clearly there was indeed money in the public purse to pay for a funeral, and the moment he knew that he would certainly be paid, Tom Gilbert was keen to volunteer for the burial duty on West Terrace.

So off went Tommy, bucket and spade in hand, to put six feet of earth between our noses and Trollope and just as he was going out the door, like in a play, another came in bearing a letter from that a pillar of the community, James Fisher.

Fisher made it clear that the whole thing had nothing to do with him and he wasn't going to be ordering Brown about telling him to bury bodies. It seems obvious that he is in high dudgeon over the loss of Gouger on the Council and is just refusing to co-operate. 

Well, I have decided that Brown must go. We cannot have a man so devoid of charity and good spirits that he would turn a dead man into a hot potato for the sake of politics in the role of Emigration Agent.

The whole purpose of the role is to care for and assist migrants newly arrived in the Colony to set themselves up after they arrive. If Brown thinks he can fulfill that role by leaving the dead ones to lie out in the sun for the magpies to eat then he seems to be missing a few essential points. 

As with Gouger, the pest, at the next Council meeting I will state the matter plainly and will expect to see Brown relieved of his duties as Emigration Agent.I am certain that Fisher will be livid,  but I am determined to get the jump on him, the snot drivelling bastard. If Brown goes then perhaps Fisher might consider his position and decide that the time has come to spend more time with his family. Or indeed, father a few more of them. 

At home my wife this week declared that Widow Harvey was the best of companions,  a confidential comrade and a cook of rare sensibilites, refinement and taste. The only explanation I can give for this statement, which I must say speaks of depths of depravity that I did not suspect existed in Mrs Hindmarsh's bosom, is that the woman had been drinking the metal polish.

Mrs Hindmarsh might believe that Lucrezia is a cook of rare sensibilities, but might I point out that only last week she served Gigot D’Agneau Pleureur, the which  she made with cockatoo, as lamb was unavailable. "Rare", indeed!

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