Sunday, 8 July 2018

Sunday, 18th March, 1838

I met today with John Oakden, who recently returned from an expedition to the River Murray, He travelled North to the Para River, then east through the valley called by Light "Lyndoch" and then on to the river.

Here he did excellent work, meeting with a group of natives, befriending them and exchanging gifts of food and spending time with a party of more than fifty of them. It is of interest to speculate whether these natives are of the same tribe as our local aboriginal population. Oakden suggests not, as they seemed to speak a different language and were expert in the use of river canoes, something we have not seen so much amongst the Adelaide tribe. 

And speaking of the Natives, those brave hearts who were all for rounding up a gang of vigilantes and heading down to the Native camp to deal out some firm justice after the killing of Enoch Pegler the other week found themselves having to eat humble pie and like the taste this week. 

Joe Lee, the wheelwright and an Africaine man went out with friends and the lot of them bent their elbows with a few jars right royally. "A few jars" did I say? Man alive! They got themselves completely Osmond Gillesed!

Staggering home they came to the challenge of the wooden bridge across the Torrens. The bridge is barely stable at the best of times, and the men were hardly stable at all. And of course they decided to do a few stunts, walking on the railings and such like. One thing led to another, skylarking led to rough and tumble and before long Joe Lee had fallen into the Torrens. In his inebriate state he soon disappeared below the water. Truth to tell, he was unlucky, as he had fallen in to one of the few ponds along the river deep enough for a man to drown in.  

It took some time for the rest of his drunken friends to realise that something was wrong, but once the knowledge penetrated their skulls into their sozzled brains they sprang into action and promptly fell over again. One of them, either by inattention or design, ended up diving (or perhaps falling) into the pond as well. And while he might have intended to rescue Lee, the upshot was that he too was soon in need of rescue from a watery grave.

At this point a group of Aboriginal men appeared on the scene, took one look at the drunken incompetence of the white men and dived into the water, retrieving both the drunken rescuer and the lifeless body of Lee. Lee had only been, perhaps, ten minutes in the water, but it was long enough to end his life and no effort to revive him was successful.

Meanwhile, the natives went and got help and took the drunken men back to their camp where they sat them by the fire and got them warm.

So, last week the Natives were "vicious" and had "no respect for human life" and "were waiting for the chance to slit all our throats". This week they are out rescuing and nursing drunken ne'er-do-wells unable to walk themselves home safely. And will they get credit for it? Or will they still be spoken of as "murderous savages"? Sadly, I believe I may know the answer.

I had high hopes of the Injunction against Fisher and his land committee, hoping to see the half man half rabbit fall flat on his face. But the man who brought the action against him has gone soft and is offering conciliatory words and an olive branch to boot. And the name of this olive branch bearing soft hearted man? None other than my prospective son-in-law, Thomas Bewes Stangways.

For it was, indeed, he who brought the original action against Fisher before the courts. And now he seems set on saying "If Mr Fisher promises to do the right thing..." and "for the good of the Colony I have no doubt that he will see reason,,," and so on and so forth.

And of course Fisher has put on a look as pure as driven snow and said "Why of course I have nothing but the colonist's interests at heart" and "Of course I will do the right thing..." and so Strangways has taken him at his word and dropped the legal action.

Of course, Bewes Strangways is a dove amongst serpents and the biggest, nastiest snake of them all is that creeping. crawling thing, Mr. Fisher. He has put the innocent Strangways in a trance with his glittering, mesmeric eye and has convinced Strangways to eat of the forbidden fruit. He has promised Strangways not to be a naughty boy in the future and to do the right thing always. Of course, Strangways has believed him!

I predict that with days we will hear of some new disgrace performed by the Serpent Fisher.

Samuel Smart has been to see me. He discovered a message wrapped around a rock. It appears that someone was intending to throw it through his window. But on discovering that Smart's slab hut has no windows they waited until he came outside and then threw it at his hat. Since he was wearing his hat at the time is it just as well that they missed, but for all that, Sam Smart has the message.

It reads:

Stay away Smart. You is getting too cloze

I assume from the poor grammer and spelling that we are dealing with an ignorant, uneducated labourer, probably Irish, given the lamentable handwriting. So either an ignorant, uneducated Irishman or possibly a capable, intelligent person who has been to an English school. 

I asked Smart what he planned to do. He chuckled. "I do not know what I shall do.I do not yet know what I shall tell them. It will prove to be pretty close to the truth. What ever I do, when it's done I want people to say: "You cleaned this town up. You made it fit for women and children to live in." "

I reminded him that no-one actually seemed to be in danger and really all the thieves had done was steal a few trinkets.

He shook his head slowly. "First a few trinkets," he intoned, "then a few lives. These things have a way of getting bigger."

I gave him a troubled look. "Don't try to be a hero!" I said. "You don't have to be a hero, not for me!"

A brief smile passed across his lips.

metimes, Governor, one can do good by being the right person in the wrong place."
And with that he turned and left.

Ah, gives a person a good feeling knowing he's out there doing his job. While he's out there, he's not in here with me.

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