Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Singular Tale of Narcisse Pelletier

In May 1875, the steamer Brisbane entered Moreton Bay on the way to Brisbane Town.  On board was a young Frenchman called Nicholas Pelletier. His sensational story was detailed in the local press after he landed[1]:

THE Eastern and Australian steamship ”Brisbane” has, this voyage, conveyed to the capital of Queensland a very unusual passenger, concerning whose career a short sketch may possibly prove interesting.

Narcisse Pierre Pelletier, the son of a shoemaker of Saint Gilles, near Bordeaux, occupied in 1858 the post of cabin boy in the good ship “Saint Paul”, of Bordeaux, during a voyage from China to Australia, whither she was conveying some 350 Chinese emigrants.

A contemporary view of Rossel Island

One moonless night the vessel struck on a reef in the Louisiade Group of islands[2], and soon became a total wreck, the captain, crew, and emigrants reaching an island[3], some in boats and others along the reef.

The stay of the French crew on the tropical island was to be short-lived.  Not only were they fearful of the Chinese who vastly outnumbered them, but they soon became aware of the resident Polynesians who were far from welcoming.  The crew decided to decamp during the night, leaving behind the Chinese to fend for themselves.  Despite a head wound suffered during a skirmish with the natives, the boy Narcisse managed to clamber aboard the boat.

It would seem that the captain told the men that he should make for a country where they would either fall in with English settlements or English vessels. The duration of the voyage is uncertain, but must have been considerable, as the distance traversed cannot have been less than 600 miles.
It seems clear, however, that the crew endured great hardships, for having no fire they lived on flour and such birds (uncooked) as they could catch or knock down; and further, that for some three or four days before sighting the Australian coast, their supply of fresh water ran out. The point where they landed is known as "First Red Rocky Point," south of Cape Direction[4].

The view south from Cape Direction

When they finally landed the small boat, the thirsty crew went in search of fresh water.  Stumbling upon a tiny waterhole, the men sated their thirst leaving none for the cabin-boy who was by now near death, weakened from the deprivation of the voyage in the open boat. Considering the boy to be beyond help, the crew abandoned little Narcisse, leaving him to perish alone in the bush.

The Captain and his men - eight in all - returned to their boat and sailed away again, leaving the boy to die by the empty water hole. They reached New Caledonia in safety, and there the captain reported the loss of his vessel and the hardships which he and his companions had undergone. He did not, however, report his abandonment of Narcisse Pelletier.[5]

And there we lose all news of the fate of 14 year old Narcisse Pelletier for 17 years.

The Chinese left at Roussel Island were, it was afterwards ascertained, gradually killed and eaten by the natives, with the exception of some 20, who ultimately escaped.

In 1875 a small group of sailors were amazed to stumble across a naked white man with a group of aborigines. The news of the discovery of Narcisse Pelletier eventually reached England and France where it was greeted as a sensation.  The Times in London reported at length on the case.

Drawing of the "White Savage"
On the 11th of April in the present year the John Bell schooner, engaged in the bĂȘche de mer fishery, anchored at Night Island, a small island off the north-east coast of Queensland, about three miles distant from the mainland, to which boats were despatched from the ship in search of water.

The sailors sent on this duty encountered in the bush a party of aboriginal blacks, with whom they found a white man, who was, like the blacks, perfectly naked, and. appeared to be completely identified with their in language and habits.[6]

The crew reported their unexpected discovery to the master of the John Bell.  He decided the castaway must be rescued and the following day they returned to the small island.

The white savage was induced to enter one of the ship’s boats, where he was given biscuit to eat and told to sit still, muskets being at the same time pointed at the natives and fired over their heads to induce them to retire, which they were very unwilling to do without being accompanied by the white man, whom they begged to return with them. This, he has since explained, he wished to do, but was afraid of the guns held by the sailors, and thought that they would shoot him if he tried to leave the boat.

The John Bell sailed for Somerset, a settlement at the tip of Cape York, where Narcisse was given clothes.  Up to this time he had only muttered a few words of French.  By happenstance, an officer of the Royal Navy arrived, who spoke fluent French. 

Although he said enough to show that he was a Frenchman, and wrote down on paper, in a stiff upright French hand, his own name and a few almost unintelligible sentences, which were subsequently found to contain a short account of his history. On the return to Cape York of Lieutenant Conner, R.N., who speaks French fluently, a good deal more was extracted from the savage, and apparently his name was Narcisse Pierre Pelletier, son of Martin Pelletier, shoemaker at St. Gilles, Department of Vendee, France.

Handwriting of Narcisse Pelletier
Translation: “Narcisse Pelletier of St. Gilles. The captain left me among savages. 
I was boy on board. I do not know how to speak French. I know how to speak ‘savage’.
I am not dead, but alive. They would not give me to drink.” 

Slowly the castaway related his story.  

It emerged that after  Narcisse was abandoned, he did not perish as expected by the captain of the St. Paul.  Serendipity would save his life.  For it turned out that he was not alone after all.

It appears that the blacks happening to cross the track of the boat's crew followed it up to the waterhole and found the little dying boy. He was lying asleep under a tree when a gentle shaking made him aware that he was in the presence of three black men and two black women, who made signs of surprise and commiseration.

They gave him some food, and led him away without any violence to their camp, where he was received by others of the tribe in an equally friendly manner. He became one of the tribe and adopted their way of living, which, as he describes it, is, perhaps, as primitive as any that can now be found.[7]

Photograph taken in France 
showing tribal scars & nose peircing
By the time he was reunited with his fellow Europeans, Narcisse had fully integrated with the tribe and had the initiation scars and piercings to prove it.

Across his chest are two horizontal lines of raised flesh, about the thickness of an ordinary lead pencil. The upper one extends from nipple to nipple, the other, rather shorter, is about an inch lower. Above each breast are four short horizontal scars, one above the other, and on the upper part of his right arm a sort of gridiron has been scored, consisting of four vertical cuts enclosed in one passing all round them.

The lobe of his right ear has been pierced and the flesh itself considerably drawn down, apparently between two and three inches. When found he wore piece of wood in this aperture about half an inch in diameter and four inches long. His nose is also pierced, and he was accustomed to wear in it a piece of white shell, probably that of the pearl oyster.

After a short stay in Brisbane, the steamer continued on to Sydney.  Among the passengers, there was a large compliment of Chinese men headed for the goldfields.  Having spent the previous seventeen years bathing in the warm tropical waters of far north Queensland, Narcisse was not appreciative of the unwashed Chinese.

Narcisse is a short, thick-set, active man. His skin is of a bright red colour, and glazed upon the surface by continued exposure to the sun. He is clean in his person, and says that the blacks among whom he has lived are so also—a statement apparently confirmed by the disgust he expressed for the Chinese on board the Brisbane, whom he  styled dirty pigs (“des sales cochons“).

Pelletier in European attire
and  sporting his stretched ear lobe

In Sydney, the French Consul arranged his repatriation to his homeland. Back in Europe great interest was taken in him by anthropologists and other scholars. The London Times reported:

The finding of Narcisse Pelletier, after 17 years among the savages, has excited considerable interest. This man's rapid recovery of his early knowledge is very instructive, and no doubt the case will afford material for the anthropological section of the British Association soon to assemble.   The story may be used as an argument for the force of hereditary instincts and gifts. But it shows, too, how much may be done, and what a solid foundation can be laid, and what advantage can be given by education, even at twelve years of age.

After an absence of 18 years, Narcisse finally returned to his family.

Narcisse Pelletier returns to France (The Graphic 25.12.1875)

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2011.

[1] The Brisbane Courier 24.5.1875
[2] The Louisiade Archipelago is a string of ten larger volcanic islands frequently fringed by coral reefs, and 90 smaller coral islands located 200 km southeast of New Guinea. (Wikipedia)
[3] Rossel Island (also known as Yela) - the easternmost island of the Louisiade Archipelago, which itself is part of the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea. (Wikipedia)
[4] Near the mouth of the Lockhart River on the east coast of Cape York.
[5] Times 21.7.1875
[6] Times 21.7.1875
[7] Times 21.7.1875

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Great Fire of Brisbane, 1864

Four years before Prince Alfred’s visit, much of the business area of Brisbane town was in ruins following the disastrous fire in December 1864.

Queen Street before the Great Fire

Earlier in the year following a previous fire, a correspondent to the Brisbane Courier bemoaned the lack of fire fighting facilities in the town.[1]

Sir, - What would the nations of the earth think if they knew that in the chief city of the colony of Queensland there is not a properly organised Fire Brigade, neither paid nor voluntary. There is a fire engine certainly, such as it is, but it is a miserable affair, compared with those made in America, though I have no doubt it has cost as much money.

19th Century Fire Cart

The great fire this morning tells a tale which should not be disregarded; some fine buildings have been thoroughly burnt down, to say nothing of the contents, most likely of far more value. Will not the government and the city council bestir themselves, so that this city shall be placed in comparative safety from fire?
Most respectfully,

It seems that scant notice was taken of this resident, for a much larger fire broke out on the night of the 2nd of December, for which the residents were ill prepared to offer much resistance despite a volunteer fire brigade being established.. 

The Brisbane Courier reported:[2]



Last evening will be long remembered in the annals of Queensland, as the date on which occurred one of the most disastrous and crushing conflagrations that ever brought ruin and desolation on a town. Indeed, it would be almost impossible to convey with the pen anything like an adequate idea of the exciting and appalling scene, which certainly beggared description. 

Sketch of the Great Fire

At all events, the whole of the business premises and private residences which occupied what may fairly be considered the most valuable site in Brisbane, were, in a couple of hours, reduced to a heap of ruins, in spite of all that could be done by hundreds of willing and courageous men to stay the fearful progress of the devastating element.

Blame was quickly levelled at those in power.

It is to be hoped that our civic functionaries will for once see the necessity of merging their petty differences into a determination to take such immediate steps, no matter at what cost, as will for the future prevent the recurrence of a calamity which, although greatly to be deplored is little less than might have been anticipated from the shameful apathy and neglect which has been manifested by persons in authority on the subject of the prevention of fire. A disgrace has fallen upon our city which will not be wiped out for many years.

The events of the night were described in detail.

About twenty minutes to eight a blaze was observed in the cellar underneath Stewart and Hemmant's store. The name of the individual who was first to perceive it we were unable to ascertain, but the news was quickly conveyed to the police station, and the fire bell pealed forth loud notes of alarm. The whole of the available force at the station was quickly on the spot, and the doors of the doomed building were broken in when it was found that the whole interior was one vast sheet of flame, and that any attempt to save more than the merest trifle out of the valuable property which was being destroyed would be labour in vain.

Milton Volunteer Fire Brigade

William Hemmant, partner in the drapery business of Stewart & Hemmant, takes up the story. [3]

On the evening of the fire I left business a little after 6 o'clock, and rode home to the other side of Spring Hill; after tea I rode into town, and after talking to you (the coroner) for some minutes we heard the sound of the fire-bell, which I imagined was calling the brigade to exercise; however, as it continued ringing, I got on the horse and rode into Queen-street, and asked a constable where the fire was; he said, "At the corner," and continued to run up the street.

On reaching the corner I saw a light in the back part, and some men in the act of breaking the back door of the cellar open; as soon as it was opened I saw there was no chance of saving anything in that direction; I then went round to the front, and found the shutters just burst in; I then said to some of the men who were inside, "Let us try to save the books," and went into the office for that purpose; the office was so full of smoke that it was impossible to remain there more than a few seconds at a time ; and, not having the key of the safe, I was obliged to give up hopes of saving the books.

I then endeavoured to save a small drawer in the office-table, containing papers, but was unable to do so; a man in the crowd said," Show me where it is, Mr. Hemmant, mid I will try and get it;" he succeeded in doing so, and handed it to me; I took it into the street, and then took it to Mr. Bernays' house; on my return I found there was no chance of getting anything else out; I could do nothing else; but I produce a plan of the building, if that would be of any use to the jury.

The Courier Mail correspondent was on the scene.

A number of men got up on the roof of the two small shops occupied and kept as an oyster saloon by Mr Williams, with the intention of pulling them down; and could they have succeeded in doing so in a very short space of time it is probable that the further progress of the flames might have been avoided. 

As might be expected, the excitement became intense, crowds of people, men, women, and children were arriving rapidly from each quarter of the town and the wild   shouts of the men, the frightened aspect of the women, and the cries of children, together with the ruin-strewn streets, and the fearful havoc-making flames created a tout ensemble[4] which it is indeed difficult at all faithfully to portray.

Desperate attempts at limiting the spread of the fire continued into the night, but to little avail.

The flames continued to spread onward, apparently gaining strength in contempt of the puny resistance offered to their might, until at half past eight o'clock advantage was taken of a temporary lull caused by the non-inflammable character of the roofing of some of the shops, to make one more vigorous effort to save the more valuable properties further up the street by pulling down the premises occupied by Mr. Lenneberg, and known as the Cafe de Paris. It was too late, however, as before the men could more than partially demolish the structure the fire was upon them.

Queen Street after the Great Fire

The scene that met the citizens of Brisbane as the sun rose was devastating.

YESTERDAY morning, at dawn of day, the scene of the late fire presented a desolate appearance. The site on the previous day occupied by a long line of shops, which, if not particularly handsome or imposing, still were the centre of the retail traffic of Brisbane, was nought but a smoking heap of ruins. Occasionally, when a burnt through beam gave way, a dull hollow sound of falling bricks might be heard, raising a cloud of dust, and inducing wonder on the part of the listener as to whose premises had received the coup de grace.

Those left to guard the remains of the many businesses which had been levelled were less than diligent.  In fact they made themselves as comfortable amidst the ruins and helped themselves to restoratives kindly spared by the conflagration.

Judging from the appearance and demeanour of the guardians of this heterogeneous mass of goods, the responsibility conferred upon them had induced thirst, in their natural desire to quench which as speedily as possible the absence of water had overcome their repugnance to fermented and spirituous liquors, and the consequence was, that neither they or their firearms were for any length of time in a position that would excite much admiration in the mind of a martinet.

To say they were drunk would be a base libel, but they might be described as suffering from weakness in their knees caused by their excessive exertions during the night, and also a bronchial affection, which rendered their articulation somewhat obscure-a misfortune doubtless to be assigned to a similar cause.

The amalgamation of sufferers was also something remarkable. Here a grimy fireman might be seen sitting on an old barrel, with his feet on a quantity of haberdashery, fraternising with a clean policeman, whilst some distance away several dirty-looking guardians of the night mingled with anything but cleanly red-coats, whose rifles held at all sorts of angles, looked very much like going off-too much so, indeed to render their vicinity pleasant.

There was only one vigilant watchman who decline offers of the freely available refreshments.

A solitary volunteer kept watch and ward opposite Messrs. Morey and Forbes' drapery establishment. The individual referred to was deaf to all the blandishments which were temptingly placed before him, in the shape of illicitly obtained beer, porter, or champagne, as to partake of them would have necessitated his departure from his post. He marched on his beat with as much circumspection as if he were on parade, and many attempts to get him to disobey orders were made in vain. 

There is little reason to doubt that any of the property confided to his care has been injured or in any way interfered with. If the circumstances were not of such a depressing character, some mirth might have been extracted from the strange manner in which the goods of the various sufferers had been thrown together. Kid gloves, oysters, lavender water and polonies[5], were the absurdly miscellaneous contents of one basket whilst salt beef, champagne, and crinolines filled a large barrel.

Thanks Notices in the Brisbane Courier
As dawn broke, the business proprietors arrived to claim what was left of their goods. It seems that a gallows’ humour prevailed amongst the hardy colonists.

Shortly after six o'clock, drays began to arrive and the owners of the property commenced the difficult task of searching among the various heaps for their furniture. By this means the whole of the damaged stock-in-trade and furniture was removed from the street before sunset yesterday; and we understand that many of the persons who were burnt out have already secured premises in which, without any extra ordinary delay, they will be able to commence business once more. 

Others are less fortunate, and, although treating their trouble lightly during the day, towards evening it was easy to notice that some slight amount of despondency prevailed in spite of the effort to vest it under a somewhat transparent screen of jocularity.
That such should be the case is scarcely to be wondered at, indeed, the equanimity with which some of the greatest losers appeal to regard their losses is somewhat remarkable.


A week later the police reported that suspicions for the source of the fire fell upon a known gang of idle youths.[6]

We have been informed that the police have succeeded in obtaining a clue to the origin of the late disastrous fire, which, it appears, was occasioned by the carelessness-to use no stronger term-of a number of young blackguards, who were in the habit of assembling at Stewart and Hemmant's corner every evening. Some few minutes before the fire was observed, about half-a-dozen boys, whoso ages ranged from eleven to seventeen years of age, were lighting pipes and cigars at the back of Stewart and Hemmant's cellar, and the lighted matches were thrown about in the most indiscriminate manner. 

The whole of the party then adjourned to the yard at the back of Mr. Mayne's shop, and shortly afterwards the fire was seen to break out. It was evidently regarded as a bit of fun, several of the youngsters remarking what a good job it would be if the whole row of wooden shops was burnt down. The police have vainly endeavoured to obtain sufficient evidence to warrant them in initiating a prosecution, although the whole of the parties are known.

Then again it could have been the mice:

A Suggested Cause of the Great Fire

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2011.

[1] The Brisbane Courier 12.4.1864
[2] The Brisbane Courier 2.12.1864
[3] The Brisbane Courier 2.12.1864, testimony to the Coronial Inquest.
[4] all together (French)
[5] Bologna sausages.
[6] The Brisbane Courier 17.12.1864

Friday, September 16, 2011

Murder in the Cedar Scrub

In 1870, a German man named John Alexander Herrlich, a native of Frankfurt-on-Maine, was living by himself in the Cedar Scrub, about ten miles from Toowoomba. He was a cabinet maker by trade, and about 58 years of age. In the scrub, he made his living as a hunter, timber-getter, and sometime gold prospector. He had lived alone for several years and was a competent bushman.

In February 1870, a report reached Toowoomba that Herrlich had shot dead a local farmer, Michael Klein, a fellow German.

Highfields road with Cedar Scrub in the background

The Brisbane Courier reported[1]:

WE understand that the Police authorities have received a report from Police-sergeant Kean, of Toowoomba, respecting the shooting of Michael Klein on Saturday last. The facts, so far as they have been ascertained, are as follows: - Klein was a German farmer, residing about eight miles from Toowoomba, on the Highfields-road, near Perseverance station. Another German, J. A. Herrlich, has resided at the cedar scrub, some distance away, for the last four years, living in a hut by himself, and getting his living mostly with his gun. He always carried a double-barrelled gun and pistols about with him.

Old Bushman outside his Hut

It seems there was a long-standing disagreement between Herrlich and Klein over who had the right to take cedar[2] logs from the scrub.

On the 11th of December Herrlich wrote a letter, addressed from the scrub, to Mr. Turner, of Helidon, informing him that Klein was stealing and killing his cattle. On Saturday last Klein went to the scrub for cedar, which Herrlich claimed as his, and he told Klein that if he touched the timber he would shoot him. Klein did not desist, and thereupon Herrlich, when only a few feet distant, fired, the contents of the gun entering the breast, blowing away the top of the heart, and going out at the back. No trace of bullet or shot can be found. Death was instantaneous.

Police Station Toowoomba
The police travelled immediately to the scene of the homicide but there was no trace of Herrlich.

The Police Magistrate and constables endeavoured to pick up the tracks of the murderer, but without success. The doctor and constable McCaffery returned to Toowoomba on Sunday morning. It is pretty certain that Herrlich is hiding in the scrub, and a systematic search with trackers has been commenced.

Queensland Mounted Colonial Police Leaving on Patrol

Two months later Herrlich had still not been sighted. The Cedar Scrub was extremely difficult terrain in which to conduct the search. The correspondent from The Queenslander described the lay of the land[3]:

Timber Getters Track

Only those who have seen the cedar scrub at Highfields, and have had to traverse it, can possibly form any conception of its density and its precipitous rocks and ranges, as well as numerous gullies intersecting it in almost every direction. Besides these formidable barriers, gigantic vines lace the forest trees with an almost impenetrable kind of net-work that at nearly every step must be cut through with the tomahawk or hatchet. Equestrians can make no progress through it all, and even pedestrians have frequently to crawl on their hands and knees to make headway.

The Farms of German Settlers in the Toowoomba District

Then there was the considerable population of German settlers in the district who tended to look after their own.

Unfortunately for the ends of justice, considerable sympathy is still being shown towards Herrlich by some of his countrymen, and a few of them, it is rumoured, furnish him with supplies. It is net to be wondered at, therefore, that the fugitive, who has for many years lived in the scrub, should, under all these combined circumstances, be able to so long successfully baffle his pursuers.

In the end it was Herrlich himself who gave himself up.[4]

Yesterday, Herrlich, the murderer of Michael Klein at the Cedar Scrub some time ago, sent a messenger to a man named Murray, who is staying at the Queen's Arms Hotel, Toowoomba, to the effect that he wished to give himself up, and desired Murray to come and arrest him and secure the reward.

Murray talked a great deal of what he was going to do, and the police heard of it, and followed him so closely that they entered the house where Murray and Herrlich were conversing, and arrested Herrlich at once.

The house where he was arrested belongs to a man named Kahler, and is about fifteen miles from Toowoomba.

The police not only arrested the fugitive, but also took Murray and Kahler, the German farmer, into custody on a charge of harbouring Herrlich.

A Country Hotel

It came to light that Murray had become friendly with the bushman Herrlich during his temporary residence at the Queen's Arms Hotel some time before.

Murray had frequently assisted him with advice in many matters of business connected with the sale of timber procured by Herrlich in the scrub. Murray's version of the surrender is, that about 12 o'clock, on Friday morning, a German farmer named Heinrich Kahler came to his lodgings and told him that he had a message from Herrlich to the effect that he desired Murray to go out to him that day, as he wished to give himself up to a friend that would bring him into Toowoomba unfettered. Murray, for some unexplained reason, neglected to give any information to the police, but started for High Fields in company with Kahler about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, taking a bottle of brandy with them as a "comforter."

Colonial Farm House and Barn
Arriving at Kahler’s house with the “comforter”, Murray is reunited with his German friend, who looks the worst for wear.

Herrlich, on seeing Murray, rushed forward, exclaiming, "Good God, Mr Murray, I am so glad to see you, if you had not come out to night I should have been a dead man tomorrow morning, I am starved and hungered to death, can you give me some food?"

He then related his sufferings and privations in the bush, and said he had seen the police on several occasions, and once when he had been to the creek for water they passed within five yards of his hiding place, where he waited to see if the blackfellow would take up the tracks.

Letter to the Brisbane Courier complaining about
 the standard of German in a wanted poster.
 He denied that he had shot Klein deliberately, but that in the struggle for the possession of the rifle the trigger was accidentally struck, and the charge entered Klein's breast, his hands being so close to his antagonist at the time of the discharge that the blood "spouted out” over his wrists and coat sleeves, and ran down upon his trousers. After the black boy ran away, he went down to the creek, washed the blood from his hands, and rubbed some clay over the stains upon his trousers.

Later that evening the police suddenly appeared on Kahler’s verandah.

Kahler went outside, and some person on the verandah said, "have you any strangers here?'' Kahler replying, "No, only my wife." The party then answered, "we must see who you have inside," and Sergeant McCarthy, acting-sergeant Shea, Constable Quinn, and a black tracker entered the house. McCarthy and Shea immediately identified Herrlich, and covered him with their rifles, Murray at the same time stating that Herrlich was his prisoner, and had surrendered himself some time previously.

Taking their prisoner into Toowoomba, the police involved in the long were interest to know just how close they had come to Herrlich in the scrub.

 The constable then asked whether he had ever seen the police, and he replied, "Yes, I saw you on St. Patrick's Day in the scrub, at a distance of about twenty yards from where you passed.  I was lying behind a tree." The Acting Sergeant then said, "Did you see us on the high ridge near the saw pit, because I met with your tracks in the fern?" But he (Herrlich) could not remember that he had seen them on that occasion.

Court House Toowoomba

Herrlich was finally brought for trial in August that year.  There was much discussion as to whether the gun was accidently discharged or not. The evidence leaned heavily on the testimony an aboriginal boy with the curious name Epple. The boy, who worked for Klein, was the only other person at the scene of the murder. Herrlich was defended by a lawyer named Blake.

Mr. Blake then addressed the jury for the prisoner Herrlich. It appeared that Klein and Epple had gone out with other persons to obtain cedar from the scrub, and no doubt they went to get Herrlich's. The evidence of Mr. Murphy went to show that this was a very common practice, and they could then easily conceive that the prisoner being a foreigner and liable to sudden and impulsive passions, might in the heat of the moment make use of the expression, "If you take any more of my cedar I will shoot you dead."

A Courtroom of theTime
It was easy to suppose that the gun was discharged accidentally, more particularly as it appeared from the evidence of Epple that the gun was held loosely in the prisoner's left hand, and not in the manner usually adopted by a person when firing. The boy had told them that he was standing some distance behind Klein, and the natural inference was that when the prisoner slung round the gun Klein caught hold of the barrel, and the lock becoming entangled in the swag which the prisoner carried on his right shoulder, the discharge was accidental.

If they came to the conclusion that the death of the unfortunate man was the result of a deliberate intention to kill on the part of the prisoner, they would give a full vindication of the law; but if the case was not fully established, so as to admit of two constructions and throw such doubts upon their minds that they felt any difficulty in arriving at a conclusion, they would give the prisoner the benefit of that doubt, and return a verdict of not guilty.

Summing up, the judge gave the jury three options. If they decided that the killing was premeditated, they should find the accused guilty. If it was accidental, they should find him not guilty. If they found that the gun fired by the prisoner in the sudden heat of passion they would find the prisoner guilty of the lesser crime of manslaughter.

The jury delivered a verdict of guilty of manslaughter.  Herrlich rose and spoke to the judge.

Judge Blakeney
Herrlich, then addressing His Honour, said: You are the minister of the law, and I submit myself to its sentence; but if the boy Epple had told the whole of the truth, he would have said that I warned Klein to go back three or four times. If he had done this I should not stand in the dock today. I have nothing more to say, and now submit myself to the sentence you may wish to pass upon me, and also to the will of God.

His Honour said the jury had taken the most favourable view of the case, but in passing sentence he could not but consider that the crime of which he had been found guilty was of a very serious character and demanded a very serious sentence. The sentence of the Court was that he, John Alexander Herrlich, be kept in penal servitude for the term of fifteen years.

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2011.

[1] The Brisbane Courier 16.2.1870
[2] Cedar wood was highly valued commodity in the 19th Century, being easy to work, and used for furniture-making and ship-building.
[3] The Queenslander 2.4.1870
[4] The Brisbane Courier 11.4.1870

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Visit of Prince Alfred to Queensland 1868 (Part 3)

Prince Alfred in Uniform

Back in Brisbane, the Prince was honoured with a display organised by the German residents, eager to express their loyalty to the rulers of the British Empire.  The procession had, however, a distinctly Teutonic flavour.


The procession formed in order near the Observatory on Wickham Terrace, and lighted their torches. A considerable number of the procession, however, bore paper lanterns, this distinction being apparently accorded to those who were to take part in the serenade.

Triumphal arch in Queen Street for the visit Prince Alfred
Its appearance from a distance was attractive in the extreme; there was in fact a kind of wild, romantic beauty about it which few could see without pleasure. Seen nearer, the effect was none the less agreeable, the lurid glare thrown by the torches on the fences around, and the buildings past which the procession wound its fiery length along, being made more prominent by the comparative darkness of the night.

The procession was preceded by the Volunteer Band, and comprised also a German Band, both, of which played alternately, thus keeping up a strain of enlivening music the whole length of the march. An immense crowd, which, increased in size at every step, followed the procession to the gates of the Vice-regal grounds; but at this joint a Cerberus[2], in the uniform of a soldier of H.M. 50th Regiment, stopped the throng, only admitting the German procession.

Government House ca.1868
The trees in the grounds were hung with Chinese lanterns; and the pretty effect of these, combined with the torches and lanterns of the procession, and the gas illuminations outside Government House, produced a really magnificent and fairy-like scene.

Reaching Government House, the German congregation serenade the Prince, who does a make an appearance as he is still dining.  He finally honours the crowd with his presence when he emerges on the balcony as the English National anthem, rather incongruously, is sung in German.

On the procession arriving at Government House, it was found that the inmates were at dinner. The serenade immediately began, with the famous national song, "Was ist der Deutchen Vaterland," which was followed by "Liederfreiheit," the words of which are in praise of freedom of song. The serenaders then struck up a lively piece known as "Becker's March” and when this was completed, went on to sing the English National Anthem, translated into German. At the conclusion of the first stanza, the Prince, accompanied by His Excellency the Acting-Governor, Commodore Lambert, the Hon. the Colonial Treasurer, the Hon. the Attorney-General, and others appeared on the terrace.

Government House and Botanic Gardens

The Hon. J. C. Heussler, M.L.C., then stepped forward, and presented the following rather flowery address in German.

"His Royal Highness Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, Duke of Saxony, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, &c, &c, &c. "May it Please Your Royal Highness, "We, the German residents of Queensland, bid your Royal Highness a heartfelt welcome with 'torch and song,' according to ancient German custom, on your safe arrival in Brisbane. "We greet your Royal Highness as son of Her Majesty the Queen, to whom we are subject in fidelity and loyalty, and under whose sceptre we enjoy protection and liberty; as son of a friend whose memory the present generation bliss, and whose noble deeds will be more and more recognised by posterity. "Your Royal Highness, as German Prince, will, at some future time, be called upon to exercise a powerful influence over the destinies of our distant Fatherland: may this influence, for the blessing of mankind, be instrumental in cementing the bonds of friendship that unite England and Germany."May the Ruler of the Universe take your Royal Highness under His omnipotent protection.

Instead of making a speech in response to this piece of fawning supplication, the Prince hands Heussler his reply.  The procession retreats and only after they leave the grounds, does Heussler read out the Prince’s reply.

His Royal Highness, who received Mr. Heussler most graciously, thanked him very cordially for the address, and intimated that he was much pleased with the demonstration. He then handed him his reply to the address.

Johann Heussler
Several rounds of hearty cheers, which were graciously acknowledged by His Royal Highness, having been given, the procession reformed, and entered the public gardens by the private gateway leading from the vice-regal grounds. On arriving near the gate leading into Alice-street, the procession halted, and Mr. Heussler read His Royal Highness' reply to their address. Several more cheers having been given for the Prince, the procession marched to the Town Hall, and spent the remainder of the evening in festivity.

After completing his public appearances, such as they were, the Prince took his departure.

The Prince left Government House shortly before 12 o'clock. The carriage was preceded by a detachment of the mounted (white) police, and followed by a detachment of black troopers. There was a very liberal display of flags flying from the houses along the route, and the arch opposite the Police Office was now inscribed with the words 'Farewell Royal Guest.”.

Immediately on his stepping on board the Kate, the royal standard was hoisted at the main, and a salute of twenty-one guns was fired from the Queen's Park battery by No. 1 Company Volunteer Artillery, assisted by a number of the Ipswich Artillery Corps. The Kate immediately left its moorings, and steamed down the river amidst the prolonged farewell cheers of the large crowd, which were responded to by the Prince.

Ships lay at anchor in the Brisbane River

The Kate was followed by a large flotilla of spectator craft.

The afternoon was beautifully fine, and the trip down the river was most enjoyable. The muddy banks and flats which disfigure the River so much at low water were covered, as it was flood-tide, so that the river looked its best. A fine strong breeze was blowing, which was very pleasant and enjoyable whilst the steamer was in the river, but which rendered the bay rather too rough for some of the lady excursionists. The Ipswich was, however, so heavily laden that she did not roll about much, but the Government steamer pitched about like a cock-boat[3]. 

The H.M.S. Challenger was gaily dressed with flags, and flew the Royal Standard at her main and the white ensign at her mizzen. Her yards were manned with seamen dressed in white, and the upper part of the vessel presented a very pretty, and to a landsman, most interesting appearance. The Challenger is not by any means a model of modern naval architectural beauty, but she was, nevertheless, a great object of interest to many people on board. As soon as the Kate dropped her anchor, several boats put off from the man-of-war and went alongside her. The Commodore's gig also put off and waited alongside until the Prince and suite were ready to embark. About 3 o'clock, the Prince having bid farewell to all on board the Kate, entered the gig and was rowed alongside the Challenger.

H.M.S. Challenger

True to form, as soon as he boards his boat, the prince disappears below deck.

As soon as he stepped on board the gangway, the guns thundered out a Royal salute, and the band played the National Anthem. H R H at once went below, and did not show himself again or acknowledge in any way the repeated cheers given by the passengers on board the steamers.

After the Prince’s departure, the back-biting and blame shifting began.

Upon the whole, His Royal Highness appears to have produced a favourable impression amongst the colonists. The fact that that impression is not general - and, however it may be regretted, there is no denying that in the country districts which he has visited, a few of the colonists think they have some reason to complain that but scant courtesy has been shown them - is not to be attributed to any intentional conduct of his own, but partly to the unfortunate circumstance that his movements have had to be so hurried, and partly to the incompetency and blundering of the hon. gentleman at the head of the Government, who was rash enough to undertake the sole direction of the reception.

A postscript arrived in the form of this newspaper report from Sydney. [4]

AFTER partaking of luncheon at the Sailors' Home Picnic, about noon to-day, the Prince was walking with the Countess Belmore and Sir W. Manning, when an unknown elderly man came behind, drew a revolver, and shot His Royal Highness through the back. He was firing a second shot, when the bystanders struck the pistol from his hand. The ball intended for the Prince went through Mr. Thornton's foot.

The shooting of Prince Alfred

The assassin has been recognised as H. J. O'Farrell, a lawyer's clerk. O'Farrell was only about two paces behind the Prince when he fired. The bullet entered about two inches from the spine, and, passing through the muscles of the back, went round by the ribs to the front of the abdomen. His Royal Highness fell immediately, exclaiming, "My back is broken."

The Capture of the Assassin O'Farrell

The miscreant was immediately seized, and would have been lynched on the spot, but the police interfered, and took him at once on board a steamer and conveyed him to Sydney.

The would-be assassin was an Irishman and as such, had little regard for the British Monarchy.  He was later hanged in Sydney.

Price Alfred made a full recovery and two months later left Sydney to continue his world tour.

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2011.

[1] The Queenslander 7.3.1868
[2] Three-headed guard dog of Greek mythology.
[3] a small boat, especially one used as a tender
[4] The Brisbane Courier 17.3.1868